Well, well, well…many of the usual cohort of amateur recappers and analyzers still have yet to be heard from after last Thursday’s freighter-fragging, Island-moving, O6-rescuing, rip-roaring season finale. (The pros like EW’s Doc Jensen, E! Online’s Kristin, BuddyTV’s Oscar Dahl, and our own dear DocArzt have all weighed in, of course.) I’m not surprised…there was just so much there to digest that even a “mere” recap could all too easily turn into War and Peace. So, this kind of makes it hard for me to zero in on my usual “little things” that others have neglected, so I’ll muse on something different for now.
One Lost influence and antecedent that has been simultaneously trumpeted (Damon Lindelof called it “the greatest piece of popular fiction ever produced”) and downplayed (no direct and only few oblique references on the show) is Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons’ graphic novel nonpareil, Watchmen.
One of the 12 original issues of Watchmen, entitled “Fearful Symmetry” (itself a reference to William Blake’s poem, “The Tyger”), is actually laid out symmetrically, so that every page and every frame after the middle spread of the issue deliberately mirrors those before, so that the end takes us back to the beginning.
So, too, did “There’s No Place Like Home” serve as a mirror to all the previous season finales (and noteworthy set-pieces throughout the series to date) of Lost. Virtually every iconic image or scene has its distorted reflection in these 3 hours of cerebellum-detonating television.
Let’s look at a few of them, shall we?
Triumph and Tragedy
I feel terribly remiss about this, but I’m unable to find the prescient article which correctly predicted that, as “Through the Looking Glass” contrasted the apparent apotheosis of Jack (making the call that would, in theory, rescue the castaways) with his post-Island malaise, so would “There’s No Place Like Home” contrast Locke’s own moment of triumph–moving the Island–with his tragic end, thereby one-upping Jack’s mere suicidal tendencies with what certainly looks like one seriously corpsified Locke-in-the-box.
Likewise, the member of this particular dyad that was “weak” in the on-Island storyline was pretty directly flipped (bleeding Locke staggering out of the jungle to knife Naomi in season 3, bleeding Jack staggering out of the jungle to fetch Hurley to the chopper in season 4).
Sawyer, Jin, and Michael were on a boat that blew up in the season 1 finale, “Exodus”, and sure enough, there they were again and with more besides in “There’s No Place Like Home”. Only this time, again, the stakes were raised. Michael is certainly doomed, Jin’s fate is uncertain but not looking terribly good, and Sawyer once again staggers out of the drink.
On the plus side, the newly-minted raft-dwellers who escaped the explosion of the freighter and the crash of the chopper had a vastly improved experience of coming upon a boat in the night. Despite the dread-inducing visual similarities between this boat and the Others’ skiff in “Exodus”, this time it actually was Penny’s boat, there to actually do what the original rafties had been hoping for 3 seasons ago.
‘Scuse Me While I Kiss the (Purple) Sky…
As in “Live Together, Die Alone”, we were treated to a “purple sky” event. But, as with the other reflections and echoes from season finales past, this one, too, was distorted. The original “purple sky” event caused by Locke’s trashing of the Swan’s computer and Desmond’s turning the fail-safe key was unintentional. The Man of Faith no longer believed, and the Island was going to show him a little something to put him back on the path.
But not this time. This time, Locke and Ben went with intent and firm resolve, Locke going so far as to boast to Jack, “Wait’ll you see what I’m going to do!”
But, again, the reflection is the worse for poor John Locke who did right by doing wrong in season 2 and did wrong (in a sense) by doing right (or so he thought) in season 4.
Journey to the Center of The Earth…Or At Least the Island
Iconography is huge in Lost, and who can forget the iconic moment of Jack and Locke staring down the dynamite-blasted hatch and into the unknown?
So, again, are we treated to a character–the comparatively new Ben–staring down a yet-deeper hole. This time, the hole extends below DHARMA’s Orchid Station, literalizing the penetration into the deeper mystery of the Island, past the onion-skin stratum of DHARMA’s “silly experiments” to something older, more powerful, and altogether more frightening.
(Hell, even the “Frozen Donkey Wheel” ended up being quite literal…and let me assure you, I had to pause my TiVo and confuse my friends by having a long, loud laugh at that one. Nice one, Darlton…nice one!)
A Crash, A Splash, and Jack Does What Jack Does Best
No, not be all emo or sport a beard deserving of its own Emmy category (both of which he does very well, of course!)…I mean saving people in a life-threatening crisis.
The splashdown of the chopper and subsequent awakening of Jack underwater took us right back to the opening moments of the Pilot episode, right down to Jack doing a bit of CPR (on Desmond rather than Rose this time…and really, people, don’t do that to me! My heart skipped way too many regularly-scheduled beats while I waited for the waterlogged Scot to sputter back to life…).
The Pieces are In Place
Lastly, much as the original crash arrayed the chess-pieces of our unwitting Lostaways on the board of the Island, so did “There’s No Place Like Home” re-align the pieces in a new configuration off the Island.
The previous Man of Faith is dead and Jack is losing (by which I mean, “gaining”) his religion under the manipulative tutelage of Ben Linus. The manipulated Sun has become the manipulator, and apparently aligned herself with Widmore. Sayid has plucked Hurley from Santa Rosa, but is he still Ben’s man? It certainly didn’t sound like a return trip to the Island was in his plans, but he looked like he would have said anything to get Hurley out of that room just then. Kate gets mixed messages in the form of her backmasked answering machine message saying she had to return to the Island before it’s too late and White Rabbit Claire saying “don’t you dare bring him back”. And what of Desmond, Penny, or even Frank Lapidus, who confounded my predictions by not going heroically into that good night?
So, be on the lookout…once we went “Through the Looking Glass” and season 3 ended, we started into the warped reflection of the first 3 seasons. Somehow, some way, we will have gone full circle and yet not exactly, when the final smash-cut appears on our screens and negotiations start for a show in 2020 about Walt, Aaron, and Ji Yeon called Lost: The Next Generation.
(Just kidding about that last…I hope.)