Short Nerd Chief

Lost Season 4 Finale: Forward and Back Again

Posted by Fred on May 30, 2008

I’ve never really been one to recap the TV I watch – after all, if you wanted to watch it, you would have watched it yourself.  Last night’s season four finale of Lost, however, truly begs for comment.  At times in season three, the show appeared to be wavering, unable to find its feet, lost in the Should We Stick With This Nikki and Paulo Storyline or Kill Them Because the Fans Hate Them shuffle.  Last season’s ratings suffered as well, perhaps as a consequence of deviating from what the show does best.  This season, the producers found their feet again, with the freighter story arc introducing some great new characters (and introducing them in a way that discouraged fan backlash).  Lost may well be the series that suffered the most from the writers’ strike – clearly the writers wanted to do a lot more with Daniel Faraday, Charlotte Lewis and Miles Straume.  With all three presumably present wherever (or is it whenever?) the rest of the survivors who are not part of the Oceanic Six happen to be, next season should be able to explore all the questions last night left unanswered.

This is still not a recap – go read Jeff Jensen at EW, which you really should be doing anyway.  I come not to recap Caesar but to praise him, or something. Here, in no particular order, are the Wow Moments from the finale that were of particular note (needless to say, if you haven’t seen it yet, fire up your DVR or watch it online):

  • Sun’s anguish as she watched the freighter blow up with her husband presumably still aboard was perhaps the single most impressive acting moment in the four seasons. It takes some effort to pull off the wail without veering sharply into melodrama, but Yunjin Kim pulled it off. The difference between that moment and the flash-forward where she confronts Widmore was impressive.
  • Ken Leung had my favorite line delivery of the entire series when Straume retorted to Charlotte Lewis “yes, what do I mean?”  Plus, I really want to know the answer to the question.
  • That John Locke is/was the mysterious Jeremy Bentham is both obvious (the man in the coffin had to be either Ben or Locke) and loaded with symbolism. Locke could have picked any pseudonym he wanted to, and would have been better hidden had he not traded one philosopher’s name for another.  Nothing on the show is without meaning, of course.  Jeremy Bentham was a British philosopher most famous for the Panopticon, a cylindrical prison designed in such a way that a single observer can watch all of the prisoners without the inmates knowing they are being observed, and for the Auto-icon, a wooden display cabinet in which Bentham’s body (with a wax head in place of the original) is displayed to this day at University College London. Both have obvious connections to the show – the Dharma Initiative’s Pearl Station embodies many of Bentham’s principles, although it is not clear whether the Pearl staffers were the observers or the prisoners.  Locke/Bentham is now in his own version of the Auto-Icon, although one presumes he will keep his original head.
  • The real Bentham and Locke were not contemporaries, but Locke’s view of self, that man is born with an empty mind (a tabula rasa), to be shaped by experience, had obvious influence on Bentham’s philosophy of utilitarianism, with the influence even more apparent in Bentham’s successors, such as John Stuart Mill.  Locke believed that sensations and reflections are the source of all our ideas, deviating sharply from both the Augustinian (man is innately sinful) and Cartesian (man is innately logical) view of self.  At first glance, Lost’s Locke appears to be less Lockean than his counterfoil Jack, but his change of self based on his experiences on the Island is in keeping with the philosophy.  Is the post-season 4 Locke thus a utilitarian?
  • Although Locke, Bentham and Mill are associated with ideals of individual liberty, some modern critics say the utilitarians were really collectivists. Does this presage Locke’s leadership style now that Ben is in a Tunisian desert ten months later?
  • I loved all the ice on a show set in the tropics.  Michael tried to freeze the bomb’s battery, but ultimately ran out of nitrogen, leading to a visit from your favorite harbinger of death, Christian Shephard. Ben somehow made his way from a lab located deep under a tropical greenhouse to a ice-covered chamber containing a frozen donkey wheel.  This may explain the polar bear that showed up on the Island and in Tunisia.
  • What’s with all the ghosts?  Good thing we have a fake/not fake psychic phenomena investigator in Miles.
  • At the same time the narrative was jumping forward (presumably “the present” is now the time of Caveman Jack and Dead Locke, and not the Time To Which The Island Was Moved), the episode itself was replete with allusions to earlier episodes.  Jack rescuing Desmond after the helicopter crash recalled Jack rescuing the middle section survivors in the pilot. The appearance of Penny’s boat was virtually identical to The Others’ tug appearing out of the mist in first cliffhanger.

It’s a sign of a good show that the summer seems like a punishment.  What are Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse going to do know that they have six main characters, a toddler and a corpse on the mainland and all the rest who knows where? Are they going to screw up the wormhole/time travel storyline, rife as it is with paradox? Is Jin dead or alive? Where was Charlotte born? What’s the connection between Widmore and Mr. Paik? How did Walt get so big? What happened to Sawyer’s shirt and is he going to rebound with a rum-sodden Juliet?  I want to know all of these things and I want to know them right now.


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