Now that the shackles are off and the writers can make reference to Rambaldi and the existing four seasons of established series mythology again, the plot circumstances seem a lot less annoying. That might also be a side effect of the pacing required to end the series with five less episodes than anticipated. There’s definitely some evidence of compressed storytelling, but the ability to deliver consequences on characters that might otherwise be left to live another day gives this final arc a shot of adrenaline.
So the basic elements of the story are as follows: Prophet Five has let other groups, including Sloane’s organization, work on other Rambaldi advancements and plans while quietly preparing to bring about his most important work. Indeed, it is important enough that the other works over the years appear to fit within the scope of this final legacy. Inherent to this final endgame is the infamous “Page 47”, which now happens to contain a secret message that pertains to the woman in the drawing.
The episode also takes the long-dragging subplot of a cure for Nadia and finally gives it an ending. The connection between Rambaldi and the cure was beyond obvious, though the characters were never allowed to mention it previously. The fact that Nadia is revived is interesting enough; what’s far better is how Nadia’s restoration essentially precipitates events that drive Sloane back into his Rambaldi obsession.
Sloane would not have gotten there alone, which is what makes this so easy to appreciate. Sloane’s reversion may be faster than one would have preferred, but it is completely logical. Nadia awakens and Sloane has every intention of focusing on her recovery and this latest chance at a new life. But the path to the cure gave Jack and the others a reason to suspect him, and in turn, that led to their decision to tempt him with the possibility of a hidden message within the Rambaldi artifact.
Without that trigger, would Sloane have reverted? Most indications are that Sloane was content to leave his obsession with Rambaldi in the past, locked away as a private matter of faith. Jack’s gambit was like handing crack to an addict; Sloane might have resisted, but it was highly unlikely. Events unfolded in tragic fashion from there. Sloane still tried his best to keep Nadia and Rambaldi separate, but in the end, he had to choose. That moment at the fireplace was smartly telegraphed, yet its brutal conclusion was still unexpected.
It does, however, serve the purpose of driving the characters into the necessary roles in a very short time frame. Sloane may not have intended Nadia’s death, but it happened just the same, and now everyone has a reason to hate him for fresh reasons. Sloane has a psychological reason to justify his return to old ways by designating Nadia as another “necessary sacrifice for his faith”.
Unlike a recent episode of “24”, where a previously central character was left in a coma for half the season, came out of the coma, and then died in one of the most useless plot “twists” of recent memory, Nadia’s survival following “After the Flood” served an actual purpose. Sloane was constantly looking for a cure for Nadia’s condition, and she was the symbol of every reason why he had abandoned his obsession for Rambaldi. Her death was at least partially metaphorical, as it represented the death of Sloane’s attempt at redemption.
In a way, this is an unfortunate turn for Sloane. He was a character that was so far from a chance at redemption that just a hint of it was a promising direction for the series to take. Every time he slipped, despite his regrets, it was the chance at a powerful character moment. This takes his character back into “classic” territory, but it also renders his character somewhat two-dimensional. Again, that might be the only possible result of the compressed timeframe, since there’s no time for complex character shading.
This episode does rectify one of the biggest mistakes of the season. Rene was never as impressive or sexy as the producers seemed to believe (note her ghastly turn as a seductive blonde in this episode), and her accent often through off the rhythm of key scenes. As soon as Rene reminded the audience that Sydney was the only person she could trust, it was clear that she was going to be victimized by Anna. (Ironically, Rene didn’t seem to know the truth about Vaughn, so Sydney was lying to her the whole time!) The writers get points for eliminating an annoying character so early in the final arc.
Because Nadia had to be active and engaging for the entire episode, to serve the needs of the plot, the writers were forced to take liberties. If Nadia wasn’t acting normal and on her feet, how else could Jack and Sydney re-establish quick bonds with her, so Sloane’s actions could have the necessary impact? And Nadia had to be confronting Sloane to force his choice.
Yet how could anyone left in a coma for nearly a year get up and walk around as though she were just in APO the day before? Even worse, why would anyone let a person who was placed in an induced coma for suffering a strange ailment that made them insanely violent touch a kid barely over a month old, less than 24 hours after miraculously being cured? The characters act as though Nadia’s cure should be trusted, even though they’ve seen a “cure” that left Nadia reverting to her psychosis within minutes and without warning!
Nadia’s ultra-rapid recovery and the characters’ treatment of her is the primary weakness of the story, but it’s necessary to get the plot moving in the proscribed timeframe. It’s the perfect example of how the network’s lack of good faith had a direct impact on the writing. As it is, there may be too much left to unravel in a rational manner.