As expected, with the final leg of the "Lost" journey now in full swing, there is a greater emphasis on bringing the "Lost X" timeline into context with the "Lost Prime" timeline. And back on the island, the pieces are finally moving into place. It's hard to imagine that there are only six more hours of "Lost" left, and really only five more episodes.
There's still a lot to cover, and therein lies a bit of the frustration fans will no doubt have with this episode. In both timelines, the action remains at a bit of a crawl. Perhaps this is because the endgame has been more or less in place since the beginning of the season. Jacob's rival has been making moves to get off the island, and Jacob's followers have tried to stop him. It's been a process of maneuvering, and while that is a necessary evil, it can test the patience of the audience.
As nearly everyone expected, Libby's return is in the "Lost X" timeline, and it sheds no new light on her mysterious past. While it's true that the producers have adamantly said that Libby's story had a lot more to it, and that it was important to the overall tale, it now appears that will never be revealed. And frankly, that's all right. Looking back, there's enough information to see how Libby was working for Widmore to get Desmond to the island. Not much more needs to be revealed about it.
Hugo and Libby, however, are part of the tapestry being formed in the "Lost X" timeline, and now Desmond is purposefully taking steps to push the passengers of Oceanic 815 to remember their time on the island. What's interesting to note is that the flashes to the "Lost Prime" timeline are all from moment well past the 2004 period in question in the "Lost X" segments.
Some take this as evidence that "Lost X" is, in fact, all meant to be a consequence of what happens in the "Lost Prime" timeline in the series finale, and has been an inventive means of overlapping the denouement with the climax. While this is still a possibly, it doesn't track with the many confirmations from the writers and producers that the "Lost X" timeline was a consequence of "the Incident".
However it is explained (and clearly it is going to be a big part of the finale), it now seems clear that moments of extreme transition are required to push the passengers into remembering their "Lost Prime" lives. And it doesn't seem to matter if they are alive or dead in the "Lost Prime" timeline; they remember the connections that they made. Love and near-death appear to be the most potent triggers.
But it also seems odd that Desmond is not trying to bring the passengers together. He's just trying to facilitate the process of connecting them to their other selves. One would think that getting the answer to the riddle of their true existence, whatever they may be, would only be helped by bringing them together. It certainly seemed as though that was the direction the "Lost X" segments were taking before Desmond's moment of clarity.
In terms of the "Lost Prime" timeline, there didn't seem to be a lot of movement in the plot, though by the end, Jacob's rival has all the remaining Candidates firmly in his camp. It even seems as though he knew that it would happen, despite being distracted by Desmond's arrival. There were a number of subtle moments throughout that scene, and they could be significant.
For example, Hurley is the first one of the Candidates to speak to Jacob's rival first. Jacob's rival also hands Hurley his knife, which could be a sign of foreshadowing. Hurley could be the one to kill Jacob's rival in his current form, forcing him back into his imprisoned state. Whether or not that would make him Jacob's actual replacement is a different story; this move towards a state of leadership fits the theory that Hurley is destined to become the eventual leader of the "New Others".
Hurley's unique ability to speak with the dead is, through Michael, linked to the notion that the "whispers", a feature of the series since the very beginning, are actually the voices of the souls trapped on the island. For them, the island is a kind of purgatory, which will no doubt thrill those who put that theory forward early in the first season. But it also doesn't quite track.
It's true that many of the "whispers", when analyzed and broken down, could be interpreted as something of a spectral Greek chorus, constantly commenting on events. However, not all the voices have been from people on the island. In "Outlaws", for example, Frank Duckett (killed by Sawyer in Australia) is clearly heard, taunting Sawyer. How would Frank have become part of the collection of souls on the island? And going back to the beginning, the "whispers" were often heard in conjunction with the Others and with Jacob's rival in his "smoke monster" form.
A more recent contrary example from "Ab Aeterno" would be Isabella, Richard's wife. Hurley was able to see her on the island, but she didn't die there. Jacob's rival simply took her form as a means of manipulating him. And there's no indication at all that Isabella had done anything wrong to require spiritual penance on the island. So that doesn't quite add up, either.
One final wild card in the "whisper" gallery is Walt. In the early second season, Walt kept appearing to Shannon in conjunction with the "whispers", and that led to her death, in a moment that has always felt like it was engineered by Jacob's rival. Similarly, Walt's appearance to Locke in "Through the Looking Glass" now fits perfectly into the notion that Jacob's rival was manipulating Locke towards his eventual role all along. Walt's unusual nature was never explained, and probably never will be, so it's hard to say it's a contradiction. (Unlike Libby, the lack of explanations regarding Walt and Aaron will be disappointing.)
The point is that Michael's explanation to Hurley, that the "whispers" are the spirits of souls trapped on the island for wrongdoing, doesn't quite add up given what has been shown previously. Especially since Hurley has seen dead people off the island, and people who were never connected to the island (like "Dave")! So it could be that the situation is a little bit more complicated, and Michael is only speaking from his limited point of view. Or Michael could be working, in some sense, with Jacob's rival, since Michael's advice prompts nearly all of Hurley's decisions in this episode. But it's very clear that Michael's explanation is less than satisfying, when taken in the full context of the past six seasons. Perhaps the producers will shed some light on this.
Otherwise, the pieces continue to fall into place. Her role fulfilled, Ilana pulled an Arzt. It was entirely inevitable, the way she was tossing the dynamite around, but it was rather interesting to note that it only exploded once she was safely out of the range of any Candidates! That also implies that Ben and Miles might want to keep their heads down, since only Richard is immortal in that little demolition squad.
Desmond continues to be very important, and it seems as though Jacob's rival knows it. And so tossing him into the bottom of a wall, where an electromagnetic anomaly is likely located, may be an odd choice. After all, if the theory regarding Widmore's plot offering the review for "Happily Ever After" holds any water, then Desmond is now potentially in just the right spot!
Overall, this episode was probably one of the weakest of the final season, particularly due to a dissatisfying and contradictory explanation for one of the series' longest-running mysteries. But this was a transitional episode, more than anything, and there may be more to the story than meets the eye. But for now, this episode brings this soaring season back to earth.