"Through the Looking Glass" showed us the future in which a cried-out, tired Kate can no longer stand to look at the obsessive, self-destructive force Jack has become off the island. "The Beginning of the End" immediately followed this up by showing us a Jack who is still employed as a surgeon and one who has only begun to drink.
HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!
The tragic beauty of this story is in watching the unapologetic pieces fall into place and being able to consciously observe the way they make us feel. We KNOW how close Jack will come to committing suicide. We KNOW that Kate won't be able to speak with him. We KNOW that their happiness isn't meant to last. And yet, as "Something Nice Back Home" deliberately unravels the post-island future of the Oceanic 6 following the completion of Kate's trial, we can't help but sigh as Jack finally expresses his love for Kate and subsequently proceeds to self-destruct. Even in knowing exactly what will happen, what MUST happen, Lost succeeds at shocking us.
The episode follows season 3's precedent in showing us a darker side of Jack - obsessive, flawed, and hopelessly human. And as his plans for rescue are questioned with Daniel's revelation that they're not here to rescue anybody in the last episode, Jack feels his control - and his hopes - slipping away from him faster than he could have imagined. Off the island, Jack professes his love to Kate, but we know how this story will end. His paranoia drives him to obsess over Kate's phone call and his desire to right his wrongs drives him to destroy everything he has... their entire illusion of happiness is shattered. Once again, control has been wrested from his hands and Jack finds himself in a hopeless torrent of dark turns, sliding further and further down to become the broken man we saw in "TTLG." But we knew all of this! We knew exactly what kind of person Jack is - one who can never settle, one who can never live with an illusion of happiness, but will instead destroy everything he has and drive himself to look for more. We have even literally glimpsed into the future. So how is it that as we watch him ride this downward spiral we cringe and, even knowing the future, we beg the TV screen to not allow this to happen... we beg Jack to stop before it's too late.
It only goes to prove YET AGAIN the complete mastery these writers have over their audience, and this reviewer wonders how much more time will pass before this mastery is rightfully acknowledged by the critics and appropriately rewarded. Sawyer's transformation into a true leader, foreshadowed since the middle of season 3, seems finally complete, and Dan stands up and separates himself from his fellows by scolding Charlotte's unhelpful attitude in front of the entire group. Bernard's increased presence feels both natural and welcome, and Claire's disappearance marks the onset of the finale... the question of why she is not on the fateful flight off the island while Aaron is seems - all of a sudden - to be nearing resolution. This reviewer can only hope that John Locke, the centerpiece of the following episode, receives his overdue attention... and that the treatment seems as just as the one given Jack. -pW