After the game changing thrill ride that was the Season 3 finale, Through the Looking Glass, arguably the best episode the show has produced [at least of what I have seen so far, at the time of writing - I am still playing catch-up]. Unfortunately, for me, i am a huge spoiler junkie and I can't seem to shake it off. Season 5 has just reached its conclusion here in the UK and I promised myself that I wouldn't spoil the finale until I watched it. I went against my promise. Then again that could be said about the rest of Season 4 and 5 together. The interesting thing, however, when you know what essentially happens, in the future, is that you can watch the show calmly analysing how events led to things further down the line and how things would get even more complicated than they are right now. When "Through the Looking Glass" first aired the entire Lost community erupted onto the forums and message boards the world over, furiously speculating over the unexpected first flashforward device, not to mention Naomi's mysterious boat people, Charlie's death and the demise of the Others.
It was a compelling chapter in the Lost saga, which couldn't have come at a better time. Halfway through Season 3 the series was in the doldrums, but somehow, the writers pulled it back, with some fantastic stories. The final four of the series, in particular, were arguably some of the best episodes the series had produced so far. Following that reboost of creative energy could have been a tough task, but "The Beginning of the End" does an admirable job of being the most appropriate continuation of the story. Some fans would grumble that it was a little low key, but remember, the very first episode aside, every premiere episode has been quite low key. In fact this Season 4 premiere reminds me alot like the Season 2 premiere, "Man of Science, Man of Faith". Much of the storyline was shot at night, flaming torches included and alot of the events were quite creepy. Instead of visions of Walt though you had Jacob's cabin and visions of Christian Shepherd and possibly the infamous Jacob himself, who gets a second of screen time as his eye pops into frame freaking out Hurley and the audience. Another nice parrallel between the Season 2 and Season 4 premiere is that two seasons on and nothing has really changed in the survivors camp, when things get tense. Locke and Jack continue to bivker, although in this episode it has escaulated into violence and murderous intent. All the survivors remain paranoid, yet at the same time, seemingly unprepared and clueless as to what to do or how to react to the problems that surround them.
Another parrallel to times gone past was how the survivors camp was split, just like it was when some survivors went to live in the caves and the rest remained on the beach. Again this proves that the characters haven't changed too much. They may have changed as individuals but as a team they still resort to the same decisions. Surprisingly, the first centric episode of the season goes to Hurley. The first three seasons all began with Jack and we kind of got used to that fact, so much so as people immediately assumed it was to be a Jack episode during the months beforehand. Seeing as how the final episode of S3 was Jack-centric, it seemed unfair for Jack to have another one, unless they were to have only Jack and Kate leave the island. So now we know that others did survive and leave the Island, despite what ever danger awaits them from the offshore freighter. Some might find the flashforward device a bit like reading spoilers in a way. Now you know that Hurley gets off the island at some point, we cannot be allowed to get concerned if Hurley ends up in a "life and death" situation during the continuing island story. Prior to the end of Season 4 people were worried that the rest of the show would be about linking up the closing moments of Season 3's flashforward with the current island events of this episode and it would go roughly linear in both the island and the flashforwards. The writers would over time show us that that would not be the case and that the flashforwards would not be the intended conclusion of the show.
If the flashforwards are spoilery to some extent they netherless allow for an interest on how events on the island lead to the rescue and that's how the enjoyment should remain. Hurley's flashforward tells us little more about the current psychology of the characters. Hurley, like Jack, later on, wants to return to the island, in order to save the remaining people on the island, who couldn't get off. The fact that not everyone leaves the island, is also a way to prove that the flashforward device will not become a spoiler. the question as to who will become a member of the so called "Oceanic Six" would be the hot debate for many during the first half of the season. On reflection it might have been nice if we didn't know who all of them were so soon, to keep the speculations up for the remainder of the season. One of the more interesting parts of Hurley's forward-story, was the introduction of the shadowy, Matthew Abbadon, whose identity and purpose would not be revealed until Season 5, although speculation would prove to be correct.
Abbadon's presence, would seem to suggest that even off the island, the survivors are not safe, and that their celebrity status has warrented them unwanted attention. Though, not everyone was happy, I liked that we didn't get the Freighter Folk thrown at us from the get-go. We needed a set-up from the beginning of the season, an episode to get us back into the show gently, following such a mind-bending finale and an 8-month wait for new episodes. It felt like a good old fashioned Lost episode, something that was needed before things would evolve into something very different.
A decent beginning to a show nearing closer to its conclusion.