You have to admire the balls of a show like Lost. Every season finale finds a new way to rewrite the rules of conventional television, and yet never be considered to jump the shark. In the first season, they teased but did not reveal the hatch (which ended up backfiring when the hatch just turned out to be the entrance to a glorified computer lab). In the second season, the finale revolved around the romance of a guest star and a character who had just been introduced. And in the classic third finale, they actually transformed the entire premise of the show by introducing the narrative convention of flash-forwards.
The only problem with such audacity is that it gets harder and harder to top past performance with new ways to blow the audience's mind. So we arrive at the fourth season finale, which will suffer from inevitable comparisons to the third-season gamechanger. This time around they went for a 'shock' ending which answered an old question rather than introduce a new one. Not that this doesn't diminish from the impact of finding out who Jeremy Bentham is, but it's not quite as mind-turning as the last finale.
Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse themselves warned us in advance that this finale was more of a straightforward action-adventure narrative, and on this at least they did deliver. The classic Sayid-Keamy smackdown must surely go down as the most gripping fight this show has seen. We got the melodrama of Sawyer's last moments with Kate, the tension of Jin's and Michael's supposed deaths, and the tearful reunion (at last!) of Desmond and Penelope, which, considering it only started two seasons ago, will go down as a classic romance.
And of course, we got the usual dose of 'some answers, millions more questions' from the mythology side of the show. Now we know that an island CAN be moved, and that it looks pretty spectacular, but so many more questions will be asked. What's the deal with Dharma's time-travelling bunnies? How did Ben get thrust forward ten months into the future - in the middle of Tunisia? And most importantly, how on earth are the writers ever going to come up with answers to all these questions with only two seasons left?
That said, this episode gives further confirmation (if we needed any) why critics and fans can't get Lost enough. No other drama on television delivers so consistently yet leaves us wanting more. It's going to be a long eight months before we get any more answers.