This second hour came out of last minute negotiation between the producers and ABC to get one of the three episodes "in the bank" from the writers' strike to tell the story properly, as well as giving viewers the two hour finale that is expected. It was obviously the right call. With all the stuff that happens in these two hours, it would've been impossible to cram all that stuff into one. It's pretty amazing that the fast production didn't hurt the episode much outside of some of the special effects (the freighter explosion).
Keamy succumbs to the fatal wounds Ben gave him, setting up the explosion. It's unfortunate that Keamy is gone from the present narrative since he helped make that threat Ben and Locke were warning Jack about very real, but he served his purpose. It might've been cool to have his arm cut off, activating the trigger, but that'd be hard to pull off on a regular basis if he survived. The dead man's trigger, along with the correct assumption that the freighter was going to explode, marked his curtain call. One question brought up by his death was why didn't Locke attempt to put on the dead man's trigger? It's possible that once it went off, it was off and even a second away from a pulse would trigger it.
As it turns out, Sun's fault of deceiving others didn't result in her being separated from Jin, but the overall panic on the freighter as people tried to get off before the bomb went off did. It's obviously a better choice, as my theorized method would be hard to pull off without making Sun really unsympathetic, plus the chaos works better dramatically (the direction in this scene was reminiscent of "24", which I miss so much).
Despite being on the freighter when the bomb went off, I am 100% convinced Jin is still alive. It would be hard for them to pull off such a twist without it cheating the life or death stakes they want to portray on the island, but as mentioned in previous reviews, Sun believing Jin's dead is probably the only way it could work, and Yunjin Kim really sells the devastation of losing Jin. Her screams are chilling.
As for where he is, a good theory would be Faraday's boat picks up Jin among the wreckage. However, upon further thought, he may be on the island. Remember back in season two when he somehow wound up back on the island several hours ahead of Michael and Sawyer? Well he may have done so the same way the doctor's body washed up a day and a half before he died. He could have easily returned to the island a day before the move in an uninhabited area.
For all the promotion surrounding Michael's return, it didn't yield much this season. They emphasized he would be a lead character, but was only featured in a few episodes. Many prominent characters didn't even know he was back. He ultimately failed in his redemptive mission: Keamy's men got to the island and killed half a dozen people, not to mention the bomb that killed everyone on the freighter (except Jin. I'm not giving up.) It lacks the heroism Charlie's actions turning off the Looking Glass' signal had. Perhaps Christian's "You can go now", a rather dismissive phrase, was meant to be taken as the island punishing Michael for his failure. That may be why it wasn't Walt who showed up to let his dad off the hook.
The biggest problem is that there was no closure regarding his relationship with Walt, which is ironic considering how father-child relationships are major pieces for most of the characters. There is always the chance he may appear to Walt and that story may be resolved that way, but Walt's story is more connected to his ambiguous ability.
Ben's fork in the microwave blows apart the chamber, revealing something far older, similar to the special room in his secret closet in the Barracks, particularly with the hieroglyphics with a huge wheel covered in ice. However, the wheel itself, as well as the unusual cold, reminds me more of something Northern European. Dharma may have been aware of this wheel and had the polar bear Charlotte found be the test subject, and they sealed it up to keep the room from being easily accessed.
Some things on the island I'm willing to accept as they are without some explanation. Why is the Frozen Donkey Wheel room unusually colder than everywhere else on the island? How does turning a wheel cause the island to move or send its turner to Northern Africa? I'm not going to try to figure out, although it adds credence to the theory that the island is manufactured.
Ben's moving of the island precedes his flash forward. From his clothes, the sudden temperature change and the cut on his arm (why include it otherwise). So technically, Ben's flash forward would be first since only a few days passed for him. It is interesting to note how quickly Ben's resignation changes once he finds himself in Tunisia.
Ben believes he's being punished for failing the island last season. It's apparent during his emotionally charged push of the wheel. Before, he mentions that whoever moves the island can't return, the ultimate punishment for him. This is another ambiguous quote. Is it an agreed rule among island faithful? If not, one theory suggests Ben was charged by whatever was mentioned in The Orchid video and that will keep him from reentering that barrier. Whatever it is, there has to be a loophole since I can't see the island saga ending without Ben on it.
Considering what little we know, Locke's tenure as The Others' new leader is likely going to be disaster, but it will be interesting to see what he does. Will he be inclined to "merge the tribes" to borrow a phrase from "Survivor"? That would certainly be uneasy with turncoat Juliet. It'd serve as a fitting contrast to see Locke attempting Jack's "live together, die alone" philosophy.
For The Others, will some of them step in the spot light? It seems like it'd be better to invest more time with Alpert and developing his character, although a few Others will likely rise in prominence since otherwise it's a red shirt brigade. Alternatively, maybe Alpert and Locke will be the last Others standing following the bad things that'll happen on the island.
With the cast going in several directions, there are few key members left on the beach camp. Sawyer and Juliet are the only major leaders left, which should be an interesting power vacuum (and possible romance) to see develop, assuming we'll still see the on island events as we have. With the beach slimmed down, this would've been a better time to introduce a Nikki and/or Paolo into the mix, not that they'll likely try that again.
What happened to Faraday and the raft of red shirts left on the water? Every other person or group is accounted for (with the exception of Jin, who I refuse to believe died). They have set up Faraday's character too much to have him die ingloriously in the middle of nowhere. Because of his status, he may be the only person to inform Widmore of what happened on the island if Frank stays low profile.
Despite moving the island moving, Jack refuses to give Locke any credit (OK, he literally didn't move the island, but he wouldn't know that). This is where Jack's behavior waves a little too far in mid-X-Files Scully territory, but Jack's skepticism has given way to cynicism, which may be the beginnings of his stupor.
It's also worth noting that the moment the island disappears, the people on the island think the Oceanic Six and the others on the freighter are dead and the Oceanic Six have no idea what happened to those left behind. So their reaction to the Six's return will likely be a lot different than we might've expected if we assumed the Six left the rest in a more selfish way. Then of course, Locke finds out they survived as he visits them, but when does that happen?
Desmond's reunion with Penny is as heartfelt and satisfying as anyone could've wished for. As mentioned before, their love story resonates more than all the Jater/Skater/Jurley stuff put together. Despite knowing she would be in the episode, the moment one of the Portuguese men (who apparently was in the artic station when Desmond turned the key) called for Ms. Widmore, many fans and I started freaking out. I haven't gotten this way since Jim & Pam on "The Office" (or their British counterparts).
The only concern with this is that many were expecting to wait another two years for this scene. Now that they are reunited, is this forecasting doom, especially with Penny in Ben's cross hairs? Desmond's promise that he'll never leave her may be tested if he needs to return to the island. Or maybe Widmore stuck her on the island since Ben supposedly can't return there.
As for the two other people with the Six when Penny rescued them, Desmond will obviously stick with Penny, who has the money to keep them under the radar for the rest of their lives, but will they extend that courtesy to Frank? He's the only surviving freight crew not on the island or unaccounted for, and Widmore would likely want to see him to know what happened to his men.
The flash forwards didn't take as much screen time as expected, but the short and sweet segments set up their stories for next season well. Sayid extracting Hurley from Santa Rosa for "somewhere safe" is a big loose end from the episode, setting up their story for the presumed pick up point for the Six, after the death of "Jeremy Bentham". Apparently, that is enough to indicate that things have gone bad that drastic measures are now necessary. Why does Sayid need to take Hurley immediately though? It's likely because of his ability to talk to Jacob. Since Locke is the man in the coffin, Ben would want to get the only other person who can do that on his side to figure out the next phase of their plan.
Hurley is deep in his mental illness, playing chess with Mr. Eko, as that may be the only way he can handle the guilt. His remark about speaking to dead people could've easily set up a "Sixth Sense" twist, revealing one of the people we saw him talking to in the hospital was the man in the coffin, but that wouldn't have had much weight since all four major characters he's talked to in the institution (not including Charlie) interacted with someone else. It could also be the island sending the dead like Charlie.
Kate's dream sequence puzzled some people as they believed what she saw were mixed visions brought by the island. The phone call she gets, when reversed, warns her to return to the island "before it's too late", but then Claire appears telling her not to bring "him" back. However, it seems more like Kate's desires are subconsciously manifested in the island visions. Kate has the least interest in returning to the island because of Aaron and the terms of her probation (for a capital crime she clearly did). For the former, having Claire appear and reinforce her opinion justifies her feelings about the island, but now that resolve is cracking.
Sun's flash forward has a lot of promise. She obviously took reigns at her father's company to get close to Widmore, but is she aligning with him? She mentions they have "common interests", which is likely the island and getting to it. He is the best connection to the island she has, since there's no indication Locke or Ben visited her. The answers to why she reached out to him may be some of the strongest evidence supporting Jin being alive. Why else would she want to get to the island?
Then we have Jack, going through more grunge-era music in his stupor, presumably right after his "we have to go back" moment with Kate. Ben now may have him under his thumb as well, another ironic twist of fate. Although how will Ben clean Jack up so he can get everyone back?
Ben emphasizes that everyone must return with Jack to the island, but does everyone mean only the Oceanic Six? What about Walt, who has been off for more than a month when the Six leave; Ji Yeon, conceived on island, but not born there; Desmond, who wasn't on the plane, but spent three years there; and Frank, who was only on the island in passing, but was there nonetheless. If it includes Desmond, it may be a ruse to get Penny out of hiding so he can exact revenge on Widmore. Considering how scattered they are, getting them together again will likely be a big part of next season.
Ben's ideas for getting those who left to return will likely involve his classic tactic of finding what a person values, then exploiting it. Jack and Hurley will likely be game. Sayid may be as well, assuming he is still working for Ben. The way through Kate has to be through Aaron. Assuming he's still alive, Jin may be motivating Sun's "common interests" with Widmore and Ben can likely exploit that too.
The biggest reveal of the episode was the season ending cliffhanger of Locke being the man in the coffin. Many have suspected it to be him all along. It makes sense considering their contentious relationship regarding the island being special that Jack would regret doubting him since it had tragic consequences. That said, I don't think Locke is necessarily dead the way other people except Christian are. Locke is such a central character to the show's story to now. It'd be a hard sell to have Ben and Jack playing Weekend at Bernie's with him.
There are a lot of questions surrounding Locke's journey back to the main land as Jeremy Bentham. There is no known practical method of getting off the island besides turning the frozen donkey wheel. So some have theorized that Locke will move the island again, expelling himself. Not being able to return, some have theorized, spurred his suicide. However, there is more than enough doubt as to if he really did kill himself.
As for his secret identity, the survivors insisting on calling him Bentham continues their objective to lie about their stay to protect those left behind. Sayid suspected that Locke was murdered and made to look like a suicide, so maybe his paranoia stems from him believing the secret is out and those out to get the left behind are at risk. Locke knows of Widmore, but obviously doesn't have the history Widmore had with Ben.
The narrative structure for next season should be as interesting, if not more, than this one. There are three years to mine for the Oceanic Six as well as the people left behind. Will island action pick up where we left off with jumps in the time line, or will they do a "Three Years Later" jump and have those left behind do flashbacks to explain what bad things happened on the island? It seems likelier that the subplots involving the Six, Ben and maybe Walt will pick up around the time this episode ends. The gap wasn't really supposed to be answered this season, rather it was the set up for next season's story. Three major questions will likely be key story points next season: how do the people who left the island reunite and return, what happened to those who stayed behind and what were the circumstances that lead to Locke's "death".
While this finale didn't have the mind bending twist that changed the trajectory of the series like last season, there was enough emotional satisfaction with how events happened to make up for it. Not to mention they couldn't keep topping themselves with crazy twists or next season they'd reveal Christian fathered everyone on the island, including himself. The writing overall was very strong, setting up some interesting paths they can go down next season, but it was the performances in this episode that really resonate. There are so many moving, exciting and intriguing moments in this closing chapter of the best season yet that easily makes up for there not being a major game changer like last year. Some criticized this episode for lacking in major surprises, but it was clear this season, as well as the series itself, is all about the journey.