As with Season 2 the highlight of Season 3 was this finale. It has earned its place as my new favourite episode of them all, beating the Season 2 finale. Certainly this season's finale is more epic than Season 2's "Live Together, Die Alone" and taps into many more of Lost's strengths. I had complained at the beginning of the season at the lack of adventure, which probably had something to do with the fact that three of our characters were locked behind Polar Baer cages on a separate island and the remaining characters were milling around on the beach, waiting for something to happen. Luckily Kate got the A-Missions back into the series when she organised a mission to save Jack from Othersville. Since then there have been several missions and treks into the jungle but nothing on the scale of the one in this episode. Every season finale, thus far, has had an A-Mission. Season 1 was going to the Black Rock to retreive the dynamite and blowing up the Hatch, Season 2 was the quest to rescue Walt from the Others and this season is the ultimate mission - to reach the Radio Tower and contact a freighter that seemingly promises rescue for all the survivors! But as it is with Lost, everything is not as it seems. Both Ben and Locke warn Jack and his followers that the mysterious parachutist, Naomi is not who she says she is and that her friends on the freighter may not be coming to the island to rescue people, more likely the opposite. Ben and Locke's warnings can be believed as Naomi was surely lying when she mentioned that the wreckage of Flight 815 had been found underwater. Season 3 focused on the Others and by the end sets up the focus of the next season - The Freighter Folk!
As was foreshadowed in "The Man Behind the Curtain" a second purge was put into action, our Losties coming out better in the end. The moment when Hurley steamrolls over the Others in the DHARMA van is glorious. One of the highlights is the Ben and Jack confrontation. As it began and built it reminded me of a similar moment between Goodwin and Ana-Lucia in "The Other 48 Days" in Season 2. Wonderful performances and quick-paced editing make this a standout moment. But there are many standout moments. Interestingly, for all the action scenes the episode never fully feels like an action packed episode. Much of the momentum is acheived through the anticipation and suspense of the events that unfold before your eyes and the acting performances. Michael Emerson remains irresistible as Ben, as he has since Day 1. But it has really only been in this season where the other actors have been given the excuse to dig a little deeper into their acting souls. Josh Holloway got a chance to reach new depths with Sawyer in "The Brig" and Dominic Monaghan has had his best chance to show what he can do with the character of Charlie.
Speaking of Charlie, his death, though expected by many, was still powerful and shocking, not to mention emotional. Those that had rooted for Charlie's death surely came away from this episode feeling guilty. Who would have guessed at the beginning of the series that Charlie would have been the key to getting them off the island. Many have wondered why Charlie didn't make a run for it after seeing Mikhail but it is likely that he had succombed to his fate and maybe also he was protecting Desmond just like Desmond had been protecting Charlie for so long.
We learn that signals from the island were being jammed by Bonnie and Greta under the orders of both Ben and, presumably, Jacob, to protect the island from the outside world. Seeing as Jack contacted the freighter in the end all that effort was seemingly in vain. However, this information does seem to close a loose-end regarding the island communication. Since the beginning of Season 3 the Others were under the impression that the Hatch Implosion [referred as the Incident or when the "Sky went purple"] was responsible for the loss of communication,when in fact it probably did little to change anything physically on the island. Another interesting revelation was when Bonnie tells Charlie that the code to unlock the jamming device was programmed by a musician. It got me thinking that maybe the code to "save the world" using the Swan computer [Hurley's numbers] were also programmed by someone, a musician or a mathmatician perhaps. So that would mean that just as the Looking Glass code was revealed to be the Beach Boys song, "Good Vibrations" the Swan station code is probably hiding something similar. I haven't had time to work out what the numbers on the Swan's computer could be if they relate to musical notes.
There are several mini-revelations and alot of set-up for the following season but none of the key mysteries are revealed in this installment, which may come as a slight disappointment, but by episode's end that feeling is washed away when you get the huge revation that at least two characters - Jack and Kate - had escaped from the island and that the flashback events that led to this revelation were actually in fact all flash-forward. There had been clues pre-this episode that suggested that the writers were going to be changing the format of the off-island action somehow. After all, Season 3 was particularly keen to reveal the answers to all our pressing questions about the character's backstories. We had learnt about Jack's tattoo, how Juliet came to the island, Ben's background and how he got to the island, the Others Pregnancy experiments, the purge with the DHARMA Initiative, how Locke became wheel-chair bound, how Jin got to become a hitman for Sun's father, who the real Mr Sawyer was and his connection with John Locke, and who Chistian Shepherd's daughter was - Claire!!! All these answers served two purposes, to clear the way for flashforwards and to clear the way for more island-based mysteries to be explored in the future. As with the flashbacks the new flashforward device seen here is akin to Desmond's own condition. Like Desmond has experienced all season audiences were propelled into the future through flashes before their eyes. The whole Desmond time-travel flashes into future events was a very clever foreshadowing plot device used by the writers to set up the moment we realise that our off-island drama is occuring sometime in the future. The plot devices and literary techniques used throughout the season have been nothing less than awesomelingly impressive.
Aside from the shock aspect generated the flashforwards also feature an engaging turn by Matthew Fox as a drunken and drugged Jack Shepherd, which comes off as just a surprise as the fact that he left the island. He does a great job of showing us a wayward Jack, which juxtaposes his current mental state on the island. One of the most interesting parts of the flashback, which has caused a little ripple amongst the Lost fan community is the reference to Christian Shepherd. When Jack is accused of drinking by the new Chief of Surgery, Dr Hammill, Jack responds by ordering that he get his father down here and if Jack is drunker than he is then Jack can be fired. Many fans have speculated that Jack's father is still alive, which I don't. I interpreted it that Jack was being sarcastic to Dr Hammill. Matthew Fox's smug expression was enough to make me believe that he was being sarcastic. Of course Christian would be alot drunker than Jack is because he is dead. Jack was trying to be funny and used the current state of his father to compare against his own. I hope I have explained this as clear as I can!
I guess sometimes Black humour can pass under the radar of fans searching for the next easter egg to speculate over. Now that the second island purge is seemingly over and a rescue operation of sorts was carried out leading to Jack and Kate finding safe haven back in the real world, the door is left wide open for future episode plotlines. For all those who left the show before this groundbreaking episode this is the kind of episode that could bring you back, providing you accept the new flash device. Those that had tired of the flashbacks will find great solace in this narrative shake-up and suddenly for the first time since the Season 1 Pilot episode the series feels fresh and new again. If, as Ben says, Jack has unleashed the "beginning of the end" he has also opened the Hatch door to a new beginning of a show that seemed doomed midway through the season and now is suddenly reinvigorated.
This episode only goes to prove that there is plenty of fuel left in the tank.