We'll ignore the flashes for now,, and get right back into the drama. The episode begins with the meeting of Jack and Ben. Both men have had major challenges to their leadership this season, and while Jack's is fragile, Ben's has all but run out of gas. His approach seems a bit absurd. He calls Jack out, tells them that Naomi represented a party who has interests that are very detrimental to the island, and demands that Jack give him the satellite phone, or he will order the murders of the men on the beach. This is Jack's biggest confrontation yet, and he faces up to it, even though he's clearly torn. When the shots are fired, he then proceeds to beat Ben until his knuckles are bloody.
What Jack doesn't know is how badly Ben's leadership has deteriorated. Ryan has disobeyed orders and has not killed any of them yet. This leads to one of the most joyous scenes in the episode. Juliet and Sawyer have made it back to the island, but they don't have any weapons. So who saves the day? Hurley, in the Dharma-mobile! Driving the van that he kept working all this time, he runs Ryan down like a video game pedestrian.. In quick succession, Sayid executes the second gunmen, and Tom, the sole survivor has no choice but to surrender. Sawyer then cold-bloodedly shoots him in the chest, showing that he has fallen into the darkness after killing Cooper. He will emerge from it eventually, but it's going to take a lot.
In the Looking Glass, things have reached a climax there. Mikhail clearly doubts Ben's leadership as well, but nevertheless he follows through on the orders, killing Greta, and mortally wounding Bonnie. Before he can finish the job, Desmond emerges and shoots him with a spear-gun. That should be the end of it, but it's not. Charlie then manages to get Bonnie to give him the codes for the transmitter--- and she does so by saying the codes were programmed by a musician. Now we think we know the reason Charlie had to be here. And for a split second, Charlie thinks maybe this has all been a test, and he won't have to die.. Then a transmission comes through--- it's Penelope. But before she can even see her beloved again, she let's a critical piece of information--- she didn't send the boat. Before anything else can be learned, Mikhail emerges like the messiah with a hand grenade, and blows the porthole. The station will soon flood, but when Charlie sees what's coming he doesn't hesitate, and uses his last bit of strength to send Desmond the message. I defy you to watch the scene as poor Charlie's crosses himself before drowning--- it's the most heartbreaking moment of the season.
(On a side note, what has happened to Mikhail? One would think that the hand grenade would have killed him, but one could have made the same assumption of the spear in the chest? Was he immortal? Probably not, as Ben assumes that he could kill him. Whatever the reason, it seems to be another mystery we'll never see resolved as he hasn't reappeared. Still, it wouldn't surprise me if he popped up in the last season.)
We also get a pretty moving reunion as Rousseau finally comes face to face with Alex.. They haven't seen each other for sixteen years, but they clearly have a bond, as their first act is to tie Ben up like a dog. They make it to the radio tower at last, and the message that has been playing for sixteen years and seven months is finally taking off the loop. Naomi then begins to finally receive a transmission, when suddenly she gets a knife in the back--- from Locke. Somehow, the island has told him where the radio tower is, and though he couldn't have known anything about Naomi, he doesn't hesitate in trying to kill her. (She isn't quite dead yet, but that's another story.) He then tells Jack straight up, we're not supposed to leave, which is exactly the message that Ben has been trying to tell Jack. Speaking of which, when Ben sees Locke walking, he looks stunned, as if he finally realizes John may be as important as everyone thinks. Locke holds a gun on Jack, and threatens to kill him, but for some reason, like with his father just a few days earlier, he cannot follow through. Jack makes contact with the freighter, we see signs of joy....
.... and then the episode plays it's little trick. We do one more flash with Jack, who has been degenerated in each one, driving wildly, trying to get a refill on a prescription, and stealing drugs from the hospital pharmacy. What throws us is that Jack mentions his father and speaks as if he's still alive. We still think were in the past, then... Jack calls someone to meet him at the airport. That someone is Kate. And we realize in a moment of shock that this is the future.. Then we learn that every Friday Jack goes flying from LA to the Far East (particularly Australia) each time praying for a crash. The only explanation that comes to mind: he wants to go back to the island. We can't figure out why yet, and Kate is particularly dismissive, but the episode ends on that plea.
To be perfectly honest when I first saw the last couple of minutes of this episode, I thought that the show had just jumped the shark in the biggest way possible. I thought that (like in J.J. Abrams other series Alias) that he was rewriting the rule book and it would take as well. Clearly, I didn't have the confidence in Carlton and Damon that I do now. They've managed to travel from that point to this with alacrity and upping the stake in each succeeding season, and it is still possible than this will be no better placed than I did with Chris Carter and the X-Files. But maybe they knew what they're doing.
Right now, the biggest question is who was at the funeral. The article at the paper Jack got in Part One was clearly an obituary. In the opening of the second part, Jack went to the funeral home to find nobody there, and the casket was closed. Asked if he was friend or family, he clearly says: "Neither." When he tells Kate about it, she regards it with even more disdain, leading us to believe that it was someone we've already met on the plane that they both knew. I didn't try to freeze frame the shots with the paper, so I didn't get caught p with those people who try to squeeze every single detail out of each episode, so I didn't try to answer the question. At the time I thought it was Christian Shephard, later that it was Sawyer. Everyone now knows who was in the coffin, but I'll save the surprise--- especially since I'm still not convinced that someone is dead yet.
Even knowing some of the twists and turns that are ahead doesn't change the fact that this episode is an extraordinary ending, mostly because of the remarkable acting of Matthew Fox. He runs the complete gamut of emotions in this episode, and in retrospect, his scenes in the flash forwards are astonishing acting. He looks angry and disdainful, pathetic and wrathful, and the episodes last five minutes, goes from his point of greatest elation --- the eminent rescue--- to the shell he seems to be when Kate meets with him. Terry O'Quinn and Michael Emerson get the lion's share of the acclaim, but Fox is clearly at their level, and this episode proves it.
Equally remarkable is the work of Jorge Garcia. Hurley has been feeling useless, but now he emerges as the most unlikely of heroes, up to the point of bragging that he has taken out the Others on the beach. The sad part is, this may be the best moment of Hugo's life, and in a matter of minutes (relatively speaking) he will be struck back to zero
By the end of 'Through the Looking Glass' Ben is warning them that if this call, it will be the beginning of the end. And this episode is considering that the structure that exists. But one question has been answered--- rescue will come to the passengers of Oceanic 815. However, they probably won't be able to escape the island.
My score: 10