Oh, it's not a spoiler — Ben (Michael Emerson) has looked like this for years.
So, those who have waited patiently for the return of ABC's Lost — ignored the spoilers, re-watched their DVDs, speculated with friends — finally got their two-hour fix on Tuesday night.
How did it go? Let's discuss.
The scoop, meaning you shouldn't keep reading unless you want to hear it, after the jump.
The final episode of season five had left viewers with a question: could the survivors of Oceanic 815 "reset the clock," so to speak, by using a hydrogen bomb to destroy the Swan station in 1974 before it could be built and eventually bring down their plane 30 years later?
The answer was ... yes and no.
Yes, because there now exists an alternate universe where we see, back in 2004, that the plane doesn't crash, just as Jack (inspired by Faraday's theory) hoped. It lands at LAX, carrying Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Sayid, Bernard, Rose, Arzt, and Locke — along with Claire (who disappeared on the island) and Boone and Charlie (who both died on/near the island).
But on the other hand ... no, because they also still exist in the same 2007 where they set off the bomb. That world didn't cease to exist, nor did they cease to be in it. You see, bombing the pre-Swan didn't alter time as much as split it in two. So it now appears that we are in two alternate universes, following one three years ahead of the other. There are two parallel tracks: Crash Time and No-Crash Time.
For a long time, the question has been whether you can change time or whether time inalterably does what it does without you. But now, the show is saying this about time travel: the sense in which it's a terrible idea to enter the past to change the future is not that you can't create a different future. It's that any different future you create becomes a second timeline. Under this model, perhaps if you don't change anything important while you're back in the past, you can just hop around on the same timeline. But if you change anything important — set off a hydrogen bomb, for instance — you cause a split. So it's not that you can't change anything. It's that you ... really shouldn't.
In No-Crash Time, despite the fact that Oceanic 815 didn't go down, it takes only minutes after they land for the lives of those who became the survivors in Crash Time to start getting tangled with each other. Sawyer meets up with Kate in an elevator; Kate later hijacks Claire's taxi. John and Jack strike up a conversation in baggage services. There are other signs that all is not restored to normal just because the plane didn't crash; there are other differences in the world as well. Boone's spoiled stepsister, Shannon, isn't with him, while, in an even bigger surprise, Desmond — who in Crash Time was in the hatch about to crash the plane — is a passenger on the plane, but vanishes at some point during the flight. Oh, and the body of Jack's father — and Claire's — has gone missing.
Two things worked well about No-Crash Time. The first is that the show specializes in the ideas of fate and predestination, so there's a satisfyingly grim resignation in watching it become ever more clear that a reset, even if it "worked," is not going to solve whatever is going to befall these people — not really. If they're meant to bump into each other, they're probably meant to do whatever it is they're going to do.
The second thing that worked well is that as soon as you started looking at 815 landing safely, it was impossible to miss all the things that, in fact, were a little sad about the fact that the crash wasn't going to happen. Locke was still paralyzed and discouraged; Rose undoubtedly still has cancer; Jin and Sun have the icy marriage they had when they boarded the plane (that one, in particular, is a heartbreaker). Charlie is still a heroin addict — in fact, Jack has to revive him after he winds up with a bag of drugs stuffed down his throat. It's not as if being stuck on that island never did anything for anybody. It's not as if no one progressed, and all that progress is gone. Of course, we have no idea how different things are. Maybe Rose doesn't have cancer. Maybe Locke is faking. Maybe once you create a separate timeline, everyone is subjected to good and bad luck all over again, so that even things not directly affected by the bomb are different now.
And then there was the fact that the island — along with the Others' houses, and the foot of the statue — was underwater. Say it with me: "...Huh."
Crash Time (After The Bomb) got off to a slower start for me. There was no real need for the dragging out of Juliet's death, where she was presumed dead, and then found alive, only to die in Sawyer's arms. Yes, it gave them the opportunity to say another tender goodbye, but it played like an unnecessary fake-out, and it isn't as if their other goodbye — with her hanging onto his hand and repeating as reassuringly as she could that she loved him, knowing she was about to drop to the bottom and die — wasn't adequate.
But, that decision aside, the show got right down to business clearing up some facts about the central conflict that now seems to be the reason for the entire island/energy/fate mystery that lies at the heart of Lost: an epic battle between the now-dead Jacob and ... well, people are calling him "Esau," which seems pretty fair to me. Esau, first seen in the form of Titus Welliver at the end of last season, is now in John Locke's body — well, no, that's wrong, because John Locke's body is on the beach, having been dumped out of its coffin, so Esau has really just taken the form of John Locke, like ... the Wonder Twins? Anyway, having successfully used Ben as an instrument to murder Jacob (which one suspects he can't do directly?), Esau-Locke has now knocked out and grabbed up Jacob's ally Richard Alpert and is hauling him off to ... who knows where?
At any rate, we saw it seemingly confirmed another seriously important fact: that the smoke monster, like the Locke who isn't Locke, is an embodiment of Esau. I'm always sad when they show a lot of Smokey fighting (as he did with Jacob's bodyguards here), because Smokey is just not very realistic-looking, no matter how hard everybody tries, and it takes me right out of the story every time Smokey shows up. We also got confirmation that the ashes that were spread around Jacob's cabin at one point are used to ward off Esau-Smokey, and they work in units as small as a little circle of ashes you draw around yourself, although Esau-Smokey can pretty easily get around that technicality by throwing something at you that knocks you out of your protective circle. Just ask the guy he impaled on a giant ... well, it was gross. Anyway.
Also in Crash Time (After The Bomb), Sayid was still bleeding to death after being gut-shot, but Recently Dead Jacob appeared to Hurley and told him to take Sayid to ... The Temple. We've been teased about the temple for a long time, and when Hurley and his friends finally got there, it didn't disappoint. Not only was it a mighty imposing structure, but it was inhabited by what seem to be an entire new group of Others, including Cindy the flight attendant, whom the Others Cindy-napped long ago, and Zach and Emma, the two kids the Others had also taken. Note: The whereabouts of Cindy, Zach and Emma have long been the topic of much fan speculation, and they haven't been seen for several seasons, so nobody can say there weren't some answers right there in the season premiere.
There was a little too much familiarity in this part of the story, where the Others emerged, pointed guns at Team Jack, and dragged them off to captivity. We've seen this before, more than once, and even Sawyer later pointed out that they'd been nabbed by the Others again. Similarly, Jack trying to revive Sayid while Kate told him to stop called to mind — intentionally, I'm sure, but nevertheless — the one-time efforts to revive Charlie in the jungle. And just like Charlie, after Kate assured Jack he was really, really dead, Sayid later sat up. Note to Kate: Stop interrupting CPR.
So we find ourselves in the following situation.
In Crash Time (After The Bomb), Sayid just woke up from being dead, and he and Team Jack are waiting along with the Very New Others for the impending arrival of Esau-Locke-Smokey in whatever terrifying form he's apparently coming for them, perhaps with Richard slung over his shoulder like a ham.
In No-Crash Time, Kate is in a taxi, speeding away from LAX with Claire, holding a gun to the driver's head. Charlie has been carted off by the cops, nobody knows where Desmond went, Jack's father's body is missing, John lost his knives, Hurley is a lottery winner and chicken zillionaire (who, notably, mentions that he's the luckiest guy in the world, meaning something has protected him from the run of bad luck after his big win) and Sawyer is seemingly himself, for the most part, in that he flirted with Kate in an elevator and has therefore already made far too big a deal out of her.
All in all, a full and promising two hours, even if I could have lived with a little less of the kidnapping and menacing by the Others. The show has already started resolving questions (remember just how much of a fundamental question "What/who is the smoke monster?" was in the show's early going), they've introduced a few characters it's awfully nice to see again, and the actors have gotten a chance to freshen up their performances by resetting their characters to a point before they got so jaded about things like death and polar bears.
So what did you think?