Season 2, Episodes 23 and 24
Date of airing: May 24, 2006 (ABC)
Nielsen ratings information: 17.84 million viewers, 10.3/16 in Households, 7.6/18 with Adults 18-49
And after 24 episodes, let’s count the tally. Six flashback episodes were centered on characters’ experiences on the island or on characters who weren’t even among the regulars. Four of those episodes fully happened on the island, which makes one-sixth of this season centered on flashbacks that happened after the plane crashed. It means the writers knew what the audience wanted to see and the writers may also have realized that they couldn’t do much with the flashbacks in general, as they have become character studies while the audience was hoping to get their minds fracked with twists and turns and new mysteries opening up the brain waves of imagination. Who knows, maybe the statue with the feet of four toes was included into this two-parter, knowing that the viewers who have already started dissecting the entire show on the internet will analyze said statue and find an explanation for its existence, also knowing that this kind of audience participation over the summer months would most likely give the show additional free advertisement. Facebook was just about to come around and be in everyone’s mind, so discussing the show on a Facebook group was a must-do (I personally discussed the show on a German messageboard, since I didn’t have Facebook until January 2009 — twist alert: I got to Twitter before I got to Facebook). And after this episode, a lot needed to be discussed, even if the two-part season finale didn’t offer much when it comes to mysteries. We could always talk about how good or evil the Others are (they are kidnapping the three alpha personalities of the survivor group, so they are definitely evil, but they did let Michael and Walt go free, so they might be good), we could waste brain power arguing about the four toes, we could analyze the reason of Oceanic 815’s crash and its connection to the system failure at the Swan station, and we could figure out what actually happened to the island and the world when the station blew up. The world still existed, according to the final scene, but the island must have gone through something. Will we ever get the answer to that?
Again, these two episodes are proof that the writers were mostly stalling throughout the season. I have said that multiple times now, but after 86 minutes managed to be more entertaining than the eight episodes that came before, something has to be said about how the writers decided to keep their twists and turns for the season finale, which necessitated empty running time for the regular episodes. LOST is a prime example of how to write serialized television, according to Hollywood professionals, but LOST should also be the prime example of how to write for nothing and how to postpone everything exciting happening in your narrative and to put it all into episodes that need to keep the viewers hungry during a long span of LOST-free months. I mean, what really happened ever since “Henry” got captured (the guy definitely deserved his real name in this episode, especially after Tom and Bea got theirs, although we did know Bea’s name already)? Claire closed some holes in her memory banks, Hurley almost killed himself, we found two more DHARMA stations with barely anything in it, a long-lost character returned to the beach, two other characters were killed off in return… Most of what happened over the past third of the season was character-based, which is not a wrong thing to do, but during the second year LOST never really knew whether it wanted to keep with the characters, which was the show’s strength during the first season, or go full on mysterious and deliver one deep cut after another when it comes to the mythology of the show. It tried to be both at the same time and it didn’t really work out.
Story-wise, these episodes were good enough. Probably not great, because I’m still irked over the fact that it took the season almost 24 episodes to get to the point, but there was some nice closure with Desmond’s return and how the writers must have known from the beginning that the season is going to end with the Scotsman’s return to the island, leading him and Locke to blow up the station and end the story of this very DHARMA station, and kill a set that had some interesting ideas, even after I have asked myself multiple times why only the central characters of the show — the Alpha personalities — were to be found in the station, while someone like Claire never bothered to checkout what the hatch was all about, why Rose never used it for more than the washing machine, why Libby wasn’t interested in anything else but fashion and blankets (which was her doom, and that means her going down the hatch was essentially a plot device to get her killed), why Jin and Sun didn’t think of the station as their escape after the latter got mysteriously attacked. The writers waited almost an entire season (again a sign of stalling time) to get back to the roots of said season and close the circle with Desmond, the hatch and the button. After we almost learned nothing about the function of this station, we all get it in one fell swoof, with an additional element being introduced in the very last episode of the season, which then served as the MacGuffin to get rid of the story forever. And suddenly there was a failsafe you could activate, and when Desmond did so, he probably saved the world. Or the whole “push the button” thing was still an experiment, the plane crash was coincidental, and it was the failsafe that actually led to the crazy sound and colorful sky at the end of the episode, let alone the detection of electromagnetic anomalies.
Desmond was an interesting character, and I was glad he was given the spotlight for these two hours (which makes him the first character to get two back-to-back hours of flashbacks). He was treated like a central character in these episodes, and it was almost like the writers always considered him part of the show, even if only for five episodes that bookended the season. Okay, if the writers really thought of Desmond as a central character here, they would have led him interact with more people than just mainly Locke, and for a few words even with Jack and Sayid. There was a man on the beach almost all of the survivors have never met and he is not the talk of the town? Desmond was not surrounded by curious birds wanting to know where he comes from, what he did to get on this island, and trying to convince him to give his sailboat to them? Maybe everyone was a little too scared to talk to the new guy who couldn’t stop drinking and was most likely talking our of his ass on the day after his arrival. His connection with Locke was of intrigue to me though — the two bonded over the experience of pushing the button, and they quickly developed opposing views about it and the reason for its existence, even if Desmond’s beliefs were changed quite conveniently. Only a quick look at the records and he came to the realization that everything is real — I’m actually a little surprised that he immediately figured the date of the system failure may have been connected to the plane crash, and I’m just gonna file it under plot conveniences, even if the answer of why the plane really crashed was a satisfying one. If electromagnetism can bring down a plane like that, who knows what else happened in the past and what the so-called incident was all about…
Desmond’s flashbacks were satisfying as well. He became a likable person quite quickly, with his efforts to prove himself, to get back his honor that he lost when he did what he did, to accept that his greatest love Penny Whitmore would be better off without him, and that he would be better off staying away from her. Okay, I laughed a little when we saw what happened before Jack and Desmond met during their tour de stade, and I found it weird that even Libby found her way into yet another character’s back story, but Desmond was out to experience an adventure and win over Penny again by proving himself in front of her father. What a shame he crash-landed on the island as well, and was immediately groomed to be the new pusher of the button. And here we are at a point where we are certainly allowed to ask a few questions. One, was it really necessary to explain where the map on the blast door came from and why Kelvin had to paint it with invisible ink when he just could have used color (because now you have to explain what Kelvin knew about the other stations and why he never told Desmond about them)? Two, isn’t it unrealistic that Desmond (and Kelvin) wouldn’t grow crazy and develop cabin fever hocking in this hole for three years or more? Three, they never tried to figure out what was behind the wall, considering they had enough time to maybe get curious and ask themselves why they were pushing the button? Did Desmond just accept everything that Kelvin told him and he had no mind of his own? Well, I guess he just loves Penny…
Meanwhile somewhere on the island, Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley and Michael went on a hike to meet the Others, and everything went terribly wrong, as expected (season finale and all). Sayid’s plan didn’t work quite well, because all he could do was make some black smoke and when the island “blew up,” he was back on the boat with Jin and Sun, because apparently he couldn’t wait until his friends joined him at the beach. I was slightly happy that the story wasn’t taking up all of the second part. They were down and out a third of the way in, and the rest of the episode was spent having them at the dock, with weapons behind their heads and “Henry” showing up to do business and make himself known as the apparent leader of the Others (Jack had the leader of the Others as prisoner, now “Henry” has the leader of the survivors as prisoner — you do me, I do you). Michael and Walt got on a boat and drove away, either never to be seen again or returning after a season like Desmond did. Hell, the characters weren’t even curious about what just happened, what the bright pink light was all about and why the noise almost blew up their ear drums. No, “Henry” went straight back to making deals with Michael and into the kidnapping business. By the way, Jack, Kate and Sawyer were chosen because they were the alpha personalities, right? In a way, the Others just made it easier for themselves to go back and attack the survivors, now that their three greatest action heroes are out of business.
There was also stuff happening in the Swan station before it blew up, but most of it was kind of a waste of time, with Locke and Desmond barely having a talk about anything else than what happened on the island (Desmond was essentially caught up with what happened after he left the island), and Mr. Eko and Charlie barely doing anything to stop Locke from not pushing the button. Yes, Eko and Charlie were out cold from right after the title card of the second part until right before the station blew up — that is certainly one way to write out characters you never needed, but had to keep in the narrative somehow, because they have already been written into it by the previous episodes’ writers. Maybe the explosion of the station is a good way to get rid of some characters. Charlie obviously survived to get that kiss from Claire (seriously, Charlie just “took” Aaron for a baptism not even two weeks ago and she is already back in love with the former drug addict?), but Locke and Eko’s status of survival have been turned into the cliffhanger of the season (as well as Desmond). With Michael riding on a boat, away from the island, it would be kind of maddening to have the other African-American character be killed off as well, so you could almost be excused to believe that Eko will somehow survive the explosion and find his way from out of the rubble of the Swan station.
The final scene of the second part did deliver the first scene of LOST that was set in the outside world, at least when it comes to the present-time narrative. Yes, the world is still there, pushing the button had nothing to do with saving the world (it was just about saving the station from exploding), and Penny can remain part of the mythology of the show and be forever connected to her love story with Desmond. The Scotsman has been in the show for five episodes only and his greatest love is apparently the only person who knows where the survivors of Oceanic 815 are.