I've been reading the comments of some of my friends/colleagues who are WAY smarter about the nuances of "Lost" than I am, and who did not care for last night's episode. This was something of a surprise, since -- aside from one obvious flourish -- I liked the episode, called "Lighthouse," very much. I will try to explain why, with spoilers, after the jump.
There have always been at least two ways to watch "Lost": to study the plot and the visual detail closely in order to figure out the fundamental story, and to look at it as a character piece, in which the big crisis is merely a series of catalytic events to which people must respond, the show's emotional kick is in those responses. Of course, plot and character overlap, and a plot revelation can change how we view the characters (as when we learned that there was Locke and Not-Locke). But when you're studying the plot, you care mostly about "Lost" as thrill ride; when you study the characters, you're more interested in who is taking the ride.
With the ending of "Lost" so near, I think there is an assumption in some circles that we should care more about the plot than the characters. But such an assumption about any show is dangerous; there was some griping early in the most recent season of "Mad Men" about nothing happening plot-wise when in fact a tremendous amount was happening in terms of the characters and their interior lives, and the plot would catch up to the inner anguish (which it did, in slamming fashion, at season's end).
"Lost" is still about the characters, and "Lighthouse"
was very rich in that respect. Seeing Jack, a character and performance I don't much care for, dealing with his issues as a son and a father made for some very effective drama. It also tied nicely with Claire, and her sense of abandonment -- I wondered for a moment if her "friend" would be Jack's father -- and the anguish she feels as a parent whose child is indeed lost. And the show drew well, again, the issue of fact and faith; with Locke dead, Hurley has taken on the role of the man of faith, going where Jacob tells him, while Jack is still the fact guy, and must find his own way to a leap of faith.
At the same time, though, I did not find the episode lacking in interesting plot turns and dramatic moments. Come on, Claire with the ax? How cool was that? And Jin having to teeter between the truth and a lie? And I am still not convinced we know who the good guys and bad guys are in all this -- the Jacob/Not-Locke war still has its ambiguities.
OK, I have some regrets. I regret that Veronica Hamel looks more and more like Morticia Addams. I regret that Jack's mirror-smashing didn't have more impact -- we're used to assuming that the island's puppet masters anticipate everything -- although it works better when you look at Jack and Claire's separate violent, near-mad acts as siblings' parallel, soul-deadening destruction. I like very much what "Lost" is doing; I laughed when Hurley saw the jungle walk as "old school," and I was touched when Jack talked to his son. I delighted in the Claire scenes. I smiled when the samurai showed up at the recital. I don't pretend that it all makes sense, but I believe the show knows where it is going, and I care about what happens to the main characters. Even Jack. Whom I still don't much like. But I am glad to have turned an hour over to "Lighthouse."