Thoughts on Lost Season 6 Episode 16 What They Died For

-by Amy Yen

It was interesting to see the amount of general disdain for last week’s Jacob/Man in Black origin story. I think what the problem was that it just came too late in the season. This close to the end, the last thing we want is to be introduced to new characters, especially new characters that we are told are vitally important to series mythology. More importantly, especially with a show that is, at the end of the day, built on its characters, the last thing we want is to be taken away from those characters so close to the end of their story. I do think it’s important to tell Jacob & MiB’s story, particularly because it’s central to Jacob’s fireplace-of-death exposition theater this week, but it could have easily been done six episodes ago &, in fact, probably would have been a better payoff.

I also think that, looking back on it, Happily Ever After, the Desmond episode, should have been much earlier in the season than it was as well. That would have made the sideways story much more meaningful much earlier. Desmond’s meddling in all the sideways stories since have been really intriguing, but unfortunately it feels rushed. I think that the producers were a little too in love with the idea of mirroring season 1’s narrative order, putting the character-centric stories in the same order, & failed to recognize that at this point in their overall character arcs, Desmond & Jacob are both more vitally important to the story & more interesting to us as the viewer than Kate or even Jack.

All this being said, this week’s episode was really fantastic &, even though I’ve found it maybe a little uneven, I’ve still enjoyed watching Lost every week this season. It’s more that I want it to be perfect so badly. That’s just unrealistic. For the most part, I think that I’m able to just enjoy the ride. I still a lot of faith in Team Darlton that they’re going to deliver a satisfactory ending, or as much as one is possible in a show like Lost. Butterflies, y’all. Seriously, Sunday cannot come fast enough.

Assorted thoughts on “What They Died For”:

  • “What They Died For” was a great episode in its own right, but what it did really well was set up the finale perfectly. We know where both the Island storyline & the sideways storyline are headed: a showdown by the light & a confrontation at the concert, respectively. This reminds me a lot of why the season 4 finale was so great…it was built up to, in that case when we knew what the end is supposed to be (six specific castaways getting off the Island, but not the others), watching the chess pieces that were scattered all over the place to start the episode slowly coming together. With this kind of set up, things are looking really good for  Sunday.
  • Jacob’s fireplace-of-death exposition theatre. Um. So, why did he burn his ashes & put a timer on his Candidate pitch again? Was burning the ashes the only way to make himself visible to the others besides Hurley? Bravo for getting all that into like 20 minutes though. Mark Pellegrino makes his presumable exit here, which marks his second departure in less than a week off a major genre show where he was playing a mythological giant of a character. He’s been great, I’ve really enjoyed him on both shows.
  • “I didn’t pluck any of you out of a happy existence. You were all flawed. I chose you because you needed the Island as much as it needed you.” Can’t really argue with you there. Although, there’s a lot off about Jacob’s whole Team Free Will philosophy, the main thing being that none of them chose to be on the Island, in the position to be a Candidate in the first place. Jacob by his own admission chose them to come here.
  • Regardless of the holes, there’s something admirable about Jacob’s insistence on giving them a choice, because he never got one. Because it’s not just that he’s fighting Mother & what she basically bullied him into doing all that time ago, it’s like he’s fighting the show itself, which has always been centered on the idea of destiny.
  • I actually liked the explanation for why Kate’s name was crossed off. I also liked that the line of chalk through her name doesn’t mean anything really, it’s just that Jacob crossing her name off his own list of candidates because he thought she would never say yes. Why bother considering her further? I wonder how the same logic worked for the other people who were crossed out even though they’re still around, specifically, Miles.
  • Jack is the one. The fact that he chooses it & that it happened in this episode instead of the finale tells me it can’t be that easy. However, if any of them were to be Jacob’s true replacement, wouldn’t it have to be Jack? Wouldn’t it always have had to be Jack? “Now, you’re like me.” I actually like that we can see it in Jack, I don’t know necessarily that we saw Jacob get it immediately last week.
  • I hate the un-redemption of Ben. What the hell? I mean, yes, Ben has become a whole lot less interesting on the Island since he lost all his power, but I really liked where his character ended up at the end of “Dr Linus.” I guess I’m a little annoyed to see that undone, although that was an open storyline that hasn’t been tied up yet. Actually, Ben’s flashfoward in season 4, where he says to Widmore that he knows he can’t kill him & when he vows to kill Penny because Widmore killed Alex, was that the first reference to The Rules? Why did Ben & Widmore think the Rule about killing each other extended to them?
  • Interesting that the initial thing Flocke promises Ben to get his help is the Island back, but at the end of the episode, he tells him he intends to destroy the Island. I suppose it doesn’t matter, since it’s pretty clear Ben’s motivation was to get his revenge on Widmore.
  • I continue to love the lingering effects of Alex’s death on Ben. His quiet thank you to Richard for burying her body, how inexplicably much the idea that Alex, in the flashsideways, thinks of him as a father figure, means to him. (PS: How awesome was it to see Rousseau again?)
  • Flashsideways! Ben has his flash to the other reality this episode. It’s to when Desmond is beating him senseless after he shot him too. Loved the quiet moment later, when he looks at himself in the mirror & doesn’t quite know who he’s looking at.
  • So Jacob was the one who told Widmore to go back to the Island, “reinvited” him in fact, & told him Desmond was a “fail-safe.” Jacob’s last resort to stop the Man in Black from leaving. In season 2, Desmond turned the fail-safe when Locke, telling him he’d “saved them all,” instead almost caused a global catastrophe by destroying the computer & not pushing the button.
  • Desmond turning the fail-safe caused everything to white-out, which was the same thing that happened when Juliet set off Jughead at the end of season 5. The Man in Black, wearing John Locke, knowing Desmond is the fail-safe this time, thinks he can destroy the Island with his help. This has all happened before.
  • At the same time, in the flashsideways, Desmond is also the key. He’s getting a lot of our 815-ers in one place at one time. I’m betting even James Ford will be dragged along to this shindig. My prediction is that Jack’s ex-wife will be Juliet, who James Ford will ask to coffee. They can go dutch.
  • Des purposely or indirectly pushes Locke to finally let Jack fix him. “I think you’re mistaking coincidence for fate,” Jack tells him, although even Jack has remember how many 815-ers he’s been running into lately.
  • PS: What’s the deal with Jack’s recurring bleeding neck?
  • Loved that Ana Lucia showed up as the corrupt (she did let Sayid & his multiple homicides go) cop in the sideways storyline & that Hurley recognized her. “She’s not coming with us?” “She’s not ready yet.” What’s “ready”? Seriously. Because Mrs Hawking thought Des wasn’t ready & he looks plenty ready to me.
  • Finally, RIP Richard Alpert. I think. If that’s it, what a bleh ending for what was such a fascinating character for so long. It seems wrong. However, as soon as he said Flocke was just trying to get him to go with him, I totally called it. He still thought it was about him, when I don’t know that he was ever that important to the Man in Black once he let Jacob speak to him (look at what he did to Zoe as soon as Widmore told her not to talk to him). If someone like Richard Alpert can die, wouldn’t it be now?

Okay. You can go on & on with an episode like this. See you Sunday.

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