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Emily Nussbaum on ‘Lost’: We Are John Locke

And he is us.Courtesy of ABC

Last night, after watching that satisfyingly perverse Pop-Up Video version of Lost's season-three finale (to quote a friend: "It's weird — and kind of cool! It's like they're acting like you're a complete moron, but it also explains a lot!"), we felt a shivery pop of anticipation. Then reflexive anxiety. Followed by vertigo, panic, mild itching, a series of troubling flashbacks, helpless trickles of hope — the gamut of fan symptoms, since, let's face it, for geeks like us, watching Lost has become an enthusiast's version of the show's original plane crash: a thrill ride punctuated by shrieks of betrayal. An e-ticket on the Undulating Curve of Shifting Expectations, if you will.

So tonight, the Night of the Premiere After the Longest Hiatus Ever, may feel a bit like being stuck at the peak of a really fantastic roller coaster, except that it's a ride you can barely remember getting on and that looks suspiciously like it's made of off-brand particle board.

There was a big plane crash! A hatch! A smoke monster! Locke was faith, Jack was science, the hatch blew up, the people from the tail joined the cast, and then they died, and the Others were revealed to be a cult/corporation with terrible C-section rates, possibly run by a poltergeist named Jacob in a wooden shack. Then Desmond's ex, Penelope, or actually, someone pretending to be the Penelope Corporation, was trying to rescue the survivors, or maybe that was a scam, and Charlie drowned. Then suddenly we were in the future, and Kate had a glossy Breck flip and five pounds of blusher and was arguing with a bearded, deranged, Scully-gone-Mulder Jack in an airport hangar and — wha?!

There's a great little interview on Ted.com where J.J. Abrams gets all nerdy-profound about the creation process. But like all genre philosophers, Abrams main point is, TRUST US, WE'RE MAGICIANS — a seductive contradiction that seems pretty appropriate for a series in which more than half the characters have backstories as grifters. Personally, we're not among those who ever lost faith in the show's creators, even after that creepy Entertainment Weekly article that implied that the whole arc was written in lipstick on stained cocktail napkins and then pinned up backward on a dorm-room refrigerator. We thought the cunning game-changer at the end of last season — the flashback that suddenly revealed itself as a flash-forward — was a brilliant twist that revitalized the entire series. We're avoiding the spoilers posted on our own Website! We even liked Nikki and Paulo.

Basically, we're kind of like John Locke: Befriend us under false pretenses, steal our kidney, smash us through a window, toss us in a mass grave! You're still our daddy, and we'll follow you anywhere. —Emily Nussbaum