Okay, Lost. That was pretty fun. “The Last Recruit” was clearly another episode where the show is gathering and repositioning all of its characters for some major show down, but thankfully, the episode was able to do that while also addressing a number of things that had previously made these sorts of episodes unsatisfying. For one, it’s easy to forgive the now too-familiar still-walking-through-the-jungle scenes when they’re bookended by a reasonably important island revelation (Smokey was running around in a Christian Sheppard suit for several years) and the unbelievably overdue Sun/Jin reunion. From a big picture perspective, neither of these highlights were all that surprising. As soon as Smokey took on Locke’s form, there was pointed speculation that he had done the same with Christian, and there was never any question that in all that running around the jungle, Sun and Jin would eventually end up on the same beach. But both scenes were well-constructed and hit satisfying emotional beats, and so even had the internal doings of the episode been unproductive, I think “The Last Recruit” would have been enjoyable.
Happily, “The Last Recruit” also moved away from a few other irksome features of this season, and so it was entertaining all the way through. The Sun/Jin reunion brought about the conclusion of the stupidest plot gimmick ever, Sun’s silly loss of the English language, which was appropriately capped by the cheesiest line imaginable (“Looks like someone got their voice back”). Desmond has been a real blessing for the sideways world, which has finally taken on some sense of urgency as knowledge from the island timeline starts seeping in and interaction between the characters has become more than just funny coincidence. It’s still a shame that there were so many episodes with seemingly pointless sideways plotlines, but as everyone begins to collide with each other, it’s easier to forgive the boring stuff that came first. My favorite moment of slippage from one timeline to the other was Sun’s look of terror when she saw John Locke in the hospital – it’s been cool to see the barrier between the timelines start to collapse even without Desmond’s interference. It’s as though once Charlie forced Desmond to see it, and Faraday gave Desmond some vague explanation for it, the breakdown between the timelines started to spread everywhere, almost uncontrollably.
It was also nice to see Jack finally owning his new island persona, something he’s danced around without fully embracing since returning on the Ajira flight. It makes sense that Sawyer is now just desperate to leave, and that Kate’s mission is fulfilled by reclaiming Claire (who, I worry, still has a few screws loose), but it was always Jack who felt as though his purpose on the island were bigger and less easily explained. He was the one running around episode after episode yelling, “We have to go back!” without really understanding why, so it’s a relief to see him admit to everyone else that his purpose is different than theirs. What that purpose is, we have yet to really understand – will it have something to do with the fact that his last name is Sheppard? Is he the eponymous “Last Recruit,” an episode title which was more opaque than usual? Who is his ex-wife, a character the show has been careful to avoid showing us thus far? (The best guess right now is Juliet, who has been markedly absent in sideways world.) In any case, it’s a good thing that Jack’s admitted to having a larger purpose, or as Carleton Cuse and Damon Lindelof said in this really nice Wired piece:
Locke is now the voice of a very large subset of the audience who believes that when Lost is all said and done, we will have wasted six years of our lives, that we were making it up as we went along, and that there’s really no purpose. And Jack is now saying, “the only thing I have left to cling to is that there’s got to be something really cool that’s going to happen, because I have really, really fucking suffered.”
I think it’s clear that however we may feel about his character until now, we’re supposed to be siding with Jack on this one. And for those who are worried that the ending will be some awful gimmick, I’ll conclude with another quote from that same interview (because I am Quotey McQuoterson lately):
This is our best version of the story of Lost, and it’s the definitive one. The worst thing we could ever do is not end it, or go with some bullshitty ending like a snowglobe or a cut to black. That was genius on The Sopranos, but The Sopranos isn’t a mystery show. For us, we owe our best version of a resolution here.
Thank goodness for that.