Unless you’ve been living on an island invisible to the rest of the world, you know that the final season of LOST began this week. Fanboys were chewing their fingernails and squeezing their knees together as the countdown began to the beginning of the most anticipated serialized-drama wrap-up in history since The Sopranos. What’s going to happen? Will they get off the island? Will Hurley lose weight? What happened to Walt? Is Sawyer ever going to change his facial expression? What happened to that one guy who got sucked into the airplane engine? Well, he’s probably dead.

If you’ve never seen LOST, and for some reason, you’re still reading this review, then some things must be explained. LOST is the story of the survivors of flight 815 which crashed on an island somewhere in the south pacific. They soon realize that the island is not deserted; a group called the Others have been living there for years. The survivors fight the Others; they befriend the Others; they leave the island; they come back to the island; they move the island; they travel through time; they blow things up. Along for the ride are four-toed statues, polar bears, ghosts, and smoke-monsters.

What makes LOST so good is that it insists on heavy character development, using nearly every episode to recount a story from a single character’s past. Each character is fleshed out and interesting, and if they’re not, the writers have no problem in getting rid of them. Other than its characters, LOST revels in action, suspense, tension, reveal, cheap thrills, clichéd dialogue, and hook after hook—LOST has never had a commercial break or end of an episode without a cliffhanger, begging you to stick around through the commercials and into the following weeks. This all adds up to a silly but incredibly entertaining show.

Of course—and here I must put in the requisite “SPOILER ALERT”—the last season ended with one of the biggest cliffhangers history. Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell) strikes an un-detonated nuclear bomb with a stone until—POOF!—white screen, season over. The explosion, meant to destroy the site that will eventually lead to flight 815’s crash, will hopefully reset the future, making it so Jack (Matthew Fox) and friends never make it to the island. Concurrently, we were introduced in the previous season’s finale to Jacob (Mark Pellegrino), the seemingly immortal leader of the Others. The Man in Black is Jacob’s immortal friend/nemesis, and vows to kill Jacob. At the end of the finale, The Man in Black, disguised as John Locke, convinces Ben (Michael Emerson) to stab Jacob to death.

The premiere opens up with what is most likely an alternate reality. Jack is back in 2004 on flight 815 with Kate (Evangeline Lilly) and the Marshal, Sawyer (Josh Holloway), Sayid (Naveen Andrews), John (Terry O’Quinn), Hurley (Jorge Garcia), Sun (Yunjin Kim) and Jin (Daniel Dae Kim), Boone (Ian Somerhalder) without Shannon, Charlie (Dominic Monaghan), Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick), strangely, and one more special guest. Gone are any signs of the tailies, Michael and Walt, the guy who got sucked into the airplane engine, etc. Jack saves Charlie from an overdose on the airplane. Oceanic misplaces Jack’s father. Kate escapes, helped by Sawyer. Customs stop Jin when they find thousands of dollars in his suitcase. We are shown that the island is now deep underwater.

“Simultaneously,” Sawyer, Jack, Kate, Jin, Hurley, Sayid, Miles (Ken Leung), and Juliet are back in 2007. Juliet, trapped under steel, dies, but not before she tells Sawyer that “it worked.” Hurley is visited by the ghost of Jacob, who tells him to bring Sayid to a temple to save him. Soon, we are introduced to a new group of Others who live in the heretofore unseen temple. They struggle to save Sayid, but he dies. In the meantime, The Man in Black, in the form of John Locke, transforms into the smoke monster and kills gunmen sent to protect Jacob. Afterwards, he tells Ben that John’s final thoughts were of confusion, and he, himself, wants only to “go home.” He leaves the statue and knocks out Richard (Nestor Carbonell). At the end, Sayid wakes up, presumably inhabited by the spirit of Jacob.

The premiere bodes well for the final season of LOST. It introduced a new paradigm in how LOST episodes are shown, tossing out both flashbacks and flash-forwards for flashes sideways. The suspense and mystery are still there, and while some questions were answered, so many more were raised. The writers have all but admitted to “making it up as they go along,” but who cares? As long as the story is this good and this riveting, the only thing that’s going to stop me from watching is accidentally getting sucked into an airplane engine.

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