Instareaction (updated further below):
We all knew it was coming, that Jack would take this step. In the end, the decision and what followed felt spare and quiet - a foregone conclusion rendered poetic in it's unavoidability. This is a point that the whole show has been building toward - a point wherein, depending on your point of view, Jack's need to fix things either transcends it's often-petty, daddy-issue-driven origins or succumbs completely to them.
What They Died For was a return to the edge-of-my-seat Lost I was hoping for. It gave us Answers, it gave us deeply character-rooted emotion, it gave us (at times on the nose) dialogue that confirmed Jacob's essential standing as the god of the Island, thematically speaking. It also confirmed some of my and your speculation from last week - that Jacob wanted to give these people a choice, because he never had one (and I like that he seems to believe this, yet has no problem with them having been brought to the Island), that only someone "like" Jacob can find the heart of the Island, that the Man in Black wants to return to the Light.
All of that and I haven't even gotten to Ben, who finally faces Widmore in what might have been great, but is instead really good, or the fact of this curiously-scrubbed Rousseau, or of Desmond's beating of Ben and the accompanying flashes, and of Ben's seeming turn back to the dark side which looks much like a suicide run. And what about Off-Island Locke's change of heart, and the prospect of Jack operating on him during the final episode? I haven't touched on Desmond, and how he's now Sheperding these Castaways toward some specific task, or how his dismissal of Ana Lucia ("She's not ready yet.") indicates that there's something here to the ideas of reincarnation and second chances that have been Second Snaking their way through these columns. And what about Richard? Is that it? Somehow I doubt it.
What I liked most about this episode of Lost was how it knocked away the most pressing pieces of character mythology and left us with 2 1/2 hours of television left to go. We know exactly what these people are fighting for now, and we know exactly what Anti-Locke really wants (we've suspected this part for a while). What the heck happens now? Presumably, Off-Island Jack is going to need to make a fateful choice after he and Locke remember their Island narratives. Desmond will descend into the Island's Underworld, perhaps acting exactly as Anti-Locke is hoping he will. Enough of this. Point is, I liked it. Can't wait to watch it again.
Terrific stuff. Finding it hard to concentrate. Perfect time to start writing, then. What did you think?
Edited to add:
I woke up this morning even more charged up about this episode. Everything about it - the surprisingly large amounts of jet-black humor, the suspense, the Answers given, the steps taken - feels correct, feels purposeful and moving and definitive and yet still-mysterious in so many ways. I love that there's every possibility that Jack can die now, since we've finally seen him take up the mantle. I love the possibility that Jack might decide to make his fellow Castaways protectors as well, turning the job of Jacob into a communal position. Most of all, I love the sense of open-ended possibility that this episode left us with. We're more sure than ever of what, generally, will be happening in the finale and yet we're also less sure then ever of how it will all play out. Glorious, I say.
....But that freaky, Willow-ish old lady who narrated the end-episode teaser? What in the heck was that about, ABC? Really? You go with what sounds like the voice of a 1,000 year-old dwarf grandmother who lives under a magical toadstool?
I have it on good authority that tonight's episode is very, very good.
Will that be enough to wash the sour taste of Across the Sea out of some folks' mouths? To be honest, I don't find that question very interesting. Having written way too much about last week's divisive episode I've found myself in a nice, comfy place about it and I cannot wait to jump back into the main storyline with the surviving (sadface) Castaways.
Yet, I can also easily wait. I sort of want to wait forever. I'm at the point now that I always arrive at when I read something I love - if the book is good, really really good, then I almost always stop with around 100 pages to go and take some time off. I don't like it when good things end, even if that ending is also a good thing.
I'll be back in here after the episode airs with a very brief InstaReaction. My week is time-crunched up the wazoo on Thursday and Friday, so in order to get the column to you by week's end I'll need to jump right into it.
Enjoy the show!