Previously on Lost: Locke and Desmond go to the Pearl station and find answers to their ?s, one leaving with a purpose and one leaving with shattered dreams. Michael is back with a plan from the Others and sends two of the 815ers down the road. Sayid sees through some bullshit (naturally) and forms a plan of his own. And then a sailboat shows up…
And what a long, strange journey it’s been as we get to the #1 episode on our list, “Live Together, Die Alone.”
Watching this episode the other day in preparation for this list, I was just floored by how amazing it is. Like Commander Light said yesterday, “Through A Looking Glass” is an amazing episode, practically on par with this one, both perfect, strong studies of sometimes imperfect characters, but this one spreads around so much good, so many great moments, and in the end, while “Through A Looking Glass” is about a man literally falling apart, “Live Together, Die Alone” is about the opposite, about a man trying to “lift it up, brotha,” to quote Desmond and one of the series’ recurring phrases. Oh, and did I forget to mention that the focal point of this episode is one of my favorite characters?
This episode right here, a shocker at the time, not just for the fact that Desmond returned but that he became the central flashback character of a finale, is where I would strongly make claim to the Desmond/Penny love story becoming one of the strongest core parts of this show.
This is a powerful story of a man who’s good at failing, who feels that he’s lost something, including the woman he loves. He wants her back. She wants him back but he wants to come back to her whole. He wants to be the man who’s good enough for her and he’s willing to travel half way around the world to win his honor back. For her. To be hers. But he gets lost on the way and finds something else entirely.
Editor’s note: At this point, I (Benjamin Light) would like to pipe in with my worst Scottish accent and say “I have to get mah honnuh back!” Thank you, that is all.
Desmond: “What’s all that about then?”
Inman: “Just saving the world.”
What amazes me is that so many people complain about season 2, saying that’s where the show fell apart for them. They’re right in that the show did falter very, very briefly (but it was at the start of season 3, not 2), but this finale was perfect in unifying the second season as a whole. And even working in nicely with season 1.
A full recap would be mind blowing, but too long. Go watch the episode. It will not let you down, not in the slightest. Some highlights:
- After the castaways find Desmond in his sailboat at the beginning, he asks, “Are you still pushing it?” Jack smiles and says, “Yeah, we’re still pushing it.” So true, Jack.
- The sailboat! Sayid’s got a plan. “This time they will know that we are coming,” he says.
- Desmond was apparently in military prison. And waiting for him when he gets out is a copy of Charles Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend. Why? “I’ve read everything Mr. Charles Dickens has written. Every wonderful word. Every book except this one. I’m saving it so it will be the last thing I ever read before I die.”
- The first ever appearance of Charles Widmore, father of Desmond’s lost love, Penny. Even here, he’s kind of a dick.
- The “Hurley” bird! (ed. note: the Hurley Bird is also in the Season 1 finale and remains one of the more underrated mysteries of Lost)
- Desmond met Libby in the past! And she gave him the very sailboat we saw in this episode, The Elizabeth, named for her by her husband, David. Funny, wasn’t that the name of both Hurley’s dad and Hurley’s imaginary buddy?
- Enacting his plan, Sayid sets sail with Jin and Sun as his crew on a secret badass mission to scout out the Others’ seaside camp for a little badass reconnaissance. I want to say badass once more here. There. I’d be okay if these three had gotten their own show together as well, and you see a little more of their winning dynamic together in “The Glass Ballerina.”
- Speaking of characters who have excellent chemistry together: Jack, Kate, Sawyer, and Hurley on their trek through the jungle, that’s who. Well, also Michael, but he’s a sniveling wreck for part of this journey.
- Locke and Desmond teaming up to stop Mr. Eko from punching the button!
- Mr. Eko deciding he doesn’t like that. So much so that he’ll not only enlist Charlie to help him get back to the button, but he’ll do it with motherfucking dynamite.
- An amazing scene between Penny and Desmond, with her great line of “With enough money and determination, you can find anyone.” And she found him (and will continue to do so). And he tells her that he’s going to get his honor back and then he’ll be back. Oh, and Jack in the background getting ready to run his tour de stade (tying in wonderfully with Jack’s flashback in “Man Of Science, Man Of Faith“).
- Kelvin! The man who taught Sayid the art of getting information is Kelvin, Desmond’s partner in button pushing until he meets a bad end. And he was a little nuts.
I can’t stress this point nearly enough:
THAT IS A FOUR TOED FUCKING STATUE RIGHT THERE!
- “I don’t know what is more disquieting,” Sayid says, “the fact that the rest of the statue is missing, or that is has four toes.” Took the words right out of our mouthes there, Sayid. Easily high up there with the Monster on the top 5 Lost mysteries we’re horny for an answer to.
- The capsule dump where all the pneumatic tubes of observations from the Pearl came. Where Locke saw the Pearl as proof that his “destiny” in the Swan was a lie, this shoes that maybe the lie was a lie.
- Eko: “Do not tell me what I can’t do.”
- SYSTEM FAILURE. “I think I crashed your plane, brotha,” Desmond says upon inspecting the printouts and it looks like he did (but in all fairness, it’s because of him that they were rescued).
- In flashbacks, we see Desmond at his very lowest. Kelvin has lied and betrayed him and it looks like our Scottish friend is thinking about ending his life. And then he finds Penelope’s letter, tucked away in his book, the last thing he was going to read before he died. In the letter is her declaration of unending love for him and it crushes him because he knows he’ll never see her again…
- …and then he and Locke become each other’s Deus Ex Machina, letting each other know that there is someone out there, there is hope, there is still a reason to go on.
- But the numbers run down just like Locke wanted, the hieroglyphs show up, and the electromagnetism starts going wild…
- Thanks to Michael, our heroes on the other side of the island and we not only see the return of Walt, but meet the Other’s mysterious leader: the man we knew as Henry Gale (and now know more properly as Ben).
- And as things get worse down in the hatch/Swan, Locke comes to a painful realization, but a powerful one: (ed. note: I love the fear in Terry O’ Quinn’s “I was wrong.”)
- Being the only one who can, Desmond takes the failsafe key and goes down into the lowest levels of the hatch (which was a brilliant example of Chekhov’s Gun the whole season) to release the build up of energy in the catch, to “make it all go away.”
- AND THEN THE FUCKING SKY TURNS PURPLE!
- And Michael and Walt leave the Island, with the blessing of Ben and the rest of the Others, who plan to take Jack, Kate, and Sawyer (but not poor Hurley) home with them. It’s a mega strong mindfuck/cliffhanger (though the following year’s is definitely more powerful just on the level of which it leaves you hanging).
You hear a lot of talk these days about TV shows done right and feeling like multi-part novels playing out in serialized live action (primarily with shows like The Wire and Mad Men), but I would argue that that analogy works just as strong for Lost, especially as book 2 of the series came to close, almost working perfectly as a sole story of it’s own, but it definitely let you know that certain things were over in this show and that there was going to be a whole new focus and a strong one: The Others.
Season 3 was back before they adopted a 24 like schedule and you didn’t have to wait a fucking eternity for answers, but it certainly felt like it. The same for the distance between season 4’s conclusion and tomorrow’s premiere.
(ed. note: I’d also like to give a shout-out to the weird russian dudes at the very end of the episode who caused an avalanche of speculation on the internets about whether or not that was actually Matthew Fox playing Jack’s doppelganger. Remember, Everything Happens For A Reason.)
See you tomorrow! Thank you, and namasté.