This is my first post on Lost since the sixth and final season began in February. I'll assume those reading this are familiar with the epic series' dense storyline and mythology of airline crash survivors facing strange perils and their own tragic histories on the weird island that seems in control of their fates. The endgame that started in the two-hour February season premiere has continued in bringing to a head the conflicts that will gradually be explained by season's end. Here's my take:

The ensemble cast is seperating into two camps-each aligned with the two entities we saw at the end of the fifth season-Jacob, the white-shirted inhabitant of the statue's base, who long in process weaving of a tapestry with a blessing from Homer's Odyssey seems a metaphor for his working towards redemption of those who will work out their salvations on the island, and his counterpart, the Man in Black, who has been seeking a loophole in their arrangement that will allow him to destroy Jacob and leave the island. Now that the Man in Black has taken the form of the deceased John Locke and revealed himself to be the Smoke Monster, various commentators have given him amusingly appropriate names: Flocke (for fake Locke), the Locke-ness Monster, Smocke, etc. He's seemingly the death principle, an avenging force who has taken various forms over the years, and had seduced John Locke into believing in the positive purpose of the island when in fact, he was setting Locke up for his own purposes until he had conned Benjamin Linus into killing the hapless seeker so that he could take his form and lead Linus to Jacob where the oft-rejected Linus could be induced to kill Jacob out of yet another seeming rejection.

The divided cast will soon either be in one camp or another. Flocke has already recruited Sawyer, broken-hearted and angry at himself at losing Juliet, Sayid, infected with growing evil after his revival in the tainted Temple pool, Claire, looney as a goony bird after abandoning her infant son Aaron in the 4th season and determined to kill Kate when she learns that Kate raised him for three years. Each has been promised their hearts' desires by Flocke in Faustian bargains that seemingly damn them. After the Smoke Monster gains entrance to the temple, and destroys the remaining dwellers, Kate follows Smoky's group not out of any bargain but apparently because there's nowhere else to go and she remains an uncommitted wild card.

Those in Jacob's camp are Hurley who can see Jacob's ghost who gives him often cryptic instructions that involve getting Jack to follow him to an ocean cliffside lighthouse where Jack discovers a mirror device where Jacob has watched him from childhood. Jacob has left Jack to discover his own purpose for his complex and manipulated life and seems to have come to a level of faith in the most current episode where he confront the mysteriously long-lived Richard Alpert on the Black Rock. Richard, believing himself betrayed by Jacob, and knowing he cannot end his own life, asks Jack to light a fuse and blow him up. Jack knows that if he himself is a candidate of Jacob's, he also cannot die until he fulfills the reason he was brought to the island and proves it by staying with Richard as the lit fuse burns out before igniting the explosive.

The person most in need of redemption, if that can be rated, is Benjamin Linus, the ratty, manipulative former leader of the Others who finds himself the most manipulated by Smocke and now condemned to die by Jacob's vengeful servant Illana who orders him to dig his own grave before she puts him in it. When Smocke appears to Linus and tells him he can take over charge of the island if he follows his instructions, another recruiting tactic, Linus follows his directions to run to where a rifle is waiting and grabs it to turn it on the pursuing Illana but instead of shooting, he makes a wrenching confession of how he had chosen power over his daughter Alex's life and been seemingly rejected by Jacob and that he was going to Smokey's camp because "he's the only one who will have me!"

Illana amazingly graceful response was, "I'll have you," stuns Linus and he follows her back to camp, broken and apparently on the road to redemption. The chief of Lost's sinners fate looks more hopeful now.

I haven't even gotten into the "Sideways" world that has replaced the series' flashbacks and flashforwards with a seemingly alternate universe where not only did Oceanic 815 land safely in LA, but that the characters' histories were different before the trip. We've seen John Locke a much less desperate man, more reconciled to his loss of his legs and engaged to be married. Jack Shepherd reconciles with his teenage son and now Ben Linus, a high school history teacher, opts to help Alex Rosseau, one of his brighter students, get into Yale rather than blackmail his way into the principle's chair. Only Sayid's Sideways fate is uncertain-will he always be a killer?

We still don't know who Jacob and Smokey are or actually represent and why the island is whatever it is, but the most satisfying element in Lost is seeing characters make sometimes surprising choices, sometimes purely on faith, that will pull them out of their self-created hells or else secure a worse fate. These images of forgiveness and costly grace are some of the best tales of redemption in popular culture in our times.

Posted by Alex Wainer