Lost Season Four: There's No Place Like Home
The initial episode—appropriately entitled “The Beginning of the End”—picks up where the revitalized season three left off, with the imminent rescue of the survivors of Oceanic Airlines Flight 815, coupled with the knowledge that a flashforward, heavily-bearded Jack Shephard needed to “go back” to the island on which he was once marooned. It was quickly revealed, however, that not everyone achieved rescue, as the ensuing flashforward of fan-favorite Hugo “Hurley” Reyes reveals that only six passengers made their way back to civilization. More importantly, the flashforward is filled with cryptic references—Hurley denies ever meeting fellow Lostaway Ana-Lucia Cortez, an apparition of deceased Charlie Pace declares “They need you,” and Hurley himself pulls a bearded-Jack when he tells the good doctor “I don’t think we did the right thing, I think it wants us to go back”—all alluding to a fabricated lie told by the media-dubbed “Oceanic Six.”
On a television show already firmly based on mystery, Lost built the foundation of season four on two new mysteries—who are the Oceanic Six and what really happened to them? The “lie” itself was finally heard in episode four, “Eggtown,” when Jack took the stand in fugitive-on-the-run Kate Austin’s murder trial. “Only eight of us survived the crash,” he begins. “We landed in the water. I was hurt, pretty badly. In fact, if it weren’t for her I would never have made it to the shore. She took care of us, she took care of all of us. She gave us first aid, water, found food, made shelter. She tried to save the other two but they didn’t....” As for the identities of the Oceanic Six, they were slowly revealed through a series of flashforwards that kept fans speculating until they were finally confirmed as Jack, Kate, Hurley, Sayid Jarrah, Sun Kwon and Claire Littleton’s son Aaron.
As for “how” the Oceanic Six were able to get off the island, that was saved for the season’s three-part finale, “There’s No Place Like Home.” The title alludes to L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, and it was not the first time that Lost had borrowed from the classic tome. Season three, for instance, had episodes entitled “The Man Behind the Curtain” and “Not in Portland,” both of which either directly or indirectly inferred a connection, while Other’s leader Benjamin Linus had taken the moniker Henry Gale, the name of Dorothy’s uncle, as his own when captured in season two.
Right from the start of “There’s No Place Like Home” it becomes apparent that the “home” in question is not the idealistic Kansas that Dorothy returned to from Oz. On the cargo plane to Hawaii, the Oceanic Six are not joyous about their rescue but sit in quiet shock instead. They in turn find themselves at a press conference in which they are forced to lie. “Absolutely not,” Sayid responds when asked if there could be other survivors from their flight, while a tense Sun reluctantly states that her husband, Jin, died in the initial crash.
If any happiness was found off-island by these survivors, it is a short-lived happiness. Sayid, for instance, is reunited with Nadia, the woman he rescued from execution and then searched eight years to again find, only to have her murdered—according to Ben, at least—by new uber-villain Charles Widmore. The grief from Nadia’s death quickly turns to vengeance as Sayid becomes Ben’s “hit-man” in the unfolding conspiracy regarding the island. The apparent death of Jin in the finale also has a vendetta-like effect on Sun, who not only leverages her monetary settlement from Oceanic Airlines into a controlling interest in her father’s company, but she also proposes an alliance with Widmore. Hurley, meanwhile, has reverted to his post-island afflictions of “cursed” and “crazy.” As for former fugitive-on-the-run Kate Austin, she alone appears to have found happiness as a stay-at-home surrogate mother to Aaron.
And then there is Jack Shephard. Lost is an epic story with a scope and grandeur that few television series have ever exhibited, a modern day Dr. Zhivago or War and Peace in terms of ambition. And just like with any epic populated with numerous characters playing a wide-variety of roles, there is always one individual upon whom the over-arching narrative rests. For Lost, that character is Jack. He was, after all, the first of the survivors seen in the pilot episode, and eventually assumed the position of “leader.” More importantly, in a show that continually raises both philosophical and spiritual issues, Jack has been the “science” side of the ongoing science-versus-faith debate with fellow Lostaway John Locke. Although a case could be made that Locke, not Jack, is the central character of Lost—or, at the very least, it’s a shared role between the two—events in the finale point to Jack Shephard indeed being the focal point upon which the Lost universe revolves.
Although always on opposite sides, Jack and Locke are even more divided in season four, with the remainder of the Oceanic 815 survivors openly choosing between the two competing leaders in the very first episode. It was also a season where Jack Shephard’s best-laid-plans fell apart at the same time that John Locke’s fate went on the rise. In the episode “Cabin Fever,” for instance, Richard Alpert—the never-aging Other—had an ongoing interaction with Locke from the moment of birth, alluding to a destiny of leadership on the island for the latter that finally arrived in “There’s No Place Like Home.” As for Jack, he morphed into a damaged individual attempting to reconcile his promise to get everyone off of the island with the knowledge that his actions at the end of season three had put all of their lives at risk. And while he eventually did find rescue for a small handful, the cost involved the death of many and the abandonment of the rest.
“There’s No Place Like Home,” however, also offered a glimpse of Jack Shepherd’s possible evolution from “man of science” to that of “man of faith.” In one of their many—although apparently last—debates, Locke says to Jack, “It’s not an island, it’s a place where miracles happen,” to which Jack responds, “There’s no such things as miracles.” But as the episode progresses, and events unfold leading to rescue, doubt begins to seep into Jack, first when Locke succeeds in “moving the island” in a now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t moment right in front of Jack’s eyes, and then later when Kate comments that Aaron’s survival during their escape was a “miracle.” Jack eventually even listens to Locke’s plea to lie about their crash, although he offers his fellow survivors a different reason for doing so than simply “protecting” the island.
In the end, we see just how broken of a man Jack Shephard has become through a flashforward that harkens back to the previous season’s finale—the heavily-bearded, pill-popping spinal surgeon is distraught over the death of the enigmatic Jeremy Bentham. Bentham had apparently visited other members of the Oceanic Six, but it is only Jack who believes him. “He told me that after I left the island, some very bad things happened,” Jack explains to Ben in the final scene. “And he told me it was my fault for leaving, and said I had to come back.”
“Who is Jeremy Bentham, the man in the coffin?” became a mini-mystery in the final episode, and the answer inevitably turned out to be none other than John Locke. Considering Jack’s new mantra of “we need to go back,” it would appear that Locke was finally able to persuade the rival “man of science” to his way of thinking through death, and perhaps in doing so revealed the convergence point for all of Lost’s ongoing mysteries—the transformation of Jack Shephard into a “man of faith.”
Give the producers and writers credit. After nearly eighty episodes and at a point when typical television shows usually fall into predictability, the ABC series continually finds new ways to keep fans guessing, debating and speculating. Answers are slowly revealed, only to then be replaced by equally compelling ones. Suffice it to say that Lost constantly keeps its audience on its toes and in eager anticipation for the next installment.