Lost returned last night after a five-week break at a new later time with an action-packed (maybe a little too much so) episode. In the words of my Lost-loving friend Karen, Ben and Widmore are playing a giant game of Risk, as they fight their own personal war around the world and throughout time. But more about that and the rest of the "The Shape of Things to Come" after the jump.


Let's talk about pacing for a moment. "The Shape of Things to Come" raced at full speed through the hour last night. It made me remember the last season of the Sopranos, where everybody and everything was shoehorned into the scripts. Last night we got the return of Vincent and Smoky, Claire's fake-out death, a truly shocking murder, a peek at Ben's secret lair, an explanation of why Sayid is Ben's paid assassin, time-travel, and a bunch of other meaningful information. On the one hand, this makes for an exciting episode, vastly superior to snoozers like "The Other Woman," but on the other, couldn't they divide the action up a little more evenly throughout the season? Is this a mark of writers who finally know where they're going and are concerned they don't have enough time to get there — or are they simply trying to deal with a strike-truncated season?

Back to that shocking murder. Poor Alex. To hear your father call your mother "an insane woman," then repudiate his relationship with you seconds before your murder at age 16 is tremendously sad — as is the fact that they have killed off yet another of my favorite female characters. They'd better not harm a hair on Penny's head, but after Ben's hotel room confab with Widmore, that hope is probably in vain.

Of course, Alex's death is the first time we get to see Ben drop the Evil Manipulator mask. He can't believe his eyes when Kearny pulls the trigger, which of course makes it all the more shocking to us (as does its placement shortly after finding out Claire's not dead after all). "They changed the rules," Ben mumbles. Which leads me to think that his nonchalance and bravado in his negotiations with Kearny are due to the fact that he's been in this exact situation before—only it doesn't end in Alex's death. This is a pivotal moment. Now we know why the stakes are so high. Before it was about power and possession, now Ben wants revenge in addition to the island. We get a glimpse of Ben's secret lair (its entrance, anyway), learn that he can summon, if not control, the Smoke Monster, and see him time travel (to 2005 Tunisia, Iraq, and London). All of this hinges on Alex's death.

Finally, Sayid. I know you are grieving for Nadia, but I thought you realized that Ben can't be trusted. He points out Ishmael Bakir, names him Nadia's killer, shows a photo in support of that allegation, and you swallow it hook, line, and sinker? The smile on Ben's face as he walks away after Sayid offers his allegiance is wonderfully evil and creepy—back to his true form after his daughter's death.

A few random comments:

  • The Shape of Things to Come is also the title of a novel by H.G. Wells, that takes the form of a history book from the future—but I'm sure you guys already knew that!
  • Ben vomits orange liquid when he wakes in the desert. The anti-sickness serum is orange—so if you dose yourself before you time travel, perhaps you don't become unstuck in time.
  • He's also wearing a parka with a Dharma insignia we haven't seen before, and the name Halliwax, though later he uses his Dean Moriarty passport.
  • It's open season on doctors. Jack is already popping pills and showing signs of a disturbing illness, while the doctor from the freighter floats up dead, his throat slit. (By the way, Kendrick—the fictitious couple Ben tells the London hotel clerk he's on his way to see—is the doctor's name in Audrey Niffenegger's novel, The Time Traveler's Wife.)
  • Finally, a question for you. When it comes to great, brain-hurty episodes like this one, I find I need several additional viewings and a supplementary podcast or two, plus visits to some of the websites, to come close to picking up all, or at least more, of the nuances and details. I'll enjoy that, but man, it's a time suck. How much time do you spend on Lost throughout the week?