Back to the Island 2.24 – Live Together, Die Alone Part 2
“I’m sorry for whatever happened that made you lose your faith, John. But it’s all real. And now I’ve got to go and make it all go away.” – Desmond Hume
Summary: Desmond and Locke allow the Swan Station to count down to catastrophe o’clock and the Others take Jack’s gang captive.
The Best Bit: Mostly this is the Desmond show, and he is very good in it, but Terry O’Quinn steals the show as usual with a single moment. Realising that his decision to trash the Numbers computers and let nature take its course was pretty far from sound, he looks at a wounded and dumbfounded Mr Eko and says in slight disbelief: “I was wrong.” He wrings a lot of emotion out of such a short line – we can’t miss that Locke has suddenly realised that all his past decisions have let to this one fateful moment, in which he has made the worst possible call, one that he has no time to correct.
The Worst Bit: The action in the episode is all a bit passive for a season finale. There are a couple of dramatic sequences, but most of them follow from Locke’s (stupid) decision to not enter the Numbers into the computer – which leads to electromagnetic shenanigans – and Jack’s (stupid) decision to play along with Michael’s trap, which leads to him and the others getting trapped. Most of the episode is taken up with philosophical debates, which, while dramatically very satisfying, fly in the face of the promise of the previous episode that Sayyid would sweatily sweep into the Others’ camp and go all gangbusters on their arses. Disappointed!
The Mythology: This episode is packed with new information – some of it actually resolves outstanding questions. Most of it raises new questions, of course.
The night that Locke got Boone killed and hammered on the Hatch for a sign, Desmond was down inside planning suicide. Locke’s unexpected appearance gave Desmond hope that someone had come to rescue him from his button-pressing purgatory. This is of course the same Gordian Knot that Locke circumvents by rebelling against the button-pressing doctrine, albeit on the basis of some pretty flawed thinking.
We see confirmation that the Pearl Station which observes the Swan button-pressers is a fake. The records meticulously recorded and submitted by the Pearl lab rats have all popped out into a vast pyramid on a hill somewhere, completely ignored. What then is or was the Dharma Institute’s purpose in setting up the Pearl Station – observation outpost, twisted psychological examination, endurance study testing boredom thresholds or deliberate mental torture?
Kelvin says that the Swan Station sits atop “geologically unique electromagnetism” (which sounds scientific right up until the moment that it sounds like drooling babble) and that the Incident creates a buildup of the electromagnetic charge. The button discharges it and if it is not pressed – boom!
When the Numbers clock runs down, the Egyptian hieroglyphs reappear and the Swan Station’s magnetic properties go crazy. Desmond turns the failsafe key and releases the ‘electromagnetic energy’ (whatever it actually is), which makes everyone’s ears hurt and makes the sky turn purple and oversaturated. Then – we presume – the Swan Station blows up. The last time something similar happened, Oceanic 815 fell out of the sky onto the Island
‘Henry Gale’, apparently the leader of the Others, claims that they are the good guys. And while they do hold Jack, Kate and Sawyer at gunpoint and put bags over their heads, they also let Hurley go and they don’t welch on their deal with Michael. He also hints that they “got more than they bargained for with Walt” but doesn’t elaborate.
Penelope Widmore, Desmond’s long lost love, has apparently set up a tracking station in the Arctic (judging by the I-guess-Russian accents of its crew) to monitor electromagnetic anomalies. How she knows that the electromagnetic spike from the Island has anything to do with Desmond is not explained.
The Literature: After Kelvin dies and traps Desmond alone at the Swan Station to press buttons indefinitely, Des gets all liquored up and starts on his suicide project, reading Dicken’s “Our Mutual Friend”. Luckily he finds a written pep talk from Penny instead, and the Locke interrupts his pity party, so he never gets to read it.
The Episode: I could complain that Sayyid, Sun and Jin don’t get much to do after the setup of last episode, but the fact that Sayyid’s plan to raid the camp is a nice bait-and-switch that makes the Others seem just that little bit smarter and better prepared – and therefore scarier – than the crash survivors. They assumed that Michael would blow his own cover, so they prepared a double bluff to get Jack and the others to a different place from where they thought they were heading. Henry’s reappearance at the end, claiming to be the good guy and living up to the bargain made with Michael, is clinical and menacing – his “Bon voyage, Michael” is flat-out sinister – while the hints of almost familial bickering among the Others is more curious still.
Most of our heroes get not much to do, other than Desmond, Locke and Eko, and with the latter spending half the episode unconscious from his own dynamite blast, it falls to Desmond and Locke to exposit and debate their way to the thrilling conclusion. Desmond’s realisation that he caused the Oceanic crash (by taking a bit too long to get back to the Swan after accidentally killing Kelvin) saves the day at the last minute, while Locke, who thought he was freeing them all from a false god, instead realises he almost killed everybody. So, good for Desmond, I guess.
In an amusing end-note to the conclusion of the first season, the Hatch which was a compelling mystery element back then, is blown off and flung down to the survivors’ beach. That and Henry’s “We’re the good guys” speech are clear declarations that, once again, Lost intends to reinvent itself in the next season. It’s no longer about survivors waiting for rescue, nor is it about exploring a strange and sometime hostile Island. So what will Season Three be about? Well, the obvious (and correct) answer is The Others.What’s the deal with those guys, anyhow?
“Live Together, Die Alone” is an exciting and dramatic episode, but it does have more of the feel of a setup for something else than a climax in its own right. Eight out of ten for being the muscular ankle rather than the foot kicking arse.