I think we've seen the last of the flashbacks, or close to it. I predict some of our castaways will get off the island - certainly Claire and her baby - and others (like Charlie) will remain. And next year, rather than the flashbacks (which were getting a little boring, anyway), we'll see the adventures of the remaining castaways and The Others and who knows who else on the island, and the attempt of those off the island to save them. The off-island story, in the present, will replace the flashbacks.
But it was still a shocker, a satisfying shocker, to see it tonight. I realized as soon as I saw Jack in the first "flashback" that this wasn't a flashback - there was something in the way Jack looked, something in the lack of ties to the past, especially as the "flashbacks" progressed on the show, that made me think this wasn't in the past but in the future. And Jack's anguish in this near-future Los Angeles was clearly about something that had happened in the past - on the accursed island, which he was now clear of, physically, but certainly not emotionally....
References to Jack's father were nice touches to throw us off, but it was also clear that Jack's father was no longer alive. And Jack was a fish out of water - or a man off the island - which, for some reason, he felt guilty about - to the point of wanting to take his own life.
There were other superb touches on tonight's Season 3 finale. Locke coming back - we all knew he wasn't dead - and almost killing Jack, but not being able to. Walt appeared (not Michael, as I had predicted) - but was he really on the island, or just one of its visions, which came at a crucial time to Locke?
Ben had a really crucial, excellent role tonight, too - the inveterate liar indeed was lying when he claimed to have ordered Sayid, Jin, and Bernard's deaths - and indicating, when Jack and Ben heard the shots on the phone that the three had been killed - but Ben seemed to be telling the truth about Naomi. The ancient paradox of the liar - if everything he says is a lie, what does it mean when he admits that he lies? You can never believe what he says, and sometimes that leads to dangerous, deadly results.
Were the people Naomi was bringing to island bad, as Ben insisted to Jack, and Jack rejected? Well, she was certainly lying about working for Penny.... And Jack does feel horribly guilty about something that happened when he left the island...
Penny ... Charlie talks to her on the television screen, before he drowns in that chamber. I was wrong about that, too. I'm still hoping that somehow, Charlie can live - maybe time travel can save him. He was one of my favorite characters on Lost.
Which will indeed be different, from now on. No more just trying to get off the island, fighting with The Others and whoever else. No more flashbacks - though I don't see them stopping completely - we still need to sort out those inexplicable coincidences*.
But the series will clearly have a new fulcrum point from now on: A pivotal switch from seeing what the castaways were like, what made them tick, before they got to the island ... to seeing the impact of their decisions made on the island, to leave the island, for at least some of the castaways. A daringly refreshing resetting of the stage....
How can Jack get back and save who ever is left on the island? And though Kate, also off the island now, doesn't seem inclined to help him, there's little doubt that sooner or later she will.
A superb finale - which also had a nice spot for Hurley as hero - and opens up as many new questions as it answers. I'm as happy and intrigued with Lost now as I was at the end of the first season.
*I still think the inexplicable coincidences in the flashbacks hold the key to what's happening on Lost - Keys To What's Really Going On. It will be interesting to see how these coincidences in the past play out in the flashforwards of some of the characters.
Lost New Questions: 1. How Far in the Future?
Lost New Questions: 2. Who's In the Coffin?
Lost New Questions: 3. Who's Waiting for Kate?
Lost New Questions: 4. Who Is Naomi's Boss?
Lost New Questions: 5. Is Mikhail Immortal?
Lost New Questions: 6: What Constitutes Reliable Evidence?
Lost New Questions: 7. Are the Flashforwards Desmond's Flashes?
And see also Lost's Back Full Paradoxical Blast: Season 4 Episode 1
Lost and Alias: Now Something Else in Common
Lost, Heroes, and The Sopranos: A Comparison of Real and Future Endings
The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell for more on the paradox of the liar...
8-minute podcast of this review at Levinson news clips