And yet Mikhail came back from that, almost as good as new, with a story about the voltage not being set on kill. And in the finale he's out there leering in front of Charlie's hatch window, grenade in hand, as if the dart that had just been in his chest were no more than a sticky paper star.
What's up with Mikhail, assuming he's not immortally invulnerable? (This would make him even more powerful than the Elves in Lord of the Rings, who didn't die on their own but could be killed.)
Let's look at three possibilities:
1. The island's recuperative properties: (a) Rose's cancer went into remission. This is the weakest example, becauses cancers can go into remission elsewhere in the world, but it's still worth noting. (b) Locke regains his feet after the crash, again after Ben shoots him, and in addition comes back almost 100% after that shot to the body. A lot more extraordinary than Rose, but it's not completely clear if Locke was shot in a vital organ (some fans have suggested that he might been shot right where his donated kidney had been).
On the subject of the island's healing powers, we'd need to note that they didn't work for Boone and Shannon, not for Mr. Eko either, not for Nikki and Paulo, not for Libby and Ana Lucia, not for any of The Others killed by Ben years ago and not for Ben's father and not for Tom and The Others killed in the Season 3 finale and not for The Others killed by Ana Lucia. Not presumably for pregnant women in The Others, not for Rousseau's crew, etc., etc.
So if the island's recuperative powers are responsible for Mikhail's many lives, this is not just a straightforward function of the island (of course not, nothing is straightforward on Lost, and that's part of its charm). Mikhail (and Locke and perhaps Rose) also bring something to this healing equation.
2. Time travel: I doubt it as the mechanism in this case, but with Desmond around, we can't completely ignore it. Here's how it would work: an earlier version of Mikhail, who is able to keep an eye on his future self's fate, travels to the future every time Mikhail is killed, and picks up where the slain Mikhail left off. This would have the effect of making Mikhail impossible to kill.
3. Send in the clones: Weakest choice of all, since we have no other evidence of clones on Lost, but someone generating clones of Mikhail, or a bank of clones all set to go, could replace him each time he's killed. This would also require some kind of rapid education technology - getting info into the clone's head so the new Mikhail knows just what the old was up to. I wouldn't at all put Dharma past this, but, again, since we've seen no other clones on the island - as far as we know - this would be the least likely of our three explanations.
My choice: The island's recuperative powers work for some, select people.
This is one of my favorite story lines ... intimations of immortality on Lost ... it will be interesting to see where it goes in Season 4 - for example, will Mikhail survive the grenade in the water?....
Lost New Questions: 1. How Far in the Future? ... 2. Who's In the Coffin? ... 3. Who's Waiting for Kate? ... 4. Who Is Naomi's Boss? ... 6. What Constitutes Reliable Evidence? ... 7. Are the Flashforwards Desmond's Flashes?
Lost Season 3 Finale ... Flashforwards
And see also Lost's Back Full Paradoxical Blast: Season 4 Episode 1
Lost: Keys to What's Really Going On
The Plot to Save Socrates
"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News
"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book