Lost: The Incident: Part 1 (2009)
Season 5, Episode 16
An incredible piece of storytelling prowess
16 May 2009
Warning: Spoilers
"The Incident" represents an incredible piece of storytelling prowess. The work of master storytellers who know their twists and turns, and with such an emotional foundation and rich mythology that the twists could not possibly feel less cheap.

The show is done with trying to satisfy a mainstream audience. If you don't know the ins and outs of "Lost" you would not have gotten everything out of "The Incident". If nothing else, you have to respect the fact that this is a major network show which rarely ever makes concessions to non-fans or casual, occasionally-tune-in viewers. It's almost a miracle it lasted this long, and with "The Incident" it could not be clearer that "Lost", during season 2 and the first few episodes of season 3 a clear example of dragged-out storytelling (as the network didn't set an end date, there was no way for the writers to properly plan the rest of the story). Once they got an end date for the show, they kicked into high gear and haven't slowed down since.

Season 5, overall, needs another viewing or maybe even two for me to make my mind up definitively about it. The entire thing definitely feels like an iffy whole, but looking back at specific episodes only a couple really disappointed. It also feels like a whole lot of setup for the final season, which at this point looks to be absolutely mind-blowing. They got a lot of clutter out of the way, which at times definitely got in the way of fluid storytelling, sometimes during episodes where that was an absolute necessity ("The Variable").

But with "The Incident" in mind season 5 seems much better. Usually a "Lost" finale is a payoff for the final few episodes of that season and setup for the next season. "There's No Place Like Home" felt especially like that, mainly concerned with tying up the loose ends of the season, and answering a big question from the previous finale. "The Incident", on the other hand, goes all the way back to season one for stuff to cover, and in fact doesn't tie up the major loose end introduced in the latter half of season 5. It's a different sort of finale, even deliberately slower-paced. It isn't just about tying up loose ends, it's about truly developing the story, pushing the complex (and I mean complex, not complicated) mythology of the series to new heights.

The obligatory action scenes are exceptional not only for their style but also for substance. Jack and Sawyer's fight has been expected for years, and nothing about the lead-up to it within this episode or the consequences feel unnecessary. The shootout at the Swan site is probably the best sustained action sequence of the series, and also serves a purpose. "The Incident" does fall slightly short of some of the show's high points in some of its sillier dramatics (mostly involving Sawyer, Juliet, and Kate), but the actors are so convincing and seemingly convinced by the material that the rare hackneyed moment really works.

Fortunately however, little about "The Incident" is hackneyed, especially nothing to do with the Jacob character. Mentioned first in season 2 (or was it just his list mentioned then? I forgot, but latest by season 3), and spoken of frequently since, he retains his mysteriousness here despite us being shown a lot of him. I am rather pleased that he is not some silly ghost, and am intrigued by the possibility which the first and penultimate scenes suggest of this being something reminiscent of the biblical Jacob & Esau. It would hardly be unfitting considering the many biblical allusions on the show.

"The Incident" is consistently intense and involving, with no scenes wasted on anything even remotely unnecessary. The closest to fluff filler here is Rose and Bernard's scene, but that was adorable and still necessary as a sort of closure. The drama in the final fifteen minutes is beyond thrilling, and the show returns in this episode to the days when a shocking reveal was really a shocking reveal. The penultimate scene contains a reveal so incredible I can't talk about it in a non-spoilery review. The fact that they did that, and that they ended this episode the way they do (the black-on-white thud-LOST at the end has to have significance, though I sincerely doubt it's anything as literal as some people think it is), along with pretty much every single narrative turn this episode took, suggests to me that these writers are among the best working at the moment in film or television. There is literally not the slightest indication at the end of this what next season will be like (hardly difficult to guess that season 4 would show us how they got off the island, for example), and that is frustrating. Frustrating, yet so exciting.

Not going to bother with recap or theorizing, but I can say that I'm on this ride and I like where it's going. Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse don't just play with grand concepts and ancient mythology, they have created their own grand concepts and their own grand mythology, and when all is said and done "Lost" will either stand as great entertainment with many high points and some sophistication, or as the high point of multi-season genre television, a truly complete and brilliant mythological epic. Right now it's on its way to being the latter.
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