Did Lost's time-bending season finale deliver?

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Lost's compelling and convoluted fifth season dragged the Oceanic Six back to the island, though not in the way any of us could have suspected. While the series may have lost some viewers—as most shows seem to have done this season—there's no doubting that Lost has never been more gripping ... or harder to follow.

So how did last night's two-hour season finale, "The Incident," stack up? Did it leave us wanting more? Will we be watching 10 months from now, when the sixth and final season premieres the final 17 episodes?

And will all our questions ever be answered?

[Warning: Major Spoilers Ahead.]

As with all of Lost's finales, we were left with more questions than answers. "The Incident" had plenty of action as it followed Jack's mission to nuke the island in the past and thereby stop Oceanic Airlines Flight 815 from ever crashing there decades later. And there was also Kate's mission to stop Jack, Ilana's trek with the mysterious box as she dragged Frank in tow, and Locke and Ben's journey to kill Jacob. And then there were Jacob's flashbacks, which showed him touching the survivors at significant points in their lives.

The episode began as the mysterious Jacob put in an appearance (in the form of actor Mark Pellegrino), and we learn that there's a Dude On The Beach Who Wants To Kill Jacob. However, there's some loophole preventing Dude On The Beach from actually killing him—and it's probably the 1800s, since we see what just might be the Black Rock sailing on the horizon.

Other revelations—

  • Rose, Bernard and Vincent the dog have been hiding out on the island in the past, after "retiring" from all the survivors' drama. "We traveled 30 years back in time and you're still finding ways to shoot each other?" said Rose.

  • Proving her point, Sayid gets shot during a shootout with the Dharma people as he and Jack make off with the bomb—thanks to a rescue by Hurley, Miles and Jin.

  • Juliet, Sawyer and Kate decide to escape the sub and go back to the island to stop Jack. Once the two groups connect, Sawyer and Jack face off in a bloody, knock-down-drag-out fight. But then Juliet changes her mind and convinces Sawyer to help Jack blow up the Swan instead so the flight never crashes and they never meet—and he can never break her heart. Damn Sawyer for glancing at Kate at just the wrong moment!

  • As Locke's group travels to the foot statue to find Jacob, he reveals to Ben that he wants Jacob dead. However, he wants Ben to do the deed. When they arrive at the statue, Locke and Ben head into the statue to find Jacob. Then Ilana's group arrives with the box. They dump the contents on the beach and Locke's dead body spills out. In the depths of the statue, Ben and the fake Locke face off with Jacob. Jacob talks about the fake Locke finding a "loophole," and Ben stabs Jacob.

  • As the Swan begins to have electromagnetic issues, a battle erupts between Jack's gang and the Dharma people. Jack throws the bomb down the mineshaft and the gang waits to die. Only the bomb doesn't go off. As Juliet gets dragged into the shaft with a lot of machinery, Sawyer and Kate struggle to save her. She falls but doesn't die. Juliet sees the bomb and whacks it with a rock until it explodes.

  • The screen goes white and we see "2010: Destiny Found."
  • Around the Web, reviewers wrote about the agony and the ecstasy of all things Lost.

    "This one hurt a little bit, didn't it?" wrote Watch With Kristin's Jennifer Godwin. "Lost's fifth-season finale, 'The Incident,' was one of the show's more morose and hopeless outings in some time. Many terrible things happened and there was just one lone puppy dog on the scene to help make things happier. (There's only so much the fuzzy fella can do!)" she wrote, referring to the dog, Vincent.

    James Poniewozik of TIME's Tuned In felt the finale "was at times thrilling and awesome and other times disappointing ... Above all, I simply enjoyed the hurtling pace and balance of stories in the first two-thirds or so of the finale. Somewhere after the first commercial break, I was struck by a simple fact: how amazing it is that a story of this scope and complexity is on commercial TV at all. Eighteen minutes into the episode, we had seen seven scenes, with seven different sets of characters, in different locations and different times—some of those times being 'flashbacks' that were farther ahead in time than the 'present'—and yet it all fit together and made sense." However, it was what Poniewozik didn't like that gave him some pause. "From the moment that Juliet 'changed her mind' and told Sawyer that Jack needed to set off his bomb after all, something seemed off, at least about the 1977 storyline."

    Alan Sepinwall of The Star-Ledger's What's Alan Watching believes the finale was structurally similar to the end of season one, with "a lot of teasing" and months to wait for answers. "And you know what? I. Do. Not. Care ... That was so exciting, so mythology-intensive, so loaded with great performances and great character notes, so all-around kick-ass, that I feel more than satisfied."

    Sepinwall added: "Whatever missteps the show has made, some caused by external forces, some not, it's been so consistently assured and entertaining for these past two seasons that I feel confident Cuselof [or Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof] really do know what they're doing here—that, whether the grand plan was really sketched out from the beginning, or made up at a later date, it's mostly going to work out as it should in the final season."

    Even the reviewers who couldn't get past the problems they saw with "The Incident" realized that bigger things were at stake. "There were parts of the finale that bugged me, and all in all, I can't say it was the best season finale the show's ever done. But there were moments that I liked quite a bit, and everything to do with Jacob and his nameless adversary left me very intrigued ... But one big thing I think I'll ponder over the next few months is the idea that there's a much larger picture here," wrote Maureen Ryan of The Chicago Tribune's The Watcher. "It's bigger than the Dharma folk versus the Others, Ben versus Widmore, Ben versus Locke, the Losties versus the Others, the future versus the past."

    Still, what everyone was left with were the questions. "Is Jacob bad or good—savior or devil? Who IS the spirit inhabiting Locke's body? Why couldn't he kill Jacob? Who is Ilana? Will the explosion take the Losties back to pre-plane-crash life? What's up with Widmore, Penny and Desmond—not to mention Claire, Aaron, Christian, Walt, etc. And what's in the guitar case?" asked Laura DeMarco of Cleveland.com's TV News. And that's just the short list of questions.

    Here's a few more—

    What is Frank a "candidate" for? What language were Ilana and Jacob speaking in the hospital? What's the "loophole"? When Jacob said, "They're coming" right before Ben stabbed him, who did he mean? Is the Smoke Monster actually the Dude On The Beach Who Wants To Kill Jacob? Why doesn't Richard ever age? Is Juliet really dead? Is Locke really dead? Is Jacob really dead? Is everyone really dead?

    While "The Incident" may not have been a satisfying end to the season for everyone, it was certainly buzzworthy. And can anyone who has watched the last five seasons really say they won't be watching when season six—the final season—rolls around next January?