I finally watched the season finale of Lost this morning. And here are my spoilery thoughts.
The big gimmick of the episode, and the big twist, was that the "flashback" was actually a "flash-forward," taking place at some point in the future when Jack, Kate and at least one other Islander have returned to civilization. Kate seems to be doing well, though Jack is addicted to painkillers and otherwise a complete wreck of a human being. The third rescuee, who has died alone, shows up only in a sealed casket at a funeral at which only Jack shows up. So, of course, the big question is, who's in the box? Sawyer? Ben? Locke? We know it's a dude, based on the newspaper clipping. It's depressing that Future Kate doesn't want to have anything to do with Future Jack. But she cleans up well.
Another key aspect of the flash-forward is that it appears to lock the story in a few key respects, i.e. that Jack and Kate not only have to survive but also have to make it off the Island somehow. This could be a nod to the fact that the producers have finally nailed down their end date (three more seasons), but keep in mind that the writers haven't exactly foreclosed the possibility of parallel universes and time warps, so the flash forward may not be significant at all in terms of the linearity of the story.
One final question about the flash-forward: Why does Jack want to go back to the Island? The more interesting theory has to do with a lot of comments during the episode about how Jack isn't "supposed" to do what he's doing and how there's nothing left for him back in the real world, so he'd want to go back because that's where he belongs. This somewhat mystical explanation is consistent with the idea that he's trying to get there by flying a bunch of random flights and hoping that they crash, indicating that something magical happened when the plane crashed that transported them to the Island that had nothing to do with their geographic location.
Another, more concrete theory that's consistent with the theme of the flash-forward, is that Jack left a bunch of people behind on the Island (perhaps even everyone but Kate and whoever's in the box, and possibly whoever Kate's living with if that's not her and Sawyer's son), and is now feeling guilty. We know he was going to do that once before, until Locke esploded the submarine.
Another big mystery is what organization Naomi was working with. We know she's not an Other and we know she wasn't hired by Penny. All signs point to the Dharma Initiative, since they're the ones who would be trying to retake the Island, and when Naomi saw Mikhail wearing his DI jammies she said something to him in a foreign language (apparently "I'm not alone"). My only problem with this theory is the question of why the hell would the DI still be airlifting supplies if they know the Island has been taken over? If they've just been looking since the hatch esploded, then Ben is lying when he says they've been trying to find the Island for a long time. But Ben is a liar, so that wouldn't be a big stretch.
Other things were notable. Juliet's ambiguity has been resolved in favor of loyalty to the castaways. It's difficult to see at this point how she could go back with the Others, unless the Others rid themselves of Ben's leadership (or Ben dies) and she goes back to join the post-Ben era. After all, her main beef with the Others is her hatred of Ben, so it's conceivable that she's still loyal to the other Others. But, assuming she stays with the light side, her character will become even boringer, particularly now that we're reaching the limit of her knowledge of the Others' operations (she knows they're building a runway but doesn't know what for). Also, the Juliet-Jack kiss was unmoving. There's going to be an overhyped episode next season where the big payoff is Jack and Juliet having sex, jest you wait.
Hurley's act of heroism was cool, but seemed like a contrived way of justifying that horrendous microbus episode. Sayid breaking the guy's neck with his feet was also nice, particularly for the 24 fans in the audience. I'm imagining cries of "Oh snap!" all across the country on Wednesday night. And all of Sawyer's vendettas appear to have been taken care of, with the exception of his lingering hostility toward Juliet. But he seems to be dealing with that mainly through crack-wising. But we do know that Sawyer is a cold-blooded killa, straight up.
Charlie's death was very sad, and very well done. It's nice that he died doing at least three heroic things (facilitating the "rescue," saving Desmond from drowning, and warning Desmond about Naomi). Mikhail is almost certainly still alive.
There was just anough Alex/Carl/Rousseau action to keep those storylines interesting without bogging the episode down with how annoying those characters are. In fact I don't even think Carl had any lines, which is good. And Ben's explanation for how he was treating Carl -- trying to keep Alex from getting pregnant -- was very clever and actually seemed genuine.
And, of course, the Island (via WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALT!!!!) has healed Locke and is now giving him direct orders. Locke is the new Ben, and also still Gilligan.
Finally, it was nice to see the season end with Ben bloodied and tied to a tree. Lousy bastard finally got taken down a peg. And also, WTF temple?