Jack and Seth, given that we didn't have a new episode to fuss over this week, I figured we should take stock of where the characters stand. At the beginning of the season, I argued that Lost's central question wasn't "What is the island?" but "Who's in charge?" Along with Slate's Chris Wilson, I designed a social network to demonstrate who was leading whom. Or at least I tried to do so—the network was full of questionable allegiances and double agents.
As this season has progressed, some formerly open questions are now closed, and Lost's power structure has changed. There used to be a hierarchy, albeit a messy one, with Jacob on one side and Smokey on the other. Island society is more decentralized now: There are various insurgent groups all fighting for what they think is right.
With four episodes to go, there are five different leaders left on the island—Smokey, Widmore, Sawyer, Jacob, and Richard. (They're outlined in red in the social network below.) Only Hurley serves two masters—Jacob is his spiritual adviser and Sawyer is his life coach. The rest of the crew are—wittingly or otherwise—entrusting their lives to one of the five leading men. Sawyer—the renegade of Season 1—is now the guy in charge of nearly all of the original castaways. Only Jack has struck off on his own. Richard, meanwhile, is corralling the regulars who began appearing mid-series, while Widmore has his own crew at his side.
What does it all mean as we barrel toward the finale? It depends on how much bloodshed you think is coming to the island. Sawyer's crew is too full of beloved characters to get slaughtered completely. (There's just no way Hurley is dying at the end of this thing.) The Richard-Ben-Miles crew, meanwhile, seems destined for martyrdom. Richard, the man who wanted eternal life, will find happiness in death; Miles, the guy who can talk to the dead, will finally joins their ranks; Ben, the man who once pretended to be a dead guy (Henry Gale) will find redemption by sacrificing himself. The rest of the characters' fates are murkier. What will happen to Jack, Jacob's last loyal crusader? Will Widmore live, or will Ben kill him? Lost is far too obsessed with irony to let anyone but Widmore's erstwhile rival determine his fate. And what of Smokey? Dead or just quarantined?
Discuss among yourselves. Only four weeks to go.