Television Critic

“Nothing’s irreversible,” says Jack Shephard (Matthew Fox) to John Locke (Terry O’Quinn) in the second hour of the first episode of “Lost’s” final season, and on top of the obvious and tantalizing T-shirt possibilities of this statement, one can’t help but imagine it engraved in stone on the archway leading into the show’s writers’ room. Possibly in hieroglyphics of their own creation.

‘Lost’: The review of “Lost” in Wednesday’s Calendar said the character of Desmond was played by Ian Somerhalder. Desmond is played by Henry Ian Cusick; Somerhalder portrays the character of Boone. —

Not since the last few episodes of “The Sopranos” has a show’s finale been so breathlessly anticipated. For five seasons, ABC’s “Lost” has defied the laws of time, nature, physics, character development (do any of us believe that Naveen Andrews’ Sayid tortured anyone? Or at least anyone who didn’t really really deserve it?) and narrative form to create a sprawling circus act of a show. Even the few smashed plates (OK, there were more than a few) made the array of those still spinning in the air only that much more breathtaking.

So it’s not surprising that Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse and their writers would smash a few more rules by not only addressing all “Lost” questions in one fell swoop, but with the same resounding answer: Yes. (Spoiler alert, stop reading if you have it on your DVR.)

Was Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell) killed by the nuclear blast or did she somehow survive? Yes! Is John Locke dead or alive? Yes! Is Ben (Michael Emerson) the ultimate villain or the ultimate victim? Yes! Does the blast reconfigure time and allow Oceanic Flight 815 to land safely in Los Angeles or are our favorite castaways still stuck on the island? Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes!

In a glorious have-our-cake-and-feed-it-to-the-smoke-monster-too conceit, Tuesday night’s premiere followed two disparate story lines, both chronicling the aftermath of the nuclear blast that ended Season 5. In one, Jack, Sawyer (Josh Holloway), Kate (Evangeline Lilly), Sayid, Hurley (Jorge Garcia) and the gang found themselves alive and well and still stuck on that blasted island, Sayid still bleeding, Sawyer still smoldering and Kate still gorgeously sweaty.

In another, they are all safely en route from Sydney to Los Angeles. Oh look, there’s Rose (L. Scott Caldwell) and Bernard (Sam Anderson), there’s Desmond (Ian Somerhalder) saying “thanks, brotha” and, oops, there’s Charlie (Dominic Monaghan) choking on what appears to be a condom full of heroin so that Jack has to save him. And Charlie is not the only one brought back to life -- isn’t that Boone, shaking the clearly still crippled Locke’s hand?

Nothing’s irreversible, that’s for sure. In a scant two hours, everyone but Elvis came back to life one way or another -- Juliet (though only to die tenderly in Sawyer’s arms), Jacob (though possibly only in a ghostly way), Sayid (in an eerie reverse baptism).

But the writers’ inspired decision to address all the possibilities by making all things possible creates a whole new set of questions (like isn’t it time we move O’Quinn and Emerson out of supporting and into the lead actor category?) and, amazingly, a whole new group of islanders -- the followers of Jacob who seem equally prepared to preside over murder and miracles.

But at its best, “Lost” has always been about the contradictory nature of life. Just as the last two seasons dealt with the porous and untrustworthy nature of time, the final episodes of “Lost” seem to be taking a similar approach to life and death, which is frankly more interesting.

The passengers of Oceanic 815 are now experiencing life (and death) in parallel universes. And why the heck not?

Early theories about the nature of the island posited it as heaven or hell and if we weren’t dealing with the godless media here, it would be tempting to ponder the mysterious Jacob as a Christ-figure, or at least a quasi-Aslan for grown-ups. Though where the kohl-eyed Richard or that wacky smoke monster, which is apparently a manifestation of the guy in the black shirt currently inhabiting John Locke’s body, fit in is anybody’s guess.