After the mindblowing finale of Season 3, a finale that caused me to lose sleep as my brain was working overdrive, I kept more conservative expectations going into the Season 4 finale. Since really, how could Season 4 even come close to matching the complete "game changer" of a finale last year?
And, fortunately or unfortunately, I was correct. This did not blow my mind in the same way that last year's did and to attempt to compare the two is truly an exercise in futility.
The reason for this is abundantly clear: last year the question was centrally focused on "What Does This Mean?" We didn't know whether the flash-forwards were the last point in the series, whether this was only ONE possible future or a number of different possibilities, how the show was going to be structured in Season 4, what the meaning of the word "present" is. All of these speculations caused people to have months upon months of wondering until we finally got our definitive answer in the form of "The Beginning of the End."
This year, the question is more straight forward. Instead of "What Does This Mean?" it's more of a "What Happens Next?" My personal belief, and this could turn out to be 100% wrong as 100% of my predictions have been in the past, is that off-island is now the present. The crux of next year will be Jack getting the group back together which will finally culminate in them arriving back to the island. In the meantime, our flashbacks will show what led Locke to end up in that coffin. Therefore, in next year's season finale we will presumably see, in flashback, what killed Locke.
Unfortunately, I feel that Michael was rather wasted this year and particularly in this finale. Was he really fully redeemed to the point where it was worth it to finally kill him off? What purpose did he serve staring at the C4 instead of running upstairs with Jin? As it stands, he apparently never even made amends with his son, which was one of the primary reasons for his introduction in Season 1. Granted, as is always the case with Lost, just because you're dead doesn't necessarily mean you're off the show. And Christian Shepherd could certainly attest to that. Speaking of the old Dr. Shepherd, his appearance on the freighter was particularly interesting.
As for Jin, I would stake a week's pay on his being alive. The purpose that his "death" serves is to send Sun into the spiral of vengeance that she appears to be taking in attempting to conspire with Widmore. My concern though is that Sun will turn into her father, making a reunion with Jin somewhat bittersweet. While it will be great to see them together again, in what direction will Sun have gone that might make us root against her somewhat? Jack explicitly stated that "Sun blames me for Jin's death." (Which is slightly inaccurate, since it was kind of Lapidus who refused to go back to the boat, too.)
Season 5 by necessity seems as if it will be a completely different animal if the driving force is returning to the island. Of course, that in and of itself, raises some questions. When Ben says "everyone" has to go back, does that mean Lapidus and Desmond? Aaron? Taking a toddler on a cross country trip is hard enough, try bringing one along to find a mystical island.
Speaking of Desmond, I would have to say that his reunion with Penny was quite possibly the highlight of the finale. To think that this dynamic wasn't even part of the show until the very last episode of Season 2 is very difficult to believe since it resonates so much more than any of the other love stories on the island. The Jack/Sawyer/Kate triangle has been done to death and certainly doesn't seem to be nearing a TRUE resolution anytime soon.
And who would have thought even a year ago that they were going to TELEPORT THE ISLAND. Which is kind of a downer for Faraday and his band of merry meat socks floatin' away on the ocean. Yet, I'm sure we haven't seen the last of him. How far we've come from "Where are we going to find water?" to "How exactly does one move an entire isalnd?" The curious thing is where exactly did it go? And how can it get found again? Once again...more questions.
While I'm certainly looking forward to the Season 5 premiere, it's not the same sort of anticipation that I had last year, and really, how could it? Even so, Lost still excels at being one of the most quality shows on television and I certainly cannot wait until February to see what direction we will be taken next.