This review is being published a few weeks after the episode first aired, but just in case: major spoilers ahead.
Mr Eko quickly became my favourite of the "new" characters introduced last season. Well, him and Libby - but that was mostly because Cynthia Watros is hot, and Libby intriguingly (now frustratingly) mysterious. Well, and Bernard too, but that's because I've been impressed by Sam Anderson ever since his memorable run as Holland Manners on Angel. But of all the characters it was Mr Eko who was the most interesting, not to downplay Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje's (thank God for cut & paste) fine performance.
So of course they killl him!
Shit. Certainly didn't expect that.
I mean, for a second, I suspected it. One must beware of character resolutions on Lost. Once an arc has been tied up in a bow then - on this show, where character-in-conflict is the defining principle - there's really no reason for someone to hang around. So near the end of the episode where Eko tells his brother "I have not sinned", but only did what he needed to to survive, it certainly felt like an ending, if not necessarily the happy one given to Ana Lucia last year. (Her flashback-ending was happy, a reconciliation with her mother; her island-ending not so much.)
But, no - there was a twist. The apparition he was talking to was not his brother at all (not even one conjurered out of Eko's mind). *whew* There's still conflict to be resolved.
But, no - there's another twist, and one that's ultimately logical. Regardless of who or what Eko was talking to (and, after all, his brother is dead, so any reconciliation would ultimately always be an internal one rather than with another person), we've had the definitive statement of who Eko is ... was. "You have sinned. Hunger does not matter" young Eko is told early in the episode, spelling out his central ethical conflict: Is need a sufficient justification for sin? Or, in more plain terms: "Are you a bad man?" And Eko answers. Only God knows for sure, but as far as he is concerned - he did his best with what was given to him.
I'll miss Eko, but it seems the writers are doing exactly what I wished them to do: Keep rotating cast members through the ensemble. Give us new, exciting characters. Tell their stories; then move on.
- Impossible figures from the past appearing on the island is a recurring device. These will probably eventually have some sort of "in-game" explanation (those that can't be attributed to simple hallucination or dream), but dramatically they underscore the links between the past and the present. We see how the character of the survivors are shaped in the past, and then see the consequences on the island. Having brothers, fathers, friends (even imaginary ones) etc appear theatricalises this central thematic structure.
- "The Cost of Living" features I think the first the show has flashed back to previous episodes within the narrative purely for the purposes of exposition. Usually the necessary exposition is provided in the "Previously on Lost..." pre-teaser segment and if we do get a footage we've seen before it's usually to make a narrative point. In retrospect, the recap of Eko's story further set up his death.
- There was an implausible cop-out in Eko's flashback: I don't see a reason why the bad guy shot the woman in the village rather than Eko himself. It's not like he was squeamish about killing someone, so why not murder the man likely to cause trouble? It thought perhaps it's because Eko was needed for the drug scam, at least in his capacity of priest, but that wasn't the case. The real reason was of course because Eko wasn't fated (scripted) to die at that point, and the moment rang false. This is a minor complaint however.
Meanwhile, at the camp of the Others...
- Conflicts are interesting when the power shifts from one party to another. By letting Henry/Ben know that he knows about the cancer Jack asserts strength.
- Henry coming clean with his plan to get Jack to operate on him was a good move (assuming it wasn't a plan within a plan). Sometimes short-circuiting the plot, cutting out unnecessary complications - even in a heavily serialised and convoluted show like Lost - is a good thing. Keeps things moving.
- "Do you believe in God?" The question makes sense in Eko's flashback, but on the island asked by one of the Others to the captive protagonist? For a second I thought I was watching Battlestar Galactica!
- The existence of the other monitoring stations sets up plenty of opportunities for future seasons. I'm willing to bet that they will only be able to get the link-ups working gradually ... as the needs of the arc dictate. The one-eyed-man for instance will undoubtedly provide hours (in viewing-time ... days of in-show-time ... weeks in real-time) of complications.
- The two new regulars (whose names are Paulo and Nikki according to wikipedia) get a bit more to do ... of course, I'll now think of Paulo as "toilet guy", which I'm not sure was the writers' intent.
- Juliet must have watched a Bob Dylan video in her childhood. Or maybe INXS.
- Juliet was actually very manipulative ... I like it, it adds a dangerous edge to her so-far mostly bland character.