I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand I really enjoyed the cold open, which did a great job of opening up the conflict to the next, and maybe final, level -- Jack and Locke's Free Will v Destiny debate was enlarged with the Ben v Widmore conflict and now that appear to be transumed by the Jacob v Dude from Deadwood conflict that appears more cosmic in nature. Like Widmore and Ben there is some strange rule that prevents Jacob and his nemesis from killing each other. The ancient past always appears too clean or something on Lost -- every time they are in a temple I always get shades of Hercules or something, but I still liked it.
The John Locke twist was the other thing in the finale that I was really impressed by, though Stephan Delatovic's partner pointed out that that means Locke's story may have ended in a dirty hotel room. (There is always the possibility that Locke's resurrection goes back farther than that -- did Jacob bring him back to life after the fall that paralyzed him?). That reveal was shocking in the way I want Lost to be shocking. And I adored Jacob's intimation that someone was on their way. That is also what Lost does well.
I also loved the Fade to White, which was used as well as it was on the second to last episode of Sorkin's West Wing. When you are used to ending on black, ending on white is really striking. I loved that the perspective was just one woman crying in a well alone. I liked how cramped that view was as the end.
There were some interesting echoes to past seasons -- especially from finale to finale. Juliet in the shaft echoed and complemented everyone looking down the shaft of the hatch in the season one finale, both final shots. Also from the season one finale Jack with the nuke in the backpack echoed the dynamite they carried from the Black Rock (which appeared at the opening of this finale). The blast from that position echoed Desmond in that same hatch turning the key, the finale with also revealed the foot where the other part of this took place. The dumping of the real Locke's body on the ground echoed the discovery of Locke's body at the end of the four finale -- even the same camera work over the box. The AV Club pointed out that three of LOST's finales end with Sawyer on a vehicle that just can't leave the island and 3 with Lock in a coffin.
I was pleased to see Bernard and Rose dealt with, but it seemed to me that the writers did so reluctantly. I think they wanted the audience to forget all about them, and when they didn't had to put something there.
Frank's line that the people who go out of their way to tell you they are the good guys are usually the bad guys was nice, and echoed some of the things ben has said.
But Jacob visiting the major castaways did not add much to the overall narrative. We did not learn anything about the people who know what lies in the shadow of the statue or where they come from. Widmore was nowhere to be seen, nor was the smoke monster (though to be fair the monster already got a lot of play in the most recent Ben episode). The nuke needing to be hit with a rock when the shaft did not work was lame. Magnetically flying around junk always looks goofy to my eye. Chaing was weirdly ineffective -- that guys was for so long hinted at in early seasons he has been a real disappointment now that we get to spend time with him in season five. Desmond, Penny, their kid not in evidence. No Christian or Claire.
And a large chunk of the finale insisted we be very invested in the Jack-Juliet-Kate-Sawyer thing, and I am not, at all, except that this season did a surprisingly good job making me care about Juliet and Sawyer as a couple. When she was the one who was maybe too conveniently caught in the chains, I was not that happy -- If that means she is out, then we are left with the same triangle we had in season one, which is unfortunate. Juliet and Sawyer felt like progress, a chance for a reasonable happiness. I was also especially disappointed that Juliet got a non-Jacob flashback that served only to rationalize her sudden change of mind about Jack's Plan: the format of the show was broken for no reason than to make it seem like the shift the writers wanted Juliet to take made sense. We are to believe that just at that moment she realized that people can love one another and still not be meant to be together. I almost like the sentiment, it just felt shoehorned in badly.
Mostly my problem with the finale was the directness of it. They said they were going to kill Jacob and set a nuke off at the swan and that is exactly what happened -- and the season ended before we got even a glimpse of what either of those events could possibly MEAN, just as in season one the hatch was open and then it was all over. Except this time it is more "see you in ten months for the final 17 episodes. I expected 2 minutes after the nuke so shock us with the new status quo.
All in all, good not great. Season Six is going to be jammed if they even try to answer half of the mysteries they have set up.