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The future is almost here on ‘Lost’

The best season of “Lost” since the first season of “Lost” comes to an end Thursday night. In the past, finale night fare promised big twists sans big answers on everyone’s favorite mystery island. Not this time. Thanks to flash-forwards, this has been the season of answers. Viewers already know rescue is just around the corner for a fateful few. They even know who makes it home.

The answer trend is set to continue in the two-hour wrap-up, as the present finally catches up with the future. Expect to learn how and why some castaways make it to the mainland and others stay behind, as well as just what it means to “move the island.” That’s a lot to pack into a single night, but it’s only part of what’s in store.

Getting there from hereWhen last we left the Losties, the soon-to-be famous Oceanic Six couldn’t be further from their future fate. It’s hard to image Jack, Kate, Sayid, Sun, Hurley and Aaron making their great escape given their current circumstances.

Sun and Aaron are already on the offshore freighter, but with the ship packing enough C4 to blow it sky-high, that’s hardly an advantage. Ageless Richard Alpert and his band of Other have Kate and Sayid held captive. Hurley only recently decided to part ways with Ben and Locke, and he’s hiking back to … somewhere. As for Jack, he and Sawyer made it to the chopper, but now they have to head back for Hurley.

That sets the stage for the night’s adventure. Everyone either needs to be rescued or needs to do some rescuing before any of them can get, well, rescued. Along the way, there’s bound to be faithful choices, betrayals and the year-end requisite bloodbath. (As always, redshirts beware.)

What else to expectFiguring out the key to survival for the not-so-lucky six isn’t the only big reveal planned for the Thursday night. There’s that aforementioned island-move. And what about freighter foe Keamy? The island’s newest villain is due his comeuppance. Desmond and Penny are sure to get a nod. Reunion time may not be around the corner, but Des can’t just sit on that ship waiting forever.

Then there’s a seemingly unconnected but highly anticipated, producer-promised reveal. It’s the big kicker from last season’s finale: Who was resting in peace inside the mystery coffin? The very first flash-forward showed a funeral for someone so disliked as to only rate a lone semi-mourner in the form of Jack. The occupant must be a former friend or current foe of the Oceanic gang, and few familiar faces fit the bill.

(Speculation that could lead to spoilers lies ahead.) The top contender for a contentious off-island end is Michael. Even if he manages a partial redemption by saving the day on the explosives-laden freighter, he’s unlikely to be memorialized by many of his ex-co-castaways. No one’s going to gloss over that icky business of killing Ana Lucia and Libby, after all. 

Almost equal postmortem odds lie with Ben. Recent flash-forwards proved he has no problem hopping off the island at will, and the when and the where of it remain flexible. If the Other leader fell during one of his excursions, a small, anonymous funeral service would be the most due him.

The longshot is Locke. Hey, it could happen. At the end of the penultimate episode of the season, Ben shared his inside info regarding the upcoming island relocation with the walking wonder. Who’s to say Locke won’t get the lowdown on Ben’s space-time travel as well? Even if Ben doesn’t clue him in, Locke’s new BFF Jacob could do so. That would explain how the man of faith might find himself back in civilization, and given the bad blood already brewing between him and virtually everyone else, mourners wouldn’t exactly line up if he died.

The shape of things to come
Getting some closure to the coffin clue, as well as the more expected storylines, won’t put a bow on everything. By the end of finale night, in true “Lost” fashion, the questions-to-answers ratio should remain much the same. While the episode’s bound to solve plenty of riddles, Mystery Island just wouldn’t be as mysterious if it didn’t provide a few hanging threads.

It’s not just a matter of guessing what next season holds in store; it’s also when. Will flash-forwards become a thing of the past? Perhaps, once the Oceanic Six are back on dry land, island life will be the stuff of flashbacks. Or, with relevant real-time events occurring in both locales, plotlines will simply flash between different parts of the present.

Regardless of where Thursday’s action ends, those remaining questions are as exciting as the upcoming answers. The only thing better than a heavy dose of resolutions is the knowledge that another summer’s worth of head-scratchers is just around the corner.

Ree Hines is a regular contributor to msnbc.com.

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