It opens, of course, in medias res. We are thrown into the scene – thrown forwards, it turns out – and have to play catch-up from the clues. It’s a puzzle-scene. The dialogue is deliberately oblique, full of gaps. Its job is to set up a mystery that will last us until next season. The writers know we have months to debate the identity of the guy who, Kate says, is “gonna be wondering where I am”, and the man who was laid to rest with Jack as the only witness. The actors know each awkward shuffle, nervous smile and quick glance is going to be endlessly replayed and analysed. For once, the producers hold the cards, and they play them sparingly. For once, they can keep us waiting. Lost isn’t just a show. It’s become a game. Even its more casual viewers aren’t watching it alone, but as part of an online community. Every puzzle it sets is seized on and shared by a collective intelligence, a network of detectives – and solved almost immediately. Jack’s mobile, a Motorola RAZR, was instantly sourced as a 2006 model. The sign above the funeral parlor, Hoffs/Drawlar, was photoshopped into “Flash forward” by the end of the episode. The scrap of newspaper clipping discussing the death, glimpsed by a shaky camera at an angle for a few seconds, was grabbed, rotated, cleaned up and transcribed. But the producers asked for this; they constructed Lost, the show, as just the central text in a cross-platform experience, encouraging shared research and textual analysis. The Lost ARG in particular led to a host of resources dedicated to solving its mysteries – as I write this, my download window is just part of a mosaic, an intertextual patchwork, surrounded by the Lostpedia, Lost timelines and Lost location guides – and after completing an ARG, any little twists thrown up by the show itself are chickenfeed. They’re a time trial. Fans clocked the flashforward in seconds. Each episode has become a challenge between the creators and the gamers, starting... now. But when is “now”? Jack’s scenes in the finale have been universally described as flashforwards, although they take place in 2007. For us, of course, this date is now in the past; but more tellingly, they imply a more fundamental time-shift than most fans seem to have realised, or wanted to acknowledge. From Sun’s childhood in “The Glass Ballerina” and Ben’s birth in “The Man Behind the Curtain”, through Hurley’s 1980s upbringing and the 1990s “Purge” to the scenes at Sydney airport and the events on the Island – everything we’ve seen in Lost is a flashback from the “present day” we encounter in these scenes, for the first time.