I was pretty keyed up for last night's season premiere, after watching the season 3 finale last week and the clip show that started at 8:00. Michael Emerson (the actor who plays Ben) narrated the clip show, which led to a creepy vibe as you felt that you were getting Ben's version of events. It also helped to jog my memory about a few things, like we found out that Jin is really the father of Sun's baby and Hurley had that episode on the island where he was seeing people who weren't there. I had also forgotten that there were Others on the island prior to the Dharma Initiative, that Ben had been instrumental in killing all of the Dharma folks, and that the Others don't age.
(Which brings me to new theory #1 -- the Others are part of the island, in something more than a metaphorical sense, which is what gives them the healing power. Locke is, in many ways, an Other. Maybe Mikael is too).
I thought the season premiere was very good. No new mysteries were resolved and a few new threads were started. Here are those questions, most of which come from the flash forward:
1. Do only six people leave the island? Flash-forward Hurley screams "I am part of the Oceanic Six"! Who are those six? We have seen Jack, Kate, and Hurley, but who else?
2. Charlie appears to Hurley and says "I am dead, but I am here now." What's that about?
3. Hurley gets angry at Jack's visit, saying "You're here to make sure I haven't told anybody." What happened that they aren't supposed to tell? That there are still people on the island?
I really enjoyed this episode's Hurley-centric focus. He is easily one of the most likable characters, so you really feel for him when he hears about Charlie, are genuinely scared for him when he's running through the woods and sees Jacob's house (which apparently can move -- it's like Baba Yaga's Hut), and are scared for him when he's threatened by the "attorney" in the institution. (another question -- who was that guy? someone from the "not-Penny's boat" people that are still looking for the rest of the island people?).
Overall, I felt the strength of this episode lay in returning to some of the character foundations we saw in the first season. Kate re-emerged as a strong competent woman, Sawyer as a bit of an ass, and the tension between Locke and Jack. The climax of the episode was, quite literally, a choice between those two and their respective ways of dealing with the island. I like that that thread, which has been around since the first episode, was made to literal here at the beginning of season 4.