When I was easing my way back into the TV criticism game late last year, I started thinking about how many shows on the air right now balance a sense of inevitability against the unexpected to generate their conflict. A large portion of the conflict on, say, Mad Men derives from the fact that we, the audience, know what’s coming for the characters, but they do not. We also know that the characters are on the wrong side of history, and that throws most of their actions into a new light. Or look at Breaking Bad, where we usually know the end before we know the beginning, and the ride is all about seeing how the characters try to escape the fate laid out for them but are unable to. There are shows like this all over the dial. All of it had happened before on Battlestar Galactica, and all of it would happen again. Even something as disappointing and all-over-the-place as Damages balanced its storytelling with flash-forwards that let us know (sort of) what was to come. I tentatively grouped Lost in with these shows after its fourth season, since its flash-forwards also offered this sense of inevitability, but it was only a supporting piece of evidence in my case for the new TV fatalism. Interestingly enough, however, Lost’s fifth season is practically all about inevitability and fatalism, in a way that very much casts a new light on events from earlier in the show. A show that purports to be all about the unexpected has become very much a rumination on the futility of trying to escape your predestined fate.