James Poniewozik of Time said, "'Awesome' and 'awful' are actually closer to each other on the continuum of quality than either is to 'meh'." What an ep like this does is get people to talk about the show. For better or for worse, it was an epic episode.
A few more things about the substance of the episode. A question has been raised about whether the Fake Mother is actually the protector of the Island or actually a previous version of the Smoke Monster. Well first off, maybe she's both. But in the favor of protector are that she talks about it like she is (although we've seen what a liar she can be), we never saw her take the form of the smoke, and she accepted her death just as Jacob did in The Incident. Reasons she could be Smokey are that she destroyed the Roman Others and filled in the well so quickly and easily, she may have been using smokey to appear as dead Claudia, and she might have wanted to die to get out of the terror of being a monster.
So how about all of the rules? The Mother keeps talking about all the different rules she put in place. The fact that Jacob and MIB can't hurt each other or the fact that MIB can never leave the Island. Or even the idea of the Light and someone needing to protect it. Did we ever actually see either of them try to kill each other? Did MIB ever attempt to leave the Island and fail? We know that the Mother is a liar. What if she was lying about all these rules? And these two boys just never tried to disobey any of them, because they were continually looking for ways around them. This has really been a recurring theme in Lost. Whether it was Ben, Widmore, Locke or Jack, they've all used manipulation to get what they wanted.
Ryan McGee's Lost Podcast he thinks that it will either end with a new iteration of the game beginning, or the destruction of the game for all of time. Although the ending scene of Jack and Locke sitting on the beach talking about how much they want to kill each other would be great, I think I'd rather see our favorite characters be the reason this horrible game of senet came to an end.
You see as Jacob said, "It only ends once. Anything that happens before that is just progress." I thought they were epic words at the time and I can't disagree with myself now. Just as Smokey has been spending an eternity manipulating people into getting what he needed to win the game versus Jacob and get off the Island, Jacob too has been structuring everything just right so that he can win and end this thing so that it never happens again. You see when MIB made up the rules to their game of senet, Jacob complained and was told by his brother that some day he'd be able to make up his own rules. I think he did.
Maybe MIB has been playing by an outdated set of rules this whole time, so killing Jacob and the rest of the candidates isn't really going to help him get off the Island. Jacob made his own set of rules and is making it so that whatever Jack, Hurley, Sawyer, etc. do in the next few hours will stop all of the horrible Island stuff from happening to anyone ever again. It will be very satisfying to see that our favorite characters are the ones that help save the day.
I'll come back after this Tuesday's episode and apologize to myself for how wrong all of this is.