By Ken Tucker
Updated February 24, 2010 at 05:00 AM EST
Mario Perez/ABC

Like many fans, I am happy to be lost in Lost. Savoring it, in fact. Locke as the Smoke Monster? Bring him/it/whoever on! A ”flash-sideways”? I like coming in on that new angle! As the final pieces of TV’s trickiest jigsaw puzzle are being wedged into place, the burden is on the guys who run the show — Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof — to have the sixth and final season not end up looking like…one big jigsaw puzzle.

How to do that? So far, they’ve got the right idea in finally establishing that Lost isn’t just a mind game: The Island has always been a metaphor for the heart — the center, the life force. Now many of the mysteries of the heart are being revealed, along with alternative glimpses of how the lives of so many did or may or could have turned out.

One of the best things Lost is doing is returning to its core characters, devoting a strand of each episode to, say, Locke (Terry O’Quinn) or Kate (Evangeline Lilly) or Jack (Matthew Fox), allowing us to take full measure of how far these people have come. Some of those actors are giving superlative, career-high performances — no one on TV today is showing greater range and emotion than O’Quinn, for example.

What it comes down to — the essence of what’s making this final season so good — is summed up in a little speech that Cuse and Lindelof wrote for Hurley (Jorge Garcia) in the Feb. 23 episode, as the Rotund One and Jack ambled through some lush greenery one more time:

”This is kinda old-school — you and me, trekkin’ through the jungle, on our way to do somethin’ that we don’t quite understand. Good times.”

Good times, indeed. A