Questions I Want Answered on Lost

As the final season of Lost begins, is it too much to hope that all the questions the show has raised will be answered?  I am a big fan of Lost's non-linear storytelling and I applaud its devotion to complex, character-driven plots, proving that audiences can tolerate convoluted storylines (even if some viewers became frustrated with the numerous mysteries the show raised, millions of others have stuck with it).  But will the fans' loyalty be rewarded?  Will Lost's conclusion be a letdown like other series finales (Seinfeld and The Sopranos come to mind) or will it provide the answers everyone has been waiting for?

Lost has given us some answers here and there, but it has continued to pile on even more questions.  Here are the broader question marks that I'm hoping will be resolved. 

1.  What exactly is the island?  How was it discovered?  What's its significance?  That's the ultimate question.  We have seen its healing powers, we have seen its time-warping abilities, we have witnessed the clues about its purpose as the ancient battleground between Jacob and his nemesis, but as Hurley once said in a fit of exasperation, "Now I want some friggin' answers!"

2.  Why are these characters all connected?  Episode after episode, we have seen how these characters lives are interwined, either through chance encounters or through deeper relationships.  Happenstance?  My favorite character, Mr. Ecko, once said, "Don't mistake coincidence for fate."  I'm sorry, but they have thrown so many coincidences at us that there better be a point to it all.  I want to know about Jack's dad, Christian Shephard, who has crossed so many of the characters' lives.  I want to know more about Boone and Shannon whose storyline gripped me only to see both of them killed off.  I want to know about the seemingly ageless Richard Alpert. 

3.  What's the deal with the Smoke Monster?  And the unlucky Numbers?  And Walt's special powers?  We know that the Monster is the island's "security system," but that's not enough.  How does it work?  How was it built?  Is it sentient?  I've heard some of the show's creators say that we might never know the meaning of the Numbers.  That's a cheap cop-out.  Even if the writers have no idea themselves, a satisfying story demands some better answer than just "the numbers are cursed."  And during the first season, they hit us over the head with the mysterious powers that little Walt seemed to have, and then the character disappeared.  These are some of the big question marks that have appeared again and again throughout the show. Not addressing them in a thought out way would be a big mistake.

There are also plenty of smaller questions (like what is the significance of the black horse visions that Kate has seen, and what specific experiments were being conducted on the polar bears by the Dharma Initiative) that might never be explored again.  There are some questions that received some answers but in my opinion could be fleshed out even more (like Jack's tattoo and the whispering voices in the woods).  It would be a miracle if every single question was answered.  If Lost could manage that, if we could someday watch a linear edit of the series and discover that everything was neatly tied together in one cohesive plot that answered it all, I would cheer its mastery.

Lots of fans have theories about some of these questions, but the story demands concrete answers.  Will the final season of Lost live up to expectations or has it painted itself into a corner so that no matter what it does the result will be anti-climactic?  Time to tune in and find out.