There's a lot to say about this first episode of "LOST's" final season. After reading tons of other blogs and articles, though, I'm going to focus on either what I think no one is touching on, or expanding on stuff everyone's already talking about. So, I'm going to break this post into parts (at least three).
1. Environmental changes -- Why does shit seem so different?
During season 5's episode, "Namaste," I was struck by Sun and Frank's trip to New Otherton in her pursuit of Jin. New Otherton had no evidence the Others had ever lived there. It looked like the Dharma Initiative had been wiped out in the Purge and were gone, but no one had moved in. Basically, it was a ghost town. In the episode, "The Incident," we discover that the statue of Tawaret is standing full and glorious, with Jacob living his cozy life in its shadow.
No one seems to be talking about this. It's either one of the biggest inconsistencies ever, or it's a major plot point. Now that we have alternate realities, one in which Jughead detonated, the other in which it didn't, we may have received an answer to this question.
If Jughead never detonated, Tawaret never crumbled. It still doesn't explain why Dharma was never replaced by the Others in the barracks. Somehow, Jughead's (supposed) detonation must have changed the future. But this still leaves other questions:
A) If the Others weren't living in the Dharma barracks, how were they able to create the runway? Were they just living between the Hydra Island and the Temple?
B) What does this do to the memories of the castaways? Are they changed, too, or left remembering paradoxes?
To quote one of Monty Python's Gumbys, "My brain hurts."
2. How long have the Others inhabited the Temple?
I will assume, as I think we are supposed to, that the Others have been living in this Temple since at least 1988. Certainly they've been there since Oceanic 815 crash landed on the Island. But how many have been living there? If, as I pointed out in my earlier thoughts, the village is a ghost town, has this been the Other's principal residence? If so, where do they live? There do not appear to be any barracks.
What we do know is that the children have been brought here. They appear to be servants, though, which is sort of creepy. Maybe they're just dutiful children (afraid of beatings later).
This place on the Island is surrounded by plenty of questions, though. If it's a Temple, what is worshipped? Jacob? Probably not Smokey, since he's the Nemesis. How long has Dogan been there, and is he in charge? What do they do at the Temple when no one shows up to disturb their day-to-day living? Ben told Richarad to take the Others to this place at the end of season 4, but had he ever been (not including his short stay as a child when he was apparently healed in the then clearer waters)?