At the end of last season, the “present” time on the show caught up with the flash-forward time when the Oceanic Six were shown reaching Sumba. Since then, the use of flashbacks and flash-forwards has been replaced by simple alternation between the straight-forward story off the Island and the time flashes experienced by those left behind.
This seems to have concluded with “This Place is Death,” as Locke’s subsequent turn of the Wheel is indicated to have been the final flash. Additionally, events on and off the Island can no longer be juxtaposed, as the Oceanic Six have returned in “316.” This episode also saw the reemergence of the flashback, albeit as seen from a more relative definition of the “present” time (From the perspective of an outside observer, Jack’s actions on the Island in the 1970’s preceded his actions in 2008, yet from Jack’s perspective the opposite is true).
I have previously speculated in a past blog posting that Locke’s actions as Jeremy Bentham would be presented in a similar fashion, with John emerging from his casket on the Island in 2008 and recollecting the events which led to his return and resuscitation.
Following this, however, it seems likely that a new storytelling technique will soon be needed. If Locke is indeed on the Island in 2008 with a number of survivors of Ajira 316, while the majority of the main characters remain temporarily trapped in the DHARMA era, it would make sense for the events of the two periods to be juxtaposed against one another.
This would bear both several differences to the episodes which alternated between on and off Island events. Due to a mutually shared location, it will now be possible for the events shown in the 70’s to have drastic impacts on the new present time. This in turn will allow for more tightly constructed stories featuring a shared narrative, as opposed to the split focus of the show earlier in the season.
How long such a device would last depends entirely on the amount of episodes needed for the survivors in the past to return to their own time. Once that occurs, yet another change in storytelling can be expected.