LOST: A Look Back at a TV Phenomenon

To say that Lost was a big deal back in the day would be an understatement.

When the show kicked off in 2004, everyone was talking about it, trying to guess the twists and turns of J.J. Abrams’ island-set mystery.

Lost ran for 6 seasons and even though Abrams has since enjoyed some praise for cult sci-fi series Fringe, he has yet to match the level of mass intrigue that Lost generated. The simple Robinson Crusoe-style concept of the latter left a path wide open for increasingly weird storylines to develop in what soon became a sunnier, more character-based take on The Twilight Zone. Juggling such a large ensemble of characters was, of course, one of the show’s biggest challenges but Abrams and his writers did such a good job at fleshing them out and landing them in compellingly ridiculous scenarios, that we cared about pretty much all of them by the end of it.

For many, the finale was a disappointment and the crazier the show became, the more some lost interest. For others, including me, the bigger the scale, the more out-there the plot, the better the show was so Lost certainly became more divisive as it went on. Everyone has their favorite season, everyone has their favorite character but some seasons and characters are not remembered all that fondly so let’s take a quick look back at some pros and cons to try and decipher whether Lost deserved all this attention and if it still holds up.

“Previously, on Lost…”

The first season was a make-or-break type of deal: some loved the heck out of it and everything after that was too much, others weren’t quite as thrilled with it. Through countless flashbacks, “countless” being the keyword here, we are introduced to all the main characters from the good doctor Jack Shephard (Matthew Fox) to controversial loner John Locke (Terry O’Quinn) and we learn tons about their past during the course of 25 episodes. And if 25 nearly hour-long episodes centered around flashbacks and people wandering around in the jungle sounds lengthy that’s because it is. In retrospect, it certainly would have been wiser to stick to, at the most, 20 episodes and trim a bunch of stuff out.

Some of the characters we’re introduced to are, indeed, not all that useful. Shannon, Boone, Claire even Charlie and Hurley don’t contribute much and, while some do improve later on in the show, the first season’s insistence of keeping things only vaguely intriguing with very little actually happening in terms of plot and action makes certain episodes focused on one or two characters tough to sit through. How these people survive on the island or what they did before the crash is not what’s interesting about the show, it’s seeing them stumble upon surreal situations and try to deal with various threats. Having said that, not enough credit is given to this first season for not only being this involving considering the lack of twists but also introducing many important elements of its ongoing mystery this early on and in subtle ways.

The second season is at least three times better almost instantly. It’s about as long and still relies heavily on flashbacks plus it introduces several new characters as if that’s what the show needed, and yet, by focusing on the story while giving the main team interesting things to do, it makes for a significantly more entertaining watch. A hatch with a mysterious death clock, a shady organisation with an unknown purpose, different groups of people on the island, Michelle Rodriguez is there for some reason, a suspicious character captured by the team who may not be who he seems, characters being kidnapped, more hidden locations discovered, a truly explosive climax…

Now this is more like it! Finally, we can stop worrying about what Charlie (Dominic Monaghan) had for dinner the night before the crash and focus on cool/bizarre sci-fi stuff.

Then comes the third season to kick things up a notch by torturing our beloved characters a little. Kate (Evangeline Lilly) and Sawyer (Josh Holloway) are caged like animals and Jack is locked up by “The Others”, a group on the island led by show-stealing baddie Benjamin Linus (Michael Emerson). The group is divided, no-one knows what’s going on and we learn a great deal more about the island’s history. New main characters include Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell) and Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick, aka “Scottish Jesus”) and the whole thing builds up to our heroes potentially finally leaving the island. This is probably the darkest season of the bunch and it ends big, once again, with a bittersweet introduction to what comes next.

Season 4 tries something different in that it goes for flash-forwards rather than flashbacks but, with its short 14 episodes run, it feels more like a transition bridging the gap between Season 3’s storyline and the wackier stuff that comes next rather than its own thing. It’s a tense season about how some battled to get off the island and how they were later convinced to return to it.

Indeed, Season 5 is when things truly got nuts as Jack and co. not only had to deal with moving on from their miserable lives off the island and being dragged back to it as per John Locke’s predictions but time travel as well. With the addition of mad scientist Daniel Faraday (Jeremy Davies) in Season 4, the show was finally free to run wild with its science-fiction elements and, for fans of that genre, it was delicious. Some people are stuck in the past, bumping into younger versions of themselves, others are flashing through time getting nosebleeds, we see the Dharma Initiative in all its 70’s glory… what’s not to like? This was exactly what I was hoping Lost would become: a succession of increasingly madcap adventures beyond anything the main characters could have ever imagined. This is my personal favorite.

Finally, we have Season 6, the conclusion to the epic series and this one is the most “magical” of the bunch as we look deeper into what the island actually is and what it all means. Expect prophecies, more smoke monster, an episode set in the 1800’s, among other things. The finale did disappoint a lot of people and, indeed, it leaves things on an anti-climactic, disappointingly predictable note. Considering how cool the build up to the very end was, it’s a shame that something more unexpected didn’t happen. That said, it does at least make sense and Season 6 is a good season overall. Besides, it’s hard to imagine any ending could have lived up to such a crescendo and satisfied everybody. Some of the best parts of this season include a long-awaited clash between Locke (of sorts) and Jack, a backstory for the immortal Richard (Nestor Carbonell), and some genuinely moving moments as some of our favorite characters are killed off.

A lot of pros and cons, then, but is Lost worth it and does it still hold up?

The answer, I’m happy to report, is yes to both.

Even though it’s nowhere near as mean and gritty as some of the today’s best shows, it’s mostly earnest tone gives it a timeless Indiana Jones type of feel. All the characters, by the final season, are likeable (with the notable exception of Kate), despite this being a popular opinion it doesn’t feel like the plot is made up as it goes along and although the deserted island concept isn’t new, Lost is a unique and refreshingly original take on it. Of course, there are some filler episodes here and there (Jack gets a tattoo: yawn), the flashbacks are a bit excessive and Season 1 drags but, overall, it’s completely addictive and those who didn’t stick around after Season 1 missed out.

If you still haven’t checked out Lost then I suggest you get on Netflix right now and give it a shot. Don’t make me send the smoke monster after you (or the polar bears).

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