So Lost ends this week. Wow – 6 seasons.
So Lost, to me, has been one of the most consistently good tv shows of the last several years. Deadwood and the Wire both surpassed it, but I caught both of those on DVD aftr the fact – not episode by episode during the run. And Lost is way less filthy mouthed – if that bothers you the HBO shows aren’t going to be your thing.
What attracts me to Lost? The mysteries, the characters the themes, and the show construction. I’ll start with the last and work my way forward.
Serialized storytelling – I’ve talked about why I like serialized stories before. Lost is one of the places on TV that mostly got it right. The show runner obviously always had a plan. It would be interesting to know how much the approaching end resembles that plan. In general, the show never seemed to lose sight of that end. But – sometimes it took detours. Sometimes there were sub-plots that didn’t really seem to go anywhere. And the reversals might be a bit much for some people.
Some especially clever things they did was allow them to get off the island at the end of season 3. Did they keep the tension up after that? I thought so. I thought season 4 worked very well with opposing tensions of leaving the island and returning to it.
Of course the most showy bit of the show construction is the flashbacks. And most every season had a different tack on them – season 2 with the stories of the tailies, season 4 with flash forwards, season 5 with time travel and now season 6 with the flash sideways. In some ways season 6 seems to work the least as the two parallel tracks do not seem to be integrated.
The underlying themes have also been interesting. But frustrating. Lost plays with its themes through its mysteries and flashbacks and since those don’t get cleanly resolved it often tries to have it both ways. Sometimes play with both free will and predestination for instance.
Other strong themes has been alienation, redemption, faith, community and, perhaps of course, romantic and familial relationships. Themes I think are interesting just for being attempted.
I said before that a serialized story depends on its characters. Their arcs and their relationships. Here Lost has been both successful and faltering. Its strengths are that its main characters are clearly drawn, diverse and delineated from each other; its character are mapped directly onto its themes. And it doesn’t hurt that they are pretty good looking.
But – but. Some character arcs putter out before finishing. Some have basically reversed themselves. Secondary characters are often forgotten about for months or years. And most annoying, Lost sometimes kills its characters just to remain unpredictable. For instance every one of the Tailies bought it – other than Bernard. Dogen and his assistant were introduced this season as foils and then they were gone.
And finally, let’s talk about mysteries. At its core Lost has always been a mystery story. The central mystery is what is the island and what does that have to do with the survivors of Oceanic 815. Season 1 introduced the island – with Polar Bears, killer smoke, whispers in the woods. And the characters – why did they all seem to have ties to one another. Season 2 and 3 used the Others and the Dharma initiaitve. And so on until now when the focus is on the two personalities underpining the complexities on the island.
Lost has never been stingy about solving its own mysteries as well. Why the plane crashed, who the Others are, the Polar bears and many others were given good answers. The key mysteries though still remain somewhat unresolved although the previous episode may have been supposed to provide some of the answers.
Three and a half hours left and much of Lost’s legacy may depend on how satisfactorily those answers are finally provided. Or does it? Will we be satisfied if it just has an exciting slam-bam finale?
I’ve told my brother that there isn’t going to be a satisfactory explanation to the nature of the island – at some point it is all going to come to a hand waving “It’s magic” explanation. But I have high hopes that the remaining answers we do get will resolve some of the mysteries involving the inter-relationships between the characters and the island.
I just hope someone makes it out alive.