Why I Love Lost
“This is my destiny! Don’t tell me what I can’t do!”
It's a long way down. Lost aired from 2004 to 2010. It has been seven years since it ended, which kind of blows my mind. I was introduced to Lost through my mother and brother, who found it through our friend from Chicago, Michelle. The title screen is a brilliant way to express what the show is about: something distant and out of focus, getting closer and clearer before it drifts off, again out of focus. Lost is a show that demands patience. It does not easily reveal its secrets, something which the duller members of the audience found difficult. Lost learned many things from the great Twin Peaks, but the number one thing it learned was don't give away your central mystery until you are ready to wrap things up. Where as Twin Peaks revealed who killed Laura Palmer in the second season, Lost kept its cards close to its chest until the very final episode. This is something that should be lauded to all hell. To understand who the Smoke Monster is, is to understand the entire show. Giving away its secrets too quickly killed the original Twin Peaks, but Lost lasted for six years and got to address every lingering question over that time. (This is something that the new Twin Peaks is doing very well to avoid.)
The characters in Lost are its strongest asset. There are some of the most iconic, compelling characters in the history of the medium. Let's start with Jack, the central hero of the show. Originally Jack was meant to die in the Pilot, with Kate being the lead. Thank Christ we avoided this horrible possibility! Jack is in many ways an everyman, but has a lot more to his character than you first assume. He has spent his life trying to save those around him. The first Jack episode shows his inability to stay down while others need help. Jack's journey from a doubter of fate to embracing his destiny in the final episode, in order to save the world is something that always moves me. His final conversation with his father when he realizes that he is dead makes me cry like a baby. We will get to why the final episode is perfect in a little bit.
While Jack is undeniably the lead, it is Locke who best defines the show. Locke is not religious but he is incredibly spiritual. He believes that he is meant for something special, and you know what? He's right. It is Locke's journey towards understanding the Island that leads to the most intriguing moments in the history of the show. The Hatch! Let's talk about the Hatch because it might just be the best thing in Lost. The Hatch is introduced in the first season and pays off with the single best episode of the show, when it is revealed that a man lives in it and has for some time. Desmond's story is perhaps the most touching. His long lost love Penny tries desperately to find him. When they are reunited it is a truly special moment. That ending of the first season where the camera goes down and down, is my favourite cliff hanger ever. It makes good on every promise and gives you something truly incredible.
Sayid is another strong character. Lost first aired in 2004, three years after the horrific attacks on the World Trade Center. This was at the height of Muslim panic and here you have a show where they make you care about an Iraqi Republican Guard who tortures people for a living. This is some kind of fucking miracle. Lost was particularly good about representing people of different beliefs and cultures. Yet it never seemed like they were doing it for the sake of doing it. The characters are brilliant regardless of whether you recognize yourself in them. But you do recognize yourself in Sayid. The way he leaves the camp after resorting to torturing Sawyer is so poetic and beautiful. His scenes with Rousseau are among the best to be found in Lost.
How about those villains? Gotta shout out to Ethan first, the original Other. He is so menacing and cruel. The way he strings up Charlie and leaves him to die, from choking is abhorrent. He is, in wrestling language, a monster heel. Then you've got Ben, a villain on the level of BOB from Twin Peaks. He plays it so dead on. He is a weak man in his heart, and has let life twist him into some kind of despicable creature. The scenes with Ben and those who are keeping him locked up are games of mental chess, Ben always one step ahead. That we come to kind of like Ben is incredible. We understand why he did what he did, even though we don't agree with it. That he chooses to stay in purgatory in the final episode because he is not ready to forgive himself for what he's done is a lovely detail.
Let's talk about some of the weaker elements of the show. Firstly, Kate. She is a badly written character and is supremely irritating. While the show runners and writers clearly wanted the audience to empathize with her, all that they do is solidify what a horrible human being she is. Her prominent place in the cast is a shame, as she takes time away from better characters, and wraps up Sawyer and Jack in a ridiculous love triangle. It is not that the writers and show runners can't write women either. There are many great female characters, including Sun, Claire and Juliette. My theory is that when Jack was made the hero of the show, Kate's character was gutted and her best qualities given to him. A similar thing happened in Cheers, where Diane's best lines were given instead to Frasier. As time went on, Frasier became more popular and Diane was turned into a purely irritating character, rather than the warm hearted (but pompous) person she was before Frasier arrived.
Secondly, there are too many episodes in the first half of the show. This is seen most in Season 3, which stalls and stalls for time to work out how to make the mysteries last longer than they should have done. This was no longer an issue from season 4 onwards, but it did some damage to the ability to re-watch the show, as there are some episodes that are simply pointless. I'm thinking about Jack's tattoo episode here, and the story about the couple who get killed by a spider.
Back to the good stuff. The way Lost keeps its secrets close and safe is one of the main reasons why I love it. Its finale was powerful as all hell, perfectly expressing everything there was to love about the show. Some people criticized it for being too happy but really when you look at it, its not too happy. It is like the five seasons that preceded it, about the struggle to belong, to make peace with yourself. Just because people are dead, doesn't mean their journey is over. Lost explores the mystery of life and death. It was only right that we saw the characters make their way to the final adventure. When Jack is told by his father, I just can't handle it. It is so damn touching. I think of my relationship with my father when I watch Jack's episodes and how similar they are. Not in the particulars of alcoholism and professional failings, but in how they had to get over themselves to realize how much they loved each other. I had to put in a lot of work to make peace with Noel, and he had to put in a lot of work to help me do that. But I did. When he died, I knew in my heart that we were good. If I ever meet him again, I hope he will help me again to come to terms with my death just like Christian does for Jack.
The other element of the finale is to do with the Smoke Monster, having taken the form of John Locke, and Jack who tries his best to prevent it from leaving the Island. This is so tense, so expertly put together. It is the epic conclusion that we were all waiting for. The story behind Jacob and the Smoke Monster is the one that ties everything together in an immensely pleasing way. Good and evil battling for ages. The show's mythology is right up there with Twin Peaks and the X-Files. It is dense, and filled with so many little details. The Dharma Initiative is tied with the Black Lodge for compelling as fuck story telling.
Lost is a flawed masterpiece, but a masterpiece is what it is. It learned a lot from Twin Peaks and made sure to repeat those great things, and to avoid the negatives. Damon Lindelof is a tremendously underrated writer and show runner. He should be given so much of the credit, alongside Carlton Cuse and J.J. Abrams. I am currently watching the show again with my mother and it's just as good as ever. I am excited to see the mysteries unfurl once again, and get knee deep in delicious morsels of clues. I will never regret liking Lost. If you haven't watched it in some time, it is definitely worth another go around.