Looking back at Lost

For those who have been living under a rock, Lost is a TV series which ran for six seasons from 2004 to 2010 about a group of survivors who are stranded on a tropical island. Last night I watched the final episode on Dutch TV. Having followed this series for years and having seen every episode I feel this series has become a part of my life. In a good way I’d like to add, because I think Lost was an awesome ride. I think it ranks among the best TV series I’ve seen.

What I like about Lost is that it has a character and quality which many other TV series lack. There wasn’t a single episode of Lost which I considered to be boring. That’s a different story with the various Star Trek TV series, also one of my favorites. Those series contain many episodes which suck because they are boring and lack a good story, while they also contain many good and a few outstanding episodes.

Lost is also a TV series which I’d call very deep. Deep in the sense of being a TV series with many and very complex story lines, with later episodes being increasingly dependent on early episodes for understanding the story. Contrast this with shallow TV series. Like the various TV series of the CSI franchise which use the crime of the week format heavily. In CSI the crime which needs to be investigated in every episode runs the show, meaning the story is very short term, structural story telling spanning multiple episodes and characters are inferior as story elements to the crimes being investigated. While this makes good television for persons who don’t follow a TV series regularly and want to be able to ‘hop on’ at every episode, it makes for boring and unintelligent TV in my opinion. Another popular crime series like The Mentalist isn’t as bad as CSI in this regard, with the first episode revealing that the protagonist is searching for the serial killer which offed his wife and child. I had the impression it would be an interesting series to follow, but was soon bored because it involved many episodes using primarily the crime of the week format, and very few (yet more than CSI) long term story development.

Where Lost also succeeded is keeping the story line credible, the later seasons were not of a lower quality than the early seasons. I think Prison Break obviously failed here big time for example. The first season started of great, the second season was reasonable, but by the third season it was no longer credible when Michael Scofield found himself returned to square one and by the fourth season I stopped watching. The writers working on Prison Break didn’t have a solid long term vision on the story, and overextended the story after the success of the first season. Maybe they did so to exploit the success of that series, which they should not have done if they couldn’t do it right. I think the same counts for Heroes, another show which couldn’t keep my attention.

I’ll keep spoilers to a very acceptable minimum in this post, but be warned that some of the links I posted might lead to spoilers. Today I’ve spent half a day reading the Lost wiki Lostpedia to make sense of the whole series. When I’ve got far too much time on my hands maybe I’ll get down to reading this analysis, but for those who are time challenged like me this interpretation of the series is a good read.

All those years of Lost gave rise to a lot of questions regarding the mysteries in the story. Some are still unresolved are the finale, for example the nature of the island, the numbers the electromagnetic phenomena, the lethal pregnancies, the sickness. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The writers argued that they weren’t interested in providing definitive answers to certain questions, because providing answers takes away the mystery. I agree with them, mysteries stimulate our imagination, are something exciting, allow for analysis and making up theories. In fact, most of us like, maybe even need, mysticism. Many humans readily embrace religion without a scientific basis, not necessarily because religion provides answers where science does not; they have no problem with acknowledging that ‘God works in mysterious ways’. A completely rational world view doesn’t seem to be attractive for many humans.

There are certain aspects of Lost though where I don’t accept the absence of answers. A minor one is the question how what happened to the survivors of Ajira Flight 316 happened. It seems very strange that this question wasn’t answered. The only reason I can think of was shoddy planning of the writers who didn’t have enough space anymore to tie an answer in the story. A major one is the character of Walt. In the early seasons Walt’s character received a lot of attention, and it was clear he was very special. Then he got off the island, and after seeing the finale we can only conclude that he was irrelevant in the end. Based on what I saw in the earlier seasons I was convinced that he was going to be important, and it is very awkward to conclude that he was insignificant.

Also, I’d to thank the Dutch broadcaster of Lost, NET 5, for broadcasting the episodes of the last season of Lost only three days later than in the USA, unlike earlier seasons. That was done because they feared that potential viewers would get impatient and illegally download Lost instead. I’m delighted that Net 5 finally understands now that we don’t like to be an afterthought in Europe and get to see episodes of American TV series months after they aired in the USA.

Unfortunately, RTL 7 still doesn’t get it. A few months ago they finished broadcasting the seventh season of 24, not long before season eight finished airing in the USA. They’re not making haste with broadcasting season eight in The Netherlands either. That’s very unfortunate, because I’ve grown to like 24 very much after watching season seven. It’s a pity I didn’t follow the earlier seasons in the past, and I’d gladly buy it on DVD if it were affordable. 24 is extremely addictive, having mastered the use of cliffhangers.

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