What my TV habits say about me: LOST

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the series. If you don’t want to know, don’t read it.

You can’t believe I’m starting this series with a show that’s already over, can you? I know half of you rolled your eyes because you know what a die-hard I am for this show. I can say, without a doubt, that this is my favorite show of all time, and in my opinion, one of the best shows ever created.

It’s been more than a year since it ended, and while that’s still unbelievable to me, I think about it all the time. I haven’t completed a rewatch of the show (yet), and I’m a little afraid to because it might dampen the magic for me.

LOST is a show that was able to make itself entirely about character development while still maintaining an air of mystery for six years. I don’t know if I’ve ever really discussed the show as a whole before, so I consider this post a little bit of breaking my silence. I don’t anticipate all of the posts in this series being this long, though – don’t worry. If you want to skip the discussion, go to the bottom where I talk about it in relation to me, the point of the series.

I’m personally a big fan of the last three seasons, because that’s when they got an end date for the series and started being serious about it. There should probably have been an end date for the series from the very beginning, but that’s not really how television works right now. The first season was explosive – practically a standalone in itself, and once they continued to get renewed, they were able to expound on all of the important mysteries.

Season one is the anomaly of the whole show. There’s barely any mythology, and its focus on character development comes from what the characters do and say rather than how they react to mysteries created specifically for them. But I guess that’s how you get renewed on cable television.

By far, the two biggest controversies surrounding the end of the show are the lack of answers for the small mysteries and the  allegation that part of the show took place in purgatory. Both of which are legitimate complaints, honestly – but they don’t bother me. Why? Because the show was never about small mysteries, and it doesn’t matter that half of season six was purgatory.  It’s irrelevant in comparison with the larger narrative.

Would I have liked some of the smaller mysteries to be answered? Sure. I’m not going to be pretentious and say I rose above it to see the light. But when looking at it with a critical eye, I realized that there are more important things to think about, if that’s what you’re looking for as a viewer. If you’re looking for the generic monster-of-the-week, mildly plot-driven show with no real overarching theme, you’re in the wrong place. I believe that’s what caused most of the dissension in the fandom. I’ve talked to countless people who are interested in the show because it’s popular, but didn’t want to make the commitment to watching six years of a show to be able to understand it. And that’s fine – I get it. But this show is a commitment, and you have to make it one to really get everything out of it.

What’s really important about the show, as I keep saying, is the characters, individually and as a group. While not terribly diverse, this is a group of actors able to take characters with the potential to be flat and turn them into multifaceted people capable of a vast variety of action and emotion. Almost every character is an archetype in the first season, and those who aren’t are nobodies. In the later seasons, while the cast has been pared down to the essentials, the still quite large ensemble cast manages to be all equally good and evil (and some not so equally).

This brings me to the second controversy, the idea of purgatory. Something I always appreciated about the show was that the showrunners made the island a character within itself. When the characters were there, they were able to simultaneously have a do-over in life (compounded with the Dharma trip) and have to face their own demons. It seemed great, in the beginning, that everyone was able to be who they wanted to be and escape their past lives. As the show progressed, though, it became obvious that it’s not that easy, from clear-cut examples of drug withdrawal to less clear examples of struggling with how people from the past inadvertently changed the course of their own. The island forced the characters to face the worst parts of themselves through both natural and mythological events, and yet allowed them a safe haven in which to do so. For some of them, unable to face their own pasts, they met rather grisly ends. For many characters, though, they were able to push through their own problems to become the best version of themselves.

Maybe they were in a sort of purgatory. There’s no reason that the purgatory used in the show has to be The Purgatory that mass culture is familiar with. That’s the beauty of stories like this one – within them lies the ability to create, to introduce viewers to new concepts.

This show has also had the best narrative use of flashbacks/forwards that I’ve ever seen. They aren’t gratuitous in any way, and they also add unimaginable layers to the characters. It allows the viewer to understand why a character is the way he or she is without forcing something in the present to cause it – which is exactly like real life. We’re shaped from our childhoods, from what happens to us, from the people who touch our lives, from the very beginning. I’m a firm believer in being shaped by environment, and this show was basically a testament to that. Through these flashes, too, the viewer understands the characters and sees the connections between them all before the characters figure it out. Jack didn’t find out Claire was his sister until almost the end, but we knew from almost the very beginning – and that’s the most obvious example. And that’s where perfection lies. When a viewership knows more about the characters than the characters know about themselves, and each viewer believes he or she understands what the character’s path should be, division arises. That’s what the showrunners understood – that you can’t please everyone all the time, especially with a hit show, so you may as well go ahead and finish out the story.

And at the end of the day, this show isn’t for everyone, for a variety of reasons. And that’s fine.

It isn’t often that a mere television show grasps the heart of the world, makes news headlines when it’s over, and has celebrities breaking pop culture silence to talk about it. People who identify with one character are shown their own ugly sides when they divide over plot and showrunner decisions. As the characters grow and change, so do the viewers. Maybe I’m ascribing too much importance to LOST, but I just have a hunch that there has to be something to it.

So what does this say about me?

LOST is a show that I relied on for years to keep me grounded. College was rough for me, mentally, emotionally, in practically every way possible. Harder than it should have been because of mistakes I made. But when I started watching this show my freshman year, I found a fascinating narrative that was interesting and inspirational at the same time. I take this show as seriously as I do any classic book or any serious discussion. Not many things spark such a lively discussion between my good friends and I than a rollicking argument over this show.

The reason I started with LOST, in this blog series, is because all in all, it gave me a better foundation as a writer and world-builder, and further, it inspired me to take a more critical look at everything else I do in life. Because every second of this show was dedicated to furthering the narrative and the characters, it gave me an intense eye for detail and a fabulous detail/photographic memory. To this day, I’m still able to recall obscure scenes and obscure facts from not just shows but movies, books, life, etc. This show taught me that every action must have a cause, and every action must also have a reaction. There are no easy outs in writing, and a smart viewer or reader won’t accept a deus ex machina easily. Everything must make sense to the nth degree, even if it only makes sense within the mythology in which the show is entrenched. LOST made me a more responsible reader, and more importantly, a more responsible writer.

LOST is a rare show that appeals to a wide variety of viewers while running rampant with mythology. None of the characters are remotely the same, which allows everyone to find one he or she identifies with. This is something that kept people coming back week after week, to see what would happen to “their person.” I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t true for me, as well. I cried when Locke was really dead. I loved everything about Ben Linus. What can I say? Villains are apparently my weakness.

In regard to the showrunners going under the radar with information post-show, I couldn’t be happier. Everyone was demanding answers and an explanation, and they refused to give a definitive answer to anything after the finale aired. Still haven’t. I think LOST is a narrative intended to reveal truth about each viewer, depending on what he or she is willing to put into it in order to take out. That’s how real stories are told. They teach you about yourself. And the longer you have to think about yourself and the decisions you make, the more fully you understand yourself. A year and a half later, and people are still writing and talking and arguing about this show. We’re still grappling with ourselves. To me, that says more than a “definitive answer” ever could.

If you like LOST, I predict you’ll like:

  • Fringe
  • Dexter
  • Bones
  • Doctor Who
  • Sherlock (BBC Miniseries)

Obviously, there’s so much I wasn’t able to delve into in this one post. If you’re curious about my opinion on something, I’d love to answer it in the comments or personally.

One thought on “What my TV habits say about me: LOST

  1. Great post. I’m not ready yet to watch all of LOST from beginning again, but maybe in a couple of years. I personally loved the beginning couple of seasons better than the end, but I love the uncertainty and mystery.

    LOST made most, if not all of its viewers detectives and critical-thinkers. The show forces you to speculate, thus tapping into your right brain and creativity. They almost always kept us on our toes while rarely making continuity mistakes. These are great qualities and make for a high-quality plot arc.

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