TV Review: "LOST" (ABC, 2004-2010)
I'm going to make a confession to you right up front: LOST is my favorite TV show of all time. The other shows from 2nd on down aren't even close. I tell you that because I believe in full disclosure and also because my enthusiasm will cause me to come across as a super-hardcore fanboy (which I am). I will endeavor to keep that shit in check as much as possible and be an objective critic.
I will also stay spoiler-free because I genuinely want the people who haven't seen it or who gave up on it after a season or two in frustration to give it another go. I really do. I believe that strongly in what they accomplished with this groundbreaking TV show and what it had to say.
Groundbreaking, for the record, is the perfect word to describe LOST whether you loved it or hated it. No show did more to change the game in broadcast and cable TV (remember, these were the days before streaming was really a thing). It ushered in the era of high production values, complex storylines, and mini-movie style drama and did it somewhere other than HBO. It took character development to a whole new level. It gave you the greatest pilot episode in the history of TV that was also the straight up ballsiest- LOST was a commitment. Pilot episodes are, by design, a "hook". There was one serious barb on that hook.
The pilot presented you with a super-simple concept of the survivors of a plane crash, washed up on a "deserted" island and then (almost immediately) hit you with mystery after mystery after mystery. That very concept of stringing you along was what turned off some viewers. How dare you throw out cliffhanger after cliffhanger?! What the fuck are you thinking giving us the answer to one question while asking two more?!
"It's cheap. It's gotcha TV!", they cried, "How can they do this? Why are you fools still watching? Let's change the channel!"
And some folks certainly did. Here's a show that won a slew of awards in its first season, a few more in its second season, and then essentially stopped after that. Sure, there was the occasional award for an individual actor, like Terry O'Quinn or Michael Emerson, but the praise quickly turned to anger for many. Even the creators, Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, admit this.
Here's the thing, though: nothing that's groundbreaking will be universally liked. That's just how it is. When you're doing something that's novel in a way that can easily be seen as controversial you will piss some folks off. Luckily for those of us who stayed on The Island, the collaborative of writers and talented actors knew how to tell a damn story. They spun one hell of a yarn.
I just finished watching all 6 seasons with my 14 year-old daughter (my 3rd time, her 1st). I made myself wait until she was at an age where she could start to really appreciate the depth (and the weirdness) of a show like LOST. I wanted to see her ask the questions, yell out in frustration and confusion, and try in vain to hold back the emotion.
I don't know if I've ever enjoyed a binge quite so much.
The themes at play in LOST are timeless: science versus faith, redemption, the power of belief, the need for community and unity, the ugliness of greed and the lust for power, & (most importantly) SECOND CHANCES. It's full of characters that are horribly flawed. There's a doctor with a God complex who needs to fix everything, a murderer who can't stop running, a con-man nursing a horrible past, an Iraqi torturer, a gluttonous millionaire with mental issues, a drug-addled rockstar, & a selfish pregnant girl thrust into adulthood.......and that's just the "good guys"!!
Therein lies the beauty, though. No one is one-dimensional. The "good guys" and the "bad guys" change places constantly. They're all human. They all have wants, needs, weaknesses, major flaws, & a heart. No show in TV history ever dared to make literally every character so multi-dimensional (pun intended).
LOST is not a show about the mythology of The Island, The Others, The Dharma Initiative, Jacob, or The Man in Black. It's not about the science fiction and the action, although that is a hell of a lot of fun and lays a beautiful canvas to paint it all on. There's more weirdness, sci-fi experimentation, religious ideology, straightforward theology, easter eggs, subliminal messages, & monsters (human and otherwise) than you can shake a stick at and it is damn good fun. The time jumps from back to forward to sideways will leave your head spinning.
Just ignore Nikki and Paulo....they fucking suck. They're the most useless TV characters ever, although their much maligned episode, "Expose", is a pretty solid little standalone locked-room mystery. That's the only good thing I'll say about them outside of how hot Kiele Sanchez in that tanktop and shorts. Wow.
LOST is a show about people and the relationships that make up the most important part of their lives. It is religious in many ways. It asks you to believe. It asks you to have faith. It asks you to trust in someone. It asks you to question whether they could trust in you. It will present you with both sides of the argument, so to speak, and you will find yourself picking a side. Then you'll find yourself changing it. That's about the time that you see the brilliance of the writing when it's at its best.
Final full disclosure (and this one is fun because so many people are so weird about this): I ugly cried like a bitch with a skinned knee during that finale. It's the prime example of how to close out a show with real closure, satisfactory explanation, & a jumbo jet full of heart. The double-length finale (entitled simply "The End") remains my favorite single episode of TV ever. No shame. If it doesn't give you some serious "something in my eye" moments then I am worried for you.
The best summary that I can give is this:
If you are impatient, not very intelligent, or lack an attention span then LOST isn't for you. If you are a hardcore atheist then PLEASE don't watch it. There are definitely some folks that shouldn't watch it because they'll never "get" it, and that is okay. The best warning (for lack of a word with a more positive connotation) is that it's not for everyone, and that is putting it mildly. I've always said "It's not a show for stupid people". That doesn't mean that you're stupid if you don't like it, but it does mean that if you're stupid you won't like it.
However, if you have ever seriously wondered why you're here then LOST is your show. If you're a highly philosophical or religious person then you'll dig it. Hell, if you're into the weird shit and simply have some patience and an analytical mind then you'll for sure get down with it. If you're just a sucker for good, old-fashioned character driven drama then you can't do much better.
Just watch out for the Smoke Monster. He's one bad motor scooter.