An Open Love Letter to LOST
(and Why it Was the Most Important Show of Our Generation)
A decade ago this week, LOST changed how the world watches TV.
September 22, 2004 may seem like an insignificant day in history, but it brought with it a monumental shift in how the world watches and interacts with their favorite television shows.
On September 22, 2004 the world was first introduced to Jack, Kate, Locke, Sawyer, Hurley, a dangerous “Monster,” a cursed set of numbers, tropical polar bears, and that enigmatic island.
10 years ago this week, LOST aired its first episode.
Feeling old yet?
And LOST entered with a bang, completely changing the game. It was unlike anything that’d ever been on TV, and unlike anything that’s come after it. It was TV’s greatest puzzle and one of it’s greatest character studies rolled into one.
In an age of Netflix, short-run TV series, and binge-watching parties, it’s easy to forget just how thrilling and insane it was to watch and follow LOST on a weekly basis.
It was bold, ambitious, and broke all the rules. It was masterfully told, cinematic in scope, and it changed the television landscape with just its pilot episode alone. LOST bursting onto the scene — even with just its first episode — reinvigorated the industry and proved to the world what TV could do.
Through the Looking Glass
What LOST Meant to Me
LOST was just a TV show.
I get it.
But art has the power to move us, inspire us, challenge us, and transform us. And if ever TV could be considered “art,” it was LOST.
Put simply… LOST was the biggest and most important artistic influence in my life. I know it may sound silly to some, but it’s the truth.
To some, LOST is just a TV show. To many, a great TV show even. But still just a TV show.
You hear a number of screenwriters and directors today cite the first time they saw Star Wars as the moment they knew they wanted to be filmmakers.
They walked out of the theater as young kids, bouncing and excited at having experienced something beyond even their imaginations — “I want to do that” — knowing they wanted to tell stories, and make movies, and share them with the world.
You see, LOST was my Star Wars.
I was thirteen when LOST first invaded our television sets.
It came into my life at that perfect time when one’s transitioning from the awkward little kid who lives solely for LEGOs and ice cream, to a young person with their own thoughts and desires — and LOST showed me the desires I had always had in me. To tell stories. And it was because LOST so masterfully told its own stories that something awoke in me and said… “This… this is what I’m going to do with my life.”
I’m convinced that, if for no one else in the world, LOST was put on TV for me. And I understand that others will never really appreciate it in the same way or see it through the same lens as me, and I’ve reconciled that.
But that doesn’t mean that its importance and influence should go unnoticed. I don’t want LOST to be forgotten.
I don’t want people to forget how it was the most important and influential television show of our generation.
I don’t want people to forget how it reinvigorated the entertainment industry.
I don’t want us to forget how it thrilled us in ways we’d never been thrilled, and made us think about things we’d never thought about before.
It’s hard to try and encapsulate everything that made LOST so special, and all that it meant to me, in words.
I’ve thought about taking some time to write down my reflections on why LOST was so magical and how it was so masterful at what it did for years, but I’ve near really seen a good time to.
But the greatest story to ever unfold on the small screen is now a decade old. This is probably that time.
Aside from the admiration towards the creative team behind the show, awe at the incredible storytelling, and wonder at the heartfelt emotion it elicited from me on a weekly basis, the emotion I have most in regards to LOST is gratitude. It changed my life.
Pioneering a New Age of TV
How LOST ushered in the new “Golden Age of Television”
10 years removed, it’s easy to forget how dangerous and different putting LOST on the air really was. In the years since, its success has spawned countless other serialized shows with big casts and overarching mysteries, and television has become even more of a respected medium. The past decade or so has even been referred to by many as the new “Golden Age of Television.”
But on September 22, 2004, LOST was the rebel.
Putting a show on the air that took as many risks as LOST did, and required such a massive production as LOST did, just wasn’t something networks did:
- It was to be shot “on location” on the beaches and jungles of Hawaii.
- It had a massive ensemble cast and dozens of recurring characters.
- It needed actual flight wreckage to be shipped to the set.
- It was so heavily serialized and full of mythology-building that viewers who missed episodes would immediately be out of the loop.
No one was doing this sort of thing. At all.
So much so, that the Head of ABC who gave the green light to LOST and its massive $14 million budget pilot episode – the most expensive in television history – was fired before the show even aired.
ABC was convinced that they had just forked over the biggest budget in TV pilot history for a show that would find a small cult audience and be quickly forgotten after it was cancelled half-way through its first season.
Sure, serialized TV existed when LOST debuted. 24 was probably the most popular at the time, and Jack Bauer’s probably a little bit responsible for helping the network have the little confidence in LOST that it did.
But what was on the air were “serialized” in more of an episode-to-episode basis. If you missed an episode, you could easily be caught up from the “Previously on…” section (What did exist of highly-serialized shows, like The Sopranos or The Wire, were critically acclaimed but left to the exclusive channels like HBO with significantly lower ratings — and much fewer episodes to produce. Network television, especially 10 years ago, was a whole different ball game).
But no other heavily-serialized show was such a critical and commercial success (and right out of the gate) like LOST was.
Serialized storytelling was seen as a cancer in the TV world – “successful” shows were supposed to be ones that any casual viewer could tune into and enjoy.
LOST was not that show.
A TV Show that Didn’t Feel Like a TV Show
LOST changed the expectations of what TV could be
No series took more risks in the past few decades of TV than LOST. It was always daring itself to up the ante, to be bigger and better than before. And it didn’t apologize for it.
JJ Abrams directed the two-hour pilot with a cinematic vigor unparalleled in the television world. It was a television show that looked and felt like a movie.
The writing was brilliantly layered.
The show was shot on film and was full of beautiful backdrops instead of backgrounds on a set.
It had a global scope, with characters and stories that took us all over the world.
It had an orchestra-recorded soundtrack composed by the incredible Michael Giacchino (who might just be the greatest film composer behind John Williams. The amount of beautiful music he created for LOST over 121 episodes is breathtaking. But more on that later).
It immediately sucked all 20 million viewers who tuned in for its first episode into a compelling and confounding adventure with a cast of characters who held more mysteries than the cryptic island itself.
And it may be hard to believe now, but the ingenious execution of flashbacks in the first few seasons of LOST was refreshingly creative, and it was unlike how any other show had employed the technique before. The flashbacks perfectly shaded in the on-island stories, and gave backstory to how a particular character was behaving in that episode.
And when LOST pulled off what may still be the biggest dramatic twist in television history with the switch to Flash-forward in the Season 3 Finale, it turned everything we knew about the show upside down. Just when the audience was getting comfortable and knew how each episode worked (or as “comfortable” as one could get with a show like LOST), a whole new world of possibilities flew open and everything was turned on its head — the end of the show was obviously not going to be about getting off the island. They already got off… and things were worse. And here was Jack, a drunk pathetic shell of the man he once was… saying “We have to go back!” The show was always reinventing itself, stretching its already-massive scope.
LOST unapologetically went for broke on a weekly basis. The writers didn’t pander to the uninitiated, or try to dumb things down for a wider audience (how quickly we’ve fallen to where shows like The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men are America’s most popular shows again).
It didn’t make an effort to coddle its audience – in fact, it intentionally tried to disorient them.
LOST trusted its viewers to do some of the work themselves and not have everything spoon-fed to them (which is why complaints that LOST left all its questions unanswered are particularly irksome — do you complain when the puzzle pieces in a box don’t come already put together? They gave you all the pieces you needed, but part of the fun is in the figuring out how it all fits together yourself).
LOST was hard work — which was why it was so great.
It’s also almost impossible to write a “description” of what a typical episode of LOST looked like. There were no “typical” episodes of LOST.
It segmented its beautifully-complex story into episodes with their own themes, and it dared to explore every genre of storytelling under the sun — a hardcore sci-fi time-travel episode could be followed by a sweeping romance story the next week, or a buddy comedy episode, or an action-adventure, or a heist, or a thriller, or a period piece in the 18th century.
You never knew what you were gonna get.
It didn’t just entertain its audience either. It made them smarter — I can tell you a good deal about the philosophical leanings of Rousseau, Locke, and Hume; all about plot lines from numerous classical novels; a bit about quantum mechanics; and even the scientific conundrums behind time travel.
Because of LOST.
And as one of the most undeniably influential and popular shows to ever grace the small screen, it inspired debates about destiny and free will, asked big questions and wrestled with some of life’s most profound mysteries, and invited fans into a world full of wonder, imagination, and redemption.
These were not things Television was “supposed” to tackle.
But LOST did.
LOST Changed How the World Watches TV
“There was this unforeseen confluence of events where we were making a show that was perfect for discussion and debate, just at the moment where the internet was evolving into a place where people were forming communities where they could have those discussions and debates.”
— Carlton Cuse (Co-Creator of LOST)
When ABC started airing a little series about a group of castaways on a deserted island a decade ago, no one could have known that LOST would usher in the new era of television-watching.
What I mean, of course, is that LOST changed the way we interact with the shows we watch. Forever.
LOST was so unlike anything that had come before it, that it was the perfect show for the changing medium to piggyback onto and ride into the new age of Television.
If LOST had come even a few years earlier, I’m not so sure it would have survived. Not because it didn’t deserve to.
But because the medium wouldn’t have been ready for it yet.
In September 2004, Twitter was still two years from existence, Myspace was just growing, and Facebook was hardly a blip on anyone’s radar.
Message boards online were gaining popularity, and the internet — used by most consumers solely for research and email — was slowly becoming a more global “community” where people could discuss things instead of having to wait until they were around the water cooler at work the next day.
LOST was really the first show to utilize, and benefit from, the age of the Internet.
For the first time, a series truly surpassed mere “Television show.”
LOST was an experience.
And for this reason — aside from being, in my opinion, the greatest story ever told on the small screen — it is the most important and the most influential television show of our generation.
The timing was fortuitous, and everything seemed to line up perfectly to make LOST the phenomenon it became:
- As the fervor for the show increased and the complexity of the storytelling increased, it became important for viewers to have outlets to discuss and explore their thoughts and findings about the show with others. This just as social media and online message boards were rising in popularity.
- LOST, a show that thrived off of its beautiful cinematography and picturesque locations, debuted right as HDTV’s were coming into common use for the modern consumer.
- Podcasts were just coming around and gaining steam as the show’s following quickly grew — a perfect format for fans, viewers, and “authorities” to converge together to discuss their thoughts and theories. More than any other subject, LOST-related Podcasts were far and away the most listened-to and and most-subscribed-to as iTunes began to introduce the format on its store.
- The rising popularity of DVD Box sets and internet video really gave people the first opportunity to easily rewatch episodes — and LOST was a show that demanded repeat viewings. LOST was one of the first shows ever offered on iTunes, and one of the first shows to ever be offered for online streaming on the show’s website. For the first time, people were watching TV on the internet — unheard of!
LOST was no longer just a “TV Show” —
It was an Experience
LOST signaled the shift of TV-watching from a passive experience to an interactive one that began immediately after the episode ended — social media conversations, blog posts, recaps, podcasts, discussing theories with friends for hours on end, and searching feverishly online for clues.
Half of what the experience of LOST was, was the 6 days between episodes.
Which is one of the reasons its dispiriting to think about the new generation experiencing LOST for the first time without that.
Sure, LOST will be amazing no matter how you watch it.
But watching LOST live with the rest of the world during this era of swift technological innovation and expanding TV expectations was just a totally different experience than binge-watching it over a few weeks on Netflix.
Neither way of experiencing the show may be argued as “better,” but there’s no denying that this notion of the world watching together each week definitely contributed a massive amount to what LOST became and affected how we originally viewed it.
My experience watching LOST was inherently tied to the experience I had between episodes every week — listening to the podcasts, theorizing with friends at school, rewatching episodes for clues, referencing Lostpedia, and perusing the numerous LOST-related websites popping up all over the internet full of easter eggs, analysis, and pretty-far-out-there theories.
Part of the fun of LOST, as difficult as it was, was the waiting between episodes. Everyone in the world was experiencing it together at the same time, and that global perspective is just something you don’t get when you watch it on Netflix.
And LOST was really the first — and last — show to benefit from this sort of worldwide internet fandom.
Even with shows that have had huge followings in recent years — Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, to name a few — the audiences just aren’t experiencing the story together in the same way.
We’ve shifted to a society where you can hardly talk about your favorite shows now without someone stopping the conversation because they “haven’t seen the last episode yet,” or are “still catching up,” or “are waiting til the season’s over to watch them.”
LOST was the game changer: The only real worldwide-phenomenon-experience of Television’s Internet age. Which is really important to remember.
“LOST cemented itself in the TV pantheon as the show with the most involving, entertaining, community-like experience. LOST was the show that made you want to feel a part of something, and a lot of that was because of how incredible its timing was.”
— Adam Epstein
The internet and social media gave LOST its platform to become a global communal experience, but by the time LOST was out the door, technology was already changing so quickly that watching a TV show “live” was starting to become an antiquated idea.
The era of “appointment television” in the age of social media really began and ended with LOST.
Above All, LOST was Fun
But perhaps the best part of LOST was how much fun it had — and how much fun it was to watch.
Too many dramas today are constantly dark, dreary, and too preoccupied with seeming “important” that they forget to have some fun as well. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But LOST helped remind us that it doesn’t have to always be that way.
Even amidst the greatest tragedies, the characters of LOST made time to hold ping pong tournaments on the beach, make a golf course near their camp, tell “scary stories” around the fire, “rewrite” Star Wars, give each other nicknames, or joyride an old VW bus they found in the jungle.
LOST had a plethora of comedic moments, and wasn’t afraid to make fun of itself or jokingly acknowledge just how insanely crazy its story could get.
Even with all its grit and darkness, LOST was an incredibly positive show, full of hope and second chances. It celebrated the joys of life, remembered that a necessity for things like laughter, love, and acceptance are universal, and allowed its characters to wrestle with evil — but also presented them opportunities to choose the greater good.
So much of our popular entertainment revels in cynicism, focusing solely on people at their worst — exploring characters’ dark sides and seeing how bad people can really get.
Yes, LOST studied characters at their worst.
But it also studied them at their best.
We were well acquainted with Sawyer, the corrupt con man. But we also knew Sawyer the devoted lover, gentleman, and friend.
We knew Jack the pathetic drunkard; but we also knew the Jack who put the survivors of Oceanic 815 on his shoulders and led them fearlessly.
We knew Kate the murderer — but also the Kate the selfless mother.
We knew Charlie the addict whose mistakes continually hurt those around him — but also the Charlie who sacrificed himself so his friends could get off the island.
We knew Locke as the cynic blinded by life’s tragedies –– but also as the man of faith who longed to be a part of something bigger than himself.
LOST was incredibly fun to watch. The mysteries were tantalizing. The characters were compelling and ever-growing. The symbolism was fascinating, and the exceedingly-intricate plot was puzzling in all the best ways.
When a clue in one episode lined up with something that happened 47 episodes before to explain what was really behind that mystery 18 episodes prior… there was nothing like it.
Damon Lindelof & Carlton Cuse
The two creators and head writers of the show became superstars in their own right because of the way they went out of their way to interact with fans, ran the hilarious Official LOST Podcast on a weekly basis, and dedicated themselves to making sure LOST retained its artistic integrity by not stretching out its story just because it was making money.
Before LOST, did the casual viewer even care who was writing episodes of shows they watched, or even know them by name?
Together, the duo worked out a deal with ABC to formulate an end date for the series three years out — never before had such a successful and popular program formulated its own end date so that it could work on crafting its story towards a satisfying conclusion. Usually a popular show just kept going until it petered out and died off.
The two could have easily translated the success of LOST into deals for other shows, movies, and more directly after the show took off. But instead, they dedicated their entire creative lives to making LOST as great as it could be, siring it all the way from it’s infancy up til it was given the opportunity to die with dignity.
Live Together, Die Alone
The characters of LOST were what made it so special
In the wake of its success, TV has been LOSTed to death, networks trying to pump out as many high-concept ensemble dramas as they can in hopes that one of them finds the same sort of following.
But none of the dozens of LOST rip-offs have stuck. Even “Heroes,” the only one that seemed to find an audience, quickly devolved into a steaming pile of crap.
All of these “copies” failed to grasp what made LOST so special — it wasn’t the dense layers of mythology or the explosions and shootouts in the middle of the jungle, really; those were just the icing on the cake.
No, what made LOST work so well was its characters.
In the best stories, action emerges from character — not the other way around. Character always comes first, concept second.
When LOST began, the mystery of the unseen was compelling… But, the most exciting mysteries were right in front us — WHO WERE THESE PEOPLE?
The study of WHO these people were and WHY they did what they did energized every plot line, every action, every shocking moment. Which is why, even in the midst of the most insane storytelling twists and turns, we cared deeply about what was going on — because we cared deeply about Jack. Kate. Charlie. Sawyer. Hurley. Sayid. Locke. Claire. Desmond. Ben. Jin. Sun. Juliet. And everyone else who filled this crazy little island.
I’m continually fascinated with the fact that LOST was full of so many characters, yet we got to know each and every one of them so deeply — deeper even than many characters who have whole shows to themselves. The writers were bold enough to craft an extremely character-driven series under the guise of a high-concept sci-fi drama on network television.
No other show was able to take such a wide, and varied, cast of characters and develop them in such natural and meaningful ways, or examine their lives to the depth that this show did.
Through flashbacks and every other sort of narrative tool imaginable, we got an incredible sense of everything that did, does, and will make each of these characters who they are. It was “the richest cast of broken souls we’ve ever seen on TV” and we knew them intimately. We understood what made them take the actions they took, and each of their troubled pasts’ shaded their search for redemption on the island beautifully.
Even with the “monster” terrorizing the jungles around them, the mysterious “hatch” refusing them entrance with its strong steel doors, the “numbers” continually popping up, and the “others” stalking them from behind the trees, was anything more compelling than Charlie’s struggle to give up his drugs as Locke tried to help him overcome his addiction?:
Or Jack’s constant search for his father’s approval that led to this conversation a whole season in the making?
Or discovering that Locke was in a wheelchair (!) before the crash!?
Or Desmond’s years-long search to reconnect with the love of his life, Penny?
Or Ben, once the man seemingly in control of everything on the island, watching as everything he’s built slowly crumbles around him?
And there were a hundred other character arcs LOST brought us on, inviting us into these castaways’ imperfect, messy lives as they struggled for redemption, yearned to be a part of something bigger and better than themselves, and wrestled their own demons.
Charlie’s death at the end of Season 3 would have no impact if you didn’t know him better than you knew your best friend. Ben’s daughter’s execution would hardly matter if you didn’t know that his love for Alex was the only good thing about him. And Sawyer murdering the man responsible for his parents’ death would just be another scene in another show easily forgotten if you hadn’t spent several years learning his tormented history.
— Phil Pirrello
All of LOST’s main character’s changed dramatically over the course of six seasons, in ways that felt both organic and thematically rich. It was fascinating to watch these vibrantly drawn characters come to turning points in their lives and slowly change over time.
Remember, for example, where LOST‘s “Man of Science,” Jack, and “Man of Faith,” Locke, are as things are coming to a head in the end of the first season:
Four seasons later, these two have essentially switched places — Jack, after spiraling into a crippling depression and suffering a series of events that leads him to fight to return to island however he can, is convinced that “the island isn’t done with us.”
Locke — whose death acts as the central tragedy to LOST‘s overarching narrative — is a jaded, washed up, and bitter man, convinced his faith in the island was all for not, and who ultimately comes to the decision to take his own life.
And think about Benjamin Linus — that nasty, vile, genocidal maniac who was responsible for so much bloodshed, and so much heartbreak our castaways suffered.
Yet by the last seasons of the show, after his world has started to crumble around him, Ben embarks on a soul-searching journey that brings him to a place where the audience is ultimately starting to root for him. As he speaks from the depths of his heart, vulnerable for the first time, we — strangely — begin to feel complete empathy for him. By some senses of the word, he’s basically a hero by the time the story wraps up.
Our investment in the characters is what made it all matter.
The patience LOST had to let its characters develop was unparalleled. So many shows seem to want the audience to know exactly who all their characters are within the first 10 minutes of the first episode. But think about how revolutionary LOST was — we get a glimpse of all the survivors in the first episode, but pretty much everyone besides Jack, Kate, and Charlie has to wait their turn.
We didn’t even learn Locke was wheelchair-bound (the one defining characteristic that gives him so much depth and invigorates every action he takes) until the fourth hour in. We don’t even know Hurley thinks he’s cursed until 18 hours in. LOST reveled in, and took time to bask in, the not-knowing.
The mysteries surrounding these people were so enrapturing and enthralling — which was, of course, the magic of the first season (and the fourth season as well, when we got to meet them in the future all over again). The mysteries of the island may have been exciting, but it was getting to know the survivors of Oceanic 815 that had the world so captivated.
Michael Giacchino is the Emmy, Grammy, and Oscar-winning composer behind the soundtracks of Up, Star Trek, Mission Impossible, The Incredibles, Super 8, Planet of the Apes, Ratatouille, and lots more.
Oh, and he scored every single episode of LOST.
It’s impossible to talk about the emotional tone of LOST, or the dramatic storytelling without mentioning its sweeping, poignant, chilling, and always moving musical themes by Giacchino. Not only did he create memorable, haunting, and beautiful pieces of music, he did it for every single hour-long episode on a weekly basis.
Conducting a live orchestra for a television show was extremely rare, and his wide spectrum of pieces played perfectly over all the crazy adventures and powerful moments our characters experienced. You can argue about what may be the greatest show to ever be on television, but there’s no argument on this front: LOST had the greatest musical soundtrack in the history of television.
And how can we not acknowledge the incredible tour de force in acting LOST presented us in every episode? The gathering of acting talent on the show was incredible — especially when you remember that they were all generally unknown actors, save Matthew Fox.
Each week these people acted their butts off, giving brilliant life to their brilliantly-written characters. Anytime Terry O’Quinn (Locke) or Michael Emerson (Ben) were onscreen was something special, and whenever they spent scenes interacting together, it was pure magic.
LOST was a show that won award after award in the acting department — for a variety of different performers — and had six different people nominated for Emmy’s for their work on the show.
And even though O’Quinn and Emerson are the obvious standouts, it’s impossible to ignore Matthew Fox‘s nuanced portrayal of the broken hero Jack over six years, and the number of layers he gave the ever-changing character. Or Evangeline Lilly‘s comfortability in the role of the girl-next-door/outlaw Kate in her first-ever speaking role (!), or Josh Holloway‘s snarky rebel Sawyer, Nestor Carbonell‘s stoic and confident Richard Alpert, Henry Ian Cusick‘s love-struck time-traveler Desmond, or Daniel Dan Kim‘s performance as Jin, who beautifully transitioned from abusive lover to dedicated husband. Or a number of other incredible performances spanning the 121 hours in which LOST‘s story unfolded.
And let’s not forget about Kate. She was a total babe.
I would have so asked her out if she wasn’t a murderer/baby-kidnapper or whatever.
Eh… nobody’s perfect.
A Beautiful “End”
“The LOST Finale was… the story that we wanted to tell, and we told it. No excuses. No apologies. I look back on it as fondly as I look back on the process of writing the whole show.”
— Damon Lindelof
(**SPOILER WARNING for this section**)
Alas, I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least acknowledge the show’s controversial finale at some point. It’s almost required to address the finale when talking about LOST now.
And even though backlash to the show’s finale seems to trump all discussion of everything else about it, LOST’s ending is not as despised as the zeitgeist would have you believe.
The finale to a show like LOST could never satisfy a casual viewer who just tuned in to see the ending, or people who never paid enough attention to the story to know what was really important the whole time anyways. And it was never meant to.
LOST crafted one of, if not the, best stories the show ever told in its final episode.
Remember, this was an Emmy-nominated script, and the majority of people who actually invested the work into following LOST – myself included – were ultimately satisfied with how the show closed.
“The End” had pretty much everything you could ever want in a final episode, and more — returning characters, tears, action, romance, laughs, twists, and a closing sequence that tied the show together perfectly.
All of LOST’s numerous characters seemed to get their own special goodbye, Matthew Fox gave what might be his best performance of all in the show’s closing hour, and the entire cast put their all into telling a story that made even grown men cry about 11 different times.
Yet the vocal minority – who are typically people who never put in the commitment LOST demanded – rather boisterously insist that LOST failed to stick the landing.
The cynics and the sporadic onlookers don’t get to be
the ones who write the history of what LOST was.
I could spend a few more pages writing about everything the LOST finale meant, how it brilliantly brought together everything the show had been building toward, and how it was the perfect way for the show to give its final bow. But that’s whole different article.
LOST wasn’t without its faults, but the times it didn’t work were rare.
People wanted answers — and they got them. But you had to look for a number of them hidden within the vast tapestry of the show yourselves. That was the beauty of LOST.
I won’t get into a lot of the “answers” the show gave, but for crying out loud:
THEY WERE NOT DEAD THE WHOLE TIME.
Everything that happened on the island was real, it was all important, and it all really took place. I feel like if you actually watched the show, it was hard to miss this. Yet, this ludicrous takeaway is still thrown around by many people to this day.
That was the whole point of the ending: It was because of the time these people had spent together, shaping each other and making the most important decisions of their lives with one another, that they “remembered” each other, overcame their past demons, and made a way to move on together. The time they spent together was what mattered most.
You can like that ending or not. But it goes a lot deeper than “They were dead the whole time” or “it was purgatory” or “they went to heaven.” It was so much more than that.
“The End” may not have been the ending you would have chosen, but there can be no doubt about the emotional power it held and the reasoning behind the writers of LOST ending it the way they did.
I loved how so much was said in so little words — Hurley’s “you were a really good number two,” and Ben’s “and you were a great number one” — summing up an entire lifetime’s worth of experiences we never got to see.
Locke’s poignant forgiveness of Ben communicated through a glance across the table.
Kate’s “I missed you Jack,” speaking volumes about the entire lifetime (and death) she spent waiting for him. Everyone finally found each other again, and it made everything OK.
LOST gave us a deeply emotional and incredibly cathartic conclusion to story of these characters’ lives, leaving us with a beautiful piece of television as it left the small screen forever… And you’re still complaining that it didn’t give you all the physics behind the island’s electromagnetism?
The Legacy of LOST
“We told the story that we wanted to tell, and I stand by it. I’m proud of it. It’s enormously rewarding that it’s meant so much to a lot of people. As a storyteller, you can’t ask for anything more than that.”
– Carlton Cuse
Every television show you watch and love today was, in one way or another, affected by or brought about because of LOST. It revolutionized the television industry, and told the most imaginative, complicated, innovative, and satisfying story to ever unfold on the small screen.
And I miss it like crazy.
On September 22, 2004, LOST proved that genre storytelling wasn’t just for the geeks in the niche corners of the viewership. There was an audience out there for complex, creative stories that demanded commitment as long as it was well-told and ripe with incredible characters.
Even 10 years later, it’s still hard to watch the Pilot episode and not be floored by how exceptional it is. Just as a piece of entertainment, and as a piece of art. It’s more exciting, more thrilling, and a lot more alive and full of imagination and possibilities than anything on Network TV today.
Other shows will come and go, but there will never be another LOST. There’s no chance of the experience it gave the world even being remotely repeated.
For me, LOST wasn’t just a TV Show – it was a deeply affecting and emotional adventure.
It’s hard to believe that this show has been a part of my life for almost a decade, and to think about how much of a role it has played in my life.
(Sometimes I still can’t even believe that I once snuck onto the set in Hawaii, and basically walked around talking to the crew and spending time with some of the actors over a lunch break!)
I know I’m talking about LOST like it was a close friend. But it kind of was.
I miss the characters. The mysteries. The conversations it sparked among friends. Staying up late to watch repeats with my parents. The crackpot theories. The ravenous search for clues between episodes. Hurley saying “Dude.” The mindtrips. Sawyer’s nicknames. The hatch. Imaginary peanut butter. Fish biscuits. The smoke monster. Darlton. Jokes about Jack’s beard. Giacchino’s beautiful score. “You All Everybody.” The connections. The numbers. Penny’s boat. Time-traveling bunnies. Scott and Steve – or wait, is it Steve and Scott? The fans. The community around the show. Everything.
The funny thing is, outsiders might be prone to say “Well, I already heard how LOST ends. Now there’s no reason to watch it.”
But that couldn’t be further from the truth with LOST. It was the ultimate adventure that reveled in the journey as much as the destination.
Don’t try and fit it into your box of what you think it “should have been.” Enjoy what it was.
It was a show about redemption. Second chances. Learning to love. Living in community. Needing others. Growing. Changing. The great mysteries of life.
LOST was a show about ordinary people thrown into extraordinary circumstances – a story about “lost” people, in all senses of the word, and how many of them came to be found.
It was their journeys. Their stories.
I don’t really know how else to end a discussion of LOST, other than with “thanks.”
Thanks for the late nights spent on the edge of my seat, the laughs, the twists, the turns. For entertaining me, inspiring me, educating me, and challenging me. For characters I could see myself in, root for, and watch grow in ways I’ve never seen before.
So, thanks LOST.
Part of who I am today is owed to the many adventures I went on with Jack, Kate, Locke, Sawyer, Charlie, Ben, Desmond, Hurley, and all the rest of the wondrous crowd of characters that filled this insane little world you created.
© Matt Tory, 2014.
No infringement intended. All photos shown are property of ABC, Lost, and their appropriate copyright holders. They were originally released by ABC and their owners for the purposes of promoting ‘Lost,’ and are only used within this commentary for purposes of necessary context, and not in their full resolution. The photos are used in this non-commercial post within the rights of Fair Use for analysis, research and commentary.