Lost is first and foremost a show of mystery. More than any other show I can recall seeing, it sets up fantastic yet somehow not entirely far-fetched scenarios with a host of compelling and more or less interesting characters. The basic premise is one we have seen played out many times before: a group of individuals, separated from the rest of the world, must work together to survive. But while Lost owes incalculable debts to sources from Lord of the Flies to Gilligan’s Island, it presents an absolutely gripping storyline shrouded in mystery while dropping enough breadcrumbs to keep viewers riveted, eager to know just what is going to happen next and trying their best to make sense of everything. And just so I’m covered…this review may contain possible Season 1 spoilers. :)
Platitudes aside, and without revealing too much (though as of the writing of this review I have only seen the first season and a handful of episodes from Season 2), Lost does a good job of sticking first and foremost to the basics of storytelling: presenting conflicts that the characters must overcome. In the very first episode we witness the immediate aftermath of a horrific plane crash on a tropical island: amidst mass confusion, exploding engines, and corpses littering the scarred shoreline, several individuals begin bringing order to the chaos and establishing a sense of control and uneasy sort of self-governing democracy among the crash survivors. There’s the chiseled young doctor named Jack (where is the rule that says TV heroes need monosyllabic names that sound like garage tools?) who becomes the de facto leader, a young pregnant woman named Claire, a young druggie named Charlie, a young (see a pattern here? I guess they gotta appeal to the TV-watching demographic somehow) easygoing dude named Hurley, and several others like the cocky Sawyer, the standoffish Kate, and the mysterious John Locke. From the very first episode, viewers are left with myriad questions: Who are all these people? Why did their plane crash? Why does it seem like there are monsters on the island? Will they ever be rescued?
The genius of the show lies in how it cleverly answers questions while raising intriguing new ones, and throwing just enough breadcrumbs at the viewers to satisfy our curiosity while enticing us to keep watching. And though the group of individuals hovers around 40, there is a core set of characters central to most episodes whom we get to know very well over time. They struggle to overcome mundane obstacles such as building shelter, finding food, and working together to provide medical care for wounded individuals or building rafts in order to sail away and seek help, but rarely do the survivors form a cohesive group. Some do not trust others, and some are simply not trustworthy. Others keep secrets, form relationships, and even set out on their own to seek help or simply answers to questions about what is happening on the island. Each episode also contains several flashbacks that reveal backstories of various characters and give us an idea of who these people are, or at least who they were before the plane crash. Often it’s the threads woven by these vignettes throughout each episode that are the most compelling part of the show, as we discover that, like the island, each of the plane crash survivors are far more than what they appear on the surface.
Through it all there is a sense, woefully missing from other episodic shows like Heroes, that there really is a plan to everything that’s going on. From the perplexing smoke monster, to “The Others,” a group of people who may or may not be sharing the island with the survivors, to the miraculous healing of Locke, to the mysterious hatch, there seems to be a design for how everything fits together–even if it will be several years down the line. Whether or not that is in fact the case remains to be seen, but like 24, Lost is a show that demands the viewers watch every episode lest they miss a crucial plot point. But unlike 24, Lost doesn’t jerk its viewers around: characters are not killed off at will whenever the writers need to add a jolt of excitement into the show.
Lost is as impressive as it is ambitious, and I am eager to see how things play out for the rest of the show. But sometimes I wish these people were just a little more normal and relatable. Seriously, on a plane heading from Sydney to Los Angeles, wouldn’t there be just one regular guy with a 9-5 job and no secrets or skeletons in his closet? I can understand a bit of dramatic tension and whatnot to keep viewers interested, but everyone in the show has so many secrets, often with backstories of life back in the real world that tend to push the limits of believability, that it gets kind of silly sometimes. It is a TV show, though, and I guess outlandish characters can be part of the fun. After all, the entire premise of Lost is pretty outrageous, so what’s wrong with a few exaggerated characters? In fact, the worst complaint that could honestly be leveled against the show at this point is that Season 1 is so good I’m worried the creators simply won’t be able to top it. But I’m sure anxious to see if they will try…
Last 5 posts by Simon R.
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- House of Cards - May 9th, 2013
- Academy Awards 2013 Liveblog - February 23rd, 2013
- Why JJ Abrams Will Save Star Wars - February 19th, 2013