5.28.2010

Life After LOST


I can remember back in the fall of 2005, during my last year in Searcy, when my then-girlfriend-and-now-wife started watching Season One of LOST via Netflicks and would let me borrow them when she was finished.

From the very first episode I was hooked, and now, over four years later, LOST is one of the only shows I have watched all the way through, and it is one show I will truly miss. There have been episodes (and even entire seasons) that I could have lived without, but on the whole, LOST provided a healthy mix of action, escapism and the occasional profound spiritual insight. And when you factor in that this was the first show that Caroline and I really shared together, well, it adds a special level of poignancy for me.

In this, my LOST “tribute” post, I thought I would offer some reflections on the series as a whole. If you don’t watch LOST, well, this probably won’t help you understand the obsession, so you might just want to skip this post.

*IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE FINALE YET, YOU SHOULD NOT READ BEYOND THIS POINT.*


Clever Details


A major strong point of LOST all along the way has been the attention paid to detail, and how often these details refer back to other events from the series. There are countless examples of this throughout the series, but I’ll just point out a couple.

Very early in the series (maybe even the first episode), Locke explains the game of backgammon to Walt, describing it as “two sides, one light and one dark.” Much later on in Season Six, young Jacob and his brother find and play a similar game, and then come to embody those opposing sides as good and evil.

In the first episode, the series begins with a closeup of Jack opening his eye following the plane crash. The last episode completely mirrors this, and the series ends with a closeup of Jack closing his eye as he dies for the sake of others. This clever framing wasn’t surprising at all, and was very typical of the way LOST alluded to itself (or other events from history, literature, etc.).

Jack

From the very beginning of the series, I have always been a huge Jack fan. Jack is intelligent and well-meaning, but the burden of responsibility he feels for the lives of others and his obsession with fixing the problems of others cause him constant problems (I identify strongly with Jack in this regard).

Jack is also very flawed, damaged by an unhealthy relationship with his father, and a constant struggle to find purpose in his existence (this theme grew as the series progressed).

That Jack was able to step up and be the leader in the end who ultimately “fixed” everyone’s problems by giving his life was, to me, very satisfying.

Jack and Kate

I was never a fan of the Jack/Kate/Sawyer love triangle, and I was afraid that Kate and Sawyer would end up together in the end. Jack ending up with Kate and Sawyer being with Juliet was the only way to go in my opinion.

Theological Implications

One thing I’ve always enjoyed about LOST is its overtly religious nature. Characters wrestle with deep spiritual issues, and while I certainly don’t agree with all of the implications that LOST makes, I think it “gets it right” a surprising amount of the time for a Hollywood-produced TV show. A few examples:

The themes of forgiveness and redemption are absolutely huge all throughout the series. After helping to rescue the Oceanic 6 from the island, Jack realizes that it was the wrong thing to do and becomes determined to return to the island so he can atone for his mistake and make things right. Sayid realizes that he has done the wrong thing by siding with the Man in Black and tries to make up for it by taking the bomb away so the others can have a chance to survive. Ilana allows Ben to join up with her group even after he kills Jacob. Jack isn’t able to move on toward the Light until he can resolve his issues with his father through the fantasy relationship with his own son. The list goes on and on, but the main idea remains: forgiveness and redemption are hard, but they’re also important. They come with effort and sacrifice, but it’s worth the effort and sacrifice.

For much of the series, LOST seems to be locked in a wrestling match between the ideas of fate and free will, but in the end, the series is clear: while forces that we have little or no control over might orchestrate our appearances in certain situations, ultimately, we choose what we do in those situations. You might potentially be in a circumstance for a reason, but that means nothing unless you choose to do the right thing. We have the ability to make choices, and those choices determine who we are.

Another point that LOST drives home is that there is more to life than this—what we do on earth isn’t the totality of our existence. What we do here is certainly important—it defines our character and influences what happens afterward (or at least, maybe it does—LOST was a little unclear on that point)—but it’s not all there is. In our materialist, if-you-can’t-observe-it-with-your-senses-it-doesn’t-exist world, this is an important and surprising message.

Finally, I thought that LOST really hammered home the reality of good and evil. A lot of people in our postmodern world try to deny the existence of good and evil, or at least deny it in an absolute sense—something might be evil to me, but that doesn’t necessarily make it evil to you—everything is relative. The character of the Man in Black absolutely affirmed the existence of evil—pure selfish malevolence without any regard for the welfare of others. Admittedly, sometimes the Man in Black appeared to be okay, but that’s true of evil as well; it can mask itself as good.

Final Thoughts

LOST certainly wasn’t a perfect TV show. It presented a lot of plot questions that it never gave satisfactory answers to. Some characters that seemed integral to the plot were killed off, sometimes without any real explanation or any further treatment, while other characters disappointed us at times with their stupid behavior. Entire seasons seemed unnecessary (looking at you, Season Two).

But there was a lot to like as well. In this fantastic, incredibly unrealistic story there was a lot of stark realism. Real life often does pose more questions than answers. People who we know and come to love disappoint us with unexplainable behaviors. Other people who we think will play a major role in our lives just disappear as we lose contact with them.

At the end of the day, LOST told a neat story, got you to care deeply about its characters, and forced you to confront some of the deep concerns of life.

Sounds like a pretty good TV show to me.

7 comments:

MrsDockery 6/1/10, 12:51 PM  

I thought I would be sad that its over, but I'm kind of glad some of the plot-twist craziness is over.

Lori T 6/1/10, 3:08 PM  

About the unanswered questions, have you seen this video: http://kottke.org/10/05/unanswered-lost-questions

Luke 6/2/10, 5:34 PM  

MrsD,

It will be nice to not have to keep up with the craziness, but since there’s not really another drama show that I keep up with at all, I’ll definitely miss it.

Luke 6/2/10, 5:36 PM  

Lori,

I hadn’t seen the video before, but it cracked me up. Definitely a lot of questions were left unanswered, but I accepted that that was going to happen a while ago (and some of the questions from the video were answered or at least addressed).

Alex 6/5/10, 12:49 AM  

Agreed in many regards. LOST was groundbreaking for television, and not just for its effects or acting or other aspects that are typically lauded. LOST brought television to a deeper place, and that was a good thing.

Why so down on Season 2? I thought that some of the best struggles of character and fate v. free will were in that hatch.

I'm planning on writing a LOST tribute here in a while. We should compare notes.

Luke 6/8/10, 3:17 PM  

Alex,

Regarding Season 2…

Sometimes I get confused as to exactly when certain events occurred, but I'm sure you're right about that season being the setting for a lot of the best fate/free will moments in the hatch.

My pain problem with Season 2 is that it spent SO much time introducing us to the characters from the tail end of the plane…and then killed them off one by one (the fact that the actors for these characters generally got in troubled for DWI and then had their characters suddenly killed off made it even more annoying).

Basically all of that to say: all the good stuff in the hatch could've still happened without even dragging in the tail end folks at all. As far as I can tell NONE of these characters were very important to the overall storyline (Libby probably comes closest), and so it just seemed like a lot of wasted time in us getting to know them.

P.S. I really liked Mr. Eko, and I'm still mad that he got killed off, seemingly without reason.

Alex 6/12/10, 12:02 PM  

Concerning Season 2: Fair enough, on all accounts. The tail section drama did drag on way too long, and Mr. Eko should have stuck around much longer.

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