Throughout the years, television has intrigued and surprised audiences, igniting conversation among us. Current shows like Game of Thrones are a testament to that, but nothing had people theorising like 2004’s Lost.
Created by J. J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof and Jeffrey Lieber, the show was like nothing we had ever seen before, with its mix of sci-fi, adventure, mystery and drama.
I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t like how Lost ended. Early on, many predicted the characters were trapped in some kind of Limbo, but the writers denied that was the case. Six seasons later, we were given the answer we already suspected. Whether the writers planned it all along and their denial was just a clever ruse, or they couldn’t think of a better climax, remains to be revealed. What cannot be taken away is the mystery they built throughout.
Lost arrived at a time when television was starting to push the boundaries of storytelling, but had yet to be very ambitious when it came to setting and concept. I still remember seeing the almost surreal, extended commercial for the first season. We were shown nothing but the main cast dancing with each other on the beach in slow motion, the remains of a plane wreckage scattered around them, accompanied by a haunting track by Portishead. That alone raised so many questions in my mind, I just had to watch it. And with a budget of $14 million for the pilot episode alone – making it one of the most expensive TV shows ever – it was clear this would be an ambitious project.
For those who missed the Lost craze or just need reminding, it was the tale of several survivors of Flight 815, which crashed on a “uninhabited” island. It soon becomes clear that the island is not what it seems and is actually home to many people, and things. We follow the survivors as they explore the island, try to build some kind of life, and hopefully find a way back home.
Naturally, with such a huge cast, certain characters take prominence, such as troubled surgeon Jack Shepard (Matthew Fox), fugitive Kate Austen (Evangeline Lilly), con man James “Sawyer” Ford (Josh Holloway), and the mysterious John Locke (Terry O’Quinn).
In the first season alone, Lost sprung up so many questions for its viewers that it became both dizzying and delightful to watch. We were terrified and confused by the strange black mist, surprised to see a polar bear on a tropical island, and curious to know the motives of the “others” who lived on the island. These little pieces of information, slowly drip-fed over time, had us huddled around the water cooler discussing ideas, trying to make sense of it. I was in college at the time and the latest episode of Lost was always the hot topic during classes.
As each season came and went, what we had come to believe about one thing would be flipped, and we’d be back to square one. We never quite knew where we were, and gradually realised that nothing could be taken at face value. The hatch, the shipwreck in the centre of the island, the statue of a foot with four toes – all these teasers were piled on top of each other, posing question after question.
The internet exploded with home-made websites trying to compile all the information and put it together like a jigsaw, with everyone giving their two cents to try and crack the answers.
The simple premise of the show and its teasing revelations were a stroke of genius from the writers. They ensured audiences kept coming back to watch the next episode. It seemed for every answer given, another question was asked, and it guaranteed we would return, front row and centre, for the next week’s instalment.
Unfortunately, as the years went on, the show started to deteriorate. People became frustrated by the constant twists and turns with no real idea of where the story was heading. Many gave up, falling by the wayside, but those who stuck with it were relieved to hear that the sixth season would be the last, and all would be revealed.
Eventually, we discovered the ending was what we all expected from the beginning. I know many people were satisfied with how it concluded, although I’m sure some of you reading this article will disagree with me, but as we’ve learned from The Sopranos and Breaking Bad, it’s impossible to satisfy everyone.
Though the finale disappointed me, I’ll never forget those first couple of seasons and how they thrilled me each week. I don’t think there will ever be a show quite like Lost again.
Next month, it’s a race against time with Jack Bauer, as we look at how 24 re-invented the TV format.