8 Things I Learned From Rewatching Lost

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It’s fair to say that with the advent of television gems on Netflix, digital TV and the mighty box set, we’ve all been pretty spoiled recently where quality television is concerned. There are now dozens of beautifully written, expertly acted, artfully shot dramas to delve into, it’s hard to even know where to begin, from the deep, dark magnificence of Breaking Bad to the paranoid, paralyzing potency of Homeland.

It wasn’t always so, it wasn’t even that long ago when such high quality, thought provoking TV was the exception, not the rule. For my part this movement neatly coincided with my own transition from pure adherence to cartoons and sitcoms into heavier territory. We all had that one show that made us feel grown up for watching it and led us on to bigger, better things. For me, it was Lost.

Before it came along, any excited televisual discussion at my school revolved around how funny Little Britain had been the previous night or which Big Brother housemate would look best plummeting into a giant furnace, then Lost came along and everything changed. This wasn’t like Eastenders, you couldn’t berate this or the people who watched it, it was mysterious, high-minded, scary, thrilling and everything in between and it had the production values of a movie. With hindsight that might seem hopelessly elementary but at the time it was massive, unheard of. Of course if any of us had taken the time to investigate The Sopranos, Deadwood, Six Feet Under or The Wire we’d have known better, but these were the pre-Netflix caveman days when a TV guide was still your best means of finding out what was on, most of us didn’t even have Sky, where the bulk of these other shows aired in the UK, if they even did.

I hadn’t really ever been back to it since then, my interest in it began to wane around season 3 and although I stuck with it, I only really did so because I wanted to know how it was all going to end (I have a habit of doing that, I’ve been reading Naruto in anticipation of an imminent, satisfactory ending for about 6 years, starting to think I might not live long enough to see it). Like most others, I was pretty dissatisfied with the ending, even if it made me pretty emotional at the time (fuck you, Vincent), so after that I kind of swept it under the rug and moved on to the plethora of other enticing shows that were emerging by then (Game of Thrones was just kicking off). Recently I decided to take a look back and see how it would hold up against the modern competition, was it as powerful as I remembered or did the emperor have no clothes? Well, late last week I finished the last episode, here’s what I took away from it all.


1. The Production Values Are Staggering


Alright, the CGI is still pretty bad, it wasn’t great then and it’s outright laughable now, but the cinematography, scoring, production design and editing? Magnificent. Michael Giacchino’s work on Lost remains some the finest scoring of his long, impressive career, particularly the work he did for the first 2 seasons, the piece that plays when Jack first ventures into the hatch is one of the most haunting, evocative pieces of scoring I’ve ever heard. A lot of it is down to the location, Hawaii was the perfect choice and they made the absolute most of it, from beach to cave to clifftop. Many shows that were airing around the same time are already starting to wrinkle but even the first season of Lost looks remarkably fresh.


2. Underusing Interesting Characters


At age 14 I wasn’t really experienced enough to ferret out poor character development when I saw it, had I been, I’d have noticed early on just how one-note a lot of the heavy hitters in Lost really were. It’s actually quicker to count up how many Lost characters don’t have daddy issues than to count up the ones that do. For this reason the characters who were afforded comparatively less spotlight time ended up being more interesting, ironically. Characters like Mr. Eko, Richard Alpert, Daniel Faraday and Rose were some of the most compelling on offer, often sidelined as they were because Jack and Locke were busy worrying about Locke and Jack again. It wasn’t always the case, any fan of the show will reflexively groan when Nikki or Paulo are mentioned and no amount of good eggs could elevate Keamy beyond a cliched gunman, but the show still had a frustrating habit of giving us glimpses of intriguing individuals on the sidelines, then doing nothing with them, in some cases killing them off before answering important questions (Libby springs to mind).


3. Every Big Sun and Jin Moment Killed Me


Sun and Jin might well be one of the best-realized married couples in televisual history. Numerous Lost characters had an aggravating habit of being willfully ambiguous for no good reason but Sun and Jin actually had legitimate, often tragic reasons for keeping things from each other. Before reaching the island their marriage was falling apart, their love was fading and they were both utterly alone. The way their relationship rekindles during their time on the island is one of the most compelling aspects of the story and both actors absolutely nail it. Every emotional scene they share is just lethal, from Jin’s tearful apology before setting off on the raft to their crushing, soul-destroying final farewell. For those who don’t remember, Jin actually sacrifices his life and any chance of ever meeting his daughter so that Sun doesn’t have to die alone, because he promised they’d never be apart again. I felt myself welling up just typing that.


4. Even the Softest Science is Preferable to Magic


This is a big one, season 5 is probably the show’s high point because however inexplicable the idea of the island jumping around in time was, it was fascinating. Throw out enough technical nomenclature to at least make it appear as if you know what you’re on about (electromagnetism, negative charge, etc) and willing suspension of disbelief will take care of the rest. The idea that the island was this unique, chaotic anomaly that could move through space and time of its own accord was ridiculous, but brilliantly so. Then season 6 came along and told us that it was all glowy glowy magic. Yay.

The shift from soft sci-fi to fantasy was so immediate and jarring that it would have been detrimental to the show’s tone even if it had made a lick of sense (it didn’t).

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