8 Things I Learned From Rewatching Lost

Jack shephard eye
5. The Flashes Were Brilliant and Awful


During the first season, the flashbacks in Lost were used to masterful effect to explain character motivations and really contextualize the parallels between all the survivors. They were also neat, insular pieces of drama in and of themselves. Then some time around the middle of season 2 they completely ran out of steam. The idea bucket was so dry that the flashbacks became annoying distractions bearing only the most vague relevance to what was happening on the island, like Locke desperately searching for Eko whilst recalling some time he spent living with a weed-growing commune clearly conceived by someone who doesn’t know anything about weed or communes or the lingering mystery of Jack’s tattoos being revealed to a chorus of ‘who the hell cares and why is Bai Ling here, make her go away’. Season 4 came in and saved the day with the inspired flash-forwards concept and things picked up from there, until the final season, but we’ll get to that.


6. The Jack/Kate/Sawyer/Juliet Conundrum Might be the Worst Romantic Subplot Ever
Somebody probably worked really hard on this. Think about that for a second.
Somebody probably worked really hard on this. Think about that for a second.

I do not say this lightly. It’s always been a real annoyance to me that romantic subplots are shoehorned unnecessarily into every goddamn story in the known universe to increase appeal. The most annoying thing about this one is that it actually made sense to begin with. I have theory about Sawyer, I think Damon Lindelof wanted his very own Han Solo, someone he could picture himself as when he fantasized about going back and beating up everyone who was mean to him at school. Almost every season box set contains some kind of grotesquely self-congratulatory ‘Best of Sawyer’ feature, it never bodes well when writers decide which character is going to be the fan favorite ahead of the actual fans. The connection between Jack and Kate had shifted from charming to tiresome by season 2, but Sawyer and Kate got to the point where it actually defied logic, the writers just kept throwing them into situations that made a romantic outcome more likely (if not plausible), like someone trying to get two Sims to have sex to the detriment of all their other needs. It got the stage when all the other drama surrounding them was completely undercut, even after Juliet died it seemed like the only thing the writers wanted you to take away from it was that Sawyer was single again.

7. Ben, Locke and Desmond: The Holy Trinity


Despite how infuriating all the willful ambiguity often was (I still can’t get past the fact that literally every issue that ‘The Others’ encountered could have been avoided if they’d just fucking explained themselves), three of the most willfully ambiguous characters turned out to be the show’s strongest. Terry O’Quinn, Michael Emerson and Henry Ian Cusick are all extraordinarily talented actors and the show-runners clearly recognised that, because they ended up playing the three most rounded, intriguing characters the show had to offer, despite the occasional slip ups (sweat lodges and bafflingly obscure quotations from Of Mice and Men for example). O’Quinn emerges at the top of the podium because he actually ended up playing two characters, one of whom wasn’t even human and he owned both.


8. The Ending…


Having watched the ending again, I think I’ve identified what the real problem is. It’s not simply that the ending is bad, cheesy or dissatisfying (although it is all three of those things), it’s that they had a much better ending right there in their hands and they deviated away from it. The sideways flashes were the key to it all, right early on in the season it’s suggested that they could be a hypothetical, alternate reality in which the plane never crashed, in which the island simply was not. That’s how it should have stayed. Remember how when the survivors encountered each other in that world they had flashes of the island? What if that was the first sign of this hypothetical reality coming apart at the seams, this idealised world where the survivors were unaffected by the influence of Jacob and the island and the closer Jack came to saving the island, the closer this other universe came to falling apart? If that had been the case, then by saving the island Jack would have unwittingly sacrificed a better life for him and everyone he cared about. It could have been a beautifully tragic commentary on the cost of doing the right thing.

The decision that it was actually some kind of layover before the afterlife so everyone could meet up and cuddle vexes me for this reason, it’s almost like they made an active effort to pick a worse option. It still got me a little choked up on repeat viewing, but I think that’s mostly down to Jorge Garcia, the most sympathetic man in the universe, he could be crying because his spoon fell into his cereal bowl and I’d be right there with him, tearfully trying to paw it back without spilling milk everywhere. What this smacks of to me is writers falling so hopelessly in love with their characters that they didn’t have the gall to give them a sad ending, even the characters who had already had one were laboured with a schmaltzy do-over, to the point at which it actually ran counter to everything that had happened before. We’d spent so long being told that Nadia was the love of Sayid’s life and yet it’s Shannon that he ultimately ‘ascends’ with. Part of me honestly believes that they ran out of script, filmed the wrap party and dubbed it over, that’s actually what it looks like.


Summing Up

It’s not nearly as good as I remember it being. As I suspected, years spent dining on high quality television made me painfully aware just how cheesy and inconsistent it really was, but if you just treat it as such, it’s still a lot of fun. Some of the questions raised remain thought-provoking and it does tragedy and tension very, very well at times, but it’s still silly and could have really benefited from a bit more self-awareness. Ah well, I had to go back, they took my son, I made good eggs, whatever happened happened, I’m running out of appropriate references, get to the chopper…


5 Best Episodes


Live Together, Die Alone

The Constant

The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham

Ab Aeterno

5 Worst Episodes

What Kate Does

Further Instructions

Stranger in a Strange Land

The Long Con


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