Television Review: Lost

Lost is about the survivors of a plane crash who end up on an island where all sorts of strange things happen. As the series goes on, we discover more about the twisty past of the large cast of characters through flashbacks and also – in the ‘present’ – about the nature of the island. Without spoiling too much: a violent creature roams the woods, people who couldn’t possibly be on the island walk around there regardless and a shady corporation has been doing strange experiments there. More than one external force has it out for the survivors and even the island itself seems to have a plan for them, one possibly connected to ‘karma’. Most of the drama plays out on a sunny beach or in a sumptuous tropical forest.

Lost is a series you get the most out of by starting from the very beginning, watching as pieces of a very elaborate puzzle start to interlock. The brains behind Lost – among whom creator J.J. Abrams of Alias and Cloverfield fame – are meticulous about drip-feeding just enough new information in each episode to keep you guessing and hungry for more. Considering that they clearly scoff at linear storytelling, it is ironic that all the episodes need to be seen in order to not get – well – lost. Where for the first two seasons or so the stories jumped between the ‘present’ on the island and the twisty past of the plentiful cast, by now there are also jumps into their future. It is to the writers’ credit that you won’t often get confused about where you are in the narrative. However, because of a lot of casually referenced back story, you might find yourself scratching your head regularly if you don’t tune in every week.

The most regular complaint about Lost is a lack of forward momentum. Because of the trips into the past and several storylines running concurrently at most points, a cliff-hanger to one episode might stay unresolved until a couple of weeks later. Too many lingering reaction shots and a general unwillingness of everybody on the island to either ask an obvious, direct question or give a direct answer can also get on the nerves. Everybody is withholding information from everybody else for sometimes unbelievable reasons. It is an obvious way to extend some of the plotlines and to build tension.

I have to admit that I almost bailed on the series at the beginning of the third season, when the first ten episodes or so stalled: the writers just seemed to be milking for time. Luckily the series soon recovered with a clearer sense of purpose and I can’t help but think that the writers’ strike actually helped the abbreviated fourth season, with just fourteen episodes. The creators claim to have the whole story mapped out until the end of the series, the next two seasons supposedly wrapping it up. They were forced to speed up their storytelling to end the fourth season at the point they had originally planned, leading to some pleasantly compact episodes.

More and more answers are surfacing about the connections between all the strange things that have been happening in Lost. I am wondering if the next two seasons will be able to tie everything together satisfactorily. It could very well be that the final explanation will end up either being a bit silly or will create retroactive plot-holes. Not until the final reel is out there, will the viewers be able to judge how well the whole thing holds together. Though I generally admire the writing for Lost, the writers have messed up before a couple of times when it comes to believability. There was the foretold death of one of the regulars for instance, which was presented as heroic and necessary, but turned out to be completely avoidable and therefore stupid when the moment arrived. The island appears to be shrinking as the series goes on: by now it seems to take a lot less time to get from one side of it to the other than it did at the beginning of the series. Amazingly, people often tend to just happen to run into each other in the huge forest when the plot requires. And the non-featured survivors seem all too aware of their status as extra’s and will pop up, disappear and sometimes die without having much of an impact on anyone. If you saw the season four finale (mild spoiler alert) ask yourself this: why wasn’t anybody mobbing the helicopter and why weren’t the main characters concerned about the well-being of the other survivors? Oh well, the occasional logical lapse notwithstanding, I will definitely be hanging around to watch the final lap. Here’s hoping they don’t lose the plot.

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