Forever an unapologetic Lost apologist – a season one retrospective

Theme: A season in review

**Spoiler warning for all of Lost (2004 – 2010) (just to be on the safe side)**

Confession: I love Lost. Not just the first few seasons, I love Lost seasons one through six. I love the series finale, feel no resentment towards the ending we were given, and felt thoroughly satisfied when I first experienced those emotional character reunions, that comprise the final chapter of this ambitious, crazy, innovative series.

Yes the mystery was intriguing. The twists and turns, strange reveals and stunning labyrinthine plot points were entertaining and fun to guess along with. At its core however, Lost was always about the people on the island. It delved into each person’s unique relation to the island – who they were before, who the island gave them the opportunity to be, and the relationships formed in the midst of smoke monsters, button-pressing, and time-travelling.

Having recently begun my re-watch of Lost, the final moments of the season one finale acted as a stark reminder of these original roots, from a show that has gotten such criticism and caused such great disappointment with its final conclusion. In season one’s final moments we board the Oceanic Flight 815 yet again, pre-crash. Accompanied by Michael Giacchino’s hauntingly beautiful score, we glide through the aisles lingering on the faces of these people we have gotten to know. The final cliff-hanger scene may be of John and Jack’s shocked faces staring down the hatch into a mysterious dark abyss of the unknown, but it is their quiet nods to each other as strangers on board the plane that hold the true dramatic and emotional resonance of the season. During the season’s final moments in the midst of hatch explosions and strange reoccurring numbers, we spend vital time with the characters before the mystery, before they knew each other, at a time when they were all just strangers on a plane. It has always been the characters and their emotional development, complex pasts and personal relationships that were the true focus of Lost.

A near perfect freshman season

Season one of Lost continues to be one of the all-time best seasons of television drama ever produced. Considering the TV network landscape of the time, Lost offered a daring change of pace with its serial narrative and supernatural elements. Whenever you dare to look back over your shoulder, dust off the cover of an old box-set and pop it into the machine, there is always that slight moment of pause and trepidation. The dread that comes with waiting to see if nostalgia has tainted your recollections and overestimated something’s continued worth to you. I am happy to report that this was not the case with Lost. On re-watch it is still just as exciting, fresh and engaging as the first time around.

One of the most notable and enduring elements of Lost is its episodic narrative structure revolving around one person. Each week we were treated to flashbacks of one character’s story. We see how they came to be on the island, confounding our preconceived ideas of their person, often superficially built upon prejudice. Lost treats its audience to a very basic but ever-important lesson – people are rarely all that they seem.

This clever narrative structure also provides some stability in the midst of Lost’s deliciously confusing season-one-weirdness, where polar bears run wild through the jungle and lame men are able to walk. The flashbacks open up great possibilities for rich parallel storytelling and the writers take advantage of this in the first season, diving into an increasingly colourful palette of personalities in a large ensemble cast. Each episode manages to balance narrow character-specific developments with a wider look at the continued survival and criss-crossing relationships of the greater stranded group.

Flawed heroes battling the moral complexities of real human emotions

Lost is filled with intriguing characters. Intriguing because of their flaws, their contradictions, and their far from always pure motivations. The first season of Lost is a feast for anyone who adores large ensemble TV-shows that prioritise individual character development. Far more than the Island’s secrets, I was always most interested in figuring out the mysteries of the people stranded on the island. Scrounging together the endless puzzle pieces of these flawed human beings, that have been placed in a strange and tense environment.

Lost does not shy away from the complexities of the human heart and mind. Sure this makes the characters frustrating at times. No one is above making choices based on fear, selfishness and ill-placed guilt. These people are after all painfully relatable. It also makes these characters feel like whole people, with the writers actively including the less flattering contradictions that make up who they are. As a consequence I care about all the characters, even the ones I don’t particularly like. People always have histories that you are not necessarily privy to. It is also not their responsibility to share their innermost selves with everyone that cross their path. There is pain in all of these characters’ past. Yet this pain is thankfully not used as an excuse for their less than savoury actions in the present.

For example, I find Sawyer intriguing as a character, his backstory illuminating, and yet I still despise the way he approaches Kate in the first half of this season. I find the torture of Sawyer in episode 1×08 repulsive, as I find his blackmailing of Kate for a kiss equally repulsive. He is not solely a victim, a survivor, or an offender in this situation. He is all of these things and none of them. Throughout the first season he is afforded the ability to grow without erasing the mistakes and rugged edges of his past. Experiences that have after all been influential to his very being. Similarly our understanding of Jin and Sun’s relationship goes through an astronomical change in this first season alone. It is this kind of true human storytelling that will forever find me returning to Lost and all these broken characters’ crooked search for redemption.

Time will become an increasingly complicated factor in the Lost universe as the seasons progress but already in its first season Lost operates with an interesting concept of the past. The flashbacks inform us, the viewer, of the present character’s state of mind, but are not allowed to completely define them. It is this interesting character work that is the reason for my intense and enduring Lost adoration after all these years. It has been and always will be the mystery of the characters that prompts me to re-watch Lost – despite all the new drama patiently awaiting attention in my Netflix queue. It is the series finale’s focus on bringing satisfactory conclusions to each character’s emotional journeys rather than answering every lingering question about the island’s inner workings, that keeps me smiling and recollecting Lost as a unique and complete artistic work.


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