Warning: The following review contains spoilers
Six years ago, the hit television show Lost came to its conclusion with its finale, “The End”. The conclusion was one that immediately divided fans. Cast members and its creators came out to defend the controversial ending. Many fans were left disappointed, and some very angry as they felt that their time had been wasted. Many accused the creators of having made it all up as they went along. There were staunch defenders of the ending. So what did it all mean? Where did it all start?
The show began in 2004, and the pilot episode alone cost almost $14 million to make. This, coupled by the low ratings that ABC Studios had been receiving was considered a massive risk. However, with the powerhouse of JJ Abrams behind it from the start, it always stood a chance of being successful. The character that ended up being the focus of the show was initially planned to be killed off in the opening episode. Michael Keaton was initially cast in the role, but after a change of heart from the directors, he left and it went to the Party of Five actor, Matthew Fox. The character of Jack remained the central character and a lot of the show’s crucial events involved him. What would have been if Keaton had remained is anyone’s guess.
At the heart of the show was its mystery. Where were they? Who were the others? What was the smoke monster? This produced all sorts of fan theories, some of which turned out to be right. The outcry from fans across the internet after each episode was unlike one seen for any other show. Some theories were well thought out and detailed, others were more on the fun side. Some believed that the island events were all taking place inside the mind of Vincent the dog.
Aside from the mystery the show created, it would be nothing without the strong characters that kept you coming back for more. Each character was portrayed as broken individuals, looking for purpose in their lives; they were well and truly lost. The shows use of flashbacks to tell the story as to how each character ended up on Oceanic 815 on that fateful day makes the audience feel emotionally connected to the character. As they learn to live together, there is no real judgement. As the lead character Jack says “3 days ago we all died. We should all be able to start over”. Speaking to Kate, a convict who through twist of fate ended up free with the crash, he sees her as a strong part of the survivor group and thus there is no judgement.
What followed the premiere of the show was an internet reaction unlike any other. As the show progressed, people took to internet forums and social media to discuss theories and the cliffhangers that the majority of episodes ended on. Every season finale after season 3 was followed by a 9 month break. Having to wait 9 months to find out what Jack meant when he cried “We have to go Back!” to Kate outside LAX was excruciating for many, but yet the audience kept coming back.
What did it all mean though? By the time you reach the end, there are questions left unanswered. Some answers were less than satisfactory for a large proportion of the audience. Most were left just confused. Behind all the mystery and the confusion, the show’s heart still shone through and we were left caring about the characters that we’d grown to know over six years. A lot of the pain and the feeling of being lost is relatable for audience members, and it is easy to empathise with the situation. As the Island’s protector Jacob explains, “You needed this place as much as it needed you”. Each character was broken and looking for meaning, and were brought to the island to find that meaning. Even if we’ve never been crashed on a desert island, many have father issues, loss of faith and a feeling of not belonging in a changing world.
The show places a strong emphasis on philosophy and faith. From naming some of the characters after philosophers, to directly referencing philosophical quotes, the semi religious ending should not have come as a surprise to most. At the heart of the show is the age old debate of being a Man of Science versus a Man of Faith. With the two lead characters, Jack and Locke falling on either side of the debate, this conflict comes to a fore on a number of occasions, often providing huge plot development and twists with it. Terry O’Quinn as Locke puts in a performance that will be remembered for years as one of TV’s best, starting off as the mysterious hunter with a strong set of skills through to his performance as the Man in Black, the evil character at the heart of the island’s origins.
The show is full of standout performances, in particular Michael Emerson who plays the leader of The Others, Benjamin Linus. He powerfully portrays a character whose intentions are constantly unknown, but the audience is always confident that he is in his element and has a plan. Only when Ben’s daughter is mercilessly killed in season 4 does Ben really crack, and Emerson’s performance is heart-breaking as Ben loses the only person he truly cared about. His interactions with O’Quinn’s character Locke stand alongside that of Jack and Locke as the central partnerships of the show.
The show was filmed in the beautiful location of Hawaii, and the islands give a fantastic backdrop as the story unfolds. The plane crash in the pilot episode could easily have been taken out of a film, with the special effects, stunts and the intricate details used in forming the scene. The music that accompanies the show, composed by Michael Giacchino, complements the show to a tee, and enhances the emotion in some of the show’s most iconic scenes. The show’s final scenes, accompanied by the music appropriately entitled “Moving On” still sends shivers down my spine.
Lost’s television run was not without controversy. A number of actors were arrested on DUI charges. This lead to a number of actor’s leaving the show ahead of schedule. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who played Nigerian priest, Mr Eko left due to disagreements with other cast members and the creators. Lost’s run on British TV was hindered when after the airing of Season 2 on Channel 4, Sky bought the rights to air the show. This meant a large proportion of the British audience were unable to continue watching and many gave up after season 2. However, Lost still maintained a loyal fanbase on Sky 1 and later through DVD sales.
The turning point for Lost came midway through season 3. After the airing of the critically panned episode, “Stranger in a Stranger Land”, the creators started to think about the ending. At this point, they were unsure how many seasons they would receive, so planning for the end was difficult. After talks with ABC, they agreed that seasons 4-6 would comprise of 48 episodes, with 16 in each (although due to the writers’ strike, it wasn’t split exactly like this). Finally the writers could start to plan for an ending. Even when the writer’s strike split season 4, leaving them 2 episodes short, the season still stood strong. One of the highlight’s of Lost’s episode run came in episode 5, entitled “The Constant”. It showed Desmond leaping back and forth between time, trying to find and hold onto the one thing he held most dear, his lost love Penny.
To address the controversial ending, in my honest opinion, it was a fitting end to a spiritual and philosophical show. At the centre of the show was the characters, and how they learned to live together in the darkest of places. To take the show’s central mantra, “They lived together, so they didn’t have to die alone”. The creators came out quickly to clarify the ending, everything that happened on the island was real, and that the final scenes in the church was a purgatory for the crash survivors to find each other again, and to move into the afterlife together. So if this is to be believed, the opinion that “They were dead all along” is not one entirely based on fact. At the end of the day, we will never really know what the creator’s original intentions were, but I believe that the ending provided closure to the character’s stories, if not to the many mysteries that the show posed.
With the influx of reboots of TV shows, it does seem that it is only a matter of time until we return to the island, and visit a new set of characters stranded. With two of the original shows main characters in place as protectors of the island, we may finally get some of the answers that were lacking in the original show. Whether networks will touch the show after its divisive finale is another matter, but I would be very surprised if it didn’t return in some form or the other.
In an interview before the finale, Daniel Dae Kim, who played Jin, said “I don’t think that you can have a conversation about television in the 21st century without mention Lost”. In recent years, TV has exploded with the advance of social media and forum pages and social media pages are awash with discussions about such films. Thus, it seems that Kim was right, Lost led the way with its fan community. Unfortunately, social media was to the shows detriment with the divisive finale. Still, I think many will agree that Lost was one hell of a ride.
Best Episodes: Pilot (Part 1+2), The Constant, The Incident (Part 1+2) and The End (Part 1+2)
Creators: JJ Abrams, Jeffrey Lieber, Damon Lindelof
Cast: Naveen Andrews, Matthew Fox, Jorge Garcia, Josh Holloway, Daniel Dae Kim, Yunjin Kim, Evangeline Lily, Terry O’Quinn, Emilie De Ravin, Michael Emerson, Henry Ian Cusick
Number of episodes: 121
Episode Runtime: 40 minutes