I can remember it like it was yesterday. Spending the day desperately avoiding spoilers and making it home without it being ruined. I’ve never been more scared of ruining a movie or TV show than the Lost finale. Expectations were a mixture of excitement, tension and actual relief for many. Lost undoubtedly changed the landscape of television with its massive budget and film-like opening episode delivering an addictive story structure and high quality ensemble cast. But for every person that loved the mystery another found it frustrating and meandering. The show continues to divide opinion to this day but my own personal one has never wavered. To me Lost remains the single best television series I’ve ever seen. When I say that some nod in agreement and others think I’m completely crazy. So I’m here to defend my undying love for the island.
These were the days before you could binge your life away on Netflix or Amazon and get all your answers as quickly as you wanted. 2004 doesn’t seem like a long time ago but the landscape of television and film consumption has changed so much in the past decade or so. I remember seeing the adverts on Channel 4 and they were promos like nothing I had seen before. Utterly captivating, mesmerising and making me feel like I absolutely had to tune in. Rarely has an advertising campaign grabbed my attention quite like Lost which made such a lasting first impression that I remember it so fondly to this day. Of course it then had the challenge of living up to that hype and boy did it deliver.
It’s easy to say that Lost was a frustrating mess focused on mysteries that never had any real answers or ones that didn’t make any sense but that’s doing it a disservice. Yes of course we all wondered about the hatch or the smoke monster or the island as a whole, and undoubtedly some of the best moments came from cliffhangers and real WTF? scenes but none of it would have mattered without a strong character base. That’s what Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse and the rest of the team understood and why we ended up with John Locke (Terry O’Quinn) and Benjamin Linus (Michael Emerson) as some of the most complex and curious characters of all time. These were the people that made us keep coming back for more as they were so compelling and multi layered that you were desperate to find out their back stories and what had shaped them into the men they ended up being on the island. Even self-appointed leader Jack (Matthew Fox) had his moments in between the sulking and love triangle with Kate (Evangeline Lilly) and Sawyer (Josh Holloway). Lost even delved into comedy occasionally, especially with the highly loveable Hurley (Jorge Garcia), and showed itself to be capable of real versatility.
It’s easy to forget that it wasn’t just the weird and the wonderful that the Lost team managed to deliver on a regular basis. Real heart and soul from genuine relationships allowed them to manipulate an audience in ways they simply didn’t expect. When you think of Charlie (Dominic Monaghan) and ‘Not Penny’s Boat’ or Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick) and Penny (Sonya Walger) in The Constant they were master classes in true emotion for characters that you’d fallen in love with. In fact you can argue that the entire last season was built on this foundation, and Michael Giacchino’s score was enough to turn anyone into a blubbering wreck on a regular basis. I remember crying at some luggage in the finale so it’s not just hyperbole.
Any show can easily throw out twists and turns to shock without any real meaning but Lost remains one of the best examples of a complete package delivering on all levels. Television may have moved on to a point where Lost doesn’t have that huge wow factor anymore but there’s a reason it was nominated and won so many awards. When I watch a show like The Walking Dead and get ultimately frustrated at their inability to juggle such a big cast it’s because Lost did it so much better. Their characters were developed so much better across the board that even when they did introduce new ones you knew they’d be going somewhere and they would play their part in the overall story. A guy like Ben may not have seemed that significant at first but they did so well at developing him into one of the most fascinating characters on television. Of course that’s also down to how utterly fantastic Michael Emerson was in the role but the writers really played to his strengths. Again that’s something that The Walking Dead often fails to do with the cast being far better than the material they get to work with.
In many ways Lost can be considered the blueprint for television drama today. It took the mould and smashed it and dragged the small screen kicking and screaming into the modern era. For so many years television was seen as the smaller and less successful medium compared to film and often a step back in someone’s career but these days many big names see it as a place for opportunity and creative freedom. It’s hard to argue against Lost’s part in the bigger picture despite its polarising storytelling. For all the questionable moments it had far more undoubtedly exceptional ones and that’s why it deserves to be held in such high regard even now. To paraphrase our once bearded hero – perhaps we really do have to go back. Lost is something that deserves revisiting from a different perspective away from all the hype and I’m definitely up for a rewatch. Or if you’ve never watched it, forever put off by the constant misinterpretations of the finale and endless moaning, then perhaps give it a chance. You might just be surprised by what you find.