Watching LOST has been a blast. I can’t tell you how many interesting conversations LOST has spawned for me with friends, acquaintances, and even people I really don’t know at all. I particularly found this last season fascinating because of the massive questions about life, faith, morality, and human free will that the show was throwing around. Over the years I threw out my fair share of theories about the island, the Darhma Initiative, “the Others,” and so on–it was simultaneously entertaining and humbling to witness my many well crafted theories get obliterated by the fantastical plot twists that came to epitomize LOST.
I don’t remember a television show that so many different people watched that considered the kinds of questions that LOST has. I would also venture to say that I don’t think I have had more interesting conversations with people over any show than I have over LOST. To me this is the most indispensable aspect of the show–and to be frank its mostly over now. The discussions that will be had over LOST may continue for the next week or so but probably no longer than that. Then we will move on to the next piece of pop culture and sadly it will probably be far less interesting and will probably generate far less interesting discussion.
This is largely why I am glad I stuck it out with LOST–because it was just too much fun to come into the office and chat about the show with the folks who would come in to visit, debate its merits with my wife (who gave up on the show midway through season 5), and discuss the competing philosophies of LOST with the good folks here at CaPC. These are discussions that won’t be enjoyed in the same way by those who wade through all six seasons of LOST via DVD or Hulu in the coming weeks. The investment over the last 6 years was worth it for this reason alone.
The second great crowning achievement of LOST was its ability to maintain an audience despite the incredible lack of coherency in the plot. What kept me coming back to LOST again and again was its characters–they were mysterious, they were deeply flawed, they had individual relational problems that were seemingly smaller than the cosmic problems on the Island, but if you are like me with every episode I cared more about Sawyer maturing out of his self-centered ways, Jin and Sun healing their marriage, and Charlie overcoming his drug addiction and essentially learning what it means to be a father than I did about finding out who “The Others” were. The acting in LOST was superb when it comes to relationships and the crazy world of the island provided the backdrop for these relational issues to be brought to the fore. I couldn’t help but wonder sometimes why the characters didn’t ask more questions about the island, but nonetheless the characters were rich, dynamic, and their stories were fascinating stories of both redemption and tragedy.
In fact it is these relationships being on display in the finale which made that episode worthwhile. The finale was as much a celebration of the dynamic characters of LOST and their growth as anything else. I’ll admit to tearing up a bit when the various couples were reunited–though I was disappointed not to see the non-romantic relationships slighted in the finale. As messy and disconnected the plot of LOST was, it really is amazing that it maintained such a large audience to the end–I think this is because the characters were so compelling and their stories so interesting.
This brings me to why LOST was an epic failure plot-wise. None of the major questions were ever answered. It has been argued that this is due to the show seeking to illustrate the fact that we often don’t know the answers to life’s biggest questions and mysteries. Fair enough, but I am sympathetic to the nerdy sci-fi fans that wanted at least a few of these questions answered. There were so many mysteries in LOST that it was fairly obvious to me that the show would never tie up all the loose ends, but I think its fair to expect a few of them to be tied up in the end and that never really happened.
For instance, what is the island? How is it containing evil? Who is the smoke monster? How did Jacob/Smokey’s “mom” make them unable to kill each other? Who is she? What is the light? Why was the Darhma Initiative so interested in “electro-magnitism”? We still know very little about “The Others”–what were they up to? Why did Sayid sell his soul to Smokey for his one true love who turned out not to be his one true love in the end? Who was Dogan? How come the light turned Jacob’s brother into the Smoke Monster? Why was Jacob such a sissy boy? How could Jacob/the Island heal people and do miraculous things? Who is Jacob? What was the point of the hatches? Where did the polar bears come from? What was Widmore after? What happened to Michael? I could go on and on.
I get the feeling that early on the writers probably intended to answer many of these questions and it just got more and more out of hand–I had hope in the first few seasons that everything would come together–I think if we are honest most of us did–that hope faded over time until Season 6 when it actually became quite comical to think that LOST could solve even one major mystery. This is where I can sympathize with the typical sci-fi fan who was watching the show for the very reason of hoping some of these great mysteries would be solved (don’t tell anyone but I am a bit of a sci-fi nerd myself). The reason I can sympathize is that the advertisements for the show reported before every new season that “mysteries will be solved” and that really never happened–not in any significant way at least.
Certainly life is full of mysteries–but the biggest conundrum of life–how can fallen man be reconciled to a holy God–has been answered in the gospel of Christ. I think God created us with a natural desire to ask big questions–to ask “why?” And it is also natural for us to long for those questions to be answered. Will we always get the answers? No certainly not–at least this side of eternity, but the question presupposes that there is someone out there who does have the answers and sees the purposes that we fail to see. Perhaps this is where Jack landed in the end–he became the man of faith, but it still seems pretty muddled. As a Christian, I can, however say with great joy that life’s greatest mystery has been solved for me–”God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). God doesn’t give us all the answers but he certainly gives us the answer to the greatest question of all–how can I know Him?
LOST’s many unanswered mysteries resulted in a plot that was largely nonsensical. In most cases we would consider such a nonsensical plot an epic failure, but LOST managed to give us a disjointed plot that if we gave it serious thought would implode on itself and yet it kept our attention, lured us in and kept us coming back for more and in the end gave us unforgettable characters whose stories were worth telling. I feel for the sci-fi fan boys who were thrown to the curb, but LOST was in the end a show about people confronting their demons–and it did this fantastically well. Its many philosophical and religious ponderings spawned many worthwhile conversations that probably wouldn’t have happened otherwise. LOST is one of the greatest shows ever made despite the nonsensical plot. The characters and the experience we had watching it together made it all worthwhile.