When I contemplate shows that commonly get listed as the greatest of all time, I think about shows that are deeply invested in exploring human themes through the stories of complicated individuals. From the streets of Baltimore, through the lands of Westeros, and the halls of the White House, any of these critically acclaimed shows, regardless of their setting or premise, are propped up by how well we the audience connect to their characters. As I journeyed through my rewatch of Lost, I found myself affirmed that this is what the show did best and what allowed for my affinity of it to endure. As the passengers of Oceanic flight 815 dealt with mysterious hatches, hostile island occupants, and one of the greatest monsters/villains ever created, their struggles with grief, sin, doubt, and faith set the stage for relationships that were irresistible to watch.
So much of this is because Lost is laser focused on talking about these themes. Lost exists very much like a fairy tale or parable, every story is a micro-expression of some conflict or theme that the writers want us to recognize in our own lives. With every episode spending special attention to individual characters and how their past informs their time on the island, the audience is allowed to explore these themes and conflicts that are shaping their behavior and relationships with other survivors. Using this unique narrative technique to explore bigger questions around faith, identity, love, and redemption makes the show that much more texturally satisfying. So many apocalyptic/survival based shows are focused on letting the survival aspect take center stage, and let thematic elements unfold on occasion, but Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse are not interested in telling a simple survival story. With Lost they subvert this balance; the survival setting forces the characters (and audience) to confront these crucial questions that are at the core of the characters and themselves . And it balances this while introducing intrigue with a growing mythology that encourages and forces these confrontations all the more.
To be fair there are initial annoyances with the amount of unanswered details that remain even after the end of the show. I am quick to blame marketing and advertisement professionals that latched onto the intrigue as the main draw of the show (granted mysteries probably test better than metanarratives in focus groups). However, even the heavily criticized series finale stands as a testament that the mysteries are only as important as the relationships that they helped foster throughout the seasons. The thesis of Lost is that our human experience is not affirmed through rational resolution of unexplainable events or occurrences, but rather through the understanding and recognition of the inherent dignity that exists in every person, no matter their past. The mysteries of life can always be tackled, for long as we “live together”, lest we “die alone.”
It needs to be said that for all of its narrative and thematic quality, the show itself is beautifully made. Filming on a tropical island is a feat in and of itself, and the lush landscapes of the island Oahu are framed to create feelings of both promise and foreboding. Additionally, Michael Giacchino’s score will forever stand the test of time, if not indicated by the numerous accolades he has received for both it and the projects he has taken on since. He is an expert and crafting dynamic melodies that can turn just as quickly as the tone and stakes in the show.
But for all of the logistical elements that make Lost an affecting show, I keep finding myself coming back to the characters. Their personalities and backgrounds are as diverse as the cast themselves. Watching them unify for survival and then confront each other as various conflicts emerge, only to grow in respect and admiration of each other is a genuinely heart warming experience. Truthfully, as I edged closer and closer to the conclusion, I wanted to restart the show and watch these strangers get thrown into each others’ lives.
There’s no telling what impact this show will have in the future of broadcast television, but 10 years later after it’s final episode aired it remains one of the best instances of character driven story that has ever aired.
Watch Lost on ImdbTV.
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