“Why do you find it so hard to believe?” “Why do you find it so easy?” “It’s never been easy!”
Lost was a show that made me a believer. I was a cynical atheist who rankled at the slightest religious or spiritual content. When I first got into Lost, I was vehemently against the episodes that were in this spirit. They came across as weird kinds of religious propaganda. I didn’t like them or understand their purpose, which is so clear to me today. Let me be clear: I am not now religious, nor do I hold a firm belief in any kind of afterlife or supernatural component in life. I am however a believer in art. I am a believer in the power of art to transform our reality, and to allow us to experience a shared dream, in order to better understand ourselves and each other. I am also a believer that one can pursue a spiritual path and never stray from that righteous and true road and veer into something more sinister. Being spiritual is a belief that life has mysteries that are beyond our understanding. This seems to me to be a safe bet, and not one that assumes a knowledge that is beyond us, as most parts of religion take as a starting point. Being spiritual is to be artistic, and vice versa. Being spiritual is to be humble and aware of our ignorance, in the hope that some day we can change it. There is no show more spiritually fulfilling in its intricate and nuanced way of examining reality than Twin Peaks: The Return. A *very* close number two, is Lost.
Let’s start with the basics: Lost takes place, for the most part, on a mysterious island somewhere out there on the seas. Things on The Island are somehow removed from reality in the rest of the world. Things happen there that don’t happen anywhere else. Crippled men are healed, dead people rise from their graves and dreams and reality blur together. Lost has a heavyweight mythology, that can go toe to toe with Lynch and Frost’s show. This is unusual, and worth noting, especially for Twin Peaks fans who have not as of yet experienced J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse’s vision of the end and beginning of all things. Lost is for the most part, not nearly as surreal as its father and mother, Twin Peaks, but it packs just as powerful an artistic punch, with a perfect clarity arising from a deep meditation through lucid artistic dreaming. Lost led me to believe in the objective existence of good and evil, something I sometimes have trouble reconciling with an atheistic viewpoint on the world. Lost has just as much to say about good and evil than Twin Peaks, and in some areas, given the length of time devoted to Lost in comparison to Twin Peaks, in ways that dig deeper. I know this may seem to be a ridiculous statement, given the dizzying metaphysical heights that Twin Peaks: The Return accomplished, but trust me, it’s true.
Lost has its flaws, I can’t deny it. What Lost isn’t however is “made up as it went along”, “written with no plan for the end” or any other weird and secretly informed at the expense of the rest of us, dismissal of the show as lightweight. Lost has some bad characters but there are so many good characters that it seems like close to pointless to dwell on them. I won’t dwell on it, but I will expand for clarity’s sake. The major weakness in Lost comes in the form of Kate, who has a character who is irritating almost from start to finish, who has very few redeeming features, and not in an interesting way, but instead just taking up screen time from more worthy characters. Does she ruin anything though? No, she doesn’t. And I don’t want to appear to be blaming Evangeline Lily, who is a fine actor (loved her in The Hobbit). Blame the writers and producers who became obsessed with Kate, even as her character was inconsistent from one episode to the next, who never evoked sympathy or empathy from the audience, who instead just irritated the living hell out of a large percentage of the viewing audience. The episode ‘Eggtown’, is the worst episode in the run of the show. Just awful writing, and a laughable failure of the show to address the fact that one of the heroes of Lost was an infuriating, selfish and morally corrupt individual.
Let’s leave Kate though and get into some of the great characters who will illuminate and consume your every waking hour (as well as many of your sleeping hours too). Let’s start with Locke, the character through which the audience goes on a journey of the soul. From fallen, defeated man crippled physically as well as emotionally and spiritually, Locke becomes the man who understands in his soul the true value of The Island. Locke’s various crises of faith in The Island and his own purpose are the strongest and most compelling elements of Lost, just as intensely provocative and emotionally complex as anything Twin Peaks has to offer. The conversations between Locke and Jack would lay the groundwork for the development of Jack from a man of science to a man of faith. I never thought I’d like these scenes as much as I do. Lost turned me into a man of faith in some measure, again not in a religious sense, but in an artistic and optimistic world view that sees life as generally good, and not as evil. Faith as in, faith in my common humankind. The journey of Locke is awe inspiring, alternating between terrible sadness and highs of such elation. His development is the strongest element of Lost, and one which puts the show on the same level as Frost and Lynch’s masterpiece.
And then there are Jack and Desmond, Charlie, Hurley, Jin and Sun, Rousseau and Claire and Christian and Sayid. Lost is filled to the brim with memorable, brilliantly written and acted characters. You will think one episode that all you want to see is one character. Then the next episode comes up and POW, your favourite character just switched. Lost has a diverse cast, from how they’re written and how they are acted and portrayed. I have previously written about how impressive Sayid is as a character, but it bears repeating: here is a show that debuted in 2004 and somehow, someway, through a miracle, you have a Muslim, ex-Republican Guard from Iraq, who not only provokes understanding in the viewer, but who changes the way they view “the other”. Lost is full of moments like this.
When you hear the nonsense expressed by some angry comic book fans about “forced” diversity being an oppressive and creatively unsatisfying thing, you think of Lost. Here is a show with a character for everyone, who are always complex, who are almost never stereotypes. Diversity – not just in terms of gender, sexuality and sense of morality – is one of the biggest advantages you can give yourself as a writer. By being able to draw from almost every kind of person, you raise your show above your own little view on the world, into something truly great and worthy of being emulated. I learned how to be accepting of other people’s beliefs, politically, morally and spiritually, by watching Lost. When Lost ended, I was overwhelmed by the way it injected your brain with pure joy and hope and a feeling of safety that the best dreams can achieve. Watching Lost is like having my father back in my life. After he died last year on St. Patrick’s Day, I watched Lost from start to finish with my mother. There are so many ways that it made me feel closer to him, but the main ones were around Jack’s beautiful struggle with accepting that life is not quite as simple as he thought it was. When Jack comes to terms with his life and those whom he loves, I feel like I have.
If you want to get a taste for why Lost is such an amazing show, have a watch of these ten episodes, which will hopefully encourage you to check out more.
1. Pilot – Season One
2. Walkabout – Season One
3. Man of Science, Man of Faith – Season Two
4. Live Together, Die Alone – Season Two
5. Greatest Hits – Season Three
6. Through the Looking Glass – Season Three
7. The Constant – Season Four
8. The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham – Season Five
9. The Incident – Season Five
10. The End – Season Six