It’s a Little Hard to Let Go
6 Years of Lost
To say that Lost was the best show on television for its six-season run is fairly debatable. With the JJ Abrams-produced series sharing nights with such heavy-hitters as The Wire and The Shield, that’s a tough sell even for the most devoted of fans. But what isn’t arguable is that Lost was easily the most ambitious show of its time. Nowhere else would you find this particular brew of cliffhangers, reboots and indulgent character development mixing it up with time travel, weird science and the logistics of island living. As far as ensemble dramas go, Lost was on a level all its own.
Its unique approach to storytelling was ironically the same thing that turned off a lot of potential fans early on. Instead of telling you what you wanted to know, Lost drew out a complex mind maze, leaving tantalizing clues that often led to simply more questions. For the devoted fans, this was the show’s biggest draw. Lost was about never getting what you expected, and constantly being surprised by the direction the show was taking. This was no small feat when you consider that the entire run was over a hundred episodes long. Like a good Radiohead album, the show was a constant rejection of the status quo … sometimes even the status quo that the show itself had propagated.
As someone who has watched Lost since it first debuted in 2004, I’ve gone through the stomach-butterflies pain of waiting for each new episode to break on a weekly basis. These are some of my favorites (obviously, there will be spoilers).
Walkabout (Season 1, Episode 4)
In which we are introduced to John Locke, and the Lost writers show M. Night Shyamalan how to write a twist ending. This was the episode that made me a fan, and is on my list of single best TV episodes of all-time. (Others on this list: Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose, Making a Stand and The Culling.)
Orientation (Season 2, Episode 3)
In which the hitherto-unknown Eko lays the beatdown on Jin, Sawyer and Michael, and the infamous numbers become central to the show’s mythology as Desmond passes on his button-pressing duties to Locke and Jack.
The Long Con (Season 2, Episode 13)
There’s a new sheriff in town, boys. This was the episode that triggered the popular quip amongst fans: “Once you go Sawyer, you never go Jack.”
The Man Behind the Curtain (Season 3, Episode 20)
In which we meet the young Benjamin Linus as he is fostered into the island’s leadership position. Ben is my favorite Lost character and the way this episode tracks his growth into a masterful manipulator/insecure whelp is mesmerizing. It’s widely agreed that Lost … well, lost its way during its third season (hey, Nikki and Paulo)), but they certainly got it together in time for the finale.
Through the Looking Glass (Season 3, Episode 23)
Meta twist episode! Lost pulls a long con on its viewers by showing us what we believed to be a confusing flashback, but what turned out to be a flash-forward instead. (Years later, ABC would attempt to do a whole show based solely on this concept.) Meanwhile, they kill off a main character while simultaneously laying the groundwork for the final half of the show. Possibly the best season finale of any show ever produced.
The Constant (Season 4, Episode 5)
The fan-favorite time travel episode, in which the Lost writers pull a Slaughterhouse Five quasi-tribute that would’ve made Vonnegut proud. Mindbendingly paced and emotionally powerful, this episode along with Season 1’s “Walkabout” represented Lost at its absolute best.
The Shape of Things to Come (Season 4, Episode 9)
In terms of plot advancement, it’s hard to beat this episode. Ben Linus teleports to Tunisia, flash-forward-style. Mercenaries kill Alex. The rivalry between Ben and Charles Widmore is fleshed out wonderfully as a decades-long struggle for control of the Island.
Happily Ever After (Season 6, Episode 11)
Season 6 was, in many ways, a very long epilogue to a show that was constantly screwing with its fans’ perceptions and expectations. Episode 11 was the turning point that hinted at Desmond Hume’s final contribution to the show and its characters, as being the only person apparently impervious to the effects of … well, even death itself.
And That Final Episode
Lost’s series finale was quite possibly the most divisive episode ever aired on network television, in that fans were either severely disappointed or tearfully emotional. The explanations for season six have been widely written up at this point so I won’t go into the details here, but I will say that I enjoyed it quite a bit. It wasn’t a perfect episode – it didn’t hit the creative highs of “Walkabout” or “The Constant” – but I felt that it was very much like the show producers were writing a protracted love letter to the characters that they were leaving behind. I particularly loved how the dialogue was so sharp at this point that they managed to explain the entire season in just four lines exchanged between Jack and his estranged father.
Lost has never been an easy show to watch; it alternately tests your patience and confuses the crap out of you. Occasionally, it leaves your jaw on the floor, right before smash-cutting to the end titles. It’s hard to imagine another show ever being quite like it (although people are certainly trying), and maybe there shouldn’t be. It took Jack Shephard a whole season before he was ready to let go; I might take even longer.