11 Observations From Rewatching Most Of Lost

Lost/ABC

On a whim a couple of months ago, I decided to start rewatching Lost, a show about people on an island eating fish biscuits for nourishment. Sadly, ABC pulled it from Netflix today, choosing instead to put it all on Hulu. But I got through most of it, and I have a lot of thoughts.

Here are some observations from rewatching most of Lost for the first time since it all aired.

1. Season 1 of LOST is still some of the best television I've seen.

From "Walkabout" to "Numbers," the first season of Lost has some real gems. The pilot is a master-class in gradually introducing the viewer to a very large cast of characters, hinting at some of their quirks just enough to be enticing. And then each subsequent episode brilliantly stitches together the histories of each character -- hey, look, they all have daddy issues! -- with the mundane realities of trying to survive on a (seemingly) deserted island. Lost would eventually delve into time travel, metaphysics, and convoluted supernatural wars, but in season one, it was just a show about flawed people trying to hunt for boar. And it was really, really great.

2. It's less frustrating when you're binging. 

There was something special about the experience of watching Lost live, something that I'm glad was such a huge part of my life between 2005 and 2010. I have tons of fond memories of watching key moments and debating them not just with friends but with total strangers. Because Lost unfolded in such a tantalising way, ending almost every hour with a cliffhanger and often alternating between groups of characters from episode to episode, waiting a week between each show could be brutal. By binge-watching it, you don't get the same sort of cultural conversation, but at least you don't have to wait 9 months just to see what happens when they move the island.

3. The Ben/Widmore conflict is a mess.

In season 4 episode 9, "The Shape Of Things To Come," Ben Linus and Charles Widmore have a delightful exchange in which it's revealed that the two have been rivals for a very long time. At this point we knew that the show would end in six seasons, and as the title promised, this showdown seemed to be to be setting up the endgame for Lost. At one point, Ben says that it would be "against the rules" for him to kill Widmore now, which was an enticing hint at their bigger-picture conflict. Instead, Ben says, he vows to kill Widmore's daughter, in revenge for Widmore's mercenaries murdering his own daughter.

And then... it all went nowhere. Not only were these "rules" never explained, the Ben/Widmore conflict never really materialised. Throughout season 5, neither Ben's nor Widmore's motivations were ever made clear. Why does Widmore send a man to guide John Locke across the world to help his friends get back to the island? Why does Ben then kill that man? Why does Widmore send someone to kill Sayid's wife, Nadya? Who exactly did Ben spend three years sending Sayid around the world to murder? What were their plans?

Lost's endgame ultimately focused on the Man in Black, aka the smoke monster, aka Fake John Locke, which left the Ben-Widmore conflict unresolved.

4. There are a LOT of plot holes.

Although the creators of Lost had always maintained that they knew the answers to a lot of big questions, there are a few ongoing mysteries that, when looked at holistically, make no sense. The biggest is Christian Shephard, Jack's dead father, who began appearing on the island as early as season 1. In season 6, it's revealed that all of Christian's appearances have in fact been the Man in Black, aka the Smoke Monster, who can take on the form of any dead person. But rewatching the show with that in mind leaves a lot of questions unanswered. How and why did Christian appear on the freighter to say "You can go now" when Michael exploded in the season 4 finale? Why did Christian guide Locke into turning the frozen wheel and ending the time skips in season 5, and why did he tell Locke to say hi to his son? We'll never know.

5. Some unresolved plot lines are worse than others.

The most glaring and obvious problem with Lost is Walt, who was written out of the show because his actor grew up too quickly. Walt left us with a ton of questions. Perhaps the biggest: How and why did he appear to an injured Locke at the end of season 3 and tell him to go murder Naomi?

I don't care that much that we never found out why Libby was in a mental institution -- a big cliffhanger at the end of season 2 episode 18, "Dave" -- or who shot at the outriggers in season 5 episode 4, "The Little Prince." But it does bother me that Lost bailed on key character storylines, like Ben's childhood girlfriend, Annie, who was introduced in season 3 as a pivotal part of the Others' leader's life, then never seen again. In season 4 episode 6, "The Other Woman," a character remarks that Juliet reminds Ben of "her" -- presumably Annie -- and Ben's relationship with Juliet is also explored in some chilling ways, as we learn that he thinks she belongs to him. But that, too, is never brought up again.

It's also never made clear why the Others put so much effort into pretending to look primitive, even going as far as to create a fake village, or why they spent so much time making lists. We always knew that Lost wouldn't give answers to all of its lingering mysteries, but upon a rewatch, some are more blatant than others.

6. The show contains a lot that exists solely to mislead viewers.

In Season 4, episode 7, "Ji Yeon," we get to see a bunch of off-island scenes involving Sun and Jin. At this point, we know that some of the Losties made it off the island, but we don't know exactly who. Sun's scenes are clearly part of a flashforward, as she goes into labour and gives birth to the baby she conceived on the island. Jin's scenes involve him buying a giant panda bear and delivering it to a hospital as a gift for a newborn baby, which is meant to deceive us into thinking that he also made it off the island. But no, it turns out that his scenes are part of a flashback -- "I've only been married for two months," Jin says -- and the episode ends with future Sun going to visit Jin's grave, leading us to conclude that he died before they could escape.

This is frustrating for a few reasons. First of all, Jin's scenes only exist to be misleading. They don't tell any sort of story or offer any new information about his character, as every other flashback in Lost had done. The only reason they're in the show is to make the viewer think that Jin got off the island with Sun, so the episode can then pull a "gotcha" twist by revealing that his scenes were just part of a flashback, and in fact he's actually dead. But wait! He's not actually dead, as is made obvious in season five. It's all just pointless deception.

Lost does this a lot, especially in its later seasons, and on a rewatch it's even more annoying than it was then. Season 6 is full of these misleading moments -- like when Daniel Faraday starts talking about alternate timelines in the flash-sideways universe -- and they never fail to frustrate.

7. "The Constant" is still one of the best hours of television ever made.

Widely considered the greatest episode that Lost ever put out, "The Constant" tells a time-bending story of the love between two fantastic characters, Desmond Hume and Penelope Widmore. If you can watch this final scene without tearing up, you are colder than me:

8. Some of Lost's plot twists remain brilliant.

Perhaps the best example of Lost's genius storytelling comes in the season 2 finale, "Live Together, Die Alone." Giving us our first look at Desmond's fascinating past, this episode felt like a feature film, offering tense action (where are the Others coming from?), satisfying answers (so THAT'S why Locke saw that beam of light), and interesting mysteries (a four-toed statue??). But my favourite part was the revelation that Desmond failing to push the button -- one of season 2's biggest storylines -- is what caused Oceanic flight 815 to crash.

And of course, there's "We have to go back," the gut-wrenching ending to season 3. I still remember exactly where I was when we found out that Jack's dark flashbacks in "Through The Looking Glass" were actually flashforwards. It blew my friggin' mind.

9. Sayid was ruined.

Sayid Jarrah, the former Iraqi torturer and gadget genius, was always one of my favourite characters in Lost. It's a shame that season 6 absolutely destroyed him, with a storyline about him losing his mind, dying, and apparently coming back to life only to fail to do much of anything before he died again. And then, in the afterlife, rather than reuniting with his true love Nadya, he winds up with the show's most insufferable character, Shannon, for whom he had an inexplicable crush. Ugh.

10. It's best not to think much about season 3.

Much has been written about "Stranger In A Strange Land," the atrocious episode in which Jack goes to Thailand and gets tattoos, and it's safe to say that was the worst hour that Lost ever did. But, honestly, the rest of season 3 wasn't much better. It started off slowly, with a six-episode run that mostly focused on Jack, Kate, and Sawyer being imprisoned by the Others, and then took quite some time before it regained momentum. (It didn't help that those six episodes aired in November 2006 and then we had to wait until February 2007 for the rest.) Middling, forgettable episodes like "Enter 77" and "Par Avion" made for a slow, drawn-out season that ultimately helped showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse convince ABC to give them an end date.

11. Lost is great because it's a show about love.

Forget the smoke monster. Don't worry about the polar bears. Lost, at its core, has always been a show about people falling in love with one another. It was fun to debate the mythology and mysteries, theorizing about how electromagnetism prevented babies from being born on the island, but Lost was a great television show because it focused on the people making those babies in the first place. Across six seasons, the show's anchor was never Dharma, or Jacob, or that weird Allison Janney character. It was Desmond and Penny. Jack and Kate. Sawyer and Kate. Sawyer and Ana Lucia. Sawyer and Cassidy. Sawyer and Juliet. Lost was an exploration of screwed-up people falling in love, and that, more than anything, is why it still holds up.


Comments

    I might just give it another go sometime. Not prison break though. That one is done.

    edit - Oh, it's pulled from Netflix? No then.

    Last edited 08/01/18 1:23 pm

      It's still on the Australian Netflix. Only pulled from the US version. Jason Schreier writes for the US Kotaku website.

    I just can't do Lost. The meta-physics and "Let's write ourselves into several holes!" format just gives me constant poobrain. I tried, man! I really did. But it's just not as clever as it made itself out to be.

    I've always loved the Constant episode, easily my favourite.

    My advice to people watching Lost has always been to ignore the first 3 seasons, which imo have a lot of boring walking up and down the island, and start with season 4, which starts with a great "story so far" episode making it a perfect jumping off point for people more interested in the scifi/fantasy bent of Lost.

    A Lost article in 2018?! Thank You.

    So many good points!
    Sayid got screwed and for that matter Claire too. It's like they felt a need to show the corruption of the MiB as an actual thing.

    The Constant is perfect but my Desmond bias might be showing.

    I think the explanation for the Others having primitive villages is that they were already there. The Others weren't DHARMA. They killed DHARMA and moved in to their research stations. So using their old outposts as a deception kinda makes sense. Also the lists were like who to bring and recruit iirc

    I'm so glad there are other people who appreciate this show.

    Man, I loved this show when it first started. "Walkabout" is still one of my favourite episodes of any television show, ever. I need to rewatch "The Constant".

    I did end up watching every episode but it became pretty obvious that they were making a lot of shit up on the fly to pad it out as long as possible, and ended up tripping over themselves too often. I'm really glad we've generally moved away from seasons that last 25 episodes.

    Love this show. I'm glad it remains in the hearts and minds of others.

    I thought they had to have a grand plan. I mean there were some obvious hiccups with things like Mr Eko, but you'd have to be insane to do this sort of mystery driven show without a big picture. They knew full well that fans would hate an 'it was all a dream' ending so they'd never be stupid enough to resort to that.
    Then season six started and it quickly became clear that they weren't even keeping track of the 'mysteries'. They cycled between not important, a wizard did it and no explaination. Then they ended it with technically not a dream but a dream in every significant way.

    I really don't mind red herrings and stuff that doesn't wrap up a hundred percent. I'm not even that against plot holes. I just can't stand the wasted potential this show had.

      Also, how did they not see Walt's age being a problem? They always get let off the hook for that even though the actor was obviously going to be six years older during season six.

      You should listen to the Nerdist interview with the show's creator, he talks about his battle with the network over some of the plot and how he wanted the show to be much much shorter.
      It gives an insight into how some of it went off the rails despite best efforts.

    I've tried a few times to watch Lost but by this point I can't do it. I always get stuck somewhere when the plot gets dull or plain stupid and lose interest. I really liked the first season and the intrigue of the smoke monster and the hatch, but it all got a bit silly after a while.

    I borrowed S1 and S2 dvds and worked my way through enjoying the frustration of being always just beyond any answers (assuming everything would be explained). Then watched the behind the scenes where a writer explained their lack of any planned story arc. Ticked me off. I Couldn't watch any more. Show should have been called "And then I woke up". Spoilt by Bab5.

    I haven't seen any of Lost. I have the Chronologically Lost version where the entire show was edited to show everything that happened in chronological order instead of being all over the place, fat chance I'll ever have the time to watch it but it does sound interesting.

      Don't ever watch it that way.

      Some of the ABSOLUTE BEST moments in this show come from the amazing contrast of the combo present/past, present/future, past/future scenes. That was the show's most unique element and you're just not going to get that experience without it. A lot of stuff actually won't make sense chronologically as you'll have to rely on your memory of seemingly insignificant stuff like a song that was playing for example.

      Say what you want about wasted potential and plot holes, but this show was edited and timelined out to absolute perfection.

    Good article.

    Much of what you talk about was the reasons that made the show so good while also being so damn bad.

    It's true, the start was good, all writers on board, good pacing and consistent hooks.
    Then the writers strike combined with the "twist" being floated early by media and fans meant they spent too much manpower trying to distract and mislead rather than embracing it and working on characters and conclusion.
    Even if many guessed they were dead and in a literal or metaphorical limbo, it wouldn't have mattered if they had concentrated on what they wanted to say within that revelation.

    By the time I walked away I felt like the show was lying to me because it had no damn clue what it was doing anymore.

    'Lost' to me will always be that show that had such potential and ultimately caved in on its own weight. The first 2 seasons are solid gold, but after that it became increasingly clear that the writers didn't have a clue what they were doing.

    At some point I may rewatch the show. I have been interested in the chronological viewing idea.

    Good article. Lost remains one of my favourite shows despite it's many flaws. Disagree with the binge watching though, I used to love discussing each episode and trying to come up with theories. Just a shame so many of the plot lines went nowhere or were abandoned

    I absolutely Love Lost!! I've watched the entire series 3 times. The first time i watched, I was pregnant with my son and it actually took me my whole pregnancy to watch it ???? about 2 or 3 weeks after i finished watching it is when i had him..so i understood Claire definitely!...it was just intriguing and awesome! I don't know why but i just don't get tired of it..I like the characters, the mystery, the metaphysics, the spiritual aspect..its just a wonderful show ????

    I loved the Constant but my favourite episode, the one that for some reason has always stuck out in my mind, is actually from Season 3 and is not the finale, but the episode before, "Greatest Hits", which basically telegraphed Charlie's death in the next episode and preemptively served as one of the most beautiful obituaries in TV.

    I recently watched the entire series again via Netflix. A few random observations I had were, that it was amazing how good Jack was with a gun for a spinal surgeon; Rose is something of a bitch, especially to Bernard; and it's amazing how much Sun knows about gardening and herbal medicine and babysitting and first-aid for a character who is basically the Korean version of Shannon, a spoiled Daddy's girl princess.

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