On TV: Question: Did I Not Like "Lost"?

For our first anniversary in 2008, my wife bought us the first season of Lost on DVD.  At that point, the show was in its fourth season and I wasn't interested.  But my wife had seen the first two seasons and insisted that I would be hooked, and after four or five episodes, I was.  From then onward, I watched the series in its entirety, right up until the finale just a few months ago, thoroughly caught up in the plot's many layers and twists.  For quite awhile, Lost made television fun again.  It had been a long time since I'd followed a show that closely.  Several good friends liked the show, too, and theorizing about Lost became a shared pastime.

During the sixth and final season, I had developed some ideas about the show and how it would end.  Those ideas turned out to be nonsense.  The show ended after a series of four or five episodes that demystified the show's mythology to such an extent that it was rendered inert.  The episode about Jacob and the Man in Black as children almost ruined the entire season by itself.  The final two episodes, too, were weak-kneed in terms of their ability to maintain a high level of plausibility within the increasingly fantastic world of the show.  Specifically, the resolution of the final season's parallel universe was cowardly.  I had always been suspicious of the show's occasional reliance upon Christian allegory, and the final episode verified those suspicions at the same time that it tore down the promise of the entire series.  (It's not the "Christianity" that bothered me, it was the allegory, a lazy way to deliver messages that are usually more interesting and memorable when expressed in unique ways.)

Still, although I felt that the finale did not do the series justice, the end of the series left me feeling positive on balance.  It had been an extraordinarily entertaining show and I allowed for the great difficulty that must have been endured by the show's creators and writers to maintain such a consistently high level of excellence.

Now, four months after the show's conclusion, I find myself reflecting on it with a strangely altered perspective.  I can't pinpoint when, why, or how the change occurred.  But when I think about Lost now, I think of a silly program that never understood what it was about.  I think of a show that, in its final season, rolled over for its fan base rather than staying true to its own thematic and stylistic nature.  I think of characters and actors who weren't necessarily likable (with several significant exceptions).  I think of a show whose desire to shock and misdirect outweighed its ability to maintain thematic cohesion.

Above all is the disappointment I feel over the last third of the show's final season, which comprises a group of episodes that suddenly and retroactively sapped all of the interest from the seemingly unstoppable momentum of everything in the preceding five-and-a-half seasons.  These last episodes' pacing was off; characters behaved jerkily (especially Ben); the unexpected started to feel unwelcome, as what I perceived as the show's "natural" resolution was agonizingly twisted from its hard sci-fi origins into a quasi-religious parable.

While watching the final season, I imagined that, once the show was complete, going back and watching it all over again would be an even richer experience, and that I'd be able to identify new clues and information in the earlier seasons that only really began to resonate in the later ones.  Now, I feel the opposite: that the earlier seasons were richer to begin with, and that their impact upon re-watching them will be weakened by the soft, mealy-mouthed resolutions offered by the sixth.  Maybe at some point in the future I'll want to revisit Lost again from the beginning.  For now, however, the show remains a object lesson for storytellers about the dangers of ungovernable expectations and the risks of establishing a mythology without knowing exactly where its roots lie.

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