Six years later, still ‘LOST’

May 22, 2010

Originally Published in The Michigan Daily

This final season of “Lost” has been like a playground of wild memories, and Sunday night is “The End” – that is, the series finale. Those who know the show, who have had the patience to keep up with its questions, twists and turns, know that “Lost” is all about repetition. It’s in the connections between past, present, future and alternate realities that “Lost” shows its sensitivity, and viewers’ unique omniscience is the only comfort against the onscreen misery.

No summary of the series could adequately represent it. Nor could one ever hope to recount the impact of “Lost” across its fan base, and across television in general. The best I can hope to do is look back on what it has meant to me — something I would usually resist broadcasting, if not for the hope that it will help other fans relate and hold together in solidarity as “Lost” goes off the air.

Not many shows offer the creative consistency that “Lost” has sustained. While its creators have changed the structure from season to season, the show has stayed rather continuous on a narrative and visual level. Part of this is the ensemble cast, which was delicately selected for a tangible chemistry.

The lead actors — Matthew Fox, Evangeline Lilly, Josh Holloway, Terry O’Quinn and Jorge Garcia, to name a few — have been supplemented by some of the most intriguing supporting performances of the past decade, like Michael Emerson’s portrayal of manipulative island leader Ben.

But it’s all very self-important, isn’t it? Yes, yes it is. It’s just a show, and with all the tricks that broadcasting companies engineer to gain ratings on television, it’s right to be somewhat skeptical.

“Lost” is a rebel show. It doesn’t ascribe to any code of primetime television — it doesn’t wash over the unengaged or numbly entertain the vacant stare. It’s a show that, while shrouded under the grittiness of pure action and adventure, relies entirely on the audience and its loyalty. Its interconnections and manipulation of time have twisted the show to astounding complexity, and many of the questions posed throughout its run are unlikely to ever be resolved.

It’s no surprise, then, that season after season the show has inadvertently cast off many casual fans while solidifying its relationship with the most die-hard viewers.

I like to think I’m of the latter category. I was there at the beginning, wondering along with so many others, “How long can this really last?” Excluding “Gilligan’s Island,” the concept of castaways on an island seemed intuitively more cinematic than serial-like. Realistically, survivors from a plane crash would soon be rescued, and thus, the series would end.

Obviously, ABC had invested a good amount in the series, but TV audiences are fickle, neglectful beings. I expected two seasons, max.

That was before I fully understood the title. “Lost” isn’t about an island, but about the strangers who find themselves thrust upon it, each of them lost in their own way. The show has never been especially comfortable staying on the island; it’s as if the characters’ desire to escape is manifest in the wide scope we have on their histories. Every action, every obsession and every anxiety a character displays is clarified by his or her past. And so we are continually reminded of the effects each passing day can have on our own character.

I can feel “Lost” all the time. Its moments have embedded themselves in mine.

I get ginger ale on a plane, hold the cup over the armrest and imagine myself with a beard and a nervous tremor in my hand.

I see a keypad and I want to type in the 19-button tune to “Good Vibrations.”

I look through a round window and picture a man’s face popping up in front of it, the sad but true “NOT PENNY’S BOAT” scrawled across his hand.

If I find myself in a downpour, I envision myself alone, astray and clutching to a branch in the jungle while counting “1 … 2 … 3 … 4 … 5.”

And now, whenever I’m underwater, I’ll imagine lovers’ hands, once held tight together, slip apart in the depths of the ocean as they finally separate, drowned. “Lost” is about accepting that pain over numbness.

For me, “Lost” has run through high school and half of college, once a week, ironically saving me from the same feeling of dislocation I would witness onscreen time and time again. It has fulfilled the need for a constant, an ongoing narrative that every week connects me back to my former self, watching from the same couch years ago.

I’ve seen it all. And I’m happy to have survived thus far. In writing this before Sunday’s series finale, though, I have no idea how the end of “Lost” will leave me. I’ll be profoundly sad for the characters, most likely, but at the same time proud to have come this far with them and to have experienced a work of such grand scale in its entirety.

In return for my patience, though, I’m asking “Lost” for one more thing:

Freeze me to my seat.

Give me one more moment — the kind of moment when the silence takes over and the power of the screen is fully perceptible. Connect it all together, one last time. My eyes will go wide and I won’t move a muscle. I promise I won’t look away.

Thanks, “Lost.” See you in another life, yeah?

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