WARNING: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!
“Lost” has come a long way in four years.
What started as a show about a group of plane-crash survivors living on a funky island in the South Pacific has turned into a time-hopping pseudo-sf series about fate vs. free will, with a smoke monster and some polar bears thrown in for good measure.
Part of the show’s initial charm was its storytelling technique of featuring character flashbacks throughout each episode. At the end of the third season, the writers turned this concept on its head by introducing “flashforwards” — glimpses into the future where six of the Losties have escaped the island. That’s right, the show that defined itself as “Gilligan’s Island” meets “Twin Peaks” actually moved the story off the island. Okay, only part of it, but it’s a pretty big part. Not everyone left the island, but to confuse things up for the left-behinders, the island is now skipping through time like a needle hopping across a screwy record. Lost yet?
So it begs the question: Is “Lost” still “Lost” if part of the story is set off the island?
I say yes. Why? Because even though the show is set on an island, that’s not what it’s really about. If it was, the producers would have called the show “The Island.” They called it “Lost” because not only are the characters lost on a mysterious island, they’re also lost in their lives. Deep, eh? But it’s true. Jack the spinal surgeon seems like a rock, until you put him in a leadership role or ask him about his daddy. Kate? Please. That girl runs away so fast from her problems she could compete in the Olympics. Sawyer? He took the name of a con man responsible for the death of his parents and ended up becoming a con man himself. Yeah, he’s clearly got it together.
Same goes for the rest of the Losties. They were lost long before they hopped onto Oceanic 815. And even though Jack, Kate, Sayid, Sun, Hurley and Aaron managed to leave the island, they are all still lost. They may have gotten fat settlements from Oceanic, and they may be bigger celebrities now than Brangelina, but none of them are happy in their respective lives. Sun wants revenge for the death of her husband. Kate, the born runner, is forced to stay put and raise a child that isn’t her own. Hurley, unable to live with the lie they’re forced to live, puts himself back in the psych ward. Sayid finds his lost love, Nadia, loses her, and allows himself to be recruited as an assassin for Ben. And Jack, the one who wanted to leave the island more than anyone, becomes an alcoholic and a drug addict who wants nothing more than to go back (“We have to go BAAACK!”). Leaving the island was clearly a smart move for all involved.
I haven’t even mentioned the other people who left the island. Michael? Dead. Walt? Left fatherless — and he doesn’t even know it yet! Desmond? Living on the run (sure, he’s got Penny and Charlie, but it’s not exactly a stable life with Ben and Widmore hunting them).
The show may have moved back to civilization, but the island hasn’t relinquished its hold on those who left. Jack, Michael, Desmond and the rest can take off to Los Angeles or New York or Edinburgh, but the island remains a powerful presence in their lives. They might think they’ve found happiness, but they’re still lost, and the island is there to remind them of that fact.
They’ve still got work to do.
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