I've been on the "Lost" bandwagon since day one. I responded immediately to the show's mix of mythology and pathos, and delighted in its old-school embrace of character-driven storytelling. Before the closing credits on the first episode had run, I was on the phone with my little sister, rhapsodizing about the decidedly non-whimsical nature of spooky-dooky island living. She helpfully suggested that I dunk my head in the sink and occupy myself with less challenging material, like a coloring book.
Since that first night in September 2004, I've expended an inordinate amount of mental energy pondering the show's dramatic red herrings and riddle-encrusted enigmas. Three minutes after the pilot aired, I turned to my companion and said, "How completely obvious is it that the as-yet-unseen Smoke Monster is a sooty, ill-tempered embodiment of the not-nice side of a good/evil conflict dating back to ankh-ridden oldentimes?" (I'd put a "spoilers ahead!" warning before that last blast, but really: Even scholars who have written their Ph.D. dissertations on the mutable subtextuality of liturgical Euclidian tropes within "Lost" don't know what's going on anymore.)
In fact, that's my current problem with "Lost." I spend more time trying to make sense of it than I do enjoying it. For "Lost" diehards (and I can't imagine that many casualists have stuck around), thinking and reading about the show has trumped the experience of watching it. Certainly I look forward to my "Lost" fix on Tuesday night. But what I really look forward to is Wednesday morning -- when, with the help of a lot of internet people smarter and funnier than I am, I can start to digest what I'd consumed the prior evening.
Here's how to best enjoy "Lost" nowadays. First, watch the show, preferably in a climate-controlled room without human companionship. Then go to bed, taking pains not to harass your uninterested significant other with "Lost"-fueled ruminations about time travel. Upon waking, brush your teeth and dive in.
Alan Sepinwall, the Springsteen of internet-age TV critics, chimes in first with a column that's equal parts recap and review. By late morning, EW.com's Doc Jensen somehow manages to pump out 8,000 or so words of witty, involved, absurdly allusive analysis, in the process presenting more food for thought than anything in that day's New York Times. Seriously: Does this guy ever sleep? I admire him, and I fear for his well-being.
The sarcastic deconstructions arrive next. The Final Season Of Lost as Seen by Someone Who Has Never Seen Lost appends its not-entirely-wide-eyed commentary with awesome stick-figure illustrations, while the consistently amazing Videogum ought to be given a cabinet-level post in which it is charged with obliterating pop-cultural absurdity. Finally, a few days later, word comes down from above, when the mirthful, deliberately coy "Lost" podcast featuring creators Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse gets beamed into subscribers' iTunes queue. It illuminates while giving nothing away, which is a tricky line to toe.
In short, "Lost" has transcended its medium and then some. Has any television show or flick unpopulated by Hobbits or Yodas taken hold of viewers' imaginations this way? I have to think that I'm not alone in responding as strongly to the supplementary material as to the show itself. ABC likely benefits from this; the intensity of the "Lost" experience almost certainly drives ratings, DVD sales, etc. The minds behind "Lost" figured out early on what many content providers are just now beginning to get: that engaged fans will take whatever you give them and re-process it in ways that will forge a greater experience for everyone involved.
As for the show itself, the first third of its final season has been both good (this week's climactic battle, badass John Locke) and bad (the "I luv U, pa!" mawkishness in most scenes involving Jack Shephard; the show's frustrating tic of "answering" every question with three others). Surprisingly, the latter conversational tactic doesn't play all that well in the real world:
Larry's editor: So, what are you going to be writing about this week?I kid. Muddled "Lost" trumps most everything else in the history of the genre, with the exception of "The Shield" and maybe the mid-aughts HBO dramas. Even as I lament the constant influx of new riddle-talking characters and lobby my congressperson to introduce legislation banning Kate-centric episodes, I remain as intellectually and emotionally invested in "Lost" as I was on day one.
Larry: The writing (googly-eyed stare) ... is on the wall ... (dramatic pause, reflective glance towards the horizon) ... of the TEMPLE!
Larry's editor: Riiiight. Go check in on that delightful Jon Cryer fellow, will you?
For all its frustrating tangents, "Lost" has pulled off bold feats of storytelling and mythology-building that may not even be attempted on television again, much less achieved. Taking the show from where it was in season one (a bunch of pretty people searching for redemption and hair product) to where it is now (a stakes-high battle between godlike entities) ... well, that's as ambitious as it gets. Ultimately, "Lost" will be remembered as one of the medium's towering creative accomplishments.
I still have faith that Cuse, Lindelof, et al. will stick the landing, that the resolution of "Lost" will redeem all the philosophical and metaphysical detours (not to mention enhance future re-re-re-viewings). For now, however, I can't get through the damn thing without the Wednesday-morning quarterbacking. Give me the alternately sage and madcap "Lost" after-parties over the main gala.