“I’ve looked into the eye of this island, and what I saw was beautiful.”
— John Locke
It’s never been just about an island.
It’s about freewill vs. predestination, good vs. evil, black vs. white, love vs. war. It’s about polar bears and smoke monsters and time travel and alternate realities and nuclear bombs and constants and numbers.
It’s even about The Island.
Since watching the series debut on Sept. 22, 2004, I would eagerly await the next week’s episode, wanting (sometimes desperately) to find out what happens next to this seemingly random collection of people who are dealing with things, both natural and supernatural, far above their heads.
More often than not, the show itself floated above my head, never more so than in Season 4 when the time travel aspect made my head hurt as much as Charlotte’s, although I had significantly fewer nosebleeds. That season marked a turning point for many fans, as they thought the show had jumped the shark, when in reality, it had done nothing more than turn a donkey wheel.
To those who abandoned hope, I tell you this: you made a mistake. You gave up on these characters, some of whom have reached the level of Best in Television History (I’m thinking of you John Locke; you’ve become a legend). New bonds were formed, old partnerships were broken and the show itself launched down the path toward a finale that, for better or worse, comes to a conclusion Sunday, May 23.
I actually feel sorry for Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, the show’s guiding forces, because obsessive fans (this writer included) have lifted expectations to a point so high that it’s likely impossible to reach a satisfactory conclusion. Too many threads will probably be left hanging, too many mysteries unresolved, too many questions unanswered.
They’ve always come through, though. Even during Season 3, when the storytelling seemed to venture off without any sort of strong narrative direction and I threatened to give up on the show entirely, I always came back around and kept watching. For the friends who helped shepherd me to that point, I say thanks.
And so, here we are, ready for the finale, ready to see where they take us. When it comes to Lost, I am a man of faith.
Many, though, are men of science. They demand answers. They want to know every detail behind the island. The characters are less important than the hows and whys of the plot.
This doesn’t mean they’re right or wrong, anymore than Jack Shephard (the original man of science) was right or wrong than John Locke (the original man of faith). It’s just two different viewpoints to the same thing.
I argue, though, that those who fall into the “faith” category are more likely to be long-time viewers, those accustomed to watching one episode per week, then waiting a full seven days before catching the latest in the series. In this time, we had time to dissect every word, every action. We talked about these people like they were our family members. We cared about them, their lives, their choices, their fates.
“The character arcs are more important,” said John Whitlock, who caught Season 1 on DVD and then followed the rest of the series as it originally aired. “Finding out the mythology of the Island is secondary and probably won’t be answered to anyone’s total satisfaction.”
Carrie Smith, a viewer since the original Sept. 22, 2004, air date, agreed.
“On the evening of May 23, I want to turn off the TV believing that these characters are happy and content in wherever their lives have ended up,” she told me. “Although I do love answers, part of the fun is wondering about them and conjecturing up my own answers.”
Viewers of “science,” it seems, are those who started watching later into the series, catching up on DVD, with many watching five or more episodes at a time as they rushed to get caught up in time for the final season.
“To me, the Island is the main character,” said Cory Graham, who started watching Lost DVDs in January 2010. “The faces we see living on the island have interesting stories and fascinating lives, but they’re all constantly interacting with the overall, main character (which is all around them). I may not remember what happens to Claire in 10 years, but I’ll remember what happened with the Island.”
Last year, I rewatched the entire series on DVD, and one advantage to viewing like this is that you have an easier time catching ties between one episode to another. Things that might be missed (or forgotten) stay fresh in your mind, making it somewhat easier to connect the dots.
The drawback, though, is that less time (if any at all) is spent getting to know about the characters. You don’t get a chance to absorb the emotions of the show. As a result, it’s only natural to find yourself drawn to the mechanics of the plot rather than the heart of the characters.
So, as we near the final two-and-a-half hours of Lost, we have one camp wanting resolution to the characters and another camp wanting answers to the island. My truest hope is that Cuse/Lindelof find a happy middle ground, with a little of both being presented, but I’m bracing myself for at least one side to leave grumbling.
I just hope that one day, those recent (and rushed) viewers take the time to go back and watch it all again, only this time doing it an episode or two at a time to let the full extent of the show sink in. While not everyone will eventually come around to realizing the importance of fully embracing the show’s characters as opposed to the plot, I think more than a few will become men of faith.
After all, even Jack Shephard, that original man of science, eventually became a man of faith.