10 Years Later: The Best and Worst of LOST
Ten years ago this month, the world found itself divided. The divide was not social nor political but rather one of taste. The subject of that divide? The LOST finale. Was it good? Was it BAD?
Depends on who you ask, really. This isn’t a platform on which I plan on arguing either (even though it was totally good, do not AT ME OKAY). Rather, we’re going to take a look back on the whole shebang.
LOST ran for six seasons and took on everything from island survival to time travel to the human condition. Rarely is TV that ambitious, even when it’s missing more than it’s hitting. Over its entire run, LOST featured a lot to love and a lot to hate. To commemorate the anniversary of the show’s ending, let’s talk about the most memorable aspects of both.
BEST: THE PILOT
No, not the guy Greg Grunberg plays who gets murdered super hard by the Smoke Monster. I’m talking about the pilot episode of the show, which still holds up as maybe the best of all time? It was, way back in 2004 when the show premiered, the most expensive pilot ever filmed, and you can really see that money on the screen. The episode (technically a two-parter) translates the visual language of cinema to the small screen for what was, at the time, the first time it had been done for many viewers.
It introduces the primary cast effectively and efficiently, creating a number of short-term stories it can solve quickly (the issue of immediate survival after the crash) and long-term ones (the question of where the hell these survivors even are). Even if you’ve seen it a dozen times it just remains this infinitely effective and rewatchable episode of television, the kind that even those who aren’t fans of what would follow can’t deny.
The show gets off to this absolutely killer start in its first season and then starts to falter and lag a bit around the second and third (especially the third, yeesh). Neither season is outwardly bad, but there’s a ton of filler that hasn’t aged super well now that the show has fully wrapped up – seriously, none of us needed to know where Jack’s tattoo came from.
In retrospect, the issue is one that rarely seems to exist in modern television – the showrunners didn’t know how much longer they had to keep the story going. LOST is a show with a very definitive ending that had clearly been in mind since episode one, but back in the early aughts, a show couldn’t really be pitched with a definitive number of seasons the way it can now. Once the show was given an end date in 2007, the story became significantly more focused.
BEST: JOHN LOCKE AND BEN LINUS
Look, any given day of the week I probably have a different favorite character from this show but if we’re talking objectively, LOST’s greatest contribution to the television canon is probably these guys. Locke and Ben are fantastically complex characters who are so very much cut from the same cloth. Their desire to do good is clouded by their desire to be seen, to be respected, and feel needed. That clouding leads them to stray from the path of good at times and become the very evil they seek to strike down.
While Ben’s arc revolves a bit more directly around the desire to do good being warped into evil action, Locke’s is tragic. Locke is a man of absolute conviction, a man of faith in destiny, in fate, in some invisible force guiding us all towards where we need to be. His journey tests that belief in ways that remain utterly devastating to watch play out. While his journey ends in the dark, it’s his effect on Jack that ultimately redeems him in the final battle between the darkness and light.
WORST: THE REVOLVING DOOR CASTING PROCESS
In terms of characters, it’d be VERY easy to just talk about how unlikeable Nikki and Paolo are, but that’s well-trodden ground at this point. Instead, the strange casting cycle that was so drastically detrimental the second and third seasons is worth pointing out (and hey, it technically involves those two anyway).
Due to some issues in the personal lives of cast members (and some poor planning around Walt’s casting), a number of characters either make exits from the show that feel bizarre (Michael) or abrupt and premature (Ana Lucia and Libby). It makes the time we spend with those characters feel wasted in retrospect, doubly so with Nikki and Paolo (at least Ana Lucia and Libby are, you know, interesting characters).
The show improves drastically around the fourth season when every cast member’s place feels far more solid, and the aforementioned abrupt exits due to personal matters or poor planning on the parts of the casting directors/writer’s room aren’t an issue anymore.
BEST: THE CONSTANT
Season 4, Episode 5. The Constant. Need I say more? It’s not only the high point of the series but was recently named the best episode of television of the century by the folks over at The Ringer.
Can you argue with them? It captures everything great about the show in a single episode, deftly blending the twisty, thrilling science fiction mechanics that made the show such a hotbed for speculation and dissection with the raw empathy the writers display through the way they build these characters.
If you can watch the final phone call between Desmond and Penny without shedding a tear, you might not have a soul.
WORST: THE ANSWERS
Okay, yeah, I like the finale. I do. I really do. I like the finale for where it leaves the characters and they’re why I loved the show to begin with.
But I’ll admit it: the answers it provides are kinda whack. It largely comes down to Season 6, Episode 15: Across the Sea. This is the episode that provides the most “concrete” answers as to what the Island’s whole deal is and, hoo boy, it kinda whiffs it.
To be fair, expectations for the show’s endgame were definitely astronomical, so high that whatever answers they gave would inevitably disappoint the audience on some level or another. Still, what we got was pretty grim and left plenty of other pressing questions unanswered.
So yes, the LOST finale is Good, Actually. But I’m not exactly looking to throw down with anyone who just wanted to know where those damn polar bears came from.
What did you think of the LOST finale? Have you spent the last 10 years wondering how it could have gone differently? Let Your Geek Sideshow and tell us in the comments!