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Lost’ and Found?

Tae Kang | Thursday, January 31, 2008

Tonight the best show on television returns after an eight-month hiatus. Having contacted a freighter 80 miles offshore from their island, it seems that the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 will finally be rescued and be allowed to return home, whether that be Sydney or Los Angeles. But this is “Lost” and only a fresh set of mysteries and challenges await our characters.

From the intense first minutes of seeing the aftermath of the plane crash onward, “Lost” has always been a show that has pushed the boundaries of our imagination and expanded its mythology. It taught us that “even heroes have secrets.” It has inspired conversations about the significance of numbers (4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42), polar bears, and ultimately, “Where are these people?” The show has changed the landscape of television. If you’re watching a show about a multi-ethnic cast with superpowers who are seemingly all connected, thank “Lost.” If you’re downloading your favorite episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” on iTunes, thank “Lost.” If you’re watching “The Office” online, thank “Lost.” The show about the incredibly flawed survivors on an island who come into contact with giant smoke monsters and mysterious figures named Jacob most likely did whatever your favorite show is doing first.

Despite winning an Emmy for its first season, “Lost” came under fire especially in the third season by critics and fans alike. Season 3 focused greatly on The Others, especially the manipulative Ben and love-torn Juliet and this took screen time away from fan favorites like Hurley and Locke. Also, the decision to air the first six-episodes long before the last 16 episodes was a controversial one. Some felt the creators had no plan for the storyline and only answered questions with more questions.

With this, the producers announced the show would end after three more seasons and they began to satisfy many a quenching mystery. In the latter half of Season 3, “Lost” regained its original form and began to show quality episodes, one after another. This culminated with the season finale that shocked and surprised the haters (who took back their harsh words about their show) and completely changed the story-telling narrative of the series.

While “Lost” excites viewers with cliffhangers and intrigues them with mysteries and philosophical dilemmas, it is ultimately the characters and flashbacks that are the heart of the show. Their dilemmas on and off the island and inner-demons drive the show forward. From the heroin-addled former rock star to the Korean couple to the former torturer for the Iraqi Republican Guard, it is the depth of the characters that navigates “Lost.” The viewers see that heroes are not always so perfect and villains are not always so clear-cut.

With Season 3’s thrilling conclusion, there lies the whole new mystery of who the people are on the freighter and the promises that these new characters are even more frightening and dangerous than The Others.

The producers have compared each season to a chapter of a novel, which they unwrap and tell. I compare it to a five-course meal at a fine restaurant. The procedural shows like “Law and Order” or “reality” TV shows are like a Happy Meal at McDonald’s compared to “Lost.” They fill a basic need, but go no further and are not truly satisfying. No other show is as complex, deep, and intense as “Lost.” It is ultimately a tale of survival and suffering, pain and redemption of the human experience. Live together, die alone.

Contact Tae Kang at tkang@nd.edu