TV: The Communal Redemption of LOST

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in TV

Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t seen Sunday’s LOST season finale yet, beware.

My personal journey with LOST began 5 years ago. I was not sufficiently intrigued by the show’s previews to bother watching the series premier. A few episodes into the first season the buzz was undeniable, and many of my friends began telling me how great the show was. I was too late to get on board with the first season (remember these were the pre-Hulu days, or pre-YouTube for that matter), so I patiently waited for the first season to end and the DVD to come out.

When it finally did, I spent about three days in front of the television absorbing the show. What I discovered was something that I had never found before in a television show — depth. The show was layered with philosophy, literary references, drama, action, mystery and, most importantly, questions. Not only questions about the mysterious monster, or would Kate choose Sawyer or Jack, but questions about life, love, free will, destiny, and the very nature of human existence.

I was eventually able to get my family hooked on the show as well, mostly as they passed through the living room and became intrigued with what I was watching. Watching LOST became a family event. Every week we would watch the show on our DVR, pausing often to offer our theories and discuss what was going on. Watching LOST became my favorite part of the week. I began listening to LOST podcasts and following LOST blogs (my geekery knows no bounds) — and the community, the discussion, became as fun and as essential as the show itself.

For five years, that was how I experienced LOST — not on an individual basis, but on a communal one. Sure there were weeks when I watched the show alone, but more often than not I was watching it with people. When I watched it alone, discussion with fellow fans of the show would surely follow. To truly enjoy LOST, to truly experience it, the discussion was needed, the community was needed, interaction was needed, the people were needed.

At the end of the night, did LOST answer all of our burning questions, like why was Walt special, who built the four-toed statue, and what was up with Libby? No. The answers to these questions will surely be discussed for years to come amongst fans of the show. As a narrative, however, the show finished what it had started and offered resolution to the characters. However, at the end of the day, the show’s greatest accomplishment is in the communal experience it created.

From its premier, LOST had delved into many themes — death, love, good and evil, and redemption. But since the very beginning, the show’s unofficial mantra has been “Live together or die alone.” Throughout the show, we have been shown that individually the collective cast of characters were a group of failures, murderers, and generally maladjusted people. Yet when working together, when in unison, the characters were able to overcome their pasts and become better people.

In the ultimate moments of the finale, we find that the alternate reality depicted in the final season was, in fact, a place created so that the characters could find each other after death. We are told that the most important moments of the characters’ lives were spent together, and that they needed each other in order to move on to the next life. Throughout the episode, we see the characters find each other — and find true happiness.

On Sunday, I gathered with some of my good friends to watch the last two-and-a-half hours of LOST. The last few hours of the show passed much as the previous 120 hours had — there was laughter, some tears, and a lot of discussion. As much as we tried to be silent and take in the finale, we couldn’t help but pause the DVR every so often to throw out predictions, theories, and questions. As the episode finished we all sat around discussing the finale, our reactions, theories, and impressions.

I sat listening to the conversation and realized that, while there were questions left unanswered, LOST, by both its narrative and its very nature, had indeed answered the most important question of all — What was the show really about? The answer was there all along — in our weekly LOST nights, long discussions, message boards, and podcasts. The answer was that people need people. We were just too busy talking to each other about the smoke monster to see it.

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  • Derrick Clements

    You are a genius. This is exactly right.