Why LOST works so well

There are many people who blog about LOST – every detail, every nuance – and I’m not looking to add onto that gigantic pile.  We all have theories, we all watch for similar and dissimilar reasons.  We are all crazy addicted fans waiting with sweet sadness for the end that’s coming a scant couple of months from now.

What I’m going to write about is what, at its juicy core, makes LOST work so well.  It’s not the first time I’ve reflected on LOST, but it is the first time I can remember writing about it.  It’s not just what it has but what it lacks that makes it so great.

What it has:

The heroes are good, the villains are terrific. Benjamin Linus is one of the greatest fictional villains of all time.  He ranks up there with The Emperor from Star Wars, Khan from Star Trek and Hannibal Lecter.  In fact, I’d have to say that he’s like a combination of all of the best aspects of those characters and more.  The fact that Michael Emerson is such a gifted actor just breathes that much more life into it.

This engine of human evil and selfishness has powered the series since his introduction in the second season.  Ben is the most fun, most human villain I’ve ever seen on television.

It’s educational. You’ll take in more literature, philosophy, history and advanced physics in the course of this show than they offer(ed) in college.  And you’ll actually enjoy learning it.  No, seriously, it’s like a mind-expanding experience but with awesome surprises as an added bonus.

John Locke. On the other end of the spectrum from Ben (well, for the most part), is John Locke, the once-crippled man who lives a life of faith and determination in the face of difficulty.  Terry O’Quinn is so good at playing him, every incarnation of him in fact, that you forget there’s an actor there.  He is a fantastic actor.

Compelling and complex storylines on a scale rarely if ever seen on television. See how long it takes a LOSTie to recall and relate the entire story.  For goodness’ sake, there’s an entire wiki site devoted to the show.  Because none of us can remember it all by ourselves (except a gifted few)!

I also can’t really name another show to you where I’ve gotten so vested in the characters, cared so much about them, that I got giddy with happiness when they got what they wanted or choked back tears when I felt their pain.  And I’m not the only one.  Most fans can tell you at least one episode along the way that took them by surprise and left them awestruck for the catharsis it offered.

The overall universal approach to themes. Whether you’re Catholic, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim or Assorted Category/Other, the show deals with major themes the way all good literature does: in such a way that each audience member carries away the same message but in a way that speaks specifically to them.  That’s refreshing in a TV wasteland of shows where creators and writers have a political axe to grind and so work to divide their audience with ludicrously forced worldviews (I’m looking at you, BSG) instead of presenting the question and letting the audience answer.

What it lacks:

We’ve never had the ‘very special episode’. No episode is considered more important than the last, though we all have favorites and pivotal points occur along the way in the lives of these characters. But there’s been no episode that specifically was touted as the one you had to see this season, the way that something schlocky does, where some character or other gets deadly disease or decides to go to another something or other to pursue the actor’s dream of being a complete jackass on a movie set (I call that ‘playing a David Caruso’).

There’s never been a political bent on the show. There’s no abortion episode.  There’s no cheap shots at sitting politicians.  There’s no praise heaped on any particular political view.  This has never been a pass for group will to impose itself on any character, but rather allowed us to see characters who are getting to know themselves and find out that they’re all dealing with the same issues in different ways.

Unlike many people (and entertainment) today trying to force the world into homogeneous ideology,  like the insular dopes who spend every Facebook status update trying to bludgeon their friends into agreement (you know who they are), these people are diverse and different and have to learn to work together.  Agreement isn’t mandatory, just the recognition that we need each other no matter how much we might dislike or misunderstand one another.  Like the show continually repeats, “Live together or die alone.”

You’ve got a point of view, the show says.  Try to convince me, and I might listen.  Try to coerce me and I’ll reject it because you’re not talking to me like an adult, you’re talking at me like a child.  The only points at which the characters have divided have been when people have tried to force others to their way of life.

So, in a nutshell…

All of this combines to give LOST a longevity with its true fans and the potential to be continually rediscovered in the age of the DVD and download.  It’s a beautiful thing to have been in the front row at the creation of a work of long-lasting art.  Hats off to the creators and writers on what has been a true testament to what can be produced when intelligent and creative people create freely.