Scattered Thoughts on Lost

I’ve spent the last bunch of months catching up on the first three seasons of Lost, and I have a lot of thoughts about the show. This post is going to collect them all in a totally haphazard fashion. Spoilers below the fold.

  • · First off, the title, and how it plays into what I believe is the primary theme of the show. All of the castaways are lost, not only in the obvious physical sense but also in a larger, more spiritual sense. Think Amazing Grace, “I once was lost but now I’m found.” These people are drowning before they get to the island, and are all in desperate need of a life raft. The island provides the means for their redemption. This is most clear in the case of Charlie. A heroin addicted has-been rock star who’s life is in the toilet shakes his habit, finds love and shows that he has overcome his weak character by sacrificing his life to get everybody else off the island. Charlie’s fundamental flaw, what made him such a pathetic character, was his selfishness. That he was able to perform an entirely altruistic act is a sign that he has redeemed himself. The kink in this theory is that some castaways have died, for no real reason, while on their personal journey to redemption. Shannon’s death, for example, does not fit at all. That being said, I’m not sure that the show needs to be totally consistent. We’ll see how it plays out, and whether Shannon or Boone reappears somewhere down the line.
  • · The influence of The Tempest is too obvious to ignore. That being said, most of what I’ve seen written on the subject is looking for direct correspondences between the show and the play. That is the wrong way to go. However, I do think that The Tempest can shed some light on several thematic issues in Lost. Both focus on cleansing guilt from castaways. The shipwrecked in The Tempest all end up on Prospero’s island for a reason. The same is true of the crash survivors in Lost. There was a theory which has been debunked by the producers, that the island is Purgatory. I think that, as in The Tempest, the island does serve as a sort of Purgatory. These people are busy purging themselves of their character flaws and sins.
  • · Finally, some thoughts on what I think is the show’s biggest weakness. Lost is mostly about the larger thematic issue of how a person finds redemption. All of the crazy twists are basically McGuffins (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mcguffin) designed to move the plot forward, but which don’t really have much significance of themselves. The problem with this is that they often take on lives of their own, and distract from the larger questions in the show. They also make the show seem hollow when plot development overtakes character development. It seems like one twist follows another, without any real reason to it. When character development is strong this doesn’t matter, because that carries the show. When it’s weak, as in the middle of the third season, when it seemed like every week a new secret about the Others was revealed, but the characters barely developed at all, the show becomes empty and dull. I’m hoping that the new shorter seasons will help solve this problem.
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