When watching the show Lost audience members are required to form a connection with the characters and the story being told. While this may seem like a pretty general interpretation of all TV shows it is just as true for Lost as it is for others. As I have talked about before the main story of the show is connections between characters and how their lives are changed. The mysteries and questions that surround the characters and events on the island are a factor in getting audiences to come back. The main question then is if Lost is successful in telling this story and bringing audience members back each week. I believe that answer is a resounding yes.
Lost’s deep and complex narrative was also a burden to it at the time. If audience members missed an episode that aired on television they fell behind and were, no pun intended, lost on what was going on in the story especially in later seasons when story beats got more complex. While this sounds like most drama series now when Lost aired there were few ways to catch up besides recording it or watching it on Hulu. Lost was one of the first big overarching stories that audience members really needed to tune into each week to keep up. The mystery aspect of the show also made audience members want to discuss it with each other. People were able to talk about the show the next day and speculate not only about future story beats but about the characters and mysteries sounding them and the island. The show’s main audience were the energetic fans eager to tune in each week which wasn’t bad but it made it hard for new viewers to want to tune in. However it doesn’t mean it was impossible. I was introduced to the show as it was finishing its fifth season on air and after becoming engaged not only with the main story but also with its complex characters I was hooked and caught up in time to watch the show’s final season while it aired on television.
Show producer J.J. Abrams talks about storytelling with mysteries
Like many dramas the main season narrative is given piece by piece and at the finale things wrap up while some new story beats start. However each episode needs an exciting event to happen otherwise audiences won’t be eager to tune in. Lost does this from time to time but also has the added benefit of character centric episodes. Exciting things don’t need to happen each episode on the island because we are learning new facts about our main characters in the form of flashbacks. These stories are broken up and given to us in bits and pieces as the episode progresses. Often the characters are faced with a similar circumstance that they have found themselves in the past. This is where Lost defines it’s characters. We have been witnessing characters like Jack, Kate, and Sayid deal with problems on the island and we are shown these people at face value like meeting a person for the first time. When we delve deeper into their past that is where we discover the true character. Empathy is a powerful tool and it is used often in Lost because all of these people are victims of a plane crash but looking deeper we empathize with the struggles of their pasts.
I found myself connected to all of these characters even ones I thought I would hate when I first met them. I talk a lot about the character John Locke because he one of my favorites and I believe that this is because I felt an emotional connection to him. He’s a heartbreaking character who works so hard to do right by others and yet people treat him terribly. On the other hand I enjoy the character of Hurley because he makes pop culture references to Star Wars and other classics. Originally I hated Sawyer because he was such a jerk and didn’t care that he was but as the show progressed I discovered the character beneath the defense he put up. I’ve talked about the multitude of characters in the show previously and how there is a good mix of nationality and people groups in the main cast. The show doesn’t shy away from the non-white characters and gives us insight into their struggles as often as others. Originally characters react how you might expect being more awkward around another race but as the season goes on this changes. A relationship forms between Sayid the Iraqi character and Shannon a blond haired American girl about halfway through the season and no one treats this as a rare occurrence. They aren’t being defined by their race, they are being defined by their character.
A main theme that runs though the show is the idea of second chances. Locke talks about this a few times throughout the first season. Really nothing in the past should matter for these people in their current circumstances and yet each episode we learn more about a character’s past. This is because we need to understand where a character as come from to see how they will grow. Every main character in the first season finds themselves presented with a choice, are they going to let their past control who they are or are they going to make a new choice and begin a new life. It’s a rebirth for many of these people. It also brings up a good question about how much we let our pasts define us and whether we need a massive event to change who we are or if we can take that power for ourselves whenever we want. Another theme of the show I’ve discussed is science vs. faith and if destiny exists. While these are overarching meanings of the show there are always smaller gems of wisdom in episodes. A good example of this is Locke’s explanation of the moth. He talks about how while he could help a moth escape from it’s cocoon it would cause the moth to not be strong enough for it’s difficulties in life. In the same way struggle is needed for personal growth and getting help can sometimes rob us of this. A great part about the multitude of characters is that there are lessons that stick out to some audience members while another message attracts another.