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Once was ‘Lost’ but now am (hopefully) found

By Sean Fabery

Section: Arts

March 5, 2010

No television show in the past decade has captured the American imagination quite in the same way as ABC’s “Lost,” the enigmatic program that recently embarked on its sixth and final season. With its seemingly infinite meanings, the show now has a finite space—ten episodes—in which it must bring the divergent threads of its sprawling mythology together.

This season began by exploring the aftershocks of last season’s finale, in which Jack Shephard (Matthew Fox), the de facto leader of the survivors of Oceanic flight 815, set off a nuclear explosion on the island in the hopes of changing the very fabric of time—so that the plane crash which stranded them on the island never occurred.

Instead, as we discovered in the season premiere, the explosion led to the creation of two separate timelines, with the original continuing from the moment of the blast and a new, parallel one in which the plane never crashed. In the original timeline, the remaining survivors have congregated at a temple, where they have thus far been menaced by a possessed—and technically deceased—Locke (Terry O’Quinn). In the alternate timeline, major differences from the canon are afoot—Jack, for instance, has a son, while Locke is engaged. The two timelines have yet to intersect in any meaningful way.

On a basic narrative level, the portions focusing on the original timeline are immediately engaging simply because of the sheer volume of things occurring. Most of the survivors, having now relocated to a temple run by a faction known as the Others, are involved in the show’s core storylines. Jack and Hurley (Jorge Garcia) are currently engaged in discovering why they were brought to the island, while roguish Sawyer (Josh Holloway) copes with the death of his beloved Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell), the one casualty of the aforementioned nuclear incident.

The survivors have also become reacquainted with one of their own, Claire (Emilie de Ravin), who previously disappeared into the jungle and has now returned crazy and determined to find her child. If that weren’t enough, mayhem follows the murder of Jacob (Mark Pellegrino), the island’s protector, at the hands of the Man in Black, who has taken on Locke’s identity. This narrative never abates; there simply is no time for filler.

As always, however, “Lost” has some trouble keeping certain characters integrated into its present plotline. This is especially true of Sun (Yunjin Kim), who has spent the last two seasons following around others in the hopes of reuniting with her husband, Jin (Daniel Dae Kim). They have remained with the show, it seems, by virtue of their virtuoso performances, as they’ve managed to keep alive the soulfulness of their romance even when they’re in separate timebands, as they were last season.

Unfortunately, the storylines in the parallel universe have been less compelling, partially because they seem to reveal few new things about the characters. How many times do we need to be reminded, for instance, that Jack has serious daddy issues and that both he and Locke have trouble accepting their limitations? On the positive side, the parallel storylines have allowed for cameos from characters that have died on the island, including rock star Charlie (Dominic Monaghan) and nice guy Boone (Ian Somerhalder).

Of course, this dual narrative structure is hardly something new to “Lost,” though it probably had most viewers—this one included—scratching their heads at first. This duality echoes the structure of previous seasons, in which the present action on the island was always interspersed with flashbacks and flashforwards, with each narrative engaged in a thematic dialogue of sorts with the other.

As always, some viewers have complained that not enough answers have been presented thus far, a complaint universal to all seasons of the show. However, the show has started committing itself to answering many of the questions it has established over the years. The infamous numbers that once haunted Hurley and even landed him in a mental institution, for instance, have now proven important to explaining why these characters were brought to the island in the first place. Past enigmas, like the four-toed statue and the decayed bodies found in a cave all the way back in season one, have also been discussed, if not resolved. Though some mysteries established by the show will undoubtedly be left unresolved, the show seems determined to answer the most pressing ones.

Thematically, the show continues to delve into the duality of human beings and the struggle of the known versus the unknown, both of which have been prominent since its premiere. These themes have been manifested in the present struggle between the disciples of Jacob and the Man in Black—representing the struggle between light and dark—with characters chaotically slipping into divergent camps.

When taken as a whole, it’s difficult to determine one’s response to any particular season of “Lost” before witnessing the conclusion of its arc. One’s interpretation of what’s happening now could change dramatically by the time the end of the season rolls around—especially with this, the show’s final season, which raises the additional question: what constitutes a satisfying end to a show millions of people have devoted time to deciphering?

“Lost” will be remembered for the way it approaches the expansive mythology it has created. The show must certainly avoid at all costs the problems that plagued “The X-Files” in its final seasons, when the show became completely bogged down in the nonsensical nature of its convoluted mythology.

For one thing, the “Lost” finale must satisfy both on micro and macro levels. The fates of its characters must be resolved satisfactorily, and all its disparate elements must come together to form a cohesive whole. But fundamentally it will come down to whether it can successfully answer a single question: why?

Though “Lost” has had the occasional narrative misstep, this viewer will continue to trust the behind-the-scenes talent that has made polar bears in the tropics, moving islands and time travel palatable. As with any good adventure, I can’t wait to see how this one ends, even as I prepare myself for the end of the adventure itself.

“Lost” airs Tuesday nights at 10 pm EST.

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