Finding ‘Lost’

Around the time I was getting ready to leave, I knew that once I got back it would be just about time to plug back into my televisual obsession — ABC’s Lost. It starts up again on 31 January. Like every fan, I’ve got theories as to what’s going on. I’m going to blog about that now, so if you eventually want to get into the greatest show ever but haven’t yet, don’t click on this little “read the rest of this entry” thing right here:


The Season 3 finale last year was the most gobsmackingly brilliant event I’ve ever seen on TV. When Jack said “We have to go back Kate!” I nearly fell off the couch from the gravity of it. It wasn’t just the twist, which I did not see coming, it was how the whole thing was somehow deeply personal to me and the life I live in Korea. I have this buried fear that once (or “if”) this time in Korea ends, I’m going to be lost in the real world, just like Jack. And this leads me to my first theory…

1. First, a couple thoughts about narrative. As Stephen King said, stories work because of plot, or a particular situation. The characters are there to provide us with a human experience of that situation. They are the personal aspect with which we as viewers identify. I believe, and this may not be that original a thought, that the arc that carries us as viewers in Lost is the question of what it means to be alive. We live our daily lives driving to work, hanging out with friends, worrying about our children, hoping we’ll have enough money to carry us into old age. Deep down, we know there’s something flawed with this existence because we lack a real sense of purpose. It’s like that quote from Fight Club: “We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives.” I think that this was Jack’s realization. The island provides them with purpose. This also fits into the theme of the characters. In the real world, they were all deeply flawed, and, in a sense “lost.” I think this is the ironic twist on the title of the show. They’re not lost on an island, they’re lost in the real world. The island has provided them with a means to find themselves.

2. And now onto that issue of plot… the island. The central theme here, I think, is a somewhat political one and has to do with the idea of power. The interesting thing about power is how it evolves and is shaped through time. Power structures of the first half of this century and before used outright control and coercion to maintain itself. In our current age of open media, individualism and democracy, power is a kind of mirage of free will; it is maintained only by letting the people believe that they are in control of their own destiny. What does this have to do with Lost? The island is the source and means of power, which it trying to be managed by different groups (“Dharma,” The Others). The island has supernatural properties that can be wielded toward a certain agenda. I also think the island itself is sentient, and has its own agenda, something we don’t understand yet. This is just a vague idea for me at this point, but I think this is something that will be played out as the show continues.

3. Those first two were about the show: character and plot. My third theory is about the show’s structure, and it has to do with “Flashback.” (can we still call it that?) We’ve been led to believe that Flashback is a narrative construct of the show, a way of giving us background on the characters. I believe, however, that there’s actually a diegetic component to it, rather than being a non-diegetic device of the show. In other words, I think Flashback is happening in real time. More specifically, I think the characters’ future and past existences are being “scanned” by the island as we watch them. The island is learning about them in an extra-temporal sense. It can see past and future. I believe as part of this, that it is trying to invite certain characters to become a part of this world. Its criteria is something I can’t quite define: innocence or self-sacrifice or some other benevolent character trait. The island then endows these people with gifts — helping to explain Locke and Walt, for example — and gives others visions of things they need to come to terms with. The point being that there’s a process at work here that isn’t random.

So that’s it. They’re really more thoughts on the show than theories. But it’s fun to write about and see whether, two or three years from now when the show ends, I was close in any of this.

By the way, the show’s website has a great little 8 minute and 15 second summation of the show so far.

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One Response to “Finding ‘Lost’”

  1. […] the result of the radiation around the island. But we don’t know who the observer is. As I mentioned in a previous post, I think the flashbacks/forwards are triggered by Jacob. I think he uses the same power as the […]

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