“The island chose you, too, Jack. It’s destiny.”
It’s been almost 17 years since Lost first aired and TV has changed a hell of a lot since then. How we watch stuff is the biggest change; no longer is the biggest TV consumed in weekly segments, allowing time for audiences to digest and theorise on each episode’s events. Audiences of TV want everything in one go (although shows like WandaVision and The Mandalorian prove maybe now we’re going back to our old ways). We also had the peak years of the so called ‘golden age of TV‘ in the time since Lost has been off our screens. That’s come to an end now too, as the world of TV watching splinters into the many different streaming services, but I would argue it was shows like Lost that kicked off that golden era. Sure some people point to fantastic and critically revered shows like The Wire or The Sopranos (probably the greatest show ever made) as the true beginning of the golden era of television but did those shows ever get us hooked, week to week, in the same way Lost did? The mysteries, the characters and their flashbacks, Michael Giacchino’s outstanding score – Lost was truly in a league of it’s own. But is Lost still as good as it once was, almost 20 years since it premiered? I’m going all the way back to the beginning to find out.
The first episode of the first season of Lost sets the scene pretty well for what’s to come later. That opening of Jack (Matthew Fox) awaking in the undergrowth and running to see the wreckage of the plane is as gripping and as thrilling as ever. It’s fun on a rewatch catching some of the little details in the pilot that are picked up on again later (it seems ‘the Tailies’ were part of the story even from episode 1). A lot of the groundwork for the big show-long arcs are laid down here in the first 2 or three episodes such as character stuff like the love triangle between Kate, Sawyer and Jack, or recurring themes like the black vs white, light vs dark. The show gets going surprisingly fast too, I remember it taking a lot longer to get into the big island mysteries. The third episode slows down a bit but it lays the ground work for Kate’s (Evangeline Lilly) story and features probably her best flashback of the show. Episode 4 is where the show really grabbed me however, the first of the John Locke (Terry O’Quinn) flashbacks. That rug-pull at the end, revealing Locke to have been in a wheelchair when he boarded the plane but walking after the crash is quintessential Lost. The twists get bigger and more elaborate than this as the show goes on but this early one is a highpoint for the series.
The season continues like this, developing the characters on the island through individual flashbacks. Some of these are more successful than others however. Boone and Shannon are no one’s favourite characters so it’s no surprise their flashback centric episode isn’t the strongest. Jack is a bit on the boring side too, despite him being the main character and Matthew Fox given a really great performance. His flashbacks mostly work though, especially when they feature his father Christian, played brilliantly by John Terry. I think the Charlie centric episodes are maybe the most love-it-or-hate-it episodes. I personally enjoyed them a lot, especially his almost comical decent into drug addiction. Dominic Monaghan is great too, I find it hard to hate the character (at this point at least). Some of the episodes and their flashbacks lean into the growing Lost mythos more than others, and I really like that. It even manages to save episodes that otherwise might be forgettable. The Claire episode ‘Raised by Another’ is one of the best in the season because of the balance between the flashback’s mysterious psychic subplot and the reveal on the island of the show’s first ‘other’, Ethan. The Jin and Sun episodes are highlights too, I really liked their flashbacks and the development of their relationship. This rewatch made me realise just how much I like Daniel Dae Kim as Jin and Yunjin Kin as Sun; they are two of Lost’s greatest characters and their episodes remain highlights as the show goes on.
Josh Holloway as Sawyer is another fantastic addition too but it struck me upon this rewatch just how unlikable he is at this point. He develops by the end of the season but the character has still got a way to go before he cements himself as the fan favourite we all remember him as. For other characters, such as Harold Perrineau’s Michael and Naveen Andrews’ Sayid, season 1 might be their best season. Sayid is a main star here in season 1 and Andrews gives one of the shows best performances as the tortured torturer. The same goes for Micheal; season 1 gives Perrineau the chance to play the relatable everyman, and he’s so so good. But this is before the events of season 2 unfold, and things unfortunately get worse for Michael from there. I’m not saying these future developments are bad (although the later season’s side-lining of Sayid is pretty unforgivable) but it’s here in season 1 where the characters are at their best. And let’s not forget Hurley, played wonderfully by Jorge Garcia. He’s often the heart of the show and even when he’s wrapped up in the island’s mysteries himself (the whole numbers part of the mythos starts with Hurley) he still manages to bring things back down to earth. One of the most unexpected things I found watching season 1 was just how many of the greatest Lost characters don’t even show up yet. The season 1 cast are all universally great but I can’t wait for the introduction of Desmond and Ben in season 2.
Since my first viewing of Lost, no other TV show has come close to giving me the same joy that Lost did. Arguably the show’s seasons don’t need to be as long as they are. There is a lot of bloat in Lost, even back in season 1. However, for me, I enjoyed all the time spent with these characters – be it as thrilling as Sayid infiltrating a terrorist ring in Sydney in one of his flashbacks, or just Locke and Jack trekking through the jungle having a debate on science vs faith. Season 1 has the job of introducing us to all of these disparate survivors and trying to make us interested in them. And for the most part, the show succeeds. How much you’ll get out of the show going forward depends on your opinion on the wider mysteries and riddles, as the characters lives and flashbacks get tangled together and begin to overlap. I personally love that stuff so I can’t wait to move on to Season 2. However, season 1 of Lost works as a standalone piece also. The final flashbacks in ‘Exodus Part 3’ show us all of our characters as they boarded the fateful Oceanic 815 flight. It’s almost like the show has come full circle by that point. So even if you’re unsure about watching the show, at least give season 1 a shot. It’s one of the greatest and most unique seasons of television ever created – and you’ll probably continue watching, if only to find out what’s in that damned hatch….