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LOST Diary: Season One

January 8, 2012

Is LOST sci-fi? I guess there’s some debate about what genre LOST falls into, however, I warmly accept it as science fiction, acknowledging that other bits are mixed in. Here are my thoughts on Season One of this game-changing series. This one goes out to all the Losties and Lostaways.

Recently, I was able to borrow the massive tome that is the complete series on Blu-ray (score!) from my friend Cody. Originally, I had the idea of watching the entire series and posting a diary-style entry every 5 episodes or so. Then I actually started watching Season One and flew through ten or so episodes before ever seriously thinking about stopping to write anything.

Prior to starting this adventure, all I had seen of LOST was the pilot and a smattering of episodes somewhere in Seasons 2 and 3. These episodes mark the times in my life when I was daft enough to think I could get into LOST well into the middle of the series. Obviously I couldn’t.

At this point, I’ve now watched the first season and it has been one of the best television experiences of my life. I love how big this show feels. LOST had an unprecedented budget (the pilot alone cost in the neighborhood of $12 million), and thankfully, most of that money can be seen on the screen. The show has a cinematic look to it and I appreciate how different it is compared with most TV series.

While the beautiful locales were enough to draw me in, the characters are what keep me frothing for more. When dealing with a population of forty-plus characters, there’s no way you can engage the audience by introducing them all at once. Thankfully, LOST never does this. The main characters are formally introduced at an easily digestible rate of about three per episode. Once things get going, it’s clear that there are only about a dozen names you actually need to know.

The characters of LOST made an impression on me early. As any LOST fan, I have developed a rooting interest in several of them. I love a few of them, and loath about the same number. I don’t particularly like either Claire (Emilie de Ravin) or Michael (Harold Perrineau). They are both too temperamental and both seem to fly off the handle for no apparent reason entirely too often.

The two characters I love are Locke (Terry O’Quinn) and Sayid (Naveen Andrews). I think these are the two most sympathetic characters and they never lose their cool. Every character in the show has a tragic back story, but Locke and Sayid’s pull my heartstrings the hardest; Locke, an orphan who gets taken advantage of by his “long, lost” father, and Sayid, an Iraqi soldier and communications officer torn between duty and true love.

Assuming Locke continues to be compelling, I will surely develop a full-blown Locke obsession. He’s not-so-subtly named after philosopher John Locke, and he clearly operating on a different intellectual plane than his island mates. He has developed into a Christ-like figure on the island. He always seems to show up at just the right time to help someone out or tell them exactly what they need to hear. He has a knack for carpentry. He’s rugged and manly while simultaneously being deeply sensitive and spiritual. Also, he’s distrusted and misunderstood by many, including Jack (Matthew Fox), the doctor and de facto leader of the group. Locke is a great character whom I look forward to getting to know better.

Speaking of Jack, there are many other characters inhabiting the island along with the ones I mentioned. They are Hurley, Charlie, Sawyer (Josh Holloway), Kate (Evangeline Lilly), Sun (Yunjin Kim), Jin (Daniel Dae Kim), Shannon (Maggie Grace), Boone (Ian Somerhalder), and Walt (Malcolm David Kelley). While everyone has their moments to shine, these characters all fall somewhere between pretty obnoxious to likeable-but-still-mildly-obnoxious.

Although I don’t quite hold him up there with Sayid and Locke, I think Hurley (Jorge Garcia) is probably another fan-favorite among the legions of LOST followers. He’s the lovably chubby Latino with one of the more unexpected back stories.

And then there’s Charlie (Dominic Monaghan). Fresh off the success of his Lord of the Rings role (Pippin), Monaghan plays a one-hit-wonder rocker-turned-junkie. I just wanted to mention him because he pretty obviously seems to be modeled after one of the Gallagher brothers from Oasis (probably Liam).

A few quick notes on guest stars: It’s cool that Julie Bowen, now a star on Modern Family, got to play a pretty important role in one of the main character’s back stories. I imagine she reprises the role in a handful of episodes throughout the series so I’ll be looking out for those. Also, Michelle Rodriguez gets a bit part in one episode and I seem to remember her being in a lot of LOST  promos, so again, I expect I’ll be seeing more of her in Season Two.

On the whole, I think the acting is about average but it’s elevated by great storytelling through characterization and flashbacks. O’Quinn is easily the standout of the cast for me. He just is John Locke and I love the way he delivers his performance.

The story manages to stay ambiguous and compelling throughout the entire first season and there are always a few interesting minor story lines going. Not every subplot is amazing, and it’s possible that the show loses a little forward momentum somewhere between discovering the hatch and the finale. In my opinion, the hatch was introduced an episode or two too early, and a bit too much time goes by before they finally figure out what to do with it. This is but a very minor complaint in truly engaging series.

Twenty-five episodes in, I can plainly see why LOST was such a hit. I think it says a lot about how culturally significant the show was in its prime, that “Oceanic 815,” “4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42,” “the others,” or “the hatch,” (and probably a few other the buzz-words I haven’t come across yet) are so instantly attributable to LOST.

I remember a lot of fan outrage surrounding LOST somewhere in the middle, so I expect there to be a rough patch in the next few seasons. Fortunately, right now, I’m ready to ride the superior storytelling even through LOST’s darkest days.

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