Lost is back and I'm still lost.
The sixth and final season of the cultural phenomenon known as Lost premiered Tuesday night in a two-hour broadcast chock full of the mind-bending plotting for which the show has become famed, or notorious, depending upon your perspective.
I like Lost. A lot. I've watched it from its spectacular cinematic beginning in the fall of 2004. I've probably seen every episode. And I'm still not sure what's really going on.
Everything you need to know about Lost. Supposedly.
That's part of the show's appeal, of course, as well as its annoyance.
Now, I don't follow Lost the way I follow Mad Men. It's not a show that rewards that sort of attention to detail.
Why not? Because the very inventive writer/producers have a habit of pulling trapdoor surprises on the audience. Endlessly.
Not in the normal way of a surprise twist. But in the very DNA of the show's storytelling.
Lost didn't begin that way. At first, it was a castaway show, following the large and appealing cast's confusion and seeking of a way forward on a beautiful, mysterious island.
The preview for the Season 6 premiere.
Not that weren't hints from the beginning that Lost was a covert science fiction show. I figured that, given what co-creator J.J. Abrams had done with Alias, his other ABC show of the time, about a female James Bond of sorts. That show was increasingly scifi, revolving around the mysterious artifacts and technological prophecies of a seer from 500 years ago.
The scifi hints were in Lost early on, too. The airliner drawn wildly off course, crashing for no apparent reason on an uncharted island far from where anyone would search. The powerful mystery creatures. The realization that other people were on the island, too.
But the action didn't really move away from the castaways' quest to work out their fate on the island except for extended flashback sequences to illuminate character. Which were a lot of fun and provided a great deal of emotional resonance to the characters.
As the show went on, we learned more about the Others on the island. And we learned of contesting factions off-island.
Not-Locke gives one-time stringpuller Ben some directions.
As we did, the seeming randomness of any group of air travelers tossed together began to seem more a matter of predestination. There were hidden links between the castaways. Mysterious numbers which seemed to have an uncommon power. (Derived from a mathematical equation predicting the probability of the end of humanity following the Cuban Missile Crisis. Okay then.) An old computer on which someone had to input those numbers every hour and 48 minutes -- making it seem not unlike an early form of blogging -- in order to avert catastrophe.
The plotting thickened, doubling and tripling back on itself. (Naturally, as the show, already heavily serialized, became harder and harder to follow, it shed audience. Viewership for the just aired final season premiere is off a third from viewership for the series premiere.)
Then the characters started moving through time and even space, without the benefit of a time machine or transporter device.
As a longtime Star Trek and Doctor Who aficionado, this doesn't throw me in the least. Well, except for the part about doing it without the benefit of any apparent technology. Still, one could see the island as a nexus of distortion in the continuum of time and space. You know, like the talking papier-mache boulder on the original Star Trek series which sent Kirk and Spock back in time and across space to make sure Joan Collins dies in order to prevent the publication of Warren Beatty's biography, or, actually, the rise of Hitler and the consequent soap bubble disappearance of the Federation.
I'm down with all that. But where Lost Season 5 became a bit of a chore for me was in the constant time travel, frequently just as something was about to learned. That's what I mean by trapdoor plotting.
Things were so much simpler, or so it seemed, in the very beginning of Lost.
So I decided just to enjoy Lost as a very trippy show with a plot I don't really understand, appealing characters, and a picturesque locale. Which may be what showrunners Damon Lindeloff and Carlton Cuse have in mind, though they're obviously eager to service the many fans who focus on every little clue to the show's mythology, no matter how illusory.
The producers may have signaled as much when they introduced a new character in the season premiere named Lennon. He's the interpreter to a Japanese warlord type guy (who actually speaks English), but that's not the point.
The point is that Lost is to its most avid fans what Beatles albums were to the band's most avid fans in the late '60s; a seedbed for endlessly perfervid speculation. ("If you play the record backwards you learn that Paul McCartney is really dead!") It's probably no coincidence that what we think of as the show's defining mythology goes back to the '60s and '70s.
But now we're learning that that may be a false lead, too, that the island may actually be the center of an age-old conflict between two mysterious entities.
The first four minutes of Lost's final season premiere.
Which naturally, so to speak, brings us to the latest evolution of the show's narrative device. Parallel universes, or the so-called Many Worlds Interpretation. That's a theory of quantum physics holding that different actions create different branching realities.
On Lost, it may mean that when Juliet, in the Season 5 finale, heroically bashed that hydrogen bomb until it blew up, it did not simply reset the timeline, as she and her friends hoped and expected, it created another one even as it altered preceding events in their original timeline.
Lost, like my '90s fave rave show, The X-Files, has gotten very convoluted the longer it's gone on. It will be interesting to see how Lindelof and Cuse write their way through the mine field they've created for themselves.
Still, interesting as the nature of the island's electromagnetic vortex, the Smoke Monster's identity, the aims of the Dharma Initiative, the meaning of the Numbers and all the rest of the intellectual foofaraw are, not to mention the neo-psychedelic trippiness of the show, what keeps me watching is the fate of the characters.
Both in terms of fate itself, and the characters themselves.
Which was the original point of the show.