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Many viewers will feel ‘Lost’ without it

Fri., May 21, 2010

As a “Lost” fan, I’m well-versed in its many clashing versions of reality.

Now the end is near, with the two and one-half hour finale airing Sunday at 9 p.m. following a two-hour retrospective.

Nearly six years after “Lost” arrived on the scene, I’m not counting on another series its equal in scope, majesty and longevity. I’m not holding my breath for another show so unapologetic in how it zigs when the viewer is expecting it to zag, then zigs and zags a few more ways – maybe simultaneously.

Consider: Several of the castaways marooned on that island in the middle of nowhere eventually gained rescue and returned to the “normal” world they came from. Then they scooted right back to the island again.

The island isn’t done with them, they’re always saying. Or they aren’t done with the island. Except for the ones who want to leave it again. But none of them can leave it alone.

That goes double for “Lost” viewers.

Without the show, what would people have done with all that time they didn’t spend immersed in “Lost” lore and theories? What would they have found to investigate and argue about otherwise?

Sports, politics, religion – how elementary without “Lost” factored in!

The pilot episode put us on notice. Its opening scene showed a bloodied young man (Matthew Fox) regaining consciousness in a bamboo grove, then stumbling to the nearby beach to find a ghastly spectacle: pieces of an aircraft strewn across the sand with his fellow passengers injured or dying.

This was Oceanic Airlines flight 815 from Sydney, which crashed for no clear reason en route to Los Angeles.

From that haunting two-hour premiere (which ABC will re-air Saturday at 8 p.m.), “Lost” has never loosened its grip.

It has continued to be gorgeous cinematically, from its lush Hawaii locations to its meticulous-in-every-detail art direction. The musical score is evocative and stirring.

Dozens of the characters will stick with fans for good, along with the actors who played them: the aforementioned Fox, plus Evangeline Lily, Terry O’Quinn and Michael Emerson, just for starters.

Other actors not nearly so accomplished – like dimpled hunk Josh Holloway, whose skill set is limited to cockiness and snarling – are also lodged forever in my mind.

Speaking of unforgettable, I marvel at the nearly countless cultural references the show has drilled into my brain:

The eerie numbered sequence (4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42). Smokey. The Others. The Dharma Initiative. The hatch.

“Dude!” Polar bears. Fish biscuits. The frozen donkey wheel. And on and on.

Meanwhile, I bow to the show’s ever-thickening deposits of mythology. Its hairpin, sometimes preposterous plot twists. Information fiendishly withheld or kept in crazy-making flux. The circular, oblique dialogue.

Putting it simply, nothing has ever been simple on “Lost.”

“Lost” is a trippy serial whose barrier to entry grew increasingly steep, if not insurmountable, once it got rolling. Regular attendance was required to keep up, with many viewers making tracks to blogs, online communities and Google after every episode to dig deeper into what they had witnessed. Or just get a clue.

Dealing with good vs. evil, light vs. dark, faith vs. reason (and whatever else the powers-that-be thought up), “Lost” has bred an unprecedented brand of TV wonkishness.

In February, an event in Los Angeles gathered executive producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, along with cast members, directors and writers. The panel discussion was dense, with granular allusions and overarching speculation, thanks especially to the audience’s esoteric questions.

Despite my status as a viewer who has seen nearly every “Lost” episode, I was often scratching my head through the session.

Watching “Lost,” I’m often scratching my head.

But what about this season, which presumably is pushing toward a satisfying finish?

Toward that end, far-flung scenes have placed the characters in alternate situations illustrating what might have happened had the plane not crashed. And, yes, along with these what-ifs, viewers have been treated to pieces of the puzzle.

Still, it wouldn’t be hard to argue that this every-which-way storytelling scheme has made the saga more scattered by the hour.

Like the lady said on last week’s episode, “Every question I answer will simply lead to another question.”

I confess: Lately my hopes for full “Lost” enlightenment have ruptured and sunk like Widmore’s submarine.

But so what? What if “Lost” goes out the way it came – trailing unresolved questions and refusing to make sense? What does “making sense” mean, anyway, in the world that “Lost” occupies?

With the end of “Lost,” will the island finally be done with all those characters? And with the audience?

I’m bracing for the verdict to be “no, not exactly.” But I’ll live with it.

“Lost” has taken TV to a new and magic realm. However things turn out, I’ll always be glad to have lived in the world it found.

Tags: television

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