Lost in Translation

Nearly 12 million viewers in the US alone, winner of a Golden Globe and Primetime Emmy for best TV drama among a slew of other nominations and wins, LOST has perhaps been the best TV show television has produced in a long, long time.

Spoiler alert.

A successful show without a doubt – yet a failure to its viewers.

Survivors of a plane crash on a mysterious island somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean: the Others, the Dharma Initiative and their hatch, a seemingly ageless man wearing eyeliner and two men fighting over the futility of free will and what man does with it – all the ingredients to an entrancing story about life and how we’re all trying to make the best of the hand fate has dealt us.

In the 121 episodes spanning over 6 seasons, creators Damon Lindelof, J. J. Abrams and Jeffrey Lieber had viewers glued to the screen and gasping for answers. Questions about the nature of the island, the Others, whether the survivors been “brought there” for a reason and who Jacob and the Man in Black were haunted us for nearly 6 years. Yet one of the best things about this show besides the beautiful setting, superb acting and dialogue was the promise of a satisfying solution to the many questions. The show’s creators never underestimated their audience’s intelligence and went against the trend of “dumbing down” for TV, instead making Lost an intellectual and metaphysical rollercoaster.

Fans were enthralled, and many tried to come up with explanations of what was going on. One theory posited extraterrestrial activity – which was debunked by Lindelof. Another said the survivors had actually died in the plane crash and were in purgatory, but this was denied by Abrams repeatedly.

Yet that is exactly what it turned out to be.

The passengers of 815 were all dead and had created a “gathering place” for themselves as a form of the afterlife. “The End” aired on May 23, 2010 and in its wake left a huge list of unanswered questions. Who were the Others? The DHARMA Initiative? What was the “Light”? The numbers? What was up with Walt? Basically, not a lot was revealed.

Many critics received the show finale with open arms and said it was about resolution, not revelation – and the tear-jerker of a finale did a lot of that. Each character ended up facing their demons and accepting their imperfections, in essence allowing themselves to move on in peace. Characters we had come to love (and sometimes hate) were given an emotional farewell, and the last scene with Jack and his father was deeply moving.

But then what was Lost about, anyway?

Wrapped in between two memorable scenes, the first from the Pilot episode and the last from the finale, is a show that the show’s creators claimed was about everything. Yet in the end it turned out to be about dying, getting over it and then moving on “into the light” as it were.

Winding up perhaps too hastily, the show came up with a half-hearted treatise on good and evil and presented the island as a cork, stopping evil from getting out. Jacob and the Man in Black (a.k.a. the Black Smoke monster) were presented to be brothers raised by an unknown woman to continue her job as protector of the island and it’s “Light,” something man possessed in their hearts but wanted more of. In later years, Jacob orchestrated events so that a chosen group of people would end up on the island in a plane crash and proceeded to test them and see who would take over his job after him.

In the latter half of its last season, Lost turned from an intellectual challenge and thought-provoking look at free will, destiny and faith to an outrageous and gaudy sham. Faithful viewers, who had kept up with the show for six years were left to pick up the pieces, of which there were many, and attempt to fill the holes in the expansive plot themselves.

In doing so, Lost disappointed not only its viewers but also the premise on which it was based – that of viewer intellect. No one expected a rational, reasonable explanation for everything that had been happening on the island; time-travel, polar bears and ageless men were not going to be explained by science alone. However, the uninspired “explanation” of a light at the center of the island that needed protection in order to contain evil was a callous insult to the intellect of its viewers. The smug complacency on the part of the show’s writers in the belief that they have done justice with the original story-line of Lost and its viewers is an added insult to injury.

Viewers of Lost had faith in the show’s producers and writers to reward their long-standing relationship with at least a more plausible explanation. That faith was broken, in the last 5 episodes of the last season especially, and that is how Lost failed its viewers.