Lost in time

At 9pm on Sunday 25th January, Lost returned to our screens with the series’ penultimate season, laying the foundations for the conclusion of what is surely one of the greatest and most original television shows of all time. When the series pilot first aired on the 22nd September 2004, everyone expected a typical castaway drama, but from the very first episode it became clear that it would be so much more. Lost has everything. The last four seasons have given viewers an astonishing array of story lines, and to restrict Lost to any one genre would be a crime. As we waited excitedly for Season Five, no-one could have been blamed for labelling the show as science-fiction, fantasy, adventure, action, tragedy, romance, or disaster. The list goes on, but in truth each of the above could stake a claim. For this reason alone, the show has a tremendously wide appeal. It has gripped audiences across the globe from day one, and each season has been layered with a carefully woven narrative which somehow manages to get more appealing the more complex and ludicrous it becomes.

That’s not to say it has all been plain sailing. As the show moved through to the conclusion of its third season, it tested the patience of many of its viewers. With an increasingly tedious narrative and the introduction of some irritating and pointless characters, it felt as though we were getting nowhere, and the experience of watching the show became frustrating. However, anybody whose faith in Lost was beginning to waiver will surely have appreciated the fourth season of the show, for Lost was back and firing on all cylinders. It showed a willingness to answer a few more questions than usual while not being afraid to further deepen the mystery of the island. The new ‘big idea’ for Lost Season Four, as introduced in the cliff-hanger at the end of Season Three, was flash-forwards, where we see the lives of some of the survivors after they’ve left the island. This added some much-needed freshness to the show, and gave the writers some new meat to chew on. As a result, characters were more convincingly fleshed out, and the show was again fun to watch.

John Locke’s decision to abandon the survivors of flight 815 to take up his destiny of leading ‘the Others’ has set up the show to provide a few answers to questions we have about the island, whilst Ben’s decision to move the island has further opened the (already unlocked) Pandora’s Box of time-travel. The ‘Oceanic Six’ provided a terrific off-island narrative in Season Four, and so we were waiting with baited breath to see if Jack’s “We have to go back!” demand was met as the first episode of Season Five hit our screens. It’s fair to say, however, that the fifth season has started in a hugely unexpected way.

Lost is notorious for terrific opening scenes and Season Five is no exception to the rule. It opens with a glimpse into the island’s past, showing us Marvin Candle filming his Dharma Initiative videos back in the 1970s, in itself enough to excite most fans of the show. But within minutes he encounters the present-day Daniel Faraday – a man who shouldn’t even have been born yet. This intriguing opening sets the basis on which the first three episodes will be set – time travel. As a result of Ben’s actions in moving the island, it has begun to “skip” through time, and this makes the island a strangely unfamiliar and dangerous place for the characters that were left behind at the end of Season Four. It is fantastically enjoyable and already some burning questions have, in a way customary to Lost, been half-answered.

Meanwhile the off-island story is being played out, with Jack and Ben hatching a plan to get the Oceanic Six back to the island. However, this part of the narrative seems a touch unconvincing. Their motivation to return to the island feels somewhat laboured – that it’s the duty of those who escaped on the helicopter to ensure the safety of the survivors who were left behind. However, the trigger-happy nature of the Lost writers has meant that there aren’t actually many survivors left on the island to keep safe. Boone, Shannon, Ana-Lucia, Libby, Mr. Eko, and Charlie, among others, have all suffered at the hands of the Lost death-curse and so there are few characters left on the island to whom the viewers feel attached enough to care about. As a result, to understand Jack’s desire to return is difficult. However, this is just a minor complaint. Overall the first three episodes have fitted the bill. Season Five has started promisingly and it is still staggering how, after eighty-two episodes, Lost manages to retain the intrigue required to sustain the interest of its viewers. More than ever we want answers to our questions and, over the next few months, we will (hopefully) get at least some of them.

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