Enlightenment philosophers, polar bears and pirate ships all feature in "Lost." But if the series is about anything, it's about contemporary Americaby Jonathan Heawood / May 20, 2006 / Leave a comment
When executives at ABC commissioned the pilot episode of Lost, they requested an alternative ending in which the survivors of the plane crash would emerge from the jungle to find that the island on which they thought they were stranded was in fact the coast of Florida. This would have given the studio a neat little television film to screen if the pilot had bombed; but it would also have given the game away. Not that Lost is really set in Florida—but anyone who thinks that this series is about anything other than contemporary America is looking the wrong way.
Episode one of Lost opened with Jack Shephard, a young doctor in an Armani suit, lying on his back in a bamboo grove. Shephard, it turned out, had just fallen 40,000 feet out of the sky; he slowly discovered that he was surrounded by an assortment of fellow survivors of his plane’s mid-air breakup over the Pacific.
By the end of that pilot episode, after the survivors had witnessed some kind of monster trampling down the forest, after the injured pilot had suffered an unpleasant death, and after Jack had seemingly brought at least two casualties back to life, Charlie—the unlikely English rock star who arrives on the island complete with several grams of heroin—saw fit to ask, with stoned clarity: “Guys, where are we?”
Twenty-two episodes later, Lost’s large and appreciative audience (peaking at 23m in the US and 6m in Britain) is still waiting for an answer. The first series ended with Jack and three other principals blowing open a man-made hatch they had found in the forest, only to find themselves, like Alice, peering down a bottomless hole into an even deeper mystery. In almost 20 hours of television, the plot had progressed from page one of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to page two.
So what does series two hold? Lost sets out to be intriguing, and it works. With a reality television setting, the mood of a graphic novel and the plot twists of a leftfield thriller, it has inspired cacaphonous internet chatter. Is it an island at all? Is it a Truman Show-style stage? Are the characters alive or dead? Have they been brought here to fulfil a divine purpose? Is this purgatory (between them the main characters seem to have broken all ten commandments)?
These ontological questions…