Lost, a basic explanation
Spoilers: This blog entry was written about the television show Lost (2004-2010). There are spoilers below. If you wish to avoid spoilers, do not read this blog entry. Turn back now.
To really understand Lost, you’ve first got to suspend your disbelief, like you’d do with so many other shows. It’s not a hard thing to do with Lost, considering something supernatural is afoot from Pilot, Part 1. When people tell me they stopped watching Lost because it got too unbelievable, I chastise them; Lost was bizarre right from the start.
The premise behind Lost is simple: The Island is supernatural. That’s present from the first season, what with a black smoke creature fluttering around, polar bears despite its tropical setting and the metal Hatch buried under the ground deep in the jungle. It’s all very mysterious. But even knowing how weird it is can’t be enough for the viewer to get the full idea.
Unknown to the main cast until the finale of the fifth season (The Incident, Part 1) (though hinted at as early as the second season episode Two for the Road), there is a struggle between good and evil happening on the Island. Jacob (Mark Pellegrino), representing good, is protecting the Island from the Man in Black (Titus Welliver), representing evil. Jacob and the Man in Black are twins whose mother crashed on the Island something like thousands of years before the start of the series.
Jacob and the Man in Black (whose name is never revealed) go into the jungle in Across the Sea with their adoptive mother (Allison Janney), who shows them a bright light called the Source shining from a watery cave. She tells them it is the source of all good in the world, and that they need to protect it. If it is destroyed, the world will fill entirely with evil. As Jacob puts it in Ab Aeterno, the Island is a cork to a wine bottle full of evil.
As they grow older, Jacob and the Man in Black form a sort of rivalry. Jacob becomes the Island’s new Protector to replace his mother (which grants him everlasting life and a set of unknown supernatural powers). The Man in Black is jealous and the two fight. As a result, the Man in Black falls into the bright light, where his body becomes a pillar of sentient black smoke. The Smoke Monster, as he is known from that point on, seeks to unleash the evil of the Island in revenge for his slaying by Jacob. As the Smoke Monster, the Man in Black also earns everlasting life and supernatural abilities, including the power to take on the physical form of any corpse on the Island.
Many years later, the DHARMA Initiative arrives at the Island to study its supernatural ability. DHARMA is supposedly unaware of the struggle (but some details dispute that). DHARMA builds a bunch of research stations all around the Island, including the weird metal Hatch I mentioned earlier. However, there were other people living on the Island, led by Jacob. They end up in a struggle, resulting in Dharma’s extermination.
As time passes, many ships and planes crash-land on the Island. The bulk of the series follows the survivors of one of these events: Oceanic Flight 815. Something like 50 people survive the crash, but the crash turns out not to have been an accident. Jacob personally selected the people on the flight “because they were flawed.” He hopes one of them will replace him as the Island’s Protector, just as he replaced his mother all those years ago.
There’s one major catch, though: These people, known as Candidates, are to further represent the battle between good and evil. Jacob and the Man in Black agree not to interfere with the events that are to unfold, because Jacob wants to prove that people are inherently good. As an added bonus, only the actions of Candidates can kill other Candidates.
Of course, none of the survivors know any of this. The show focuses on them, trying to survive on a supernatural island. Jacob’s people, whom the survivors call the Others, wage a war with the survivors. Characters are killed one by one, and eventually some of them even get off the Island. However, they feel drawn to return, so they do so. Meanwhile, another group is stuck time-traveling. That’s where most people decided the show was too far-fetched. Those people are stupid.
In the final season, the battle between Jacob and the Smoke Monster reaches its climax. The Man in Black is defeated once and for all and a new Protector to the Island is appointed, allowing Jacob to move on to whatever lies beyond.
Of course, this explanation is heavily diluted. A majority of the show depicts the lives of the many survivors, who try to survive despite the harsh conditions. Characters get themselves into trouble, while themes like fate, humanity, good and evil play about. And as I said before, neither the viewer nor the survivors know the significance of their choices.
In the end, though, good prevails over evil. There were many casualties along the way, but there was also love. In the end, the show comes through on all fronts.
If you’ve never watched Lost, and if you think you can suspend your disbelief for over 100 episodes of highly intense television, I recommend it. And I’m very sorry it took reading this spoiler-heavy blog post to convince you.