How Lost is Like the War in Iraq

By Peter Suderman

No, really.

Yes, Lost is on tonight, and I'm not sure I'll get to watch it. So instead: Theories!

Lost, like the war, began with a spectacular openinga $10 million+ shock-and-awe pilot that you couldn't possibly ignore. And as it opened, it was sold on the basis of resolving a few key, central mysteries: What, exactly, is the smoke monster? How are all these dead relatives showing up? Are the survivors connected, and how? And what is the nature and origin of the island? And it was sold on the notion that its creatorsLindelof, Cruse, and Abramshad a master plan, a fully developed narrative that they would unspool with expertise and confidence over the course of time and that would prove satisfying along the way.  And those creators allowed, and even perpetuated, the notion that they were, in fact, in control.

The combination of these elements resulted in an immediate hit. Everyone wanted to talk about the mysteries, about the island's healing powers, about Jack's dad, about the Others and the smoke monster. The show was a hit, and a big one. But the show's actual progress seemed to lag behind both the creators' hype and fan interest. Backlash developed as it seemed that, no, not all would be resolved quickly or cleanly.  Some began to suspect that maybe those mysteries would never be resolved, and suspicion grew that, no matter what, the creators did not actually know what they were doing. They had not planned that far in advance.

Instead of addressing the central mysteries, the show trailed off on what appeared to many be red herrings. New mysteries developed, and the old ones were ignored, or obliquely referenced. When critics brought up these questions, they were either dismissed or assured that, yes, they would eventually be answered (although likely in a different way than initially promised), but anyone who expected answers to come so quickly was impatient, unwilling to see the story through to its end. Appeals by devotees to stick with the show were made in large part on the basis of trust in its creators rather than on empirical, in-show evidence that it was moving toward a satisfying conclusion.

Around year three, the show seemed to many to go off the rails entirely, floundering and flailing as it struggled to find a storyline that would stick. Viewership dropped noticeably, and the creators were loudly accused of having duped the show's fans. A few diehards stuck with the show, but even many who continued to follow it doubted that it would ever lead anywhere other than further narrative chaos.

Towards the end of the season, a surge of revelations and plot developments suggested that the creators may have put the show back on track. Now, in the current season, its success it undetermined, and while it has won back some fans, opinions are split.

One important difference should be noted. The creators of Lost have now set an end date.

As an aside, this multi-angle fan edit of the original plane crash is about the coolest thing ever. (Via the Vulture.)