LOST ended for good in May of last year. I know. I’m not in denial. I’m not angry. I’m not depressed. The five stages of grief have come and gone and I’ve accepted my new life without the show. Between the time it ended and now, I’ve watched all three seasons of Breaking Bad, re-watched all five seasons of The Wire, and started watching shows like Boardwalk Empire and The Walking Dead. All of which are absolutely fantastic. At least in terms of number of quality shows, there’s never been a better time to be a television addict. And yet, no matter how hard I’ve tried, I haven’t found a single season of any show as compelling as that first season of LOST. I don’t believe in perfection, especially when talking about a work of art, so I can’t say with any confidence that it was perfect. But it was pretty damn close.
What sets it apart from other seasons of LOST? For me, the main difference is that the characters were just as mysterious as the island itself. We didn’t know these people. The writers did a terrific job of slowly unraveling the mysteries behind our favorite castaways throughout the course of the entire season. Jack’s relationship with his father. Kate on the run. Sawyer’s letter. Locke’s mystical transformation. Each story was so dynamic, so interesting, so captivating. I wanted to know about our characters just as badly as I wanted to know what the Black Rock was or what the thing in the jungle going tikka tikka tikka was doing. As the show went on past the first season, we spent more time with our characters, and naturally we weren’t as intrigued with their back stories. LOST wasn’t the only show to have great, mysterious characters in its first season, and it won’t be the last. But the way they implemented their remarkable flashbacks, connected them to the island stories (and to other characters), and made us care deeply about them so quickly (we barely knew Locke in his first flashback “Walkabout” but it was still incredibly emotional) — that is why it was so impressive.
And then of course, there was the survival. Finding food and water. The beach vs. caves debate. Exploring the island. The “A-Team” missions. Part of what made season one so awesome was that simple element of survival that became sort of obsolete once they found the hatch. Amidst the attacks and kidnapping by the Others (by the way, has there ever been a more ominous group of villains than them? “We’re gonna have to take the boy” — my god. I still get goosebumps. Okay, moving on), running away from that thing in the jungle, and trying to triangulate signals with one of Sayid’s crazy thingamajigs, it’s easy to forget that these people were surviving on the island. It was a survival show. After about season two or so it stopped becoming a survival show. That’s no fault of the writers, as it was a natural progression of the events on the island, but I really miss that aspect from season one. Every seemingly mundane task the characters had was important. Everything mattered. It truly was either live together, or die alone.
Over the past eight months or so, hating on the ending of LOST has seemed like the popular thing to do (or at least, the squeaky wheel gets the oil). It’s true, it wasn’t perfect — but it couldn’t be. When’s the last time you were completely, 100% happy and satisfied with the ending to an epic television series you had been following for close to a decade? They weren’t going to please everyone. Even if you hated the ending, and you can’t be convinced otherwise, don’t let that ruin your experience of the series as a whole. Does a bad ending negate the magic of its first season? No, no it doesn’t. In times like these, people like to be hyperbolic. They like to pretend that one ending that didn’t go perfectly for them canceled out six years of incredible television. Season one was by no means LOST‘s only good season (in many ways, seasons two and three — forgetting the whole thing about Jack’s tattoos — were just as good). But for me, it was its best season. It is a reminder of just how good LOST could be. How compelling it was. How much it meant to television. How much it meant to me.
There are moments like the raft launch in Exodus that will go down in the annals of television as one of the greatest moments ever. The acting. The music. The cinematography. Remember moments like those. Don’t only remember what will just make you angry. In the words of Cormac McCarthy, “we forget the things we want to remember and remember the things we want to forget.” But it doesn’t have to be that way. A re-watch of season one will prove it to you.