My first review was of Gilligan’s Island. What better way to continue than to tackle the Twenty-First Century version of the same thing: Lost. Lost ran from 2004 to 2010, with 119 episodes.
“Wait,” you say, “Lost is nothing like Gilligan’s Island, Russell. Pull your head out.”
“No, you wait,” I rejoinder. “I’ll explain.”
The basic setup of both shows is identical. A disparate group of individuals that represent different parts of our society are involved in a disastrous event (this time, a plane crash) that strands them on an island in the Pacific Ocean. Also, there are already a bunch of people on the island. Also, there appears to be some aspect of fate ensuring that they can’t leave. Really, this post is writing itself.
Now, it’s not possible to have one-for-one analogues of the characters. They function more as combinations. So, let’s dig in.
Jack Shepard is a spinal surgeon, so he’s the most educated person on the island (Professor). He’s also got a little bit of an anger problem, but becomes the de facto leader (Skipper). He’s got daddy issues.
Kate Austen is a fugitive from justice. She doesn’t really have much of a parallel from Gilligan. She’s got daddy issues.
John Locke is a nerd who believes he’s destined for greatness, used to be paralyzed, but now isn’t. He vies for control with Jack, and believes in otherworldly things (Skipper). He’s got daddy issues.
Sayid Jarrah is an Iraqi soldier with encylcopedic knowledge of things that make it possible for these people to survive (Professor). He’s got daddy issues.
Hurley Reyes is a pleasant, helpful every-man (Gilligan) who secretly owns many millions of dollars (Howell). He’s got daddy issues.
Claire Littleton is a nice, pretty, uncomplicated girl (Maryann). She’s also about to give birth. She’s got daddy issues.
Sawyer is a ruthless con man who believes in the law of the jungle (Howell). He’s got daddy issues.
Sun Kwon is a loyal wife to her businessman husband (Lovey). But she has a secret! She’s got daddy issues.
Jin Kwon is Sun’s husband. There’s really no Gilligan analogue. He has daddy-in-law issues.
Michael Dawson is a contractor who just took guardianship of his son, who he hardly knows. He has issues as a daddy.
Walt Lloyd is Michael’s son, and doesn’t much respect him. He has daddy issues.
Shannon Rutherford is a dilettante who is mostly concerned with her physical appearance (Ginger). Her issue is with the fact that her daddy died, and that meant her step brother is impinging on her life.
Boone Carlyle is that step brother. And that’s all I have to say about that.
And, finally, Merry Brandybuck… I mean, Charlie Pace is a drummer from a rock band who is mostly focused on his celebrity (Ginger). He is the only character here with no kind of daddy issues. That might be why he’s my favorite character from Season 1.
Whew. That was a lot of characters. Maybe I shouldn’t have made a review of each character part of these posts. But I’m sticking to my guns!
First of all, the pilot. It’s astounding. It juggles all of these characters quite well. It lends their plight on the island an air of crazy mystery. It hooked me immediately. I needed to know what killed the pilot, why there was a polar bear on the island, who was the French woman repeating a message on the radio for over a decade. (FYI, don’t believe the haters. All of these questions, and more, were answered through the series run.)
Long story short, the show was about the fate of this mysterious island, and how these people were tied to that. I won’t try to summarize the series, because I’ll either fail to do it justice, or bore you to tears. As the show progressed, the main cast went through a bunch of changes. I’ll summarize quickly.
Boone died tragically. Shannon died accidentally. Charlie died heroically, as did Sayid, even Michael, kind of. Locke was murdered. Sun and Jin died together for love.
The following characters were added, didn’t add a ton to the show, and were killed: Mr. Eko, Ana Lucia, Libby, Nikki, Paulo, Charlotte, Daniel, Ilana. This isn’t to say I disliked all of these characters. I simply didn’t enjoy them enough to write up who they were and what they did.
Newer characters I did care about were…
Desmond Hume, a Scottish veteran who landed on the island and became pivotal to the plot because of his love for a woman with a terrifying father. (Daddy issues!)
Ben Linus, a sociopath who leads a society that already exists on the island. (He’s the one who murders Locke. And also his father!) His redemption arc may be the most emotionally satisfying part of the show.
Juliet Burke, a doctor brought to the island by Ben for unimportant reasons, who sides with the castaways against the “Others”. She helps to humanize Sawyer. I don’t believe her father was ever even mentioned. Imagine!
Miles Straume, a psychic with a penchant for one-liners who is always a little non-plussed by what’s going on. His arc isn’t important. I just really liked the performance.
Frank Lupidus, a pilot who brings a batch of new people to the island at the end of Season 3. I liked this guy because he had no secret past, no supernatural powers, no tortured soul. He was hands down the most normal guy in the show, and he responded to the stuff happening the way real people would. He was a rock, which was probably why they couldn’t have him in the show much. But when he was there, I loved it.
Richard Alpert, a guy from the 1800s who was granted temporary immortality by Jacob, the founder of the Others. His path was… Okay, you don’t care. He was important, and the character was genuinely good, if flawed. And the performance was great.
I think that covers it. All the entrances and exits of central characters. So, I suspect, to a casual reader this show sounds like an enormous mess. It was messy, but, to me, messy in the best of ways. And by the time they got to the the series finale, they stuck the landing. They addressed the internal psychological stuff, they addressed the interpersonal stuff, and they addressed the wack-a-doo sci-fi-fantasy stuff.
Also, I don’t know for sure, but I think this was the first show to have flashbacks baked into the structure of every episode. That is so commonplace now, it’s almost a cliche. But in 2004, it was innovative.
I can understand if someone watched the show on occasion they they would hate it. It rewards a constant, attentive viewer. That was me. I was a constant, attentive viewer. And I was rewarded.