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Monday, February 20, 2006

The mysteries of Lost

January 12, 2005

It could be aliens. Or perhaps purgatory. But I don’t think so.

Brace yourself, Tubers. I think I’ve solved the mystery of Lost, by which I mean, I’m as clueless as the rest of you and am guessing, too.

After last week’s episode and much thoughtful discussion with my fellow Lost devotees, I’m convinced the crash survivors are still on Earth. The violent waves and raging sea last week may have been the writers’ way of tying the characters to a current event: the tsunami.

As for the rest of the supernatural events, I’m blaming science. Or the government.

Consider this: the crazy French woman, hereby known as Frenchie, was part of a government science team working on a top-secret experimental project. The project got a bit Frankensteiny, and they unintentionally created an uncontrollable “monster.” It’s a shape-shifting, psychological monster that morphs from a person, to a ghost, to an animal, etc. to play on its victims’ worst fears. It could have been developed as a biological weapon for war. Instead of retrieving the infected team, the government abandoned them in paradise.

Not buying it? Well, it sounded good in theory.

Of course, it doesn’t explain the other mysteries of the island. Like how a paralyzed office worker suddenly can walk and hunt wild boar like he’s Davy Crockett? Or why the severely obese Hurley isn’t losing any weight? Or why the usually brazen Sawyer swims with his jeans on? Does he have chicken legs?

If you don’t agree with my science-experiment-gone-horribly-wrong theory, there are plenty of others to choose from. The religious subtext lends credence to the purgatory idea. Each character seems to have lost something before they boarded the plane. Most of them appear to be seeking redemption for some past sin.

Through the magic, mysticism, and spirituality of the island, the characters are regaining what they lost and getting a second chance. The island seems to be a place to renew one’s faith. Even mine, that television can indeed be a medium to prompt intellectualism.

Lost usually presents more questions than answers, forcing viewers to peel back the layers, analyze dialogue, props, and characters. It is a complex synergy of suspense, drama and humor, as entertaining as it is cryptic. Did Locke see God in the jungle? Or was he consumed by the Devil? Is Frenchie really insane? Did she kill her fellow team members because they became possessed?

Thankfully, the story hasn’t focused much on their survival. It’s more about the characters’ histories, their sins, their fears, their shortcomings, and their desires.

Lost is also a literature lovers’ buffet. The symbolism in the names seems too obvious to be a coincidence. Locke has to be named for philosopher John Locke of The Enlightenment make-your-own-destiny movement. And troublemaker Sawyer, I’m assuming, was named for Mark Twain’s ornery Tom.

Oh, and Ethan could be a nod to Ethan Frome. Then, there was the book that washed ashore: Watership Down. I haven’t read it since 5th-grade, but I recall it was the tale of a group of rabbits, heroism and survival. I could go on with references to Paradise Lost, Lord of the Flies and Robinson Crusoe, but I’ll spare you. Be satisfied to know that Lost combines elements of literature, philosophy, sociology, and theology. And you thought it was just a TV show.

With so many literary references and complex characters, I’ll toss out one more possible theory: the entire show is just a story being told in a gifted writer’s imagination. Perhaps in the last episode, we’ll see the creator sitting at a computer typing the words “The End.”

It could happen. Then, again, maybe they’re just lost.

Originally published 1/12/05 in The Exponent Telegram newspaper.


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