A Sacrifice The Island Demanded

James... you can never set foot in Australia again.

A Sacrifice The Island Demanded

CM and I have been watching LOST, her first time, my first since original airing. Back then, not having Sky and not being allowed by my parents to install torrent software, I had to use a Chrome extension to rip Flash videos from streaming sites and watch it on my iPod Nano to get around my computer time limits. Now we can just watch it on Prime Video, and the limiting factor on whether we can finish an episode is whether we're too tired and fall asleep. Times have changed.

Watching the show itself it is also clear that times have changed. There are some dated effects but it's mostly in evidence in the peak 2000s-era liberalism on display: having a Muslim character who's not a terrorist is clearly meant to blow your mind in the same ways as that "riddle" where you're meant to assume a doctor is a man[1]. It's also noticeably dated in that it's a high-profile network TV show, which I feel like don't really come along as much these days. This means it's got way more episodes than e.g. an HBO show, and with them more padding. You go from "what's the deal with the hatch" to "Sawyer is convinced a boar has a grudge against him" or "literally anything involving Hurley and Charlie".

My brother once pointed out that when you remember a long-running TV show, often a lot of what you remember is confined to the first few episodes. That's certainly true of this[2]. There's a lot of stuff in the middle that I had completely forgotten. CM was asking me how much I remember of it and honestly while I remember the main beats, a lot of the Two Or Three Main Characters In Combination Go Into The Jungle To Do Something moments ended up blending into one. A lot of what I remember is quite weird and specific, like the Australian police officer delivering the line "James... you can never set foot in Australia again" like it was a funeral.

It has been great fun watching with someone who hasn't seen it before. I have had to reassure her multiple times that Vincent makes it to the end. I have also had to bite my tongue at several points—when she got sad about the raft leaving I didn't have the heart to mention that their absence would not be a long one. It's almost funny how certain things are moved on from pretty quickly like that (the Boone/Shannon incest angle), and also which characters are disposable (Boone again). He obviously gets some trademark Lost Sad Piano Music though shouts to Michael Giaccino for giving it a goofy name in the soundtrack to underline the point that this guy isn't really that big a deal—if he were he probably would've had the flashbacks in his final episode, instead of Jack, whose flashbacks were some boring blah about not being able to write his wedding vows.

In retrospect, while a lot of stuff that was either abandoned, changed or deliberate misdirection stands out with the benefit of hindsight, LOST isn't really about any of the things it pretends to be about; it's about the characters. It really is about the friends we made along the way. I cried at the ending—yes, because like Pavlov's Dog I had 5 years conditioning me to be sad at the sound of the Lost Sad Piano Music, but also because these stupid, inconsistent characters I think the reason that people focused so much on the other stuff is at least partly because it leans hard into practicalities early on (how do we build shelter/how are we going to get water on the island/we need to hunt for food etc) only to forget about them before too long for mystical nonsense[3]. A lot of the mystery stuff does work for me, though I would say it works best in relation to characters: the slow revelation that in the real world Locke is kind of a loser is very effective[4].

Anyway, having a great time, at this point I'm just marking time until Dogen shows up.


  1. speaking of doctors: Jack's dad looks like Richard Dawkins. That's all I'm able to think whenever he's on screen. If you need someone to play Dawkins in a show: get that guy. ↩︎

  2. That said, I definitely remember Arzt exploding. ↩︎

  3. exactly the same problem Battlestar had: early episodes trying to work out how to negotiate with the prisoners to mine ice or whatever, then it becomes a big game of "who's the final Cylon" or whatever ↩︎

  4. The most unrealistic thing in the show is that no-one accuses Locke of being a nonce for hanging around Walt so much. ↩︎