Just To See If You Would
We finished LOST Series 2 last week, and I'm left with mixed feelings. This is Peak LOST, the moment when the show has, for me, just the right balance of woo-woo nonsense, concrete reality and character-building. The first series keeps the nonsense mostly on a slow-burn, this turns it up a little but not so much that it overwhelms. After this, things start to seem more weightless as the nonsense starts to pile up and up (though the Series 2 vibes do continue a way into Series 3, like how the 90s didn't end until 9/11). I have told my girlfriend things that happen later in the series (on the basis that she'll forget without being able to correctly frame it) and she literally refused to believe me.
My brother likes to say that a most of what you remember about shows you liked is the first five episodes, maybe the first ten if the episodes are shorter. There are a number of reasons you could attribute this to: if it's something you're really into and you introduce it to a bunch of your friends, you'll end up watching it many times (this is why I can recite the first few episodes of Arrested Development verbatim but quickly fall off); shows will typically front-load a lot of big beats and character stuff to get the audience sufficiently invested to continue. While LOST definitely makes an early impact, it manages to effectively reset itself at the beginning of Season 2. I've mentioned before that the opening is one of my favourite openings to a TV show, but I'm surprised how little has been lost with time. The setup of a 'slightly off' mundanity to a banger soundtrack ending with a shock re-contextualisation of everything you've just seen back into the world of the existing show is so effective they did it again for the opening of Series 3, and inverted (sans-banger song) for Juliet's first flashback episode.
If it were around these days, LOST would probably be a prestige show on HBO or something, but I don't know whether it would necessarily be better for it. You'd probably have longer individual episodes but a shorter and overall tighter series, but you'd be deprived of a lot of the downtime used for characterisation. That said, Series 2 clearly shows the results of the structurally-enforced plot meandering and slightly-too-large cast (until they start killing them off near the end). Every Jin-centric episode sees him forgetting the lesson he learned about not being such a dick to his wife in the previous. Sawyer, after having a lot of his dangerous bad boy persona softened over the course of Series 1, reverts to type almost immediately Series 2 begins (one presumes because he can't contribute much to the hatch plot so needs to be able to create drama by being needlessly grouchy) then does a dramatic heel turn at the series' midpoint, which goes nowhere. He then proceeds to lose to Jack at cards and get beaten up by Hurley. He's always had a bit of goofiness to his character but for a good portion of Series 2 he's pretty much Charlie and Hurley-tier comic relief.
But mostly it's good. We get so much JACK YELLING OUT OF NOWHERE, so many Classic LOST Lines: "just to SEE if you WOULD", "I MARRIED HER", "I HAVE TO GET MAH HONAH BAAACK" "When I walk past that wall, mah feelings hurt", "IT'S NEVER BEEN EASY" etc. We get the introduction of Ben, a character who, in a show rammed full of folk who behave in bizarre and inconsistent ways depending on who's writing, is at least bizarre and inconsistent because, as the good doctor said of Nixon, he's so crooked he needs servants to help him screw his pants on in the morning; lying to everyone all the time about everything. We get the hatch, which, while a complete load of nonsense, is genuinely "iconic"—entering the numbers, the map on the door, the timer flipping over to red-and-black hieroglyphs.
Anyway–done with that now. Only 3 series to go before Dogen.