Lost, Season 5

The problem with trying to produce a tightly plotted TV series is that, unlike a movie or novel, by the time the last part is being written, the first has usually been broadcast. Despite that, in its current season Lost has shown a degree of plot construction that surpasses most films.

It’s probably not a coincidence that Brian K. Vaughan joined the writing staff, given that he’s shown similarly brilliant plotting skills in comics like Y: the Last Man, Runaways and Ex Machina. (Unfortunately he’s left it again since the original publication of this review in Prism.)

Lost is no longer particularly concerned with acquiring new viewers, any more than a novel at page 500 is looking to attract new readers – and the comparison is apt, since the entirety of Lost adds up to a single, huge story.
That presents the reviewer with a problem: who would want to read a plot summary of pages 500–600 of a book? Let’s just say that this fifth, penultimate season of Lost sees it delivering more answers and surprises than ever as the characters delve into the history of the island. The stakes are as high as ever, the mysteries as profound, and the fights just as bloody. If the complexity has increased, so have the rewards for the careful viewer.

Reviewing something like Primeval, I’m conscious that it’s only going to be a short series. For a successful US show, you’re talking 140 or 150 hours of television, and that’s a big commitment. For Lost, if you don’t want to watch every episode you’re probably not going to want to watch it at all – and you certainly won’t enjoy the episodes you do watch as much as everyone else does. And of course it doesn’t matter how well the plot is constructed, if you don’t enjoy watching sweaty, beautiful people fighting in the jungle, you won’t enjoy Lost.

But for those of us who have enjoyed it, Lost will stand as one of the great happy accidents of cancellation-happy American television, something that shouldn’t have existed, couldn’t have succeeded, but is adding up to one of the most magnificent television experiences there has ever been.

This review originally appeared in the March 2009 issue of Prism.