Less than 24 hours after the series finale of LOST, I am tackling the meaning of the show, its importance for modern story telling, and why, as anyone who writes or enjoys stories, should appreciate the show. But, before I begin, I have two disclaimers:
1: There will be spoilers. If you haven't watched all of the way through and don't like learning things beforehand, back out now and come back later.
2: The following essay is simply my interpretation of the show. I do not claim to know the thoughts of the writers and producers.
For six long, tumultuous seasons LOST has brought people together over insane story telling. The show was never about the island, it's mysteries or the mythology. In my mind, that's fluff: fun, but not the point. After watching the finale last night I can say that the show is about connections. It's about how everyone you meet has an impact on your life. Regardless of how little the interaction happened to be, it can -- and most likely will -- have a butterfly-effect-type impact on your life and the lives of others who you touch.
Throughout the first three seasons of the show, we see how all of these characters' pasts are intertwined. Sawyer drank with Jack's dad in Sydney. Jack and Claire were half-siblings. Locke's dad was the one who drove Sawyer's parents to their deaths. Every episode the connections grew. The last three seasons we got to watch as all of these people's relationships evolved and some cemented into life-long loves.
Then we have the finale. In the "flash-sideways" time-line, all of the characters are re-connecting and remembering their experiences together. Turns out they all died, each on their own time, and the "flash-sideways" time-line was created to help them all re-connect and move on together. Even in death the connections we make, the time we spend together means something. Everything we do, everyone we meet, has purpose.
Sure, that's all well and good, but what about Walt? What about Aaron? They were supposed to be special right? Why didn't we learn anything more about them? Let's come down from our cloud of LOST's greatness and remember we are watching a television show created by human beings. I can say with a decent amount of certainty that the producers knew they were going to re-unite all of the characters in death at the end of the show. But, I will venture a guess and say that they didn't have all of the mythology planned out. Walt and Aaron, their character's importance fizzeled out as the show evolved and 'more important' bits of the story overtook them. They created Walt as an interesting kid who seemed to be able to summon birds, and that's why the Others were in-turn interested in him. But ultimately the show grew around him. While sad, I think we need to remember that television shows are rather elastic in their creation, and some things will get lost (no pun intended). We should count ourselves lucky that the producers actually got to end it on their own time. Now we don't have to sit through seasons of the writers aimlessly coming up with individual episode plots that have no purpose towards the end.
That's what happened in LOST's lesser moments. Who cares about the chick from "Expose"? Not I. Do we really care that Jack had a fling with some crazy woman in Asia where he got his tattoos. Nope. Again, such is the nature of a television show.
So, why, as lovers of stories and, some of us as writers, care about the show? The characterization is fantastic. Most of the characters are quite complex and the biggest characters, Jack, Locke, Ben, and others I'm sure, have full development arcs. LOST is a great study in character motivation, complexity and growth.
If your into sci-fi or speculative fiction, the show's treatment of time travel is superb. The mythology created, and fairly well maintained, throughout the entire series is exceptionally complex. This complexity has frustrated many, and I understand. That is an acquired patience. LOST's writers really went out of their way to include intelligent cultural references. From Sawyer's quipped nicknames for everyone, to Jacob reading "Everything That Rises Must Converge" by Flannery O'Connor as Locke falls from paralyzing heights.
In the end, LOST succeeds as an intelligent, complex show. It is a show about people; people struggling with their lonely and depraved pasts to make sense of their lives, to have faith, to have purpose. The mythology is good, confusing at times, and yes there are some dead ends. Stories should make you think, make you contemplate your place within that story and what its message means for your life. In this, LOST succeeds.
LOST brought viewers together all over the world. The show definitely helped me cultivate friendships, including one with my future wife. It gave us something to talk about, something to bond over. For this, I will be forever grateful. But thank God, LOST is finally over!
(Edit: Actually Aaron was explained already. Scratch that.)