In preparation for the big Lost finale — which will be the most important event in the history of the universe, answer all our questions, and prove that St. Elsewhere was real after all — Ken Levine has a guide to the characters and plot of the show. And now you’re completely caught up.
Because of the combination of big-network hype and online interest — Lost is one of the few shows that combines massive mainstream appeal with niche appeal — this comes off to me as the most relentlessly-hyped series finale since Friends. There may have been others in the interim that got the same level of promotion, but those are the two that really seemed inescapable. Interestingly, it may well turn out that a plane was more central to the Friends finale than the Lost finale, unless this is all leading up to a flash-sideways scene where someone screams “did she get off the plane!?” at an answering machine.
Update: One other thing to watch out for in the finale will be what we might call signposts — references to earlier seasons, characters, and modes of storytelling. Shows in their final seasons have a way of getting nostalgic for the time when the ratings were at their peak, hence the many Lost flash-sideways that serve to bring back what some of its viewers might consider its Good Old Days. And finales in particular, because they bring in many people who drifted away from the show a while back, tend to put in stuff that the ex-viewers can grab on to and use to orient themselves. The most extreme example is the Seinfeld finale, because that was written by a guy (Larry David) who hadn’t been with the show for two years, and who therefore brought back tons of earlier characters but referred to absolutely nothing that had happened in the preceding two seasons.
Lost won’t go that far. But since the creators are aware that their viewership tonight will be higher than usual, I would not be at all surprised if the ending has a bit of the feel of a reunion movie, picking up the pieces from earlier seasons — in addition to this past season — and carrying through to an ending. Or maybe not; but it will probably wind up being less confusing to non-frequent viewers than you might expect (but then, I think coming late into a serialized show isn’t as traumatizing an experience as we might think; if it were, soap operas would never get new viewers).