image of Sayid, played by Naveen Andrews, image by Rotten Tomatoes.4,8,15,16,23,42

Lost opens in the immediate aftermath of an airliner crash on a deserted jungle island. The first character we see is a wounded Jack Shepherd, a spinal surgeon with a Messiah complex, but very soon the canvas of the Survivors of Oceanic flight 815 will be spread out before us, and what a broad canvas it is.

Filmed entirely, or nearly so, in the state of Hawaii, mostly on Oahu, Lost was beautiful, but it required some conscious suspension of disbelief to accept Honolulu as every other single city represented in the show. Season 1 had 25 episodes, nearly six months of content, in an era before streaming and binge-watching.

I am indebted to Lostpedia, a wiki devoted to the show. They did an amazing amount of work throughout the show’s 2004-2010 run and after. Rather than spend column space here on the large cast of Lost, I’m linking to their Season 1 cast list.  I will, however, give highlights of the characters we meet in Season 1.

Jack Shepherd, aforementioned spinal surgeon, wants to “fix” everybody, and struggles with self-doubt.

John Locke was a paraplegic who receives a miracle when the plane crashes, and believes he has a spiritual connection with the island.

Jin and Sun Kwon (to use the USAian representation) have a troubled marriage, just one of many obstacles to their undying love for each other.

Kate Austin, a fugitive, arrives on the island in handcuffs.

(Handcuffs are a popular fashion accessory on the island. It is amazing, over the course of six seasons, how many pairs of them people have.)

Michael Dawson and Walt Lloyd, a father and son, were just getting to know one another when the plane crashes.

Rose clings to the faith that her husband Bernard, who was in the tail section of the plane, is still alive.

James “Sawyer” Ford, a grifter, is driven by vengeance. He is oppositional-defiant and an early-stage capitalist.

Hugo “Hurley” Reyes won the lottery with the Lost numbers, and believes the numbers have cursed him.

Sayid Jarrah is an Iraqi citizen who fought with the Republican Guard. A communications officer, Sayid was also a torturer.

(It’s also surprising how often the castaways need a torturer.)

Claire Littleton is eight and a half months pregnant.

Charlie Pace is a heroin-addicted has-been pop star.

Boone and Shannon Carlyle are moneyed step-siblings with a love-hate relationship.

Danielle Rousseau has been on the island for sixteen years.

Vincent is Walt’s dog.

John Locke is immediately enigmatic and disturbing. We don’t know, as he wanders up and down the beach being folksy, that earlier that same day he had no feeling in his legs, and used a wheelchair. He takes a shine to Walt, introducing him to backgammon (a recurring symbol, “light and dark”), and telling Walt a miracle happened. Michael views him with jealousy and suspicion. As Season 1 progresses, both Locke and Walt will engage in sabotage to stay on the island.

The first night on the beach the survivors encounter the entity that will become the “smoke monster.” In this first appearance the monster merely roars and tears up some trees. Later, characters encounter ghostly whispers and voices in various parts of the island. In short order, the castaways encounter a mysterious and dire radio message (on repeat), polar bears, and a crazy French woman in the jungle.

Even with this growing menace, most time is spent on developing the relationships and setting up the important jostling for alpha male status the show seems most interested in. Sawyer scavenges the plane, hoarding many of the supplies. This sets him in direct opposition to “lawful” Jack, who has assumed a leadership role, while Locke challenges Jack by hunting the island’s wild pigs and bringing back food. (On one of his solo expeditions, Locke encounters the monster, but he is spiritually ecstatic about it.)

Claire, Hurley and Kate take actions that show they are caring and focused on the community. From early on, even though Hurley is a character who is the butt of the jokes in his flashback episodes and the “present tense” story, he is someone who cares about people, and sometimes he’s the only one who does.

The main plotlines for Season One include:

–Meet the Survivors

–The Monster

–The Others

–The Raft

Emotionally, two storylines kept me watching; Michael and Walt, and Jin and Sun. Jin and Sun are originally defined as isolated by language, since we, like the castaways, believe neither of them speak English. Jin is protective and controlling, bristling whenever a man talks to Sun, but he is also the first one to fish, offering people sea urchin to eat, while Sun creates a garden. At first, we tend to think Michael’s rift with Walt is simply due to Walt’s age—a preadolescent testing boundaries, but as the flashbacks that are the show’s trademark continue, we realize these two barely know each other.

We also learn that Walt is magical. I was eager to see this aspect developed. Like Locke, Walt seems to have a connection to the island, and sometimes he knows the future. Is Walt the reason the castaways are here? This is never answered, the first but not only time the showrunners will jettison an intriguing plotline with zero resolution.

Sayid meets the shipwrecked French woman Rousseau. All of her expedition died, “infected” she says, but it turns out she killed them. And her daughter, Alex, was kidnapped by one of the “Others.” Locke takes Boone under his wing, and they find a metal hatch buried in the jungle. The hatch becomes an obsession for Locke.

In a flashback, we learn that Hurley won the lottery, playing numbers he got from a fellow resident in a mental institution. The numbers, 4,8,15,16,23,42 recur throughout the six seasons, providing loads of entertainment and internet fodder for the fans, until Season Six, when a character tells Sawyer that the numbers mean nothing, really; “Jacob [a later character] had a thing for numbers.” Still, the doomed flight was 815, people’s seat numbers correspond to the numbers, and in Season 2, the numbers’ total, 108, becomes a countdown number.

Charlie and Claire bond. (One of my favorite moments in Season 1 is the “imaginary peanut butter” sequence between Claire and Charlie.)

Sun reveals she can understand and speak English. She does this to save Jin, but it shames him. Claire begins having bad dreams about someone taking her baby, but Jack ignores her fears. Hurley’s desire to know something about the people he’s cast away with leads to the discovery that one of the people in their group, Ethan, wasn’t on the plane. Ethan  abducts Claire, leaves Charlie for dead, and when Claire escapes, kills one of the other survivors. Later, Charlie murders Ethan. [Edited for clarity.]

Michael builds a raft to leave the island. Someone burns the first raft. Jin, who harbors animosity toward Michael, is suspected, leading Sun to reveal she speaks English, but in fact Walt torched the first raft. Michael starts again. The raft was a thing of beauty and one of my favorite visuals on the show. While wandering around in the jungle, Locke and Boone find a small plane crashed into a tree. Locke persuades Boone to climb up into the plane, causing the plane to nosedive, fatally injuring Boone. While Jack struggles and fails to save Boone (misled at first when Locke gives a false report of how he was injured) Kate delivers Claire’s baby boy, Aaron.

Shannon is desolate without her stepbrother. She and Sayid grow closer.

Michael, Walt, Jin and Sawyer leave on the raft. They are accosted by the Others, who shoot Sawyer, snatch Walt and burn the raft. Season One ends. The Others definitely have a thing for other people’s kids.

After the first or second episode it becomes quite clear that Lost is not a story of survival. Survival crops up now and then as a plot point, but most “survival” is an Us against Them battle—and there are so many “Thems.” There are polar bears, a monster, and the Others. In case those weren’t enough, the male principles squabble among themselves constantly. Jack crashes his leadership role when he orders the castaways to move off the beach to be closer to fresh water. The majority of survivors want to maintain the signal fires. Jack, haunted by his controlling, alcoholic father, effectively splits the group, the worst thing to do given the nature of the risks they face. Early in Season One, one design flaw with the show is obvious; there are too many survivors. The so-called “leaders,” mainly Jack and Locke in Season One, both want to lead, but both take off on adventures or something with no thought to the people left behind. Locke’s carelessness gets Boone killed (Locke, at first, sees the death as a “sacrifice” to the island). Jack ignores Claire’s fears, and splits up the group. Sayid doesn’t aspire to leadership. Sawyer, the callous loner who is running a thriving barter business, is actually the most reliable of the alpha males!

Still, there is much to like. The showrunners took a big risk with the story of Sun and Jin, since it is largely subtitled, but it is a standout. The two actors are standouts throughout the show, too, working at a higher level than most of the cast and elevating the whole show by it. The funny/sad story of Hurley, who is cursed by the numbers, nevertheless reveals Hurley’s heroism early. In the first episode, Hurley, who is fat (a fact remarked upon throughout the show), hands out the remaining food to terrified, traumatized people. He creates a golf course, letting people have some fun and hang out together. It is his desire to know people that leads to the discovery of the Other in their midst.  The show works really well, on rewatch, if you consider Hurley the show’s true “hero.”

The women characters of Season One are strong and complicated. Con-artist tomboy gal-pal Kate is the Letherman Utility Tool of characters; she is pretty, sexy and smart; she lies well, she can climb, track, hunt and shoot. Rose is a Mom figure in a show that doesn’t do well with mothers; caring but no-nonsense, and an avatar of faith in a different way from Mystic Locke. Sun is the subtlest of the female characters. While mostly a love interest and a victim in Season One, Claire grows as the show progresses. Shannon, Boone’s stepsister, is the least developed woman character, more plot device than person.

When Season One ends, the castaways are in trouble and questions are piled up around them. Will they be answered in Season Two? Was any question in Lost ever answered? I guess we’ll see.

(One commenter will win a copy of Bird Box by Josh Malerman)


  • Marion Deeds

    Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town.

    View all posts