At the end of each episode I experienced a strong, almost compulsive drive to know what happened next. No show made me hunger more for answers. And when an answer was given, it felt uncannily gratifying.
So how did the writers of Lost keep me, and millions of other viewers, addicted to their program through six seasons?
Humans are fascinated by the supernatural. Magic, ghosts and the afterlife are ever-popular subjects. The surging demand for stories about vampires and other undead beings attest to this.
In it’s first season Lost established the island as a place where miracles do happen. Who can forget seeing John Locke step out of his wheelchair, or Hurley chatting with a deceased friend?
By stirring our natural fascination with the supernatural, Lost kindled the imaginations of viewers.
Mystery and Suspense
As well as exploring the supernatural, Lost was also a tale of mystery. Puzzles were presented, and viewers sought to decipher the answers.
Humans are curious creatures. Once we become involved in a story, we long to know how things turn out. No series in recent memory roused viewer curiosity more than Lost. Virtually every episode ended with a cliffhanger.
A vital component of any good mystery is suspense. By increasingly raising the stakes and delaying answers, Lost ratcheted up the suspense week after week. As a viewer, I craved to know what happened next, because the stakes had risen so high. Early on the fates of our heroes hung in the balance. By the end of the series the future of the world was at stake.
The Timeless Battle
Finally, Lost delved into one of the most enduring fantasy archetypes: the timeless battle between good and evil. Many of the great fantasy epics incorporate this motif, including The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.
Lost explored this theme on two levels.
On one level, Lost was a character-driven show. The battle between good and evil played itself out in the lives of the characters. As we know, the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 weren’t so much lost geographically as they were spiritually. As the series progressed some characters found redemption, while others succumbed to their darker natures.
On a larger scale, Lost chronicles this timeless battle as a clash between two otherworldly powers. The forces of good and evil are embodied in the persons of Jacob and The Man in Black, with the survivors being caught in the middle.
Connected to this battle is another classic fantasy motif: the reality of Providence. This is the notion that a power greater than us is in control, guiding the universe towards an ultimate purpose. As Gandalf once said on this subject, “that may be an encouraging thought.”
In the world of Lost, things happen for a reason. There is a sense that something more is at work, leading our heroes towards some greater end.
As fantasy authors, our goal is to write novels of such quality that readers are reluctant to put them down. Lost is the television equivalent of such success. By understanding what made Lost so compelling, we can better perceive what constitutes great storytelling.
This article explains how Lost kept me hooked. Were you also a Lost addict? If so, how did it keep you hooked?