Adam Roberts reviews Lost for Strange Horizons. Maybe the best, most levelheaded review of the show I've read. The highest praise I can give the piece is just to point out that Adam's affection for the show doesn't keep him from offering a devastating, honest critique of (some of) the show's debilitating weaknesses:
Any potted account of Lost's main storylines, such as the above, must tend to make one thing clear: that it was at root a ludicrous show. Daft, implausible, hyperactive, given to lurching shifts of focus and scale of positively Van Vogtian proportions. To say so is not to dismiss it, of course. Ludicrous is not the same thing as risible. The show's genius was in the way it fully inhabited its ludicrousness, the way it turned the clunky paraphernalia of TV melodrama into a near-perfect simulacrum-fable of profundity. It did this by playing with the grain of its daftness; always ingenuously in tune with its own absurdity, neither too archly knowing nor embarrassed by it. Narrative contrivances a first-year screenwriting student would dismiss as too hokey were deployed not once but many times - the literal ticking bomb, for instance; the Mexican standoff; the run-and-chase. The scriptwriters enjoyed the metaphorical narrative sugar-rush of killing off major characters (or in one variant of this: of introducing a new character in such a way as to make it plain s/he will be a new major player, only to kill him/her before they even get going). In small doses this can be joltingly effective, textually speaking; but it became so totally a feature of the Lost universe that it ended up creating a weirdly parodic version of humanity. Everybody on the island, it seemed - no matter what other traits their characters displayed - everybody was only ever a moment away from punching somebody, torturing somebody for information, or shooting somebody else dead. I think only Hurley and Charlie, amongst the major characters, abstained from the social performance of murderous violence. For everybody else it was a mundane business; the pistol whipping, the rifle shot to the chest, the thrown knife into somebody's back. Cumulatively this created the vibe that pretty much all the people on the island were terrible terrible people. Picture a world as a tropical island paradise wholly populated by conscience-free, violently disposed supermodels. Et - violà.
Putting all these beautiful people (Ben, Charlie, and Hurley excepted) through the over-caffeinated bounceabout contortions of plot also meant that the show as a whole kept losing its focus. It toyed with Robinson Crusoe, or Tempest, allusions, but they sputtered into nothing. It picked up the notion that everything might be an SFnal material novum, and then entirely Lost interest in that. It seemed to be saying something obliquely about 9-11 - from the world being changed by a catastrophic plane-crash at the start of season 1, to the sight in season 6 of Iraqi Sayyid's death by suicide-bombing (he grabs an about-to-explode bomb and runs off down a corridor, blowing himself up for the greater good of his friends). But no ideological coherence emerges from that sort of reading. Characters are named after famous philosophers (Locke, Bentham, Rousseau, Hume) but without any actual philosophical content behind the gesture.
A fan who even dipped a toe into the para-material generated by fans could see that part of the appeal of the show was in its tantalising detail, any one of which could be the key that explained everything. In an important sense, the point of the show was the elevation of this kind of detail to a new aesthetic prominence. When its big reveal finally came, as it must, part of it would be to dissolve much of this beautiful tracery. And so it was. Bye-bye mystic numbers, Dharma Initiative, polar bears, big-wheel-for-moving-the-island and wholly-unresolved-why-can't-people-give-birth-on-the-island storyline. Hello Jacob, smoke monster, and mystical fable of faith and atonement. Boo.
Of course then he has to go off and ruin my fun by claiming the series was 'about' something other than its own aroma. Well, no one's perfect. (Were I an emoticon man, I'd do that thing right about here.)
As they say, read the whole thing. If you're bored to the point of self-harm, my response to Adam's review sits in his comments section.