Lost and found

How will it end?

It’s not just the question for Lost, which concludes its sixth and final season Sunday night, it’s an existential subject for the ages, televised or otherwise.

Intrigue and romance, family dynamics and time travel, religion, mysterious black smoke and hydrogen bombs—during its run, this J.J. Abrams drama mixed densely complex sci-fi story lines with humor and head-scratching puzzles, all while opening up larger issues that chip away at our notions of destiny, faith and fate.

Now, even though Lost has occasionally faltered during its final season, the mystical island show still stands to be remembered as one of modern television’s most fascinating, intelligent and Byzantine dramas.

Lost first aired in September 2004; I watched the debut episode but, to be honest, didn’t get the hype and, dismissing it as “too Gilligan’s Island,” turned the TV off halfway through the show’s two-hour premiere.

Two years later, I had a change of heart after a friend convinced me to give it another go. “It’s the kind of show that will get you talking,” she said. My husband and I rented the first season on DVD and not only made it through that entire first episode, but continued to watch all 25 episodes in just two weeks.

Soon, I was convinced this story of plane-crash survivors was the best sci-fi show since The X Files and a drama in league with The Sopranos. But while the former show 1990s-era drama cautioned viewers to “trust no one” and the latter redefined the concept of family values, Lost urged followers not just to suspend disbelief but also to accept the possibilities that we are put on this planet for reasons that will eventually become clear to us, that faith and logic can coexist and that family ties, while unbreakable, are certainly bendable.

(Perhaps most important, however, the series also taught us that polar bears can survive a tropical climate, that ancient VW vans will start up on the first try after decades of neglect, and that the numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42 possibly hold the answers to everything.)

But what intrigued me the most about the show was its mythology about a terrifying monster inhabiting not just the island, but also each major character’s history, present life and future sense of purpose. That concept, interwoven with intricate stories of faith—or lack thereof—defined the personal struggles that placed each character on that fated Flight 815.

The show’s final season has been problematic, as its writers try to answer to the legion of fans that obsess over the show, scouring the Web for clues about, among other details, the Dharma Initiative, Charles Widmore and Drive Shaft. As such, recent episodes have felt bloated, plodding and dull even in their attempt to cover acres of ground before the series comes to its end.

Perhaps the writers and producers shouldn’t try so hard to snip away at every loose story thread. Executive producer Carlton Cuse addressed his own existential crisis in an interview with Wired magazine, saying “We are going to take a stab at providing a conclusion, one that we hope will be satisfying [but] the bigger questions, we recognize, are not answerable.”

And really, that’s the point.

Not every paradox requires a solution. The best thing about Lost is how it allows viewers to ponder faith—whether or not you actually believe in a higher power—and its relation to quantum physics, fantasy and mind-blowing space-time continuum shifts.

The truth is out there, but it’s the actual quest for discovery, not the end result, which holds the real answers.