By ERIC DEGGANS
Published October 2, 2006
Why do we love to get lost in Lost?
Most so-called "serialized" dramas fade from favor as plot lines fail to resolve, mysteries lead to more mysteries and stories get more complex.
But we couch potatoes have bonded with the 48 survivors of Oceanic Air Flight 815, connected inexplicably before the crash and now trapped on a Pacific island with a polar bear, weird black smoke, a convoluted science experiment and the ever-hostile Others.
Our hunch: It's the flashbacks. These looks back at the castaways' precrash lives solve tiny mysteries without giving away too much. Fans get a sense of closure in each episode, even as the overall Lost mythology just grows larger.
Even so, it's not too late to get Lost. With the season premiere coming Wednesday, here is a primer, complete with a peek at what may be coming, based on network press statements, Web sites and more.
But be warned: What follows is a minefield of spoilers with a boatload of inside information.
Jack Shepard (Matthew Fox), James "Sawyer" Ford (Josh Holloway) and Kate Austen (Evangeline Lilly)
The trio at the heart of the story, intrepid doctor Jack, con man Sawyer and tortured bad girl Kate, are prisoners of the Others, traded by fellow castaway Michael for his kidnapped son, Walt. ABC released photos of Sawyer in a wooden cell and Jack in a flashback to his doctor days. The actor who plays Michael, Harold Perrineau, isn't on the cast list this season. Sawyer and Kate face hard labor, while Jack gets a tempting offer from the Others' leader. Producers have said Kate chooses between Jack and Sawyer this season; gee, wonder which one she picks?
Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick)
Originally a bit player, Desmond surfaced last season as the guy who pushed buttons for years inside the hatch before the Losties discovered him. We know Desmond becomes a bigger fish this season, because Cusick joined the permanent cast. And since Desmond's estranged girlfriend learned of the island, we also know the Losties aren't trapped in purgatory or anything too supernatural.
Before it was blown up by Mr. Eko (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) at the end of last season, this space was the hub of action, revealing details of the Dharma Initiative experiment while containing a computer that required regular input to avoid disaster (activating an electromagnet that can pull down a plane, it turned out). We think Mr. Eko and Locke survived the blast.
Introduced as the digits that Hurley (Jorge Garcia) played to win the lottery, they kept popping up in episodes and were explained this summer in the Lost Experience, a multimedia game. They are the key to a formula predicting exactly when the human race goes extinct. The Dharma Initiative was an experiment aimed at forestalling that apocalypse.
Sayid (Naveen Andrews), Jin (Daniel Dae Kim) and Sun (Yunjin Kim)
The Losties' redeemed Iraqi soldier Sayid pulls together a party of survivors to rescue Sawyer, Jack and Kate from the Others. But his plan endangers the Korean couple, Jin and Sun, who already face a challenging question: Since Jin was believed to be infertile, is he really the father of the child Sun is carrying?
The Dead Guy
Killed in spectacular fashion while trying to make a radio transmission near the end of the first season, Boone Carlyle (Ian Somerhalder) returns as flashbacks in the mind of John Locke (Terry O'Quinn), who had developed the rich kid as his survivalist protege. (ABC lists Somerhalder in the cast for the Oct. 18 episode, "Further Instructions.")
The New People
Fresh from forgettable series such as Married to the Kellys and Related, Kiele Sanchez joins Lost as a new character, Nikki, who becomes the love interest for another new character played by Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro (Love, Actually). Elizabeth Mitchell (Dr. Weaver's first lover on ER) also joins the crew. Another Lost strength: With just 15 core characters amid 48 castaways, there's always a new face or two waiting in the wings.
What it all means
The Lost Experience reveals that Hanso Foundation president Thomas Mittlewerk wanted to stop the human extinction formula by killing 30 percent of the population with a virus, only to be fought by founder Alvar Hanso. But if Dharma can stop humanity's death another way - perhaps explaining how some Losties beat cancer and paralysis - are the Others helping or hampering it? Are the Losties a living part of Dharma, or folks who stumbled into a global struggle?
Ahh, vintage Lost. Answer one question and two more pop up to take its place. Those of us who savor the mystery each week wouldn't have it any other way.