Is anyone still watching Lost? Or, more to the point, is anyone who is still watching it, watching it for any reason other than that this is the last series?
The heady days of Season 1 seem a long time ago now. Remember the thrill of first seeing a polar bear on a tropical island? Of wondering how Jack's dead father appeared to him? Or how Locke had regained the use of his legs? Remember how much fun it was trying to guess what could possibly explain all those weird and wonderful plot twists?
Were the characters dead and serving their time in purgatory? Was everything happening inside Hurley's head? There seemed to be so many possibilities!
By Season 2, watching the series was already becoming a bit of a chore. Setting 50% of the show inside a concrete and steel bunker where the most excitement on offer was wondering whether the latest character-of-the-week would remember to push a button was hardly gripping television. But we kept watching, right? After all, there was always just the merest hint of a possibility that something might happen to explain what the Hell was going on.
It didn't, of course. As each successive season came and went, the main characters started to be killed off (some to add much needed tension, others presumably because the actors no longer wished to be associated with the show) and a variety of increasingly improbable methods were used to introduce new characters to replace them: the Tail-enders, the Others, the Rescue team, the Dharma initiative ... They all came, and they each added one or two replacements to the permanent cast before being whisked away and almost instantly forgotten. Now, as the climax approaches, we have the Temple-dwellers. Forgive me if I stifle a yawn at this latest deus ex machina.
Anyway, for those of us who are still looking in every week, there is at least the chance of an explanation at the end of this season, and that'll make it all worth while, right? Well ... kind of.
The trouble is that I don't think anybody cares any more. The writers have written so many inexplicable twists and turns into the previous five seasons that there simply is no single explanation that can satisfactorily bring all the threads together in one big "Ah, so that's it!" moment. We know this because of the glimpses we've aleady had: the bland and uncharismatic Jacob, nuclear explosions, the island moving through space, the characters moving through time, Locke becoming the smoke monster ... In the frantic scramble to tie all the lunatic plot twists together, the final series is already on course for one of the messiest and most contrived endings ever.
I knew this was coming. Hell, we all knew this was coming. But, if I'd needed any proof, it was given when - as the Dharma settlement's camp was being torn apart - one of the characters could just be heard shouting over all the confusion: "The polar bear's escaped!" Honestly, if that's the best explanation the writers could come up with to justify a polar bear being on a tropical island, what hope is there that they have anything better in mind to explain all the other 2,003 paradoxes and plot holes?
For all that, I am watching the last series. I'm not entirely sure why. I suspect it's because part of me wants to be proven wrong. Part of it is also because I have a theory about where the series seems to be heading and, I suppose, I just want to see if I'm right. (I do hope I'm not!) But mainly, I think, it's because I'm quite enjoying the glimpses of the characters' "what if" lives, back in the US. If it wasn't for those sequences, I'm sure I'd have given up by now, because - as far as everything that's happening on the island is concerned - I really don't care any more!