I watched Lost for the first time. Here's why it's the perfect 2020 binge

I may be 16 years late to the J.J. Abrams show, but its lessons resonate just as strongly today.

Abrar Al-Heeti Video producer / CNET
Abrar Al-Heeti is a video host and producer for CNET, with an interest in internet trends, entertainment, pop culture and digital accessibility. Before joining the video team, she was a writer for CNET's culture team. She graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Though Illinois is home, she now loves San Francisco -- steep inclines and all.
Expertise Abrar has spent her career at CNET breaking down the latest trends on TikTok, Twitter and Instagram, while also reporting on diversity and inclusion initiatives in Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Credentials
  • Named a Tech Media Trailblazer by the Consumer Technology Association in 2019, a winner of SPJ NorCal's Excellence in Journalism Awards in 2022 and has twice been a finalist in the LA Press Club's National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.
Abrar Al-Heeti
6 min read
Lost cast

I finally caught up with the rest of the world by binging ABC's Lost on Hulu.

American Broadcasting Companies. All Rights Reserved.

Normal people spent the COVID-19 lockdown watching new shows like Indian Matchmaking or the latest season of The Umbrella Academy. But I'm not normal. After countless conversations with people that've ended in "How the hell have you never seen that?" I've discovered I have a tendency to overlook film and television masterpieces, or simply watch them many, many years after their release. 

That was the case for the Harry Potter franchise, which I didn't start reading and watching until 2009. 

It happened last spring, when, after having seen only three Marvel movies, I decided it would be fun to watch them all, back-to-back, over an insane two-and-a-half-day period

Now that I have ample time to sit at home and stare at a screen instead of socialize with humans, I decided it was time to consume another series I'd heard people rave about: Lost.

Why didn't I watch Lost the first time around? Possibly because I was 10 years old when it began airing in 2004. I remember seeing ads for upcoming episodes on TV, but I always dismissed the series as being for grown-ups and went back to watching my favorite shows on the  Disney Channel. 

Given what I'd consumed via cultural osmosis, when I finally began watching Lost on Hulu in June, I assumed it would simply be a show about basic survival -- finding food and water and fending off wild creatures -- and not much more. 

"How could this show last six seasons?" I wondered as I started the first episode. "Won't a bunch of people just starve and get killed in the first few episodes? Will they run out of water and die?" 

As I continued to watch and the plot grew more complex, it became clear this was a show about so much more than island survival. Lost is about fate, loss, forgiveness, acceptance and love. It's about the human condition and how the people around us play such a critical role in our lives. These themes are explored through a storyline that becomes increasingly captivating with each episode and season. 

Lost is the perfect 2020 binge. I'm sure it was also great to watch when it was first released, alongside dedicated groups of hard-core fans who took to online fan forums to discuss the intricacies of each episode, debating and sharing theories. But I'm glad I didn't have to deal with the anticipation of waiting for new episodes, or going months between seasons without any new content. Most importantly, I enjoyed watching Lost without being tainted by the opinions, expectations and disappointments of other viewers who I've been told openly aired their hopes and grievances during the show's TV run. 

Spoiler alert: If, like me, it takes you a while to watch a hit series (say, nearly 20 years), and you haven't yet seen Lost, you might want to stop reading now. I don't want to ruin the ending for you.

This was particularly evident with the series finale. I went into the final episodes of Lost minus the baggage of fan theories and speculation. I watched the ending for what it was and I appreciated it for what it was. I cried in the final moments and I felt an immense love for all the characters and what they'd taught me. Just as it was bittersweet for them to let go of their pasts, so it was for me to let go of them and this series. I thought it all ended beautifully, especially seeing Jack end his journey where it all began, in the bamboo forest with Vincent by his side, knowing he'd accomplished what he needed to and could finally move on. 

Only after finishing the series and reading blog posts and articles did I learn so many people were disappointed with how things ended and that many interpreted that final episode to mean the characters had been dead all along. (I'm still surprised at this conclusion, considering Jack's dad literally told him it was all real.) Because I'd always been more interested in the character development and emotional impact of the series as opposed to the mystical, supernatural elements, the plot holes didn't bother me as much. I got what I needed most, which was emotional closure. I got to see the characters move on with grace and optimism.

Lost screenshot

CNET's Corinne Reichert served as my spoiler-free search engine, when she wasn't ignoring my requests.

Screenshot by Corinne Reichert/CNET

Watching a hit series completely cut off from people's theories is a privilege and a rarity in this day and age. My co-worker Corinne was kind enough to serve as a buffer between me and Google, answering any questions I had about the actors and sharing on-set gossip while keeping spoilers at bay. (She'd even send me pictures of Matthew Fox and Henry Ian Cusick, who played Jack and Desmond, on request, as true friends do.) 

Lost may have first aired 16 years ago, but its lessons on love, hope and destiny resonate strongly today. As everything from the coronavirus pandemic to fights for social justice to political unrest fills our lives with uncertainty and fear, it's easy to feel helpless and alone. But as Jack's father, Christian, tells him in the series finale, "Nobody does it alone." 

What a beautiful reminder that for all the negativity in the world, there will always be people who care about you and who'll walk through hell to stand by you. It's OK to ask for help and support. We aren't meant to bear these burdens on our own.

Perhaps the most reassuring lesson for me relates to destiny, something that's explored throughout the series, sometimes heatedly as the characters question why they ended up on the island. While we don't know what tomorrow brings, in Lost fate is written and no amount of regret about the past or anxiety about the future can change that. 

Whether you're the type of person who'll move mountains to try to change the course of events or step back and allow things to unfold, you'll ultimately end up where you're meant to be with who you're meant to be with. Once you overcome the mental hurdle of accepting that destiny isn't in your hands, this fundamental truth can bring so much peace.

I also loved how well drawn each character is. Through the effective use of flashbacks, it quickly becomes clear no one is perfect -- not Jack, with his insatiable desire to help paired with his heedless stubbornness. Not Kate, with her fearlessness but occasional manipulation of others. Not Charlie with his selfless love but reckless tendency to overlook his own well-being. They are all flawed and therefore human. 

Lost logo

It's never too late to watch a cult classic.

Screenshot by Abrar Al-Heeti/CNET

In the show, as in real life, nothing is black and white. We all have good and bad within us, but that doesn't make us any less worthy of love and appreciation. The people who are dearest to us will see and acknowledge this and understand that there's always opportunity to grow from our mistakes. 

"The most important part of your life was the time that you spent with these people," Christian tells Jack in the finale, before he steps out to greet the other flight passengers. "You needed all of them, and they needed you."

"For what?" Jack asks him.

"To remember," his father replies. "And to let go."

In a time when tomorrow isn't guaranteed, what a shame to waste all our energy regretting the past. In the words of Daniel Faraday, "Whatever happened, happened." How beautiful it is to live in the moment, appreciate where we are now and focus on how we can make the future better for ourselves and others. While the world can feel hopeless in the face of rampant turmoil and uncertainty, remind yourself, as many times as you need to hear it, that you don't have to find a way out alone.  

In a year like this, what a reassuring thing to hear. 

New Movies Coming in 2023 From Marvel, Netflix, DC and More

See all photos