While I’ve been a fan Lost over the last six years, one fundamental difference between Lost and other classic Television shows like X-Flies, Twin Peaks, Buffy, The Prisoner, or The Wire is that the show’s main characters really have nothing to do when they aren’t being chased by the Smoke Monster. The basic situation (trapped on an Island) creates no context for action by the characters outside of uncovering their place in the meta-story. They’re not looking for something, or doing anything, so there’s really no great stand-alone episodes.
Contrast that with Buffy, for example. She’s a Slayer, so there are satisfying individual episodes and mini-arcs throughout the series, no matter how poorly you think the final season turned out. The Angelus stuff in Season 2, for example, or the Faith/Mayor stuff in Season 3 is fantastic, and can be enjoyed on its own.
The only thing that comes close for me in Lost is the last third of Season 3 (when the show finally got back on track), and the Miles stuff from last year. But knowing that 90% of the mysterious elements don’t have much relevance to the bigger picture makes it hard for me to want to go back and watch the old stuff.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate the show, but I’m bummed that so many things that kept me tuning in turned out to be red herrings: Dharma, the Black Rock, the Others, the pregnancy problems, Walt’s powers, the constant, all that time travel, and so much more, ended up being immaterial to the the show’s central conceit.
In the end it turned out to be about two guys battle over a glowing cave. That just isn’t all that interesting to me because it seems to have no direct impact on the characters I care about. And I’m not all that interested in whether SmokeLocke escapes the island because “the end of the world” is a cliché and meaningless meta-threat. For a show that is so good at being character driven, it’s kind of shocking they went decided to give them no personal stakes in the outcome. And If all the remaining Losties died in the finale, who would miss them? Who, in their world, would care? Hugo’s Mom & Dad? Penny?
In a show so filled with metaphor and symbolism, you would think they could have done more with all the literary toys they’ve created over the years. Maybe the finale will fix it, but somehow I doubt it.