Friday Flashback: LOST S1E1 - "Pilot"

SDCC 09: LOST: THE FINAL SEASON BEGINS

Guys....where are we?

More appropriately, when are we? Just in time for the Lost series finale, I’ve input September 22, 2004 into the DeLorean to catch the Lost series premiere. And it’s a good thing too. Even though “Pilot, Part 1” was watched by 18.6 million viewers, I wasn’t one of them.

Don’t scream at me just yet. Let’s take a minute to talk about what was going on in the world in 2004 first. An enormous tsunami hit Southeast Asia, Facebook was founded (and will reach self-awareness in 2015), Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriages and the Boston Red Sox won the World Series for the first time since 1918 (something that would later be incorporated into the show).

In the TV realm, Justin Timberlake “helped” Janet Jackson share her nipple with millions of viewers at the Superbowl, Christopher Eccleston was announced as the ninth actor to play the Doctor in the newly revamped Doctor Who series and long running sitcoms like Friends and Frasier ended.

When Lost began I had recently graduated from college. Life was good but also stressful. Now that school was done with I had to find a job so the last thing I was concerned with was the fall lineup. Deadwood, Stargate Atlantis, Entourage, The Batman, Veronica Mars and House all premiered in 2004. [Newsarama Note: I can't confirm, but I believe "Friday Flashback" column founder Troy Brownfield had just turned 60.]

Alias, (one of my favorite shows) was unfortunately starting to suck, so when I heard J.J. Abrams was putting together a new show I was hesitant and frankly, kind of bitter. Little did I know Wednesdays at 8 p.m. would soon become a sacred date and time for me. And also, that Abrams would leave the show for Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof to take care of.

Like I said, I didn’t watch the Lost premiere episode but after all my friends yelled at me and told me this was a “must watch” I picked up with “Pilot, Part 2.” I had to wait until October 2, when ABC aired the two episodes back-to-back before I got to see the first half. I didn’t know the show was meant to be sci-fi. In fact, long before it aired I remember one of my friends wondering if it would be a partially scripted reality show. I wouldn’t have put anything past the networks at the time.

So what actually happened in those first two episodes that kept millions coming back for more?

Lost hit the ground running like nothing I’d ever seen. Our soon-to-be leading man Jack woke up in the middle of a jungle and eventually stumbled his way to a beach that looked more like a war zone. We could see the debris from a very bad plane crash and survivors screaming, crying and running in every direction. Jack immediately ran to the first person he saw needed help, then the next, then the next. By the time he got to the very pregnant woman you got the sense he was probably a doctor and was going to have to save everyone single-handedly.

The first night on the island the passengers start to worry about why they haven’t been rescued yet but they’ve got much bigger (and more perplexing) problems to deal with. A mechanical-type noise is heard coming from the jungle while a large amount of trees in the area are disturbed. I remember it made me think of Jurassic Park. I thought a tyrannosaurus rex might walk out and eat someone at any minute.

The next day, Jack and two other survivors, Kate and Charlie find the pilot, barely alive, who informs them they are thousands of miles off course, meaning any rescue party is looking for them in the wrong place. Seconds later he’s pulled violently from his seat by something we can’t see. The same noises from the night before are heard and the survivors do their best to hide. The pilot’s bloody corpse hanging high up in a tree later tells them and the viewers something very creepy is at work on this island.

And that was just part one.

Jack only has one short flashback the first episode, which at the time could have been considered a normal flashback sequence. Although by part two we realize this is going to be a recurring feature of the new series. Both Charlie and Kate’s views prior to the crash are shown in the second half and our other main characters are slowly introduced: Sawyer, Locke, Hurley, Michael, Sun, Jin and Claire.

Besides finding out Charlie is a huge drug addict and Kate an escaped convict, two incredible things happen in the second half of the pilot. First, they call for help on the transceiver they took from the plane but instead of a rescue party they hear a distress signal that’s been playing on loop for sixteen years. In French. That does not bode well.

Second, bad-boy Sawyer kills a polar bear. On a tropical island. And thus OMGWTFPOLARBEAR!? was born as well as countless viewers who would be making exclamations like that episode after episode, season after season.

Back to the future now, or more precisely, the present. None of us had any idea how Lost would blow our minds or where it would eventually end up but we knew it got us excited – something TV hadn’t done in a while.

Parties eventually developed around the airings as did countless message boards and fan sites. Those fans would spend hours upon hours dissecting the show once we realized all the references and possible clues thrown in each week (thank god for DVR).

The final episode of Lost airs Sunday night on ABC. Will all our questions be answered or will we be left with a classic Lost cliffhanger? Part of me is hoping for both.

 

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