Monday, March 21, 2016

Top Ten Best Characters on Lost

You thought we were just going to be doing episode recaps during Lost week, didn't you?  Well, you are wrong good sir (or madam-I don't know you).  Instead, we will be doing a lot of random coverage related to the ABC series as I didn't run a blog back in the day when Lost ended, and I am going to take this opportunity to cover a lot of aspects of the series, including a number of favorites lists and addressing at least one or two controversies.  To start out with, though, I'm going to go with my Top 10 favorite characters, because once you've established such a list, especially amongst Lost die-hards, it's a great way to realize whether I'm, say, Team Jack or Team Sawyer or Team Kate or Team Juliet, because when you're nerding out, these are critically important topics to venture through.  Without further adieu...

Spoiler Alert: Like every article this week, I get into spoilers from the full-run of the series.

Honorable Mention: Lost is my favorite show, and as a result limiting myself to just ten characters, particularly for a series that has such a diverse, lengthy list of highlighted characters is an odious task.  Some characters, such as Eko or Charlotte, had incredible promise but didn't last long enough for me to love fully.  Some characters, like Charlie or Kate (probably eleventh place) had too many ups-and-downs in their run or went through spurts that I didn't really agree with.  And then there are the likes of Mikhail or Bea who are excellent and memorable, but amount to mere cameos if we look at the series at length.  This shouldn't be confused, though, with a lack of love for the characters.  There are very few characters, even the ones that I loved-to-hate, that I couldn't stand on Lost, and such this is merely the creme de la creme.

10. Rose Nadler

Played By: L. Scott Caldwell
Why the Love: From the first moments of Rose on the show, she was clearly something special.  Portrayed as a woman lost more so than the rest of the castaways (anyone else ever notice that Rose and Bernard were the only married couple other than Jin-and-Sun ever revealed to be on Oceanic 815 and how bizarre that was?).  I love the way that she has a sense of calm that lacks in almost every other major character on the show, particularly Jack or Charlie whom she has a number of interactions with on the island.  The fact that she was a character, as well, who actually saw that her life was better on the island and didn't want to leave (I never quite got why select characters wanted to leave since their lives were ten times better on the island, but that's a conversation for a different day), just adds to her appeal. It's fitting that when the producers decided, in the last episode, to promote six of the more "ancillary" characters to main-status billing, that our beloved Rose was clearly at the top of the list.  I am still so thrilled that the producers also decided that it was appropriate for them to give Rose her own special flashback episode in "S.O.S." and that we got them included in the finale of the series, because who didn't want to see what happened to our island retirees.

9. Daniel Faraday

Played By: Jeremy Davies
Why the Love: Of all of the characters on this list, Daniel came the latest and by my count appeared in the smallest number of episodes so it's worth asking why I would pick Daniel, over, say, one of three missing characters from this rundown who were regulars for all six seasons.  The reasons are simple for me, quite frankly.  Daniel was the way that Lost stepped up its game in the final three seasons, and tried to reach for the stars in a way that even the first trio of seasons attained.  There are two schools of thought when it comes to Lost-those who were fine with this simply being a sort of Lord of the Flies fight between the castaways and the Others, and those who wanted to go somewhere more groundbreaking with the series and have intellectual discussions about physics and time on a network television series.  I was all onboard with this latter half (though admittedly this show would still probably be on my all-time greats lists simply if they'd ended the series in Season One with a look down the hatch and a raft in the ocean), and Daniel's character, all twitchy and full of a wonderful love for Charlotte and a deeply complicated relationship with his mother on a show filled with Daddy issues, opened us up to a series of bigger ideas.  Dan himself may have been small, but he shown a light much greater on Desmond, John, and Jacob, and provided us with a plausible expository character that didn't seem like shoddy writing.

8. Jack Shephard

Played By: Matthew Fox
Why the Love: Eighth place may seem like a slap-in-the-face to the character who appeared in more episodes than any other, and was undoubtedly the lead of the series, but if you're questioning it you don't know Lost too well.  Fox's Jack is occasionally a hard character to love.  In the first seasons he is meant to be the Doubting Thomas of the island, a character that is noble and trying to get everyone off their jungly dwelling, but is a Man of Science when you're yearning for the Man of Faith and wanting to know more about the mysterious whispers in the jungle and why the hell there are polar bears in this part of the world.  The series progresses with Jack being deeply imperfect, realizing too late that he had no business getting off that island when it was clearly his destiny and in some ways we realize that a number of other characters had to be sacrificed in order for Jack to finally reach his potential as a protector of the island.  However, Jack is noble and strong occasionally when you need him to be exactly that, and in many ways far more interesting as something of an antihero that is so clearly masquerading as the hero (in this way he is the perfect opposite of Sawyer), and Fox plays with him such wonderful relatability that he becomes the audience proxy in a lot of ways.  Jack episodes were almost always about Jack and not about the surrounding plot, but that was occasionally okay-he provided the human element that was needed to keep the science fiction grounded.

7. Juliet Burke

Played by: Elizabeth Mitchell
Why the Love: If you had told me about ten episodes into the third season that I was going to someday put Juliet on my list of ten favorite all-time Lost characters, I would have slapped you harder than Sun did when Juliet outed her affair to Jin.  Juliet at the beginning was meant to be loathed, a torture device that felt even crueler than the nasty but clearly enjoying it Ben.  As the series progressed, though, we found that Juliet was in fact someone whom the Island had defeated, a shell of her former self who could never really get back to the place she had been before.  Juliet was one of those characters you could never really see leaving the island because it was too much a part of her soul, and Mitchell knew to continue playing it that way.  She didn't look out for just her own self-interest in getting off the island, but more her own self-interest in feeling something, in staying alive.  Her death on the series was a hard one to swallow because it felt like she had finally, after so many cruel years at the hands of Ben, experienced happiness, but Mitchell played her so well that we knew (and Juliet knew) that happiness for Dr. Burke was just a momentary escape.

6. Desmond Hume

Played By: Henry Ian Cusick
Why the Love: Desmond is the character that fanboys fawn over, and so to see him in sixth instead of at Number One may surprise people, but while I love our Scotsman, he never quite had the emotional cache and connection with the other castaways to guarantee himself a spot in the top quintet.  Still, Desmond in his own little show (really, aside from Charlie and Jack his ties to the castaways were incidental at best) was a wonderful distraction that would guide us through the enigmas of the island.  Really, if Jack was the manifestation of the human side of the island and of the Lost that was about getting rescued, Desmond was the opposite end of the spectrum, frequently showing us the Lost that was about dreams, sacrifice, and the magic and mystery of the Island.  Desmond, always fraternal, didn't understand what made him so special, but as he was kind, loyal, driven, and everything that Charles Widmore, his arch-rival wasn't, we did.  Desmond also hosted the single best love story on the show.  Rose-and-Bernard, Kate-and-Jack, Charlie-and-Claire, even Jin-and-Sun could never sway me from Desmond.  True fact: when the Lost auction happened a few years back I sat for hours waiting for his letter to Penny to come up, and actually cast several bids (that I likely couldn't afford, admittedly), for the letter that kept the two of them together.

5. Hugo "Hurley" Reyes

Played By: Jorge Garcia
Why the Love: Hurley, or Hugo as he prefers to be called and I go in spurts on both (don't you love that it was Sawyer and John, both so much kinder than anyone else when it came down to it, that most consistently struck away from using the nickname he disliked), was never the great mystery man of the island.  Despite not entirely avoiding the enigmas of the island (we frequently wondered, for years, whether Jenna Maroney was right and the island was "just a part of Hurley's dream"), he was more a steadfast rock, a comedic touchstone when the island got too involved with itself.  During the second half of the series Hurley episodes ended up being a little more about suffering than the first half, and that lacked a bit in my opinion (you need the occasional "Tricia Tanaka is Dead" to make us realize the special bond that has formed between the Islanders).  When it was revealed in the end that Hurley, and not Jack or Sawyer or Kate, would be the one who would remain behind and stay as the Island's guardian, it made sense that if we wanted to go in a different direction than Jacob, there was no one more full of light for the job.

4. James "Sawyer" Ford

Played By: Josh Holloway
Why the Love: I will admit, part of the reason why I ended up doing Lost week was, in fact, because of Josh Holloway and Sawyer.  A few months ago, I had just finished re-watching the series after a breakup, and then a few weeks later the premiere of Colony came on and about ten minutes into the first episode, I started crying over the most random of moments-when Holloway, all swagger and long hair, made me realize how much I missed this show and how much I missed Sawyer in particular.  After all, there's nothing not to love about Sawyer.  While he occasionally was ruthless (the involvement in the kidnapping of Sun, in particular, was the most unforgivable thing they ever did on the series, in my opinion, and I truly blame the writers for laziness in that part because it was never believable that Charlie and Sawyer at their worst could do something like that), he was the con-man with a heart, someone who desperately wanted his mother-and-father back and who didn't realize that he could find happiness still, even if it meant going to another world to allow himself to let go of his burdens.  Of all of the characters, I think I've spent the most time focused on what Sawyer, with his long rap sheet and dead lover, did after the plane crashed.  I like to think that while he and Kate didn't end up together, they became the best of friends, helping Claire with Aaron and perhaps even co-parenting Ji Yeon.  After all of his bravado, Sawyer ended up being a bigger softie than Hurley.

3. Sun-Hwa Kwon

Played By: Yunjin Kim
Why the Love: One of the few mysteries I never really got over being solved, at least one of the very minor ones, was whether or not Jin or Sun was the candidate whose name was still on the cave's wall.  I like to think, with all due respect to Jin, that it was in fact Sun, who has my eternal adoration on the show for her incredible presence.  I don't know if you've noticed this, but Lost has one of the most truly diverse casts in network television history, and Kim, getting to play an Asian woman who finds herself on the show after decades of an almost staggeringly small presence of Asian women on primetime is such a welcome moment.  Sun goes on a wonderfully feminist journey on the show, first realizing that she doesn't have to stay beside her husband because she always has, but instead learns that she still loves him, but demands that he honors her as well as the series goes, making their love story go from one of inequals to one of equals.  Watching Sun take back what's hers against Lost megas like Charles Widmore and Ben Linus late in the series was just icing on the cake.  Hurley was the perfect choice to take care of the island, but part of me still wishes they'd found a way for it to be both of the Kwons, since the Island had made them so much better in their marriage.

2. Benjamin Linus

Played By: Michael Emerson
Why the Love: Love is the wrong word here, at least not until the very end, but when it comes to Ben Linus, there's really no question that every episode that centered around him was full of juicy details, mysteries, and peaks behind the "man behind the curtain."  It's proof that the Lost writers knew they had latched onto a good thing when they extended Michael Emerson's contract (he was supposed to be on the series for just three episodes initially) contract permanently, giving him main cast billing.  It was because of Ben that we had a lot of doors into the Island opened, and it was because of Ben that we knew there were hundreds more to be opened still when the final title screen came upon us.  While John Locke and Jack Shephard were trying to find their destiny, Ben became our fanboy proxy in the sense that he was obsessed with the Island-there was not a nook nor cranny of the Island (or the Hydra, for that matter) that he wasn't obsessed with learning more about, gaining more wisdom and insight.  Yes, he was probably a sociopath and I don't think, until the bitter end of the series when Hurley promotes him to "Richard" status, that he ever truly learned his power-greedy lesson, but Ben was compelling and always a welcome presence on the screen, even if you were occasionally calling for his comeuppance.

1. John Locke

Played By: Terry O'Quinn
Why the Love: Because of the fact that Terry O'Quinn was still "alive" on the island, and that we didn't actually know for a number of episodes after "The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham" whether or not John was dead or merely the MIB, I never got to properly mourn our Island dreamer.  Repeat viewings have started to correct this, but there's still so much sadness when you think about John Locke's journey, how he, after being broken down by life, found a place where he finally felt purpose and hope.  It's something that I think very, very few television series are able to achieve, but almost all of them attempt to do so.  The basis of almost all television, quite frankly, is a coming together of lost souls, and they band together due to apartments across the hall or a workplace commonality or just romantic love for each other, but John Locke was someone that needed to find a respect for himself, and then fulfill a destiny.  It breaks my heart that a man like him, who never wanted to leave that island, was eventually forced to do so, but every episode showed why he had earned his place in the sun, and Terry O'Quinn never pitied his character, but knew enough to let anguish ravage what was there.  It's a flawless interpretation of the character, and it's why he's still my favorite character of my favorite show.

There you have it-my favorite characters on Lost.  I'd love to get your personal Top 10 (and a debate going over whether I made the right choices here)-the comments are there for the interested!

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