Fanaticism fuels island’s mysteries

Emmy's New Breed: Lost

Best episode: “Walkabout,” which revealed that creepy and able-bodied John Locke was confined to a wheelchair before crashing on the island. The episode came early in the season, but set the pace for the show’s stellar storytelling and surprises to come.
Most complex character: Locke, who is most in-tune with the island’s strange powers, and doesn’t seem to want to leave.
What should happen next season: First, get down that hatch once and for all. Then the castaways should stop focusing on leaving and let us see how their mini-society shapes up (they might be there for awhile).

People don’t just watch ABC’s “Lost,” they study it.

Not since “The X-Files” or “Twin Peaks” has a nighttime drama caused such watercooler chatter, Internet investigations and fan inquisitiveness.

There’s a lot to talk about: The serialized ensemble series tells the story of 48 plane crash survivors who end up on a rather strange island that contains, among other things, a mysterious beast, a disturbed French woman, even a polar bear. Oh, and then there are those cursed numbers and issues of fate that keep popping up.

As the show uncorks mystery after mystery, the episodes also tell the castaways’ backstories. It’s something creators J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof and Jeffrey Lieber determined from the beginning. (That was when naysayers were pointing out that the cinematic pilot was too expensive, the outdoor Hawaiian sets would be a pain and serialized TV shows are risky.)

“People can get lost during the run of a serialized show and they don’t do well in reruns,” says Lindelof, no pun intended. “So we guaranteed the network there would at least be a self-contained episode concept in these flashback stories that had a beginning, middle and end. That way the audience could always link into it on a character level.”

Viewers have linked into “Lost” on many levels, giving ABC a healthy ratings boost and turning those naysayers into fans, who aren’t shy about offering their opinions as to where the story should go.

“We put our ear to the ground and checked out the boards, and one thing we heard loud and clear is that we were asking too many questions and not answering them,” says Lindelof. “So we geared the second half of the season toward giving answers. But I don’t think the fans will ever be satisfied, because there are so many things in play.”

Even the cast is often left wondering what’s about to happen next. And if they do know, their lips are sealed.

“I try to not let the cat out of the bag too much. So I just don’t ask,” says Dominic Monaghan, who plays Charlie Pace, a drug-addicted rock star. “In the finale there were some key sequences that they didn’t even write into the script because they were so big.”

Lindelof says he’s willing to work with the actors on uncovering mysterious storylines, but only to a point.

“The actors have the right to know everything that happened to their character before the plane crash, because they need to be playing that. What they don’t need to know is what happens next.”