Love "The Leftovers". Should I watch "Lost"?
April 21, 2017 7:28 AM   Subscribe

I'm a huge fan of "The Leftovers". Should I power through Lindelof's previous series, "Lost"?

I'm not sure I want to subject myself to a 90 hour binge. Question (for those who love "The Leftovers" only, please): Is it as good? With the understanding that it was created within the restraints of a network show, and that lots of people disliked the ending (I'm more concerned with the previous 89 hours), is it as deep and excellent experience as "The Leftovers"? Or is the latter his magnum opus, meaning I'll be disappointed by the oevre backtracking?

Again: for calibration purposes, I'd prefer replies from "The Leftovers" fans only.

N.b. if you dropped out of "The Leftovers" in its first year, know that it gets (a lot) better. See Alan Sepinwall's reviews. One episode in particular, "International Assassin", from the second season, may be the greatest-ever single episode of TV.
posted by Quisp Lover to Media & Arts (32 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I wouldn't bother. Lost was never as good as its first season, or really even the promise of its first season.
posted by Etrigan at 7:33 AM on April 21 [6 favorites]

If you enjoy a show for the ride and not the destination then I think you will enjoy Lost. There are a lot of elements in Lost that remind me of The Leftovers. However, Lost is like almost every Stephen King book; a great story told very well with an unsatisfying ending.
posted by jmsta at 7:33 AM on April 21 [6 favorites]

I'd strongly prefer not to litigate the ending for the quadrillionth time here. I'm asking a specific question, and it (explicitly) has nothing to do with the ending.

If the first season was the peak, maybe I should just watch that?
posted by Quisp Lover at 7:35 AM on April 21 [2 favorites]

If the first season was the peak, maybe I should just watch that?

I wouldn't even bother with that. I can't think of any stories within the first season that are resolved in a satisfactory way. The good parts are mostly good in the sense of "Oh, man, that was really good and is going to be great when it pays off..."
posted by Etrigan at 7:46 AM on April 21 [1 favorite]

Nothing ever resolves in The Leftovers, and Linelof's stated that nothing ever will. If payoff's essential, why are you a fan of that series?

(moderators: I'll shut up now, don't worry).
posted by Quisp Lover at 7:50 AM on April 21 [2 favorites]

I followed Lost near-fanatically during its run; it was kind of my gateway into prestige TV (though I'd categorize it as prestige-lite). I also love The Leftovers, but it's a very different show.

I'd say give the first six or so episodes of a chance, you'll have a pretty good idea of what you're in for by that point.
posted by darkchocolatepyramid at 7:53 AM on April 21 [8 favorites]

I kind of like The Leftovers and I enjoyed most of Lost. It's worth watching, though I don't think the two are very much alike beyond the "WTF is going on here?" aspect.
posted by bondcliff at 7:54 AM on April 21

If you've never watched it, I would definitely recommend watching the pilot and then the first five or six episodes. I think the first and second seasons are both a lot fun.

If you enjoy the first part of season one, definitely watch through to the season finale and start of season two. That's probably my favorite part.

posted by ewok_academy at 7:59 AM on April 21 [1 favorite]

Nothing ever resolves in The Leftovers, and Linelof's stated that nothing ever will. If payoff's essential, why are you a fan of that series?

It's not that payoff is essential, but payoff was promised on Lost, and so much of it was clearly supposed to pay off eventually, and even the few times they did manage to "explain" something that vaguely approached a payoff (*cough*smokemonster*cough*), it was obvious that they were making something up now that didn't make any sense when viewed through the lens of then.

I'm okay with "Hey, sometimes stuff happens, and there's no reason for it, and we all just sort of try to keep going with our lives"; I'm less okay with "There's a reason for all this. It's right behind this red curtain. But first, we're going to do some other stuff... Curtain? What curtain? Oh, you mean this yellow curtain that has all the reasons behind it? Before we get to that..."
posted by Etrigan at 7:59 AM on April 21 [7 favorites]

Lost is not as good as The Leftovers, but I absolutely love it. It is one of my favorite shows of all time. I love the mysteries, and that some of them are solved in season 2 and others not until season 6. I love the characters, who often seem to start as stereotypical cardboard cutouts and, over the course of show, develop into fully fleshed out human beings. Its villains are rarely one note, and you sometimes come to love them. Conversely, good guys sometimes turn into bad guys. Despite its flaws, it is an incredible experience.
posted by blackzinfandel at 8:03 AM on April 21 [7 favorites]

I'm with jmsta. With the distance of time and not having the Questions Will Be Answered marketing stuff shoved in your face constantly, LOST stands as a very enjoyable show on its own merits. Take it as a sci fi/fantasy-flavoured soap opera, and it's a lot of fun.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:16 AM on April 21

Lost is a ton of fun and pleasantly strange. I loved getting to know the characters, even if some are a bit one-note and if the relationship drama got a little cliche at times. I would definitely give it a shot!
posted by galvanized unicorn at 8:19 AM on April 21

I haven't watched The Leftovers, but LOST is still a favorite of mine. As an example of how to do a longform serialized story with dozens of interconnected characters, it's still quite good, and has a lot in it (both positive and negative) that other writers and creators can learn from. I feel like the people who complained most loudly about the ending were absolutely missing the forest for the trees. It doesn't all necessarily fit together 100% neatly, but absolutely nothing in the final season or the answers given invalidates the journey over the previous seasons.
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:21 AM on April 21 [2 favorites]

I think the first three seasons of LOST are great. I know you said you didn't want to get hung on the ending, but people weren't just upset at that final hour. It's more that they were mad at the whole final season. Problem is that if you invest the time for the first seasons, you will probably watch the whole thing, and people are split on whether or not that is a good thing.

I'd watch. LOST was the first show I ever binged.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:23 AM on April 21 [2 favorites]

I love the Leftovers. I enjoyed Lost and thought it was entertaining. Your question would be a bit easier to answer if you say what you like about The Leftovers. Lost has the same sense of magical realism, the basically normal world with occasional odd supernatural intervention. Both shows also have strong ensemble casts with interesting unusual characters.

But The Leftovers is a very, very odd show. It plumbs unusual emotions, feelings of despair and nihilism and misery. I've never seen anything else like it. Lost isn't like it. It's more of a fun soap opera with normal relatable people. It got blander as the seasons went on. Lost also indulged too much in "this is a mystery that will have an explanation" and failed to deliver on that promise. Part of what I like about The Leftovers is the way the events that happen there defy explanation, it's just the way things are and the characters have to cope with it.

If you're looking for TV to watch I'd definitely suggest the first season of Lost. It's good. The show goes downhill over time and the last season is the worst. When you find yourself getting bored or annoyed, quit.
posted by Nelson at 8:40 AM on April 21 [1 favorite]

LOST is chock-full of Lindelof tone and themes, delivered in a soapy jungle adventure mystery package. I'm currently rewatching and it holds up (especially now that I'm not waiting for any sort of big tidy payoff and can enjoy the writing, the performances, the gorgeous scenery and weather.)

I reject your premise that you'd be committing to a 90 hour binge-- who says you can't just give it a try?

It's no Leftovers, nothing is, but some of the core Lindelof-isms were born here. Fan of both here.
posted by kapers at 9:20 AM on April 21

I think LOST was enjoyable for the first 3 seasons. If you want to keep going after that, you know the risks as have been stated over and over. But the first 3 are pretty solid for a network show IMO.
posted by getawaysticks at 9:48 AM on April 21

I'd like to add that I think seasons 4 and 5 are fantastic. Parts of 6 are great, too. There are stretches of seasons that are boring (early season 3, mid season 2) and the quality overall dips in season 6, but the show only has a handful of episodes that are outright bad.
posted by blackzinfandel at 10:34 AM on April 21 [2 favorites]

Your question would be a bit easier to answer if you say what you like about The Leftovers

Subtlety (in every aspect), and a palpable attempt to touch on deeper truths rather than just skillfully fill a timeslot with entertaining programming.

I don't want to just be entertained. This is Peak TV, with inspiring and devastating things to watch (Rectify, Atlanta, Hannibal, Fargo, Rick & Morty, Breaking Bad/Saul, Louie, The Leftovers). If I'm going to take time (much less 90 hours) with a program, it's got to change my life a little.
posted by Quisp Lover at 10:36 AM on April 21 [1 favorite]

I think it's worth a shot, at least through the first season. Still think the pilot was incredibly well done. Even if you already know you might get mad about the ending, it still was a good drama with interesting characters.

But be warned, the pace of the slow can be a g o n i z i n g l y slow at times. Lots of tension that doesn't fully pay off, which leads to more tension, and little pay off, and so on. I don't get that same feeling from The Leftovers.
posted by Twicketface at 10:49 AM on April 21

I found the narrative device of the flashbacks used in the early seasons to be effective for the most part to illuminate the characters as they exist on the island.
posted by mmascolino at 10:51 AM on April 21

the pace of the slow can be a g o n i z i n g l y slow at times. Lots of tension that doesn't fully pay off, which leads to more tension, and little pay off, and so on. I don't get that same feeling from The Leftovers

Have you watched the Leftovers? That's literally all it is.

(moderators: shutting up again. sorry!)
posted by Quisp Lover at 10:51 AM on April 21

I really liked Lost (recently completed a re-watch of the whole series), but I don't think it was ever really after that kind of exploration of "deeper truths" in the way that The Leftovers or Rectify are. It probably has more in common with Breaking Bad, in that its strong points are more about propulsive forward motion of the plot combined with deeply resonant character development.

Also, if you really are that concerned with the length of the series, you should know that Lost doesn't have nearly the same consistency of quality that the shows you listed have. It was a network show, so it needed to fill 20+ episodes a season. That made for a lot more low points and sloppy, frayed edges than the more modern 10-13 episode per season dramas.
posted by parallellines at 10:56 AM on April 21 [2 favorites]

Subtlety (in every aspect), and a palpable attempt to touch on deeper truth

Lost does not have those things. The storytelling is not subtle and is seldom nuanced. There's no connection to deeper emotional / spiritual meaning the way the Leftovers does. I mean Lost tries and does hit some emotional notes occasionally, but it's not anything like the melancholy poetry of The Leftovers. It's most successful as a fun adventure show with some soap opera relationships.

We Smoke to Proclaim Our Faith
posted by Nelson at 11:01 AM on April 21 [4 favorites]

Have you watched the Leftovers? That's literally all it is.

Eh, slow points in The Leftovers have the feeling of being considered and thoughtful. Slow points in Lost have more to do with the writers not knowing where to go next and feel much more like a waste of time.
posted by parallellines at 11:01 AM on April 21

I absolutely love LOST and The Leftovers, but I'm not sure the former is going to live up to what you are looking for. I think it is worth a shot, but like Nelson says, it's an adventure soap opera. It is a very good and sometimes great adventure soap opera, but that is its DNA.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:07 AM on April 21 [1 favorite]

Yeah, like parallellines said. Lost is about character development and not existentialist themes.

Oddly enough, I love Rectify and Lost. Could never get into The Leftovers. And I'm not that excited about Breaking Bad as others are.
posted by Dalby at 11:08 AM on April 21

I've watched Rectify (well, one season of it so far), Rick & Morty, Better Call Saul, Fargo, and Hannibal and I adore/adored them all. Based on what you say you like about The Leftovers, which I haven't seen, I think there's a decent chance you'd like Lost too. I would rate it below all of those shows overall due to several missteps made, but given you won't have to wait a year for more episodes and you're aware of the show's legacy I think you can give it a shot. I do agree it's not slow the way Better Call Saul can be slow with purposeful silences and such but in that nothing of consequence happens and that nothing happens in uninteresting ways. The show definitely picked up after they had a definite end date.
posted by Green With You at 11:09 AM on April 21

I think one extra dimension that makes it worthwhile to watch Lost as a fan of The Leftovers is to see how it precedes and informs The Leftovers. For example, Lost definitely tried to get at the kind of emotional and spiritual questions that The Leftovers does, but it does so much less successfully (imho). Lost kept tripping over itself with its mysteries upon mysteries and unsatisfying revelations that didn't really explain anything. The Leftovers has taken a much lighter touch on the mystery front (e.g.: anyone who's been watching it in order to find out where everyone went is probably missing the point). In some ways, one of the reasons why I like The Leftovers is in appreciating the way it sidesteps a bunch of the problems that tangled up Lost.
posted by mhum at 11:16 AM on April 21 [4 favorites]

mhum....that confirms what I'd suspected, thanks.

I will watch first season and see where that leaves me. Thanks, all!
posted by Quisp Lover at 11:19 AM on April 21

One thing that Lost lacks that The Leftovers has in spades is the aesthetic of Prestige TV. Prestige TV is usually beautiful in a dark way, either because colors are literally muted or because of their subject; Lost's visual beauty is in bright, sweeping Hawaiian vistas. Prestige TV usually has a Singular Man, Somewhat Of A Dick, at the center of the story; Lost starts this way but rapidly incorporates a huge cast of compelling women and POC, and Singular Man becomes somewhat tangential. Prestige TV ostensibly treats abstract concepts like "humanity" as its subject; Lost was always explicitly about 1. Soap Opera Drama, and 2. Solving The Mystery.

That said, I think focusing on the aesthetics of Prestige TV distracts from the real, deep questions that shows with different aesthetics also examine. Lost does have a fundamental existential concern: the relationship between parents and children. It plays out within stories that are high-drama, sometimes silly, and Network TV Pretty, but deconstructing the parent-child relationship is the beating heart of Lost. Everything from the flashback structure of the show, to the deep-past-and-deep-future mythology, to the day-to-day plot, to the set-up of The Mystery speaks to it. For my money, there aren't many deeper issues than the tensions between past, present, & future, our inability to express ourselves clearly, our inability to control our children, our frustration at our parents' expectations, and our utter defenselessness at the will of factors beyond our control.
posted by CtrlAltDelete at 11:43 AM on April 21 [2 favorites]

coincidentally, just a few days ago the Scriptnotes podcast featured Damon Lindelhof, & he spoke a lot about working on both Lost and the Leftovers. not sure if it'll help you make a decision, but either way I found it fascinating.
posted by changeling at 1:54 PM on April 21 [1 favorite]

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