‘Lost’ is riveting as ever as season 3 finale arrives
‘Lost’ is riveting as ever as season 3 finale arrives

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale,
a tale of a fateful show.
Whose roller-coaster the third season ends tonight,
with a two-hour finale, a two-hour finale.

OK, enough of that, as you may already know, or simply don’t care, the season finale of “Lost” airs tonight in what promises to be a pivotal turning point for the show.

What fascinates me the most about “Lost,” aside from the show itself, is the effect it has had on viewers. There has never been a show like it on television, which means there has never been a show that garnered this type of reaction.

Oh, sure, you can trace a rough lineage from a show like the “X-Files” that proved science fiction mixed with overarching mystery could be successful. The ultimate flaw in the “X-Files” however was that the mythology was too convoluted and eventually it collapsed under its own weight. And then a show like “24” proved that you could tell a linear story over the course of a season and that people would commit to watching every week if the story kept moving.

And then that magical first season of “Lost” dropped and bam – the whole country was hooked. The premise was solid, a rag-tag group of travelers survives a plane crash onto a tropical island – which is a pretty good setup in and of itself: how do we survive, will we be rescued, will we go all “Lord of the Flies?” But we slowly learn that this isn’t just any island, but one filled with polar bears and smoke monsters and underground hatches. Craziness.

I have to admit, I didn’t watch the first season as it aired. It wasn’t until I started hearing the buzz about the show that I realized it was right up my alley. But instead of jumping in and trying to sort things out, I rode out the season and waited for the inevitable DVD release. When it did come out right before the second season began, my wife and I were immediately hooked. Watching the show on DVD is like eating potato chips, you can’t stop at just one. There were a couple of occasions where we looked up and it was 3 a.m. and it was actually a difficult decision as to watch another episode or go to bed.

It was pretty quick into the second season that “Lost” became polarizing and showed exactly how brilliant an hour of television it truly was. Instead of wrapping up the mysteries of the first season in a pretty pink bow, it was revealed that the mysteries simply begat more mysteries. “What’s in the hatch? Oh, it’s a guy pushing a button. Where did he come from? Why is he pushing the button? Who built the hatch? Ahhh! They’re making me think!!!” It was at this point that “Lost” started losing a lot of viewers.

People hate to think. That’s why the top shows in the country right now are “American Idol,” “Deal or No Deal,” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” “Lost” is demanding, but rewarding entertainment for those willing to stick it out. “Lost” now has a solid core of viewers that breaks into two categories. First is the casual viewer. They watch the show every week, they enjoy it, but don’t think too much about it otherwise. The rest of us are completely obsessed. We think about it; we talk about it; we may even take to the Internet, where every possible clue and theory is dissected, fleshed out, and scrutinized. It is among the obsessed where we find two sub-categories of viewers: the Blind Faith-ers and the Worst Episode Ever-ers.

We Blind Faith-ers, who I count myself among, give the creative team behind the show the benefit of the doubt. We trust where they are leading us, and while we love picking apart theories and over-analyzing clues, we aren’t overly critical. Then there are the Worst Episode Ever-ers (so named after one of the favorite phrases of the super-nerdy Comic Book Guy from “The Simpsons”) and they are legion.

They love the show and watch it religiously, but are brutally critical of creative decisions that they disagree with. That is what is amazing about this Internet era we live in, we can interact with our favorite shows like never before, but it is also empowering to those who feel like if they like something then it should be tailored specifically to their tastes.

Much was made earlier this season of a wave of Internet disapproval of “Lost.” The criticisms weren’t without merit as the show did seem to be treading water and it was hard to tell if they were taking their time to set up future events or just trying to draw out the season.

But since the show has come back from hiatus, there is a renewed sense of urgency, and the storytelling is now as brisk and revealing as the best parts of the first season.

Tonight’s finale promises both answers and carnage, with several major characters expected to meet their doom. But, fully expect any answers to reveal more questions. It was recently revealed that the show has a predetermined end date after three more seasons (that’s 2009-2010 for those of you keeping score at home). And with a finish line now in sight, we at least now know when they’ll pull back the curtain and reveal that they’ve all crashed on Fantasy Island. “Dee plane! Dee plane!”

Hey, my theory is just as good as anyone else’s.

The “Lost” season finale airs tonight (Wednesday) at 8 on ABC.

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