Get 'Lost': A jungle of twists and turns

Not even a think tank comprised of Alfred Hitchcock, Rod Serling, and M. Night Shyamalan would be able to unravel the enigmas of "Lost," the hit TV series about a band of plane-crash survivors stranded on a seemingly supernatural island.

How mysterious is the island? Put it this way: Even Dr. Moreau would be freaked out to discover a polar bear lurking in a tropical jungle. That's just one of several inexplicable encounters perplexing the 48 surviving passengers of flight 815 from Sydney, Australia, to Los Angeles. "Where are we?" muses Charlie, a minor rock star who is one the main characters, summing up the core mystery of the show's first season, coming to DVD on Tuesday.

The dazed group picking themselves up from the gory wreckage on the beach includes a former member of the Iraqi National Guard, a con-man turned killer, a Korean couple on the lam, and Claire, a pregnant Australian whose past evokes so many comparisons to "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Omen" that she may as well name her child Damien.

Is there a doctor on board? Why, yes. His name is Jack and he's the moral compass of "Lost." In the tradition of TV surgeons like Mark Harmon and George Clooney, he's also impossibly handsome. Tough girl Kate (Evangeline Lilly) and pouty socialite Shannon (Maggie Grace) are meant to be easy on the eyes, too, but neither of them will invite comparisons to Mary Ann and Ginger once viewers discover that their coquettish appearances hide complex characters.

The DVD set's eight hours of extras reveal that many of the roles were written for actors discovered during open auditions. Indeed, much of the series's key elements are the result of spontaneous decisions made while the producers raced to write and shoot the cinematic pilot episode in just three months. (That included dismantling a decomissioned aircraft in the Mojave desert and then shipping it to the ocean-side set in Hawaii.)

At times the haste shows. By the end of the first season one is left with the nagging feeling that the writers are biding their time rather than advancing the storyline toward the big reveal. Executive producer Damon Lindelof notes that "Lost" walks a fine line between mystery and clarity. He and co-creator J.J. Abrams have, on occasion, fallen off that highwire, he says.

Most of Lindelof and Abrams's characters have murky pasts, some too outlandish even for a story this audacious, but nearly all of them seem to be struggling to atone for their wrongdoings. That's led many viewers to speculate that the island is some form of purgatory. Others believe this Twilight Zone version of Shangri-La is an experiment conducted by aliens.

In a world rife with plot spoilers, "Lost," like the "The X-Files" before it, continues to enthrall because the truth is still out there, somewhere in the unchartered waters of the Pacific.

Grade: B+

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