ABC; A.V. Club (classic); IMDb; TV.com; TV Tropes; TWoP; Wikia; Wikipedia
For more links see fantasy & sci-fi shows links.
Okay. So there was this plane crash (Oceanic Airlines Flight 815), on some mysterious island, in September of 2004. And there's some mysterious creature that's never quite seen, but it killed the pilot, and scares the bejeebers out of everyone else. There are 48 survivors of the crash, though only 14 of them are major characters (at least in the first season). A doctor named Jack Shepard sort of takes the leadership role. Then there's Kate Austen, who becomes probably Jack's closest ally; Sayid Jarrah, an Iraqi electronics expert who's very helpful; Hugo "Hurley" Reyes, who's a pretty fun and funny guy- and has a connection to a set of numbers that seem to be very important (4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42); Charlie Pace, former member of a defunct band called Drive Shaft; John Locke, who seems to be the wisest, most mysterious- and somewhat ominous- of the bunch; Sawyer, a con man who doesn't get along with Jack, but has a thing for Kate, and nobody trusts him, especially since he's always hoarding useful items; Michael Dawson, an architect who's trying to bond with his son, Walt Lloyd, whom he never knew, but whose mother recently died; Shannon Rutherford and her step-brother Boone Carlyle; Sun Kwon, a Korean woman who secretly learned English while considering leaving her husband, Jin Kwon; and Claire Littleton, a pregnant Australian woman (she has her baby, Aaron, near the end of season 1).
Anyway, it's a very interesting group of people, and an important fact about the show is that everyone's got a secret, no one's exactly what they seem. We learn more about each of them as the series progresses, in large part through flashbacks to things that happened to them prior to the plane crash. The thing about this show is, I can't really say too much about it, or about any of the characters. Because the fun lies in trying to guess about... everything. And slowly watching answers (or at least hints) unfold. Honestly, I don't think I've ever seen any show that inspired so much (and such wild) speculation. About the people, about the nature of the island, and countless other things. Nothing is supposed to happen in this show that couldn't, theoretically, happen in real life... it's not really supposed to be sci-fi or fantasy, but it's clearly more than just drama, which forced me to put it in the category of "paranormal" (though I later moved it to "mysterious," because even as it grew ever more science-fictiony and weird, the driving focus of the show is its many mysteries). In fact it's frequently hard to believe some things are truly all that possible, which means that no theory fans come up with can really be too crazy.
Anyway, there are other, even more mysterious people on the island, somewhere, who are far from friendly (though early on, we only see one of them, Ethan Rom; and maybe a few others in the first season finale). And there are occasional appearances by a French woman named Danielle Rousseau (Mira Furlan, from Babylon 5). Rousseau was the one who first told the Oceanic survivors that there were "Others" on the island. They were there before her group of scientists (of whom she is the only surviving member) arrived 16 years ago. So anyway, I'm not sure how many different groups have come to the island in the past, but we do see a few, over the course of the series.
Well, I should try to at least mention a few of the major events of each season, while trying not to give away too many specifics. First I'll say, some characters may leave the show, and some new ones may show up, from time to time. (Some characters will die, but I'll generally try to avoid saying who or when, unless absolutely necessary; and even then, it's entirely possible we'll see them again.)
Um... at the end of the first season, a few of the castaways set off on a raft they've built, trying to get home and send help for the others, but they're stopped by the Others. Also, Locke spent much of the season trying to open a hatch he'd discovered, and finally succeeded in the first season finale.
In season two, we find that the hatch leads into "The Swan," one of several stations left behind by a mysterious group called the Dharma Initiative, who have since disappeared from the island (they were in conflict with the Others, who they referred to as "Hostiles"). But there's some welcome stuff in there including a shower, weapons, food and medicine, etc. There's also a guy named Desmond Hume, who's spent a few years forced to repeatedly enter a series of numbers into a computer- the same series of numbers that pops up frequently throughout the series, and which is of special interest to Hurley. He has to do this every 108 minutes, lest some catastrophe take place. Now that the castaways are there to take care of this duty, Desmond leaves, for a time. Locke becomes obsessed with entering the code, but other folks take turns, as well.
Also in season two, we meet survivors of the plane crash who were in the tail section, and spent 48 days on their own before meeting up with the main group. They're being led by a woman named Ana Lucia Cortez. There's also a woman named Libby, who becomes friendly (possibly romantic) with Hurley. And a man named Mr. Eko, who claims to be a priest, and there's an interesting dynamic between him and Locke. There's a man named Bernard, who is married to Rose, a somewhat minor character from the main group, who insisted all along that her husband was still alive, so it was great to finally see them get together. Um... I suppose there were some others, but those were the main ones. There will be some conflict between them and the main group, especially because of an incident involving Ana Lucia, which I won't divulge. But they've had their share of troubles with the Others, themselves, so at least they have a common enemy. Of course, we also get to see flashbacks for the Tailies now.
Also this season, the survivors capture a man calling himself Henry Gale, and keep him prisoner in the hatch for some time, before he escapes. They believed him to be one of the Others, but they can't be certain, which leads to some moral qualms about what they're doing. But the season ends with Desmond returning, Michael and Walt leaving the island, and Kate, Jack, and Sawyer as prisoners of the Others. And the numbers will cease to be entered in the hatch's computer, with devastating consequences.
In season three, we get to know a bit more about the Others, including their leader, Ben Linus. There's also a woman named Juliet Burke, who will become close to Jack. There's a teenager named Karl, who is romantically involved with a girl named Alex, who has been alluded to since the first season, and she has a connection to someone else we've seen before. Another Other we've seen before, but see more of this season, is Tom, who has an intense mutual dislike going on with Sawyer. There's also a man named Richard Alpert, who is the most mysterious of the Others, and will become more important over the course of the series. And there are a few other Others, but no one else I can really think worth mentioning. The interesting thing is, we start getting to see flashbacks for the Others as well as the crash survivors.
There are also a couple of minor crash survivors named Nikki and Paolo. They were... unpopular with viewers, and the writers eventually got rid of them. That kind of disappointed me, I would've liked to see what had been originally planned for them, and I'm not a fan of creative people giving in to public opinion and abandoning their ideas, but whatever. Not a great loss. (They eventually claimed they regretted the mistake of adding those characters in the first place.) We also learn that Desmond has "flashes" of future events, which generally seem to involve Charlie dying, so he spends much of the season keeping Charlie alive. But can he succeed indefinitely?
Well, lots of other stuff happens in the season, of course. The Others' prisoners eventually escape, and Juliet joins them, though whether she can be trusted or not is a matter of some debate. Eventually a woman named Naomi parachutes onto the island, and claims to have been sent by Desmond's former love, Penelope "Penny" Widmore. She has a boat somewhere off the island, and wants to radio them to come rescue everyone. But that proves problematic, and Jack leads a group to a radio tower to take care of some things, while another group stays behind to ambush some Others who Juliet said was coming for them. There was a whole thing about what happens to pregnant women on the island, that I'm not even going to get into. But ultimately, the season ends with hope of rescue, but... plenty of problems and questions as well. Ben, who is now a captive of Jack and his people, insists that Naomi's associates are not what they seem, and if they come, everyone on the island will die. It also bears mentioning that from now on, the series will feature not only flashbacks but flashforwards.
In season four, we get to know more about the Freighter people. Mainly these include a physicist named Daniel Faraday, as well as an anthropologist named Charlotte Lewis, and a guy named Miles Straume, who can apparently talk to dead people. There's also a helicopter pilot named Frank Lapidus. This season we'll see a lot of flash forwards involving six people who had gotten off the island (known as the "Oceanic Six"), but had to lie to the public about what had happened to them. By the end of the season, the main story catches up to the start of the flash forwards, as the six finally get rescued, in January of 2005 (just a few months after the crash, though it took about four years to tell the story up to this point).
Now, season five is just... man, the whole series is freakin' trippy, but this was the biggest mindfrak yet. Those who had remained behind on the island... start randomly jumping through time for awhile, before things finally stabilize, and they find themselves in 1974. They end up joining the Dharma Initiative. Meanwhile, we see the Oceanic Six back in the world, in late 2007... It's about three years since they left the island, but now they go back, for reasons I can't even begin to explain. They travel on Ajira Airways Flight 316, which, of course, ended up crashing on the island. Some of the passengers find themselves in 1977, where they're reunited with their former friends, who have been with Dharma for three years. But a few of those who returned are still in 2007 (along with other people who were on Flight 316, most notably a woman named Ilana). Anyway, throughout the season, we continue to learn more about everything (including Ben's conflict with Charles Widmore- Penny's father- and Widmore's connections to the island, to an Other named Eloise Hawking, and to Daniel Faraday). But as always, it seems the more we learn, the more confusing it all gets. Finally, in 1977, Faraday comes up with a plan to detonate a hydrogen bomb at the construction site of the Swan, where history said an "incident" had happened at that point. Detonating the bomb would supposedly prevent the incident, and reset the timeline so that... pretty much nothing we've seen in the series would have happened. In the season finale, we also (finally) meet Jacob (a recurring mysterious figure who I think was first mentioned in season 3). He's been on the island for a long time, along with an unnamed rival (the "Man in Black"). The two of them play a vitally important role in absolutely everything. Meanwhile, we also find that Ilana and some of the other newcomers weren't just random passengers, after all, but are somehow connected to everything that's going on, themselves.
Season six (the final season) begins with Oceanic Flight 815 not crashing, but making it to L.A., as planned, in 2004. However, as the season progresses, we see more and more differences in the lives the characters led prior to the flight, in this reality, as opposed to the original reality. The scenes set in this altered reality are "flash-sideways" (so fans call it "sideways-world"), which is what we get this season instead of flashbacks or flashforwards. Meanwhile, we also see a separate storyline where the bomb didn't change history, but the group who were in 1977 have been thrown forward to 2007. They soon meet up with a group of Others we've never seen before, at a hidden Temple (which has been referenced several times throughout the series). The leader of this group is a Japanese man named Dogen, who has an interpreter named Lennon. But, the stay at the Temple is relatively brief... Also, we eventually learn more about Jacob and the Man in Black (who is also the monster that has popped up now and then throughout the series, and who sometimes takes the form of people who have died; he's been impersonating someone in particular since partway into season 5, and continues to do so for all of season 6, though it's not long before people figure that out). And we get to see Claire again, who was last seen in season 4. And we learn more about Richard. And we learn that the mysterious numbers represent various characters who are "candidates" to replace Jacob as protector of the island. And Widmore eventually shows up on the island with a team of scientists (including a woman named Zoe, who kinda reminded me of Tina Fey). They brought Desmond with them, to use as a tool for some purpose involving electromagnetism, but the Man in Black wants to prevent that. And... it's just really hard to keep track of where all the characters are, in different splinter groups, and alliances seem to shift frequently. But ultimately, pretty much everyone wants to stop the Man in Black, who himself wants to leave the island and/or destroy it. But of course, they pretty much all want to leave the island, themselves. Meanwhile, in the flash-sideways, characters eventually begin recovering memories of the island, and Desmond works to bring them all together, for a reason that isn't revealed until the series finale.
Anyway, I've given away a few spoilers of events throughout the seasons, but for the most part I've avoided saying a ton of things that would be much more spoilery. And... aside from not mentioning things I don't want to spoil, I'm surely forgetting any number of things worth mentioning. And I've entirely failed to mention any number of characters who appear in the series. There's just too much going on to keep all the plot threads straight. You really just have to watch it. Even if I could remember everything, I really think it's impossible to give a sense of how truly strange and brilliant and exciting and intriguing this show is, in its every aspect. It's also got a lot of great humor, great characters, great adventure, great romance, great friendships and rivalries, great tragedy and heartbreak, and occasionally, great joy. Believe me, the show's about a thousand times more interesting than I could possibly make it sound (especially while trying to avoid more detailed spoilers). And of course, no review of would be complete without mentioning that the show is chock full of literary and philosophical references. And as I mentioned, it constantly inspired tremendous fan speculation about all the mysteries. Many of them were at least somewhat explained, over the years, while others weren't. Alot of stuff still doesn't make much sense. A lot of explanations were less than satisfactory, and they generally involved setting up even more bizarre mysteries.
I certainly don't want to spoil how the show ends, but I'll say that some fans loved the ending, and some loathed it. I fall into an in-between group that thought it was okay, sort of satisfying, if somewhat disappointing (so I choose to focus not so much on the ending that I waited so anxiously for, for six years; but rather on the immense pleasure I took in watching the show throughout those years). The finale of the on-the-island portion of the show was a good ending, even if it left some mysteries unexplained, and one might wonder what exactly the future holds for various characters... but it's enough to have a general sense of their fates. The important part of their story was completed. As for the finale of the sideways-world, this is probably what annoys some people the most (and is in some ways both cliched and confusing). I can't tell you my take on what it actually means, because that'd be too great a spoiler, but... I can say that sideways-world isn't really what it seemed (though it is something that... was actually one of the countless fan theories of what the island might be, throughout the series; which the island itself wasn't). Anyway, upon reflection, I really do think the ending was rather beautiful (both endings, I should say), even if there's still a great deal I'd like to know about both the past and the future. But like I said... the important part of the story was told. And that's all I can think to say about the series.
Meanwhile, there are lots of tie-ins to the show. Between seasons 2 and 3 there was a multi-media event called "The Lost Experience" which was far too involved for me to follow much of, in which mysteries deepened and clues were revealed about various things. And there was a mystery novel called Bad Twin, which was ostensibly written by "Gary Troup," a fictitious writer who died in the Oceanic crash. Before season 4 started, there was a series of "Missing Pieces" webisodes on ABC.com (they're gone now, but you should be able to see them on YouTube), 13 little video vignettes of previously unseen events, set throughout the series. And no doubt I'm forgetting (or unaware of) other related stuff....