Is ABC’s Lost a vision of Purgatory? That has been a topic of passionate discussion on Internet bulletin boards relating to the new hit drama, currently airing Wednesday evenings. To be sure, it’s not the only theory that obsessed viewers have advanced about the series, a tantalizing portrait of survivors coping with life on a mysterious island after their plane has crashed. The characters-who include an ethereal-looking female bank robber; a former Iraqi soldier; a sulky African-American child who may have telekinetic abilities; and a paraplegic who has just miraculously regained the use of his legs-may be stuck in a time warp, some fans argue. Or they may just be dead. Or perhaps there’s a rational explanation for the freakish goings on in this isolated tropical spot, which is apparently the home to rampaging polar bears and to an even more lethal monster, whose nature has not yet been revealed.

What does seem evident is that the show’s creators intend to tease out the mystification in a leisurely way, flashing back methodically to the characters’ melodramatic pasts-and they all have melodramatic pasts-then tossing in the occasional hint at dark conspiracies or supernatural elements. It’s a sort of Lord of the Flies-meets-Survivor-in-The Twilight Zone piece of entertainment, and it’s been one of two programs that have radically improved the fortunes of ABC-the other, of course, being the overhyped soap opera...

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About the Author

Celia Wren is Commonweal’s media and stage critic.