[Spoiler warning: This article discusses what may or may not happen in the new season of "Lost." If you want to be surprised, stop reading now.]
Say it with me, "Lost" fans: What do we want? ANSWERS! When do we want them? NOW!
"Desperate Housewives" and "CSI" earn better ratings every single week. "The Apprentice" and "American Idol" probably get more press. But if actual viewer interest could somehow be dumped onto a scale and measured, no fall premiere is more anticipated than that of "Lost," which returns Sept. 21 on ABC.
"Lost" started off with a bang — a crash, really — and the show made it clear from the start that this was no ordinary plane crash. The pilot, who admitted he'd flown the plane well off course, was quickly chomped on by a mysterious island monster. An armed federal marshal turns out to have been escorting a dangerous prisoner, Kate, whose slight appearance belies her criminal past. Two island leaders developed: one, Jack, a doctor; another, Locke, a military type who hides a secret of his own — before the crash, he was paralyzed, now he's miraculously cured.
As the weeks go on, the secrets came flying, fast and furious. Chubby Hurley was an unlikely millionaire, with a lineup of seemingly cursed lottery numbers following him around. Pregnant Claire was planning to give her son up for adoption, despite a warning from a psychic that she has to raise him herself. Rocker Charlie was kicking a drug addiction. Stepsiblings Shannon and Boone have (uh, had) a most un-sibling-like relationship. Michael and Walt were just developing their father-son relationship. Former Iraqi soldier Sayid's army activities still tormented him. Sawyer's con-man past was not as simple as it seems. Korean married couple Jin and Sun hid secrets even from each other. In fact, it was tough to keep track of all the secrets without .
It's no wonder, then, that viewers went into the season finale expecting at least a modicum of satisfaction, a generous hint or two as to the history of the island, the origins of its mysterious hatch, or the source of the supernatural powers possessed by more than a few island-dwellers. But instead, many viewers by the lack of payoff. "Lost" ended its season with only one tiny bit of satisfaction: The island's mysterious hatch had indeed been opened, but its mysteries weren't explored before the credits rolled. Viewers saw instead a seemingly endless tunnel with a tempting ladder, and you know that, for one, Locke is itching to climb it.
That darn hatchSeries creator Damon Lindelof told a meeting of TV critics some information about what won't be down in the hatch. As reported in the Orlando Sentinel, Lindelof said, "There aren't aliens in there. There isn't a time-travel portal. They aren't going to find a ship they blast off into space."
That leaves only about a billion other possibilities, many of which have already been proposed by the show's fans online. Perhaps the island is some form of government experiment, and the people in charge are headquartered in the hatch, kind of like when the cast of "The Real World" finally break into their control room each year. (Unlikely.) Lindelof ruled out aliens, but not some bizarre group of humans. And he ruled out a spaceship, but what if the island itself is one massive building, disguised as a natural landmark?
Numerous articles have speculated that the supposed survivors were really all killed in the crash, and the island is some form of purgatory or limbo, heaven or hell. Not sure what the hatch would be in that case ... a passageway to the River Styx? St. Peter's Gate? Viewers who've seen "St. Elsewhere" or a few "Twilight Zone" episodes know that it would not be the first time that on-screen reality takes place only in one cast member's head. Could a comatose plane-crash survivor be dreaming the whole island? Could a dead plane-crash victim be doing the same?
Are there more passengers?And speaking of the dead, are they really dead? Viewers have been told that the rear of the plane broke off in massive turbulence, and the castaways have been assuming those passengers were killed. But were they really?
Many viewers started suspecting there were more passengers when a minor character, Rose, was introduced. We haven't seen much of Rose since then, but we do know her husband is among the passengers from the back of the plane. When Jack and others tried to force her to face up to her loss, she coolly told them that her husband is not dead, and that everyone in the tail of the plane "are probably thinking the same thing about us."
That started the ol' foreshadowing pendulum a-swinging, but things really started cranking when a Jack flashback showed him meeting a woman, Ana-Lucia, in the airport bar before boarding. She clearly announced that she was sitting in the back of the plane, and this summer, it was announced that as Ana-Lucia. (Hope you heeded this article's spoiler warning, folks who didn't want to know that.)
While it might seem difficult to add new cast members to a show that takes place on an island, it was also announced that Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (best known as Adebisi from HBO's "Oz," the show that Harold Perrineau also came from) will be joining the cast too. We know less about where his character will come from, but at least one person, Frenchwoman Danielle Rousseau, has been surviving adeptly on the island for quite some time.
Where’s Walt? Who's Aaron?There are plenty of other plots left dangling. In the most dramatic scene from the "Lost" finale, young Walt was kidnapped off the raft that his father, Michael, and the other castaways have built. Walt's obviously deeply tied into the island's mysteries somehow. Viewers have seen a bit of his strange powers; he seems to especially be able to influence animals. But why do the supposed "Others" want him? Do they have a plan to use his powers for evil?
The mysterious Rousseau may not always be reliable, but she has claimed that her own child, Alex, was taken years ago by the Others — she even kidnapped Claire's infant, Aaron, hoping somehow to work a child-for-child trade. We haven't seen the newborn Aaron develop any Walt-like powers yet, but they're likely to be coming. Claire's pregnancy was filled with ominous warnings from psychics, and seasoned "Lost" watchers suspect that her infant cannot just be your average baby.
Children aren't the only ones with powers on the island. John Locke was wheelchair-bound when the plane crashed, and in the aftermath, discovered he could walk. Hugo "Hurley" Reyes may not have his own powers, but he believes he carries with him a curse, attached to the mysterious numbers that won him megamillions in the lottery, and which also show up on the island's buried hatch. Viewers may be hoping for one all-encompassing secret tied to the numbers, but show creators have confessed in interviews that they didn't have that idea going in. Let's hope they come up with one — they've already played fast and loose with the numbers, having them show up in seemingly random places throughout the show — it would be disappointing if this plot didn't go anywhere.
"Lost" fans have invested a lot in an über-complicated show. Fans have done this before — "The X-Files" and "Twin Peaks" are just two examples. Both of those shows ended up twisting their plots into such pretzels that only the most devoted fans could keep track. ABC would be smart to take a lesson from those shows and start serving up answers soon. "Lost" has built a loyal fan base, but viewers will only wander so far into the island jungle without a bit of a road map.
Gael Fashingbauer Cooper is MSNBC.com's Television Editor