I thought, since I'm coming in with a semi-fresh perspective - I would give my thoughts on the seasons as I go along. Then, before I knew it, one season lead to another - and now I'm going to give my thoughts about the entire series! Seriously - this show sucked me in, and didn't let go until the very end!
First, I'll go over what I thought of the major characters.
Jack Shephard, the Doctor, acts as the leader and linchpin of the entire group. I was stunned to learn in the commentary that they planned to kill him off in the pilot episode, before realizing he was the glue that held everyone together. Jack's journey throughout the series is poignant, and never clear cut. The details of his early marriage, and eventually watching that marriage crumble, is profound. After season 1 he repeatedly butts heads with John Locke, who professes that being on the island has a higher meaning and purpose for them. Being a doctor, Jack isn't open to believing in such things - and fights with all his might to get his people off the island. Thats what makes his complete reversal, to return to the island during Season 5, very compelling. His life off the island is simply broken - and it gets worse when they are rescued. When he does return to the Island, we find Jack in a much less substantial role - allowing others to take the leadership position, or to follow others. He still doesn't always know wether doing that is right or not, but his evolution as a character is drawn out, nuanced, and interesting.
Kate and Sawyer both have disastrous pasts, and bring just as much trouble, as they do help, to the group.
Kate immediately becomes a person of interest, when the air Marshall on the flight warns Jack of how dangerous she was. Kate definitely is dangerous -- but is completely reliable once on the island. She always runs -- moving from one trouble spot to the next. The number of episodes focusing on her, her story actually begins to feel a bit annoying. There's only so many times you can see her making a disastrous mistake, before you loose a bit of sympathy for her.
Right alongside Kate is the equally troubling Sawyer - a con man who doesn't want anyone to like him, and goes out of his way to discourage friendship. Sawyer frequently becomes a rival to Jack, as they are in a love triangle with Kate. Its much later in the series, though, where Sawyer's life takes a new direction. He stayed behind on the island, when everyone was able to escape, and (after some time-traveling) built a life for himself as a Dharma Initiative employee in charge of security. Love interest Juliet grounds him; but, the happy life he makes for himself doesn't necessarily last very long.
Hurley, the funny care-free fat guy, is loved by everyone in the group - and has a humorous backstory laced with bad luck. The mysterious numbers, originating from the Island, are 4 8 15 16 23 42 -- and Hurley plays those numbers in the lottery! He wins, but it makes his life horrible, as misfortune follow him where ever he goes. He finds out the origin of the numbers on the island -- but, by that point, his life was going much better. Once on the island, the curse seemed to be lifted. Yet Hugo had several other problems buried underneath the surface; he spent time in a psyche ward, and over the course of the series he begins talking to dead people.
Sayid becomes a valued expert on electronics and communication equipment, and is excepted into the group despite as past as a torturer for the Iraq army. Sayid bounces back and forth between wanting to be a good man, and life urging him to use his skills as a torturer and killer. He looses two very important loves of his life - and eventually takes a darker turn in the final season. Though he never believed it himself, the series always tried to remind us that, underneath it all, he was a good man. A deeply flawed man -- but a good one.
During season 2 - a hatch is discovered, with a mysterious button, needing to be pressed ever 108 minutes -- or disaster would strike. Locke thought there was purpose of meaning buried in the Hatch, but over the course of season 2 he becomes disillusioned, eventually failing to press that button. (A disaster did happen!) Season 3 finds Locke with renewed faith -- but just as directionless as he was in his old life. He is given new goals, among "The Others", and is lead by guiding forces to help "move the island", at the sacrifice of being teleported off of it. Everything he does is in hopes of fulfilling his destiny; finding some purpose to his life. It becomes a great shame, what eventually happens to him; thought, it's through his death that Jack and the others are spurred to return to the island, which is where John thought they needed to be.
As for Boone - he began hunting with John Locke out in the jungle - and was in on the biggest secret the island had yet: The Hatch. A mysterious hatch, with no handle or lever to open, is found by John, and exuviated by Boone and himself. Things take a tragic turn when Boone is killed, trying to send an SOS on a crashed drug smuggler's plane, found in the jungle. The plane crashed down from the cliff it was resting on, with Boone crushed inside it. Locke brought Boone's broken body back to camp, and was the focus of blame for the boys death. Although its ultimately ruled an accident - the secret of the Hatch is reveled to Jack and the group.
Jin and Sun are also notable characters - both from South Korea, and set apart from the group because of a language barrier. Things are made even more confusing, as Sun kept secret that she could actually speak english, a fact unknown to her husband. Their marriage, to say the least, is troubled; with Sun planning to leave Jin, before boarding the plane. Jin also acts like a jerk to many people, but eventually forges friendships with the likes of Sawyer and Michael. Their relationship was always turbulent - but you where always left rooting for Jin and Sun to find each other and reconcile, despite the many obstacles in their path. The obstacles, though, became much larger than marital issues -- as Jin dies, allowing his wife and the others to get off the island and be rescued. Sun spends three years thinking Jin is dead, but returns to the island when she is shown proof that Jin is really still alive! How did Jin survive? Well - the blast he was in threw him into the water -- but things became much more complicated, as time travel entered the picture. Jin eventually joined up with Sawyer and joined the Dharma Initiative - waiting for the day he and Sun would once again be together.
Claire, the pregnant mother-to-be, is probably one of the more note-worthy characters -- as her signature episode "Raised by Another" follows her decision to try and set her baby up for adoption, against the repeated warnings from a psychic, that no one else must raise this child. I knew going into the series, kidnapped children where going to be a focus and danger for the group - so this warning was made all the more chilling and frightening. Claire eventually gives birth, and her child does become point of value; thought not as much as I initially suspected. What surprised me the most about Claire, though, was her sudden disappearance during Season 4 -- and only until season 6 does she re-appear. She's supposedly captured by the dark forces on the island -- and in season 6, comes back crazy as a loon. Luckily, the prophetic "Raised by Another" issue over her son Aaron, comes to fruition when Kate takes Aaron off of the island and raises him as her own. The prophecy, which came true, actually became a godsend - as Aaron was safe during his mother's absence. Kate, though, comes back to the island intent on rescuing Claire - crazy or not crazy.
Charlie, a famous musician from England, suffers from a addiction to heroin, which John Locke helps him to overcome. Charlie also becomes a fond confidant of Claire's, protecting her and the baby. He's a likable character, until he has visions about the baby being in danger, because he isn't baptized. Charlie took a dark, dark turn in the aftermath -- and while things began to normalize between him and Claire during the 3ed season -- you still eyed Charlie with suspicion ever since. Charlie, though, did redeem himself - managing to deliver a vital message before he drowned to death. The act was even more brave than you'd think -- because Charlie knew he was indeed going to die.
Who told Charlie he was going to die? Why, Desmond Hume - the man in hatch, of course! Hume's story is very bizarre - and off kilter to almost everyone's else's stories. He is the person the group originally find pressing that button down in the middle of that hatch. He disappears for most of the second season - only to reappear, in the nick of time, to turn an emergency key - to try and seal up the disastrous electromagnetic energy unleashed when the button was finally NOT pushed. Ever since that moment, being at the epicenter of the blast - Hume has been out of synch. Instead of just having flash backs, he actually time travels back to parts of his life! He also sees the future - Charlie dying being one of those prophetic visions. Hume was an oddly placed piece in the cast, but a welcome one.
Michael and Walt take prominent center in the first season, as the newly reunited father and son are only just now managing to forge a relationship together. It's heart breaking, seeing how Michael was kept out of his son's life, and later how the child was dropped back into his life following the mother's untimely passing. Vague warnings are hinted at, that there is something special about Walt, which comes to a head in the season one finale, where Walt is kidnapped by The Others.
The Others are an ominous, yet unseen threat throughout the first season - at first kidnapping Claire, and later kidnapping Walt. Claire escaped from them, with little explanation. The person who kidnapped Claire, initially, was a plant, secreted into the group, for the purpose of kidnapping the pregnant mother. When this interloper is discovered, he proves his skill against Jack, trouncing him in the middle of the jungle. He's later shot and killed, leaving the group no one to question further about who "The Others" are.
Michael's story took a decidedly darker turn, when he is recruited by the Others to help free their leader, who was captured. Michael killed two women during this breakout, which he is never able to live down - even though it earned him the rescue of Walt, and their escape from the island. Walt appeared a few more times during the series - but was largely left out of things. He is once again estranged from his father, who, not being able to bear the guilt, confessed about the murders to Walt, forever harming their relationship.
Ben Linus, the leader of "The Others" - is probably one of the best characters on the show. Introduced mid-way through season 2 - he spends a lot of the time lying and seeding dissent among the group. Once freed by Michael, Linus allows Michael to go free. When asked who exactly these people where, Linus replies with a smile "We're the good guys, Michael." Its that element, of a deranged narcissistic personality, that defines Linus - and makes him such an enjoyable villain to watch. He is willing to do anything, in service to the island - and that includes quite a list of horrible deeds. Linus becomes even more human (and more dangerous) when his daughter dies, in the name of protecting the island (and his power). It haunts him the rest of the series, and culminates with him murdering John Locke. There simply has never been a better villain on TV, than what he got with Ben Linus.
The Dharma Initiative is slowly revealed, was an out of control science group, studying on the island since the 70s. The Hatch is one of their remaining installations, left over on the island. The Dharma Initiative is, simply, a scientist's wacky dream come true -- and is explored in more detail during the time traveling of season 5. (The briefest of mentions, about Time Traveling bunnies, ranks as my favorite element hinted at!) The group was wiped out by Ben Linus, with the help of the Others (gaining him leadership of the group.) Since then, The Others became recipients of the left over space and technology of the Dharma Initiative.
The main issue "The Others" face, is that pregnant women on the island are not able to give birth. They always die. That was why Claire was of such interest to the Others. It was never stated why these birth rates where like this -- but I think it's actually quite clear. It's because the island was displeased with Linus' leadership.
Its eventually revealed who "The Others" actually follow - the enigmatic and little seen Jacob. Jacob is the protector of the Island. He's immortal, and has been protecting the island for a very, very long time. He's not a perfect person; in fact, allowing Linus to do so many awful things in his name, makes me question him. BUT - that's what Jacob is all about: free will. He won't go and tell people what do to - he sees the value in people making those decisions themselves. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-Day Saints (or Mormon), I find this extremely compelling - as Free Will is at the core of our faith. Jacob is by no means analogous to Jesus Christ -- but he borrows many attributes. Jacob is the reason everyone is on the island - he brings them here, not only to just test them - but also in search of someone who might one day take over for him, and becomes the new protector of the island. Why does the Island need protecting?
From the first episode, an unseen monster stalks and kills randomly throughout the seasons. Depicted as a puff of smoke, the special effect, I believe, caused quite a lot of controversy. At first it looks kind of lame - but later it shown in more menacing detail. It has a cacophony of sounds coming out of it - a subway train always being audible, and a bit distracting, seeing as they are on an island far, far away from any trains. It's not until the 6th and final season that we find out that the Smoke Monster is actually Jacob's opposite, dubbed "The Man in Black". This man takes an inordinate amount of time and planning, to manipulate John Locke -- all in an effort to have him come back to the island, dead - - so his body could be taken, and used as a ruse to help him kill Jacob. Its successful -- but Jacob's successors are still alive. The 6th season focused on this evil John Locke trying to get everyone killed. He also infected Claire and Sayid - with an unknown "Darkness" It's what made Claire so crazy, and why Sayid starts taking orders from Locke.
For all practical purposes - the Man in Black is the devil, though, like Jacob, it's never as clear cut as that. There apparently was a lot (and I mean A LOT) of controversy about the origin episode of Jacob and the Smoke Monster. I think reaction to that episode is a clear example of people getting answers, but not being happy with the answers given. I think Lost deftly navigated between giving answers, and merely giving insights, into a host of issues raised during the series. Questions, like for example, what exactly happened to Claire and Sayid, are never clearly explained; and, its probably right that it was never explained.
Thats one of the things I loved about how Lost ended. For the questions they did answer - there where plenty of unanswered questions. The Island, really, sort of stays with you - especially given the results of the finale. Thats always the sign of a good mystery show -- if it lives with you, after you've watched it. I really enjoyed the series, and urge anyone interested to start from the beginning - get sucked in, and watch all the way through to the end. It's a wonderful series; a landmark in broadcast television; and a defining piece of American Popculture and Mythology.