Lost: How binging the series with my son brought us closer
EW’s resident Hurley expert, Jeff Jensen, got sucked into the series all over again, thanks to his 15-year-old son, Ben. Here, he shares how it brought them even closer.
I’ve never doubted that my oldest son, Ben, is my child. But he proved it for good last spring with the following declaration: “Dad, I’m totally into Lost now.”
It was like he found religion. I knew the feeling. I was certifiably obsessed with the famously mysterious and confounding award-winning serial about castaways on a mystical island. Ben, who was 3 when the show premiered in 2004, was familiar with my fandom. In season 5, I made him appear in a skit that my colleague Dan Snierson and I produced for our “Totally Lost” video series on EW.com. He remembers my up-all-night recapping, too, and how it wasted me for parenting the next day. (Sorry, kids.) His most vivid memory of Lost was hearing his mother, Amy — my wife and partner in TV watching — cry while watching the series finale in 2010. Rewatching Lost with Ben was going to be fun — it could be like one of those old-fashioned father-son rite-of-passage rituals — but also a way to remember Amy, who passed away in 2014.
My romantic ambitions weren’t easily realized. Ben became converted to Lost after seeing the crackerjack J.J. Abrams-directed pilot at a friend’s house. He didn’t want to wait on me to watch more; he wanted to binge it right…now. On his computer while doing homework. On the family-room TV after homework. On his phone in bed. The truth is, TV watching is a very individualistic activity in my household — we’re wired to our devices. It hasn’t been collective family viewing. I’ve resolved to change that after this experience.
I managed to watch 70 percent of the series with Ben. I enjoyed his reactions to the twists and turns as much as revisiting those beats myself. “Oh, that’s cold!” he exclaimed as Michael (Harold Perrineau) capped both Ana Lucia (Michelle Rodriguez) and Libby (Cynthia Watros). He was intrigued by the mysteries, although the long wait for answers bugged. “Just tell me: What is the Smoke Monster?” he asked after we watched Smokey smite Mr. Eko (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). I found his anxious fascination delicious and oh-so-familiar. “You have to take the journey,” I said.
The first and only time Ben felt confused was during the time-skipping season 5. Entering the living room to watch the episode “LaFleur,” a personal fave, I found him watching videos of Lost fans explaining Lost. I was disappointed with his impatience. And betrayed! I was supposed to be his ‘splainer of sacred Lost truths — not some vulgar internet twit! I decided to summarize Lost as I understood it. About 10 minutes into my dissertation, he stopped me. “That’s enough! Don’t spoil everything.”
Besides the father-son bonding time, what I enjoyed most was watching Lost liberated from the itch to “figure it out.” What surprised me most about Ben’s experience was how much he enjoyed the parts of Lost that frustrated many others. He was engrossed by the melodrama and machinations of the Hydra-station arc. He was captivated by the alt-reality explorations of the characters in season 6. His contrarianism strikes me as adolescent and fanboy protective — and very much his mother. Watching the series finale “The End” was surely the highlight of our shared communion. It was bittersweet for me. He felt invested in the fight for the Island (even if he didn’t totally understand the global stakes), delighted in the Sideways world “awakenings,” and was moved by the castaways’ collective jump into the afterlife. I cried anew. Ben just smiled. Afterward, he made me beam with a question.
“So, can I read your recaps?”
The Jensens Rank Their Top Episodes
Ben Jensen’s Picks
1. “Tricia Tanaka Is Dead”
Season 3, Episode 10
“This is my favorite Hurley episode. After the Hydra station, it was great to see the characters together again in a fun, hopeful story. ‘Shambala’ is now one of my favorite songs.”
2. “Dr. Linus”
Season 6, Episode 7
“Seeing the Sideways versions of the characters was great because it helped you understand their meanings with the contrast and similarity. And the whole idea of Ben as a teacher was funny.”
3. “The End”
“My favorite moment: seeing Locke ‘wake up’ and return after being gone for so long. I loved learning Hurley protected the Island well and that Ben didn’t betray him.”
Jeff Jensen’s Picks
Season 1, Episode 4
“A brilliantly crafted Locke episode that introduced us to his flaws of faith and trust with a stunning twist reveal. This is where I fell hard for Lost‘s themes and storytelling.”
Season 2, Episode 3
“Jack: ‘Why do you find it so easy to believe?’ Locke: ‘It’s never been easy!’ This is Lost‘s theology of faith, beautifully summarized. I went mad for the orientation video, a puzzle I worked for years.”
3. “The Constant”
Season 4, Episode 5
“Skipping through time to connect with true love Penny, Desmond became the best expression of Lost‘s romanticism and best vehicle for storytelling audacity.”