It’s been 10 years since we watched Jack Shephard dramatically open one eye, stumble through a jungle, and come upon the harrowing wreckage of Oceanic Flight 815. It’s been 10 years since we met Kate, Sawyer, Charlie, Claire, Locke, and so many other characters who would make us laugh, cry, and fall in love right along with them over the course of six seasons. And it’s been 10 years since we saw a polar bear, discovered a smoke monster, and realized we were in for a journey like nothing else we’d ever seen on TV before.
That’s right, friends; Lost turned 10 years old on Monday. Ten years ago, I stood in front of the tiny TV in my kitchen and watched what I still consider to be the greatest pilot of all time. I knew I was in for one heck of a ride after learning all about J.J. Abrams’s crazy ways of weaving stories through my years spent loving Alias, but I don’t think any of us knew exactly how crazy this ride was going to be.
I learned so much from watching Lost, and those lessons have stayed with me for the last 10 years and will continue to stay with me for much longer. I learned that no character I love on a TV show is safe at any time (not just in premieres and finales), and that’s helped me get through every season of Game of Thrones, Once Upon a Time, and even The Good Wife.
I learned that sometimes your choice of favorite character changes as you grow and change yourself—from Kate to Charlie to Sawyer to Juliet. I learned that you don’t choose your “ships;” they choose you. (I spent so long wondering why I wasn’t more invested in the Jack/Kate/Sawyer triangle, only to discover that my heart was apparently saving all of its feelings for the unexpectedly perfect pairing of Sawyer/Juliet.) I learned that I love any and all plots involving time travel. And I learned that nothing makes me happier as a fan than when a character or a show can still manage to surprise me.
The most important lesson, though, that I learned from Lost was taught to me in the pilot and reinforced in the series finale: It’s all about the characters. For all the polar bears and smoke monsters, the reason I loved the pilot was because it made me care about these people beyond just their observations of the mysteries unfolding around them. The pilot opened with people just trying to survive and help one another do so; the mysteries came later. And I tried to never forget that. For as much as this was a show with possibly the most complex mythology to ever grace network TV, what made it work was its commitment to creating and developing characters that made us care.