There has never been a more aptly titled TV series than "Lost." For six head-scratching, confusing seasons, the trippy, groundbreaking island mystery has bounced back and forth in time. It's bounced back and forth in its own storyline. And it's bounced on and off that crazy island.
Visions of dead people appeared randomly. Lottery numbers had special meaning. Polar bears ate fish biscuits.
For every plot question that was answered, three more were raised — and that's partly why it was so addictive.
Tonight's series finale will be no different. There will still be lingering questions; the show's creators have said that not everything will be resolved.
But it doesn't matter. We diehards just want to see how it will end.
And when it's over, despite all its ups and downs, "Lost" will leave a legacy that might never be repeated. What other show will have its scope, its audacity, its willingness to confound viewers and send them scurrying to the Internet after each show to search for clues, hidden meanings and elusive answers?
As we say goodbye to "Lost," here are six things about it we will never forget. Cue the creepy title crawl.
* The crash — The first episode of "Lost" was a haunting, breathtaking event, with an epic, cinematic scope not typical of TV shows.
The opening sequence was brilliantly disorienting. Starting with a close-up of an eye that would turn out to be Jack Shephard's (played by Matthew Fox), we cut to his point of view and see trees swaying gently overhead.
Then, like Jack, we begin to realize that something terrible has happened. As we follow him onto the beach, the burning wreckage of Oceanic Flight 815 is slowly revealed. Jack tries to make sense of what's happened as chaos sets in.
A few hours later in the dead of night, the crash survivors hear a hideous, menacing growl coming from the jungle.
"Terrific," one says.
It was. And we knew this would be a show unlike anything we'd ever seen.
* The characters — Sure, we knew that something otherwordly was happening on this island, but what hooked us was the people.
From Jack, the noble doctor with an obsession to fix everything, to Sawyer, the con artist with the heart of a hero, to Hurley, the rotund billionaire with a curse, to Kate, the earnest fugitive on the run, everyone came with baggage literally and figuratively, and everyone was there for a reason.
No one believed this more than Locke (played by Terry O'Quinn, who won an Emmy in 2007 for this role), a paraplegic confined to a wheelchair who, after the crash, discovered that he could suddenly walk.
So the island wasn't only scary and mysterious, it was magical, too.
* The parallel stories — From the beginning, the narrative was told on two different timelines.
At first, in addition to the unfolding island story, flashbacks were used to set up each character's journey until the crash. Then, flash-forwards told the stories of the six survivors who made it back to civilization 108 days after the crash (we'll address the numbers in a second).
This season, we've been jumping from the island events to an alternate universe in which the plane never crashed.
And that doesn't even cover all of the time-traveling that went on. To try to explain that is just asking for a headache.
"Lost" made up its own rules — and continually broke them. And the people behind it — first creator J.J. Abrams, then co-producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse — never apologized for it.
* The numbers —Hurley's winning lottery numbers — 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42 — would have great significance over the run of the show.
They were engraved on a hatch in the jungle. Inside the hatch was a bunker, where the numbers had to be entered into a computer every 108 minutes (the numbers add up to 108) or something very bad would happen (as always).
What did the numbers mean? We learned this season that they were assigned to certain crash survivors who the island had special plans for. But we may never really know their true significance. (They sure weren't winning lottery numbers in real life. Yes, I tried).
* The love stories. For some, "Lost" was at its best when it delved into the often poignant, sometimes gloriously gooey romances among the various characters. Forget about the island mysteries, the complex twists and turns, the Biblical references and Egyptian hieroglyphics. What really mattered was the on-again, off-again romance between Jack and Kate, the tragic tale of Sawyer and Juliet, the epic yearning between Desmond and Penny. And the writers never let the stories sink to soap opera silliness — at least not so far.
* The mythology —Salvation vs. redemption. Good versus evil. Fate versus destiny. Popcorn versus cheese puffs. Oh, wait. That's a different predicament.
* The villain —It was easy to hate Ben Linus, the leader of the Others, another cult-like group that made things very difficult for our island friends.
And that was mostly due to the seething performance of Michael Emerson, who won an Emmy for the role in 2009.
The way his eyes glimmered, we never quite knew if he was telling the truth. One thing was for sure, though, he couldn't be trusted.
But as despicable as Ben was, Emerson brought a complexity to him. He was evil, yes. But, as it turned out, indelibly human.
This season, it looked as though Ben was reduced to tromping around the island like everyone else, with little purpose — until last week. The old bad Ben is back, it would seem.
Just in time to say goodbye.
Now you know
Tonight's " Lost" finale begins with a two-hour recap of the show, at 6 p.m. The final episode will be from 8 to 10:30 p.m. on ABC and KAKE, Channel 10.
At 11:05 p.m., some cast members will appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live: Aloha to Lost." Three alternative final scenes will be shown, although the show's producers have said they are meant to be tongue-in-cheek.