I am watching Lost and currently I am on season 3 episode 14 (Expose) and I am not wee bit interested in Nikki's story. Mostly all of the episodes have some back stories of all the characters one by one and which help to go in depth of the character but I personally find all of them boring except John Locke and Hurley's. So I fast-worward them.

My question is should I not do that? The only thing that will stop me from doing that is if there are subtle and very important clues hidden in those stories which I might miss at 2x or 3x. Are the backstories relevant to the main storyline beyond just providing background for the characters?

  • 4
    The back stories do add to the character development which some might consider important to understand motives. There aren't so many clues necessarily at least in the first few seasons but in later seasons the backstories change up a little and it is worth watching them starting with the Season 3 finale. At that point they start to integrate with and add to the present storyline and you will miss important details.
    – sanpaco
    Commented Aug 17, 2016 at 21:01
  • @sanpaco This sounds like the base for an interesting answer.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Aug 17, 2016 at 21:04
  • Yeah I'm going to have to expound later when I have some time assuming no one else has tackled it yet.
    – sanpaco
    Commented Aug 17, 2016 at 21:04
  • Specifically for Nikki you're out of luck - this is the only episode in which she is featured.
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Aug 18, 2016 at 12:35
  • I think it depends on what you find important. Important to the plot? Not necessarily. Important to the exposition of the characters, which can justify some of their (otherwise unexpected) responses or behavior? Yes. But if you don't focus on things like that (fair enough, to each their own), then the importance of character development is irrelevant to you and thus the answer is not necessarily the same for you and anyone else.
    – Flater
    Commented Sep 4, 2017 at 8:43

3 Answers 3


I think there is a strong case that the backstories are important but you should also be aware that the alternate scenes change up through out the series. I personally would recommend you watch them all but probably not completely necessary until later.

The spoiler free answer would be to watch the backstories at least from the Season 3 finale and forward.

Seasons 1, 2, and 3:

In the first three seasons, all the flashback scenes occur in the characters' lives before they arrive on the island. These scenes provide some insights into character development and motivations behind their actions on the island and could be considered important to a certain level. There are also some clues in these scenes that indicate a certain connection between the characters and the idea that fate has brought them together as we see that they have crossed paths in some cases in the past.

From here forward skipping of these scenes would cause one to lose details that are important. Again major spoilers to follow!

Season 3 finale, and 4:

In Season 3 finale there is a twist in the end where we realize that we are actually seeing the future. This leads to season 4 in which we see certain flash forward scenes of certain characters after they have left the island.

Season 5:

In Season 5 the formula changes up a little and we see two different stories from the perspective of those who left the island and are trying to return and the perspective of those who are on the island. One group is in the past with the Dharma Initiative and the other is in the future dealing with the present day island.

Season 6:

Season 6 shows what is commonly referred to as the "flash sideways" as we see things that are happening on the island as well as things from a perspective of the characters in a sort of alternate reality in which flight 815 never crashed. We later learn that the flash sideways is really part of a sort of future incarnation of the character's existences after they have died and are living in a sort of limbo state. In this state they are trying to come together and move on to a higher level of existence.

  • 1
    Thanks for the answer. I am avoiding the spoilers you put for now. I hope back stories from season 3 onwards are worth it! Commented Aug 18, 2016 at 0:25

The flashbacks in the first three seasons of the show are not that important plotwise (other than the fact that characters often reference their backstories), but they are important thematically. The creators of Lost made clear that the title of the show isn't just about them being lost on an island, it's about people who were lost in their own lives before getting to the island. So the flashbacks are partly a way of showcasing the choices that these people made before getting to the island and the emptiness they felt in their own lives, and comparing that with the choices they're making now that they have a fresh start on the island, and the extent to which Island is able to give their lives greater purpose and meaning. The flashbacks also serve to highlight how the characters were interconnected even before reaching the island.

Let me also say that the two Season 3 episodes "Stranger in a Strange Land" and "Exposé" are universally considered to be the worst episodes of Lost ever; even the creators acknowledge how bad they were. So it is not at all surprising that you find one of those two episodes fairly useless.

P.S. There's a reason that Season 3 in particular contained a few dumb episodes like that: it's because ABC (the network) wouldn't give the creators an end date for the series. The creators were eager to move to the next phase of the show, but they didn't know how many more seasons they would have, so they didn't know when they should move to the next phase. ABC, on the other hand, wanted the show to run for as many seasons as possible, because it was so lucrative for them. So finally the creators went to the ABC executives and basically said "Do you see what you're doing to the show? Lost is a show with a beginning, middle, and end, so if you don't give us an end date, we'll have to stall by producing useless flashbacks like how Jack gets his tattoos." So then ABC finally agreed on an end date: the show would go on for three more seasons. In any case, now that the creators had an end date in place, the show was finally able to progress, which is why the end of season 3 onwards is much better than the beginning of season 3.


Yes. The Back Stories matter.

At the end of the day LOST is story that is about "spiritual progress" via saving the Island, as it houses "life extension" on every conceivable level. It also was then about people lost in their lives and lost in terms of not knowing the whole truth about what the Island is...

To be able to answer this better, I will have to lay out my interpretation of LOST's ending....

My interpretation of Lost ending is that the Island is a space-time machine that houses "the heart" (Ancient Egyptian concept = collective conscience) or really all manner of existence ("Life, death, and rebirth").

So I think the idea is that there are always other corporeal timelines (other incarnations of characters and events) and those are the of things we see parts of through out the series, but don't get full explanations for (like all the ways Charlie had died in other lives, different versions of Chang's tapes, a different version of 1996 in The Constant, John Locke 2007 switch out, mice maze knowledge, why we have alternate reality tie-in media, ect) and that the Flash Sideways is an ethereal/astral plane which is what "death" is. (The characters also move on by passing through light, a common motif used in relation to time travel).

The beginnings of the FS pseudo-show the upcoming 2004 of next time line they created when they time traveled back to the 1970's this time around (they basically make a branch off when hey time traveled).

In the FS they have to remember the past to understand the upcoming future they made (next incarnation/time line). This is basically "dream logic" like in Alice in Wonderland (a reoccurring reference).

For the group that "moves on", they will not have to directly deal with the Island in there next life as the FS shows (instead they will DIRECTLY in each others' lives), but for others, they will have to confront The Island again. It's why Ben doesn't choose to move on, because he believes he hasn't done enough to "deserve" the outcome the FS presented to him. This was all about spiritual progress: "It only ends once, everything before that is just progress" = life never ends as long as there is an Island with it's light-water in tact-->infinite life times/iterations of time lines...**

The reason my interpretation matters, is because as a story that's mostly about spiritual progress, in which the Island facilitates or "runs" (see also Valenzettie Equation = axiom or calculus of Island working to not "break down" fabric of universe) life, the reason the characters' backstories matter is because of all of the connections between them as people, and with places and things, AND also, because there were degrees of separation (other people) between them outside of the Island life (that no longer existed in the new 2004 the FS shows) was metaphysical proof of what the Island is and how the Island generally works, being the thing that is bigger than everyone else.

In addition it was a wonderful way to tell an epic story.

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