'Lost' Answers Arrive, but How They Get Here Is the Fun Part

Don't ask.

Yes, I know. You have questions and you want answers. Happily, "Lost's" two-part return provides them, along with more jolts, twists, wit and sheer entertainment value than almost any other show on television.

It also provokes more questions, which is part and parcel of the "Lost" experience, and why the show compels many and repels others. And why it often makes more sense to let the show explain itself in its own time and way, rather than parsing each episode as if it were some crash course for a final exam. Lost is going to be complicated no matter what; it's your choice as to whether you enjoy the complications or let them drive you nuts.

And they could, because these opening episodes emphasize one of TV's trickiest conundrums: time travel. In last season's cliffhanger, we saw the island move. The question for this season is not just — or maybe not even — where it went, but when.

An explanation is provided fairly early. But do keep in mind that what makes Lost great can also make it frustrating: No matter how unlikely the situation, the characters behave as real people would. And real people tend to be unreliable informants; sometimes they lie, and sometimes they're simply wrong.

Still, while it's natural to focus on the mystery, the real joy of Lost is the people caught up in it, and they are currently split in location and motivation. In "real time," Jack (Matthew Fox) has realized the cost of leaving and lying, and is determined to take his friends back to the island. Happily, the decision should let him transition back into hero mode, while bringing out the sweet strength of Jorge Garcia's Hurley, the cunningly maintained ambiguity of Michael Emerson's Ben, and an unsettling new side of Yunjin Kim's Sun.

Meanwhile, back on the ever-moving island, Sawyer (Josh Holloway), Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell) and Locke (Terry O'Quinn) are trying to stop time from spinning long enough to figure out if Daniel (Jeremy Davies) can be trusted. All of which plays into Holloway's ability to lighten a scene with a well-placed jab, verbal and physical.

The pace is fast and furious, and though it can be daunting for the uninitiated, it's nothing a reasonably intelligent person can't handle. It's like marrying into a new family: At first, none of the people and their stories make sense, but you quickly sort them out.

Why bother? Because it's hard to name a series that is as engaging, surprising and flat-out gorgeous as Lost, or one in which every effort and penny expended seems to be put to shimmering good use. This is an epic big-screen adventure done for the small screen — and done in a way that makes most big-screen versions pale in comparison. Having it back is a hopeful sign that maybe, just maybe, better TV things are on the way.

Tell everyone.