JJ Abrams, who gained TV success with the popular WB drama "Felicity" and then followed up with "Alias", somehow managed to sell ABC on an idea about a group of plane crash survivors trying to survive on an uncharted island. The series could have easily gone wrong in so many ways, such as seeming like a dramatized version of "Survivor".
Thankfully, Abrams, exec producer Damon Lindelof and company have managed to steer clear of expectations and obstacles in order to create a wholly original and utterly remarkable series. "Lost" is easily one of the finest TV shows to arrive in years. To discuss more than the basics in this review would be doing the series an injustice, but there are some details offered for both the first and second season here (although a lot of the larger elements are left out), so those who want to go in fresh about either starting from the beginning or continuing with season 2 on DVD should skip the rest of the review of the show.
"Lost" opened with Jack Shephard (Matthew Fox, in a great effort) waking up on an island. As he slowly regains conciousness, he steps into utter chaos. The wreckage of the plane, engine still working, fuel still dangerous, looms large over the scattered debris. After a few seconds of surveying the damage, Jack goes into action, helping the injured and trying to direct people to safety. It's here that we meet some of the survivors, including Locke (Terry O'Quinn, in an exceptional performance), Kate (Evangeline Lilly), Sayid (Naveen Andrews), Hurley (Jorge Garcia), Charlie (Dominic Monaghan, of "Lord of the Rings"), Sawyer (Josh Holloway) and Shannon (Maggie Grace).
It's not long before the survivors have gathered what materials they can from the plane, and have gathered together to sit out what they find will be a very long wait. With Jack being the only doctor on the island, the group begins to look to him and consider him their leader. With not a lot of hope in sight, the survivors are certainly not comforted by the presence of something sinister in the forest, as well as the hints that they are not the only ones there. To add yet another layer to the proceedings, throughout the season we find that many of the survivors are not entirely who they seem.
While many felt that the second season of "Lost" did not live up to the first season, the series was hurt by - among other things - a series of breaks (a few weeks here, a couple of weeks there) that broke the rhythm of the story. The second season of the show opens with the survivors finding out what is located in the hatch that was found towards the end of the first season. However, while that question may have been answered, others arise throughout the season.
Soon enough, it's found that the passengers from the tail section have lived through the crash, although they've found conditions on the island to be even more brutal and unforgiving than the survivors from the front section. The new group is lead by Ana-Lucia (Michelle Rodriguez), a former police officer whose meeting with the front group results in tragedy. A character that added controversy, Ana-Lucia quickly became the character everyone loved to hate on the series. While she does play a role, she largely provides conflict here that doesn't serve the show all that well.
Other additions are Libby (Cynthia Watros) and Mr. Eko (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). A former drug kingpin, Eko quickly becomes one of the most fascinating characters on the series. It's a stellar performance - incredibly subtle and able to show warmth and, a minute later, be incredibly intimidating. Despite the great addition of Eko, the series takes a little too long introducing and integrating these characters. While the season does start well, the episodes that focus on introducing the tail section do slow things down.
While the second season started off well and then lagged in the middle, the third season of the series started off with a slower block of episodes and then made an abrupt change, as once the first third of the season ended, the show improves considerably. The third season of the series opens where the second season closed, with Kate, Jack, Sawyer and Hurley (although Hurley was released) captured by the Others. Taken prisoner, the first several episodes of the season spend a good deal of time following their struggles while under the eye of the Others, including Jack having to make a choice to perform a surgery on high-ranking Other, Ben (Michael Emerson) that could save his life - or save Jack's friends - or both.
Once the series moved on from the three being imprisoned, the series was free to further explore who are the Others, and building other elements of the series in unexpected ways. Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick), who had been gone for most of the second season before returning for the finale, became one of the most interesting elements of the third season, starting with "Flashes Before Your Eyes", one of the show's finest hours, where we learn what happened to Desmond after he turned the key at the end of the second season and the hatch imploded. A particularly heartbreaking episode, "Flashes" has Desmond reliving an important day with his love, Penny (Sonya Walger). Cusick's performance is utterly magnificent (he deserves an Emmy for it, and so do the writers), and a sequence where one character unexpectedly offers Desmond the consequences of veering from his path is particularly haunting. The sequence ends with Desmond revealing his newfound ability, and offering up apologetic words to another islander, who he knows he cannot save.
Paulo and Nikki (Rodrigo Santoro and Kiele Sanchez) were introduced early in the season as new (well, previously unseen) castaways, and were quickly hated by audiences, as the characters didn't fit and were essentially thrown into the mix without really much of an introduction. Apparently aware that the characters were not liked and were not serving enough of a purpose, they were written out in "Exposť", an episode that not only reveals their darker side, but writes them out in the most chilling and unexpected way possible. The episode also manages to recreate the plane crash that opened the show, yet worked Nikki and Paulo in.
The other interesting elements of the third season are Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell) and Locke (Terry O'Quinn), who has always been one of the most compelling characters of the series. In the third season, Locke gradually breaks away from the group, which leads to some surprising actions - including one that puts him against Jack - and makes one wonder where his story will lead in the fourth season of the series. We also find out more about Locke's past, especially in "The Man From Talahassee". Juliet, a higher ranking Other, helps Jack and the others, but her motives remain in question throughout much of the season. The core characters really do develop further this seasons (some a little more than others, but all to some degree.)
Of course, there is much more throughout the season, such as the appearance of the mysterious Jacob and the 2-part finale, which essentially changes the entire show going forward.
"Lost" isn't always consistent, but even in lesser episodes, it's still easy to find something memorable. Even the show's quietest moments - and there are those moments when the characters simply sit on the beach, trying to take comfort in each other and soaking up the fact that they've made it through another day - are often some of the most moving.
"Lost" is another instance where watching the show on DVD is more of a pleasure than watching it on TV. Like "24" and several other shows, not having commericials is really quite wonderful, allowing the episodes to flow without their rhythm being broken up every several minutes. The second season, which was broken up by breaks/repeats, is especially helped by the ability to watch the episodes as a whole. The other concern with the third season was that there were six episodes aired before the show went on hiatus, only to come back months later, which upset fans and resulted in the ratings suffering somewhat.
It definitely allows one to savor the show's many positives, including the carefully structured details of the plots, as the show's reveals and differing perspectives on various subplots somehow manage to seem organic and not mechanical. The flashbacks that are scattered throughout the episodes, which clue us in to some of the survivor's lives pre-island, are also expertly done, and edited into the island story in a way that isn't too jarring.
The performances are just about perfect, as the show's creators have brought together a great ensemble cast that has wonderful chemistry with each other. Fox and O'Quinn are certainly the highlights, but there isn't a wrong note within the rest of the cast. Cusick, Emerson and Mitchell have also been terrific additions to the cast, as well; Cusick and Emerson shine in this season as their characters are given a lot more to do. The cinematography is also marvelous, capturing the beauty of the Hawaiian settings (as well as the different locations/sets for the flashbacks) and yet also giving them a certain eerie quality. Composer Michael Giacchino's magnficient score compliments the mood of the scene perfectly, whether emotional or chilling.
While the first six episodes of "Lost"'s third season start to drag, once the season moves forward, things improve substantially. Some of the episodes this season are among the show's finest hours, and the character development and performances continue to improve.
49. 3- 1 4 Oct 06 A Tale of Two Cities
50. 3- 2 11 Oct 06 The Glass Ballerina
51. 3- 3 18 Oct 06 Further Instructions
52. 3- 4 25 Oct 06 Every Man for Himself
53. 3- 5 1 Nov 06 The Cost of Living
54. 3- 6 8 Nov 06 I Do
55. 3- 7 7 Feb 07 Not In Portland
56. 3- 8 14 Feb 07 Flashes Before Your Eyes
57. 3- 9 21 Feb 07 Stranger In A Strange Land
58. 3-10 28 Feb 07 Tricia Tanaka is Dead
59. 3-11 7 Mar 07 Enter 77
60. 3-12 14 Mar 07 Par Avion
61. 3-13 21 Mar 07 The Man From Tallahassee
62. 3-14 28 Mar 07 Exposť
63. 3-15 4 Apr 07 Left Behind
64. 3-16 11 Apr 07 One of Us
65. 3-17 18 Apr 07 Catch-22
66. 3-18 25 Apr 07 D.O.C.
67. 3-19 2 May 07 The Brig
68. 3-20 9 May 07 The Man Behind the Curtain
69. 3-21 16 May 07 Greatest Hits
70. 3-22 23 May 07 Through The Looking Glass (1)
71. 3-23 23 May 07 Through The Looking Glass (2)
VIDEO/AUDIO: "Lost" is presented by Buena Vista in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation quality is really quite marvelous, as the image remained impressively rich and detailed throughout - in my opinion, an improvement over regular broadcast quality. The presentation did occasionally show a little bit of slight shimmer, but no pixelation, edge enhancement or other concerns presented themselves. Colors were absolutely stunning, with perfect saturation and no smearing. Black level remained deep and strong, while flesh tones looked accurate and natural.
The show is presented by Buena Vista in Dolby Digital 5.1. The sound mix of the episodes is quite stellar, with the surrounds coming into play throughout to deliver distinct environmental sounds and sound effects, as well as some reinforcement of the score. Audio quality is first-rate, with very crisp, clear dialogue, effects and music.
I also must note that the set comes in one of those cases where the discs are overlapping one another, which frequently seems to result in loose discs. So, after you've bought your set, be sure to inspect the discs inside. The menus are terrific, with subtle, show-themed backgrounds.
EXTRAS: The final DVD of the set offers bloopers, "Terry O'Quinn: Throwing From the Handle" (the actor discusses throwing knives) and "The World of the Others" (an overview of The Others and how they fit into this season.) "Lost Book Club" discusses the novels that are sometimes seen throughout the season and the overall show. "The Next Level" is a look at the making of the "Lost" video game. There's also a featurette included about the making of the "Lost" toys.
"On Location" featurettes take a 4-5 minute or so look behind-the-scenes of ten different episodes. A 7 minute featurette with Evangeline Lilly has her introducing many of the behind-the-scenes crew members that the show couldn't function without. "One Day In Lost" is a 25-minute featurette that ventures onto the set of the show to document an average day in the series, watching as cast and crew shoot scenes from different episodes, while production offices see the producers and crew prepping for future episodes. In Los Angeles, show runners and writers pitch ideas for the finale as episode 9 of the season airs.
Also included are 3 deleted flashback scenes and 17 minutes worth of deleted scenes. Most interesting is the orientation film for the Orchid Station, an island station that will apparently be a factor in season 4. There are some flickering images edited into the video that will have viewers reaching for the pause button to try and study certain frames of the feature.
Commentaries include a track from actress Elizabeth Mitchell and producer Damon Lindeloff on "Tale of Two Cities", producer Carlton Cuse is joined by Josh Holloway and Evangeline Lilly on "I Do" and finally, writers/exec producers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz provide commentary for "Expose". The somewhat silly commentary with Lily, Holloway and Cuse is the highlight, but all three tracks are worth a listen.
Final Thoughts While the first six episodes of "Lost"'s third season start to drag, once the season moves forward, things improve substantially. Some of the episodes this season are among the show's finest hours, and the character development and performances continue to improve here. The DVD set offers excellent audio/video quality and a nice set of supplements. Recommended.