Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Neighbors From Hell: Lost - Season 3 Holds Up Well On DVD!

The Good: Great character development, Decent acting, Interesting plots, Decent DVD bonus features
The Bad: Repetitive, A little more predictable than prior seasons
The Basics: When Lost returns in its third boxed set, it finds most of the characters in dire straits and fans will be eager to see how they resolve them!

One of the nice things about DVD is the ability to go back and catch things one missed on television the first time through. We find clues, subtle moments that might have passed us by the first time, have a greater appreciation of how a certain story is put together or where a character is coming from, whatever. In the television series Lost, this is especially useful as it is a fairly dense show that is packed with information week after week. That said, with the appearance of Lost - Season 3 on DVD, that benefit is somewhat diminished; fans of the series - and I have been watching since the first season (click here for my review!) - will likely not need the DVDs to catch as much from the show this time around; we are becoming tuned to it. As a result, Lost - Season 3 is not quite as indispensable for fans - who are likely to buy it anyway - as prior seasons. The set is ideal for those who watch shows year after year and never catch the groove of the writers/executive producers. For those people, I am certain there is incredible value in the basic programming of this DVD set.

Coming off a shockingly good season finale for the second season (click here for my review!), Lost returned to an eager audience and on DVD, the show eliminates its ridiculous two-mini-season concept and seems much more unified and part of a single story. That is a nice benefit of the series on DVD, no hype, just programming!

With Kate, Sawyer and Jack in the company of the Others - residents of the island on the other side of the island, who have been there for quite some time before Oceanic flight 815 crashed there -, the hatch destroyed and Sayid and his team circling the island in a boat to try to combat the Others, there is a lot of repair work to be done on the beach by the survivors. When Hurley returns to the beach with news of the capture of Jack and the others, fear strikes the survivors and when Sayid, Jin and Sun return, without their boat, things look even more dire. Locke and Desmond return from the decimated hatch with the news that Eko, who they had been searching for, is dead, further casting the survivors into doubt as to their collective longevity.

Jack awakens in a nondescript room where he is treated like a lab rat and has contact with Juliet, one of the Others. While Jack works to escape, he learns a little bit more about the Others and what they are doing on the island. Soon, it becomes apparent to Jack that they want him for his medical abilities. Kate and Sawyer, held outside in old animal cages, work on escaping as well, though Kate is eager to find out where Jack is. Jack learns that the leader of the Others, Ben (formerly Henry Gale, in their prior contacts) is ill and needs surgery, which Jack can perform to buy his freedom from the Island.

Jack uses the opportunity to leverage the Others for the freedom of his friends, setting off a chain of events that starts - essentially - an all out war between the Oceanic survivors and the Others!

Lost - Season 3 holds up better on DVD than it did in the original broadcast (much like how I enjoyed the third season of Alias, more on DVD than when it first aired) and seeing this whole "chapter" of the Lost story in one place makes it much easier to grasp and it carries a sense of flow better. Fans and non-fans will find the show flows better this way than broken up by weeks and months.

The truth is, though, that this season is not for newbies. By this point in the Lost story, you're either onboard or out of the loop. This DVD boxed set very clearly illustrates that the show has gotten to a point where it is so self-involved and self-referential that it is not even geared toward those who had not been watching before now. The plots are sufficiently complicated and the characters have developed so far that those who pick up just this DVD set will be lost. The story so far is so extensive that trying to hop in now is just pointless.

That's not to say that this is a pointless show, far from it! Lost remains engaging and complex, ultimately worthwhile. But it is a show one has to be paying attention to to truly "get." Fortunately, fans get the payoff of some of the earlier plotlines and ideas in this season. As a result of the capture, through Jack and Juliet, fans learn quite a bit about the Others. When Locke runs off to join Ben, we learn even more. Questions are answered about the now-destroyed hatch and the viewer is teased with snippets of other hatches. In all, this season progresses the stories of Lost wonderfully, while adding new elements that are sure to intrigue viewers for the final three seasons!

The characters in Lost continue to develop over the course of the season and more of the backstory for each of them is revealed. This is quite a task considering how massive the cast is and how many characters there are to focus on. Sayid, for example, is terribly neglected this season. Over the course of the twenty-two episodes (the finale is double-length), the show covers a great deal of ground and new relationships are formed and some old ones fall apart. Here is how the third season finds the new principle characters on the island:

Jack - Captured by the Others and isolated for his medical skills, Jack wrestles with his abandonment by his wife. This allows Juliet to manipulate him some, though he soon comes to learn that Ben has the ability to monitor the world (at the United States) and he engages in a risky gambit to protect the people from Oceanic Flight 815, all the while tempted with the very real possibility that he can return home,

Kate - Trapped near Sawyer and working with him to escape, the two bond. She exhibits tremendous loyalty to Jack, though, by working to insure that he is freed. She risks her life and works with Rousseau to find out more about the Others,

Sawyer - Captured and developing a relationship with Kate, it is Locke who will most change Sawyer's life this season, by providing him with exactly what he's always wanted,

Charlie - having survived the destruction of the hatch, he and Claire reconcile some and they set to raising Aaron. Unfortunately, Charlie's newfound friendship with Desmond is based on a rather morbid principle; Desmond has visions of Charlie dying repeatedly,

Hurley - After becoming obsessed with getting a van he finds in the jungle to drive, he assists the people on the beach by conning Sawyer into being nice to them,

Sayid - After losing the boat, Sayid becomes one of the great explorers of the island, searching for the community of the Others and ultimately launching a battle against them,

Jin - After losing the boat with Sayid, he works to protect Sun and is otherwise neglected,

Sun - After losing the boat, she works to reforge the bonds with her husband, Jin and survive with everyone else, though Juliet soon informs her of the terrible tragedy that befalls all pregnant women on the island, casting her longevity into doubt,

Paulo and Nikki - Other people on the beach from the crashed flight, they don't last long,

Claire - Continuing to raise her son Aaron, she finds herself growing closer and closer to Charlie, especially after she learns about Desmond's visions,

Desmond - Stuck back on the island, he finds himself estranged from Locke and develops a friendship with Charlie based on the fact that he has the ability to see the future now and in it, Charlie is always dead,

John Locke - Having survived the destruction of the hatch and seeing Mr. Eko buried, Locke feels an even deeper connection than before to the island. As a result, he hunts down the Others and joins them, only to discover that Ben has been expecting him and has a test for him,

Juliet - One of the Others, a fertility specialist and a generally decent person, she is kept on the island by Ben against her will. She sees Jack as a potential escape mechanism and works to use him to get herself freed, even as it appears Ben has set her up as a mole for the Others in the camp of the survivors,

and Ben Linus - The leader of the Others (for the most part), his life is saved by Jack, though that does come with a price. He is manipulative and devious and he seems determined to keep the island a secret and to see Locke buried there!

The characters in Lost are often used as plot vehicles this season. While that might be normal, in Lost that is taken to a new level this season as much of the plot is disguised as character elements. So, for example, Desmond's whole new "gift" seems largely to foreshadow plot events and the emphasis on Charlie and death in that sets the stage for the viewers. Similarly, Locke and Sawyer are set about wrapping up plot holes and character threads that have existed for all three seasons. Lost - Season 3 packs in a lot of plot for the twenty-two episodes and the greatest character development comes from the flashback sequences.

The acting in this season of Lost is quite good, though most of it is simply portraying the characters with a consistency so they feel like the characters we know. The performers who are new to the mix come with mixed results. It was no great loss when Rodrigo Santoro and Kiele Sanchez came and left the cast as Paulo and Nikki, but having Henry Ian Cusak (Desmond) and Michael Emerson (Ben) join the cast definitely works out well. They are both wonderful actors and they do bring something their roles and the show. The third season performance by Elizabeth Mitchell as Juliet, was not quite enough to sell me on her. Now that the whole series is done, I am pleased that she grew remarkably well. To her credit, Mitchell is wonderful in her flashback episode, layering her performance throughout with a nice sense of loss and desperation.

Emerson and Terry O'Quinn, who plays Locke, have great on-screen chemistry. They play off one another with a suspicious relationship of each other that is truly wonderful. O'Quinn deserved his Emmy and while he does not have a huge role in this boxed set, he performs in every single frame he is in. He and Emerson create a relationship that is very creepy and plays well in this weird island world.

On DVD, the series looks great and has decent bonus features. There are four audio commentaries (I could always use more of those!) and they are informative and entertaining, definitely adding value to the set. The seventh disc is packed with bonus features including three featurettes on behind-the-scenes information and on the effect of the show, deleted scenes, and a blooper reel. Fans will be very pleased with all of these bonuses as they truly do reward us for our devotion with all sorts of goodies that cannot be found elsewhere.

But my original assessment holds; despite how good this plot-heavy season is, it is not designed for anyone who is not already a fan of the show and purchasing this boxed set on its own is more likely to lead to confusion and frustration as opposed to the satisfaction those of us who love lost feel with this great show!

For other television season reviews, please check out my takes on:
30 Rock Season 1
Star Trek The Complete Original Series


For other television program reviews, please check out my index page!

© 2010, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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