Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Season Underground And Dangerous: Lost Season Two Is Perfect!

The Good: Excellent character work, interesting plots, good acting, great concept
The Bad: Moments of predictable reversal
The Basics: With its intriguing characters and interesting story, Lost spends a season underground in the hatch, saving the world and one another.

Sophomore seasons can make or break a hit show. With Lost, (first season DVD set review can be read by clicking here!) the challenge was to answer questions left from the first season and continue to grow the mysteries of the island and the backstory of the characters in such a way as to keep people interested and guessing. And in true J.J. Abrams fashion, Lost - The Complete Second Season: The Extended Experience on DVD delivers, only without J.J. Abrams. Due to Abrams' working on Mission Impossible III and finishing off the series Alias, there is little of J.J. Abrams in the second season of Lost, though executive producers Carlton Cuse and Daimon Lindoff seamlessly execute the second season with the same mood and feel of the first.

Picking up in the moment after the last shot of season 1, Locke and Jack are instantly captivated by the now-open hatch. Exploring the hatch causes conflict between Jack, Lock and Kate and when they discover that what lies beneath the island may be an apocalyptic device, the leaders of the survivors become conflicted over what to do. Meanwhile, having been left adrift by the Others, Sawyer, Michael and Jin soon find themselves back on the island and at the mercy of a rugged group who is soon revealed to be more survivors from Oceanic flight 815, and their experiences on the island have not been pleasant.

Under tragic circumstances, the two groups of survivors come together, but the Island's version of fate soon hands them a prize or gift that has the potential to lead to more even more conflict, tragedy and possibly a way off the island.

One of the most effective aspects of Lost is the tension and mysteries surrounding the island. The island acts as a character in the first season with the menace of the Thing In The Woods, the Others, the Hatch and the strange confluence of other apparent coincidences it reveals. The Hatch was the big mystery of season one and season two was set up to deliver exactly what was in the hatch. The revelation of what is in the bunker happens over the course of the first three episodes of season 2 and the demands it places on our protagonists on the island are certainly compelling. On one of the commentaries, one of the execs defines season two as "The Year of the Hatch" and it certainly is a year with our characters underground, both physically and metaphorically.

Equally as interesting is the introduction of the Tailies (as Hurley calls them), who have survived - barely - under the guidance of Ana-Lucia (who was introduced in the season 1 finale) while being under siege by the Others. One of the most intense episodes of the season "The Other 48 Days" recalls the attempts by the Tailies to survive. Their story is not one of foraging for food and waiting for rescue. It's a dark tale wherein they are attacked, kidnaped and forced to flee into the jungle by the Others who are preying upon them. They are merciless when Sawyer, Michael and Jin wash up on shore and their dismal view of the world as a result of their experiences makes for compelling television.

What works so well on Lost is not simply that it tells an interesting story, but that it takes the time to explore characters with a depth and richness that we do not usually see on television. As in the first season, most episodes of Lost combine a character-driven narrative in the present time with an exploration of the important character's backstory. So, for example, in season 2, we learn "What Kate Did," what it was actually like for Hurley to win the lottery and we witness Sawyer living up to his potential as a con man.

All great television focuses on great characters and Lost certainly applies. Here is where season two finds the principles of Lost:

Jack - Determined to keep the survivors alive and safe, Jack's initial plan to move everyone into the hatch fails, but he quickly adapts. Upon learning what is in the hatch, Jack steps up to become the leader he had resisted becoming and he works to give purpose to the survivors, until a new arrival threatens everything,

Sayid - Having just found love with Shannon, Sayid's expertise soon comes into play with exploring the hatch and later when Rousseau presents him with an intriguing gift,

Hurley - Given the responsibilities of a quartermaster when the hatch is opened, Hugo comes to understand that the island is guided by forces much bigger than he is. Hurley also finds himself attracted to one of the Tailies,

Sawyer - Wounded and broken following the events on the raft, Sawyer works to reconcile his feelings for Kate with his past and his desire to make something out of his time on the island,

Jin - Soon reunited with his wife, Jin struggles to learn English and help Michael find Walt. However, Sun soon provides him with a reason to stand by her,

Sun - Still keeping secrets from Jin, she is overwhelmed by the powers the island appears to possess and she finds herself in another serious predicament,

Kate - While attempting to help Jack, Kate allies herself with Locke to explore what is in the hatch. Soon after, she discovers her feelings for Sawyer are growing and when he abruptly returns, she finds herself seriously conflicted with her feelings for both Sawyer and Jack,

Charlie - Struggling to remain clean after finding more heroin on the island and soon abandoned by Locke, Charlie finds himself in a strange apprenticeship with Mr. Eko, from the tail section,

John Locke - Having made it to the bottom of the hatch, Locke finds the purpose he was looking for and he abandons the survivors for an attempt to save the world. In that, he soon discovers his chance at a greater destiny and he embraces his Fate in a way no one would expect,

Claire - Dealing with her baby and her on and off relationship with Charlie, Claire soon learns her baby might be in danger and she goes on a search for the answers to what happened to her in her missing days on the island,

Michael - Having lost Walt to the Others, Michael becomes obsessed with finding them. He leaves the safety of the hatch to find Walt and when he returns, his answers will change everything for the survivors,

Shannon - Falling in love with Sayid leads to consequences Shannon would not have guessed,

Ana-Lucia - The leader of the Tailies, Ana-Lucia works to overcome her violent past and when the survivors from the raft wash ashore, she works hard to trust them. With her arrival in the hatch, she attempts to restart her life by trusting Jack and the others,

Libby - A psychologist with a past linked to Hurley, Libby survived with the Tailies and works to fit in with the survivors on the other side of the island. She soon develops a relationship with Hurley,

Mr. Eko - With his mysterious past as a priest and a criminal in Africa, Eko feels a sense of destiny and responsibility on the island. He takes in Charlie as his apprentice and when he is given the opportunity to help Locke, he takes it, leading to cataclysmic events on the island,

and Walt - Captured by the Others, Walt appears as a phantasm throughout the season to various characters in their moments of greatest need, confusion or conflict.

The characters in Lost are compelling and the show does an excellent job balancing them, which is difficult to do with such a large cast as Lost has. Indeed, the addition of new characters could have been problematic, but the executive producers do an excellent job balancing the new characters with the ones from the first season and the show continues to work rather well. We have the feeling that this is the continuation of the narrative we began in season 1 as opposed to being a totally new show. That takes finesse and the producers deserve credit for that.

The actors deserve a lot of credit as well. This is a strong ensemble cast and they work quite well together. Daniel Dae Kim remains one of the most powerful actors of the show, convincing viewers easily of his difficulty speaking English so effectively that when in "Everybody Hates Hugo," Jin speaks flawless English in a dream sequence, the viewers are easily rattled. Of course Daniel Dae Kim is paired frequently with Yoon-jin Kim who is an exceptional actress and the two work quite well with one another.

Matthew Fox continues to do strong work that is completely different from any other character he has played. Similarly, Evangeline Lilly gives strong performances that balance her character's coarseness and vulnerability. Josh Holloway is convincing as Sawyer, for more than just his rugged good looks.

Perhaps the most neglected on the cast is the truly wonderful Naveen Andrews, who plays Sayid. Sayid is given surprisingly little until midseason, though his part in the mid and latter episodes is quite strong. Andrews does remarkably well with the part he is given, but it seems a shame to use such a talented individual so little. The character was initially set up as a "type" as opposed to an individual and Andrews has worked hard to add depth to what could be a fairly awful stereotype.

But the mind-blowing standout in the cast is once again Terry O'Quinn. John Locke, who spent season one as a mysterious and in-control character becomes vulnerable in season two, especially through his backstory. O'Quinn not only rises to the occasion as Locke, but he makes the viewers wait for his stories and we gobble them up when they are given to us. Terry O'Quinn is given an incredible acting challenge as Locke finds purpose, collapses, and then takes charge in an incredible new way and never once does his performance waver. O'Quinn is the man to watch on Lost.

So, who will like season 2 of Lost? Those who saw season one. It is, quite simply, a waste of time for newcomers. Unlike some series' that one can jump right into, Lost is heavily serialized and the clip show recap of the series (available at Best Buy as an exclusive bonus disc, though they are almost impossible to find) does not do it justice and will not prepare the viewer for the experience of the show. Then again, after seeing this season, it is hard not to want the complete series!

For other science fiction television programs, please check out my reviews of:
Star Trek


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© 2010, 2007, 2006 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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