Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Near-Perfect Season Of Television You Shouldn't Buy Unless You've Already Been Lost (Season 6)!

The Good: Excellent character development, Great story twists, Great acting, Amazing finale, (Presumably) great bonus features.
The Bad: Utterly pointless for those who have not watched the series.
The Basics: Lost The Complete Sixth Season tells an amazing story and is a must for fans of the series, but stands alone poorly.

Lost recently completed its six-season run on television and almost the next day the DVD and Blu-Ray sets were announced. Most of those features have already been leaked - and many of them are the standard Lost features - but even without getting the bonus features the sixth season of Lost may be very completely considered and the review of the content of the sixth season is very simple.

Don't bother.

Yup, I said it. There are three types of people who might be reading this review: Lost fans, Lost fans who are patient, and those who have never seen Lost. For Lost fans, they are buying this set regardless for the simple reason that they have the other five sets and need the sixth season to complete the storyline. For Lost fans who have been patient, there is Lost - The Complete Series, which was being released concurrently with Lost - The Complete Sixth Season (and is linked at the bottom of this review!). For those few fans who didn't buy the DVDs all along, or those upgrading to Blu-Ray in one smart, fell swoop, Lost - Season 6 is a pointless investment. And then there are those who have never seen Lost before. For those people, reading a review of Lost - The Complete Sixth Season, especially one which has an "episode guide" quality to it is utterly pointless. Why? Lost is, more than any show on television in the last decade, a novel on television. Reading a plot synopsis of the episodes is like reading a synopsis of the last few chapters of a book. Sure, you might learn something about the plot, but: 1. the ramifications and significance of those events are often lost on the reader and 2. In Lost there are mystical aspects as well as twists that are either incomprehensible or ruined by reading the plots out of context.

That said, Lost The Complete Season 6 is easy to recommend for fans who need it to complete their collections. But for those who have never seen an episode of the series, this is an abysmal place to begin the series. There is no point in trying to start here and because it is layered, complex and phenomenal, the storyline will just baffle and confuse most people. So, despite the fact that I must write on to write a considerate review of the contents of Lost - The Complete Sixth Season I highly recommend casual readers stop now, rent or borrow (aren't libraries great?!) a copy of the first season of the series. If you get hooked, go out and purchase Lost The Complete Series. Buying just Season six is pointless and reading about it makes it impossible to get the full element of surprise that comes from the smart way the series unfolds over the six seasons. (If you haven't seen any of season six, it is impossible to discuss it intelligently without revealing some of what the characters go through early on and in important moments from the prior season.)

Lost - The Complete Sixth Season opens with "LA X," a double-long episode which appears to reimagine the entire series. Words like "appears to" in a Lost review are the way reviewers help to indicate that one has to be engaged while watching Lost without actually ruining the many twists and turns of the show. Gone are the time travel elements from the fifth season of Lost and they are replaced with what the producers are calling "Flash Sideways" occurrences. While I will gladly reveal how the "flash sideways" world differs from the standard Lost universe, the significance of the "flash sideways" experience is what is revealed in the final fifteen minutes of the series and ought not to be ruined by a reviewer.

In the "flash sideways" world, Oceanic flight 815 did not crash and Jack Shephard finds himself on that flight, a cut on his neck, but generally no worse for wear. He saves Charlie from a drug overdose in the bathroom of the airplane and when his father's coffin is lost, he meets John Locke and offers to consult with him on his spinal injury. As Kate flees the authorities and the very pregnant Claire tries to learn the status of her baby, other people on the flight - like the police detective James Ford - begin to return to their lives after their trips to Sydney, Australia. But when Desmond, who is working for Charles Widmore, needs to make sure Charlie gets to an event for Widmore, he begins to break through the realities and bring together those who were on 815 and those who have alternate lives off the island in this existence.

In the main narrative, Jack, Sawyer, Kate, Hugo, Jin, Miles and Sayid return to the present as a result of Juliet setting off the nuclear bomb at the climactic moment of the prior season. Sawyer, distraught, goes rogue while most of the others head for the Temple. Unfortunately for them, on the other side of the island, the man who appears to be John Locke is leading Sun, Richard Alpert, Lapidus and Ben Linus toward the Temple. Having killed Jacob, the group which is now led by Jacob's adversary, sets off on a mission to leave the island. The man who appears to be Locke wants nothing more than to leave the island and he soon reveals just how badly he wants to leave.

When Jin, separated from the others, finds himself in the care of Claire, he quickly realizes that Claire has gone quite mad and is under the influence of the man who appears to be Locke. When Charles Widmore manages to return to the island with a submarine, Jin is abducted and the various camps collide. As Jack tries to keep as many of his friends alive as he can, Locke attempts to leave the island and Charles Widmore establishes a dangerous camp which seems to be bent on exploiting the island for his own nefarious gain.

Whenever I've tried to get the few people I meet who are not already fans of Lost they tend to have an "I'll wait to see if it ends well and then start from the beginning attitude." Perhaps the very best thing one may say about Lost - The Complete Sixth Season is that it ends the series magnificently. With such an ambitious show, fans tended to want both answers and a resolution that justified the faith they had in the prior seasons. With this season, they get exactly that. The plots progress, people change sides and allegiances, backstory holes are filled in, mysteries of the island are revealed, Ben Linus gets beaten up and there is a sense still that the story is moving without it ever being dumbed down. In this fashion, season six may be a final chapter of a book, but it makes one want to go back and reread (or, in this case, rewatch) the book again.

The episodes hardly stand alone in the sixth season as the story progresses, but moves in a very strong, serialized way toward the end. In fact, the only real disappointment in the sixth season is that the story ramps up and adds tension to the main narrative the episodes "Ab Aeterno" and "Across The Sea" come up and break the flow. Those two episodes finally give explicit answers on how Richard Alpert's story and Jacob's stories unfolded to get them to the places they started the series. But while they are satisfying for fans and the overall narrative, they take tangents at awkward times, much like the cave scene on Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back.

Lost Season Six returns the emphasis to characters, as well as just finishing the plot up. Sawyer's actions are largely motivated by his sense of loss and when we watch him, especially early in the season, it is hard not to feel for him. Similarly, Claire's return is more than just a pleasant reunion for the fans, it is a troubling exploration of a woman mentally tormented for three years. As Jack learns more about his fate and begins to adopt the idea of destiny in relation to the island and his life, he begins to step up to the challenges of protecting the island, especially now that Jacob needs a successor.

In the sixth season of Lost, the characters get their chance to grow and some of them make leaps and bounds in the brief season, making for a compelling sense of journey. In the final season the preliminary characters include:

Dr. Jack Shephard - Returning to the present, he tries to protect his friends and put some faith in others, like Hugo. As he learns about Jacob's need for a successor, he considers what the island has meant to his life and debates stepping into the role Jacob selected for him. In the flash sideways universe, he is a successful doctor with a son who offers John Locke hope,

Kate Austen - Her return to the present means Kate may actually have a chance to find Claire and when that quest takes a turn for the dangerous, she ends up in Locke's camp by default. Despite trying to help Sawyer through his loss, she is eager to get Claire and get off the island, to return to Aaron and her life in the real world. In the flash sideways universe, she is a fugitive once more who accidentally abducts Claire before continuing her run from the authorities,

Sayid - Almost mortally wounded, he is brought to the Temple by Jack and Hugo and ends up being menaced by their "protectors" there. When he attempts to do the bidding of the disciples of Jacob, he meets up with Locke and offers the man who appears to be Locke the best chance of eliminating threats to him that exist. In the flash sideways universe, he is trying not to be a mercenary, but problems with Nadia's husband compel him to return to his violent tendencies,

Hugo ("Hurley") - Returning to the present, he starts to see the recently-deceased Jacob and learn what it means to be a "candidate" of Jacob's. By following Jacob to a lighthouse - and taking Jack with him there - he manages to save himself from the man who appears to be Locke. But as the end draws nigh, his destiny appears to be most bound to the island. In the flash sideways experience, he is the luckiest man on earth,

Sun - Stuck with the man who appears to be Locke, she uses that status to search for Jin. Her single-minded quest causes her to splinter off from Locke's protection and she never gives up hope of finding Jin, especially when she encounters others whom she knew were lost in time. In the flash sideways, she is having an affair with Jin, despite her father's disapproval,

Jin - Back in the present, he starts looking for Sun, but finds himself caught in one of Claire's traps when he leaves the protection of the Temple. Almost as soon as he recovers, he is abducted by Charles Widmore's forces. In the flash sideways, he is charged with the task of bringing money to a mercenary with a cruel purpose while hiding his love for Sun,

James "Sawyer" Ford - Broken by the death of the one he loves the most, he heads back to where he was happiest on the island on his own. Soon, though, his drunken solitude is interrupted by the man who appears to be Locke, who tells him why he was brought to the island. Once that happens, Locke employs Sawyer to learn all he can about Charles Widmore's faction, which has landed on nearby Hydra Island. In the flash sideways, he is a police detective who is searching for Anthony Cooper,

Richard Alpert - Almost immediately realizing who the man who appears to be Locke actually is, he becomes convinced that he is in hell and develops suicidal tendencies. With Ben, he tries to insure that the man who appears to be Locke never leaves the island,

Miles - Pretty much along for the ride, Miles looks to stand up to the man who appears to be Locke while still getting himself off the island. He tends to take the less risky ways when he can and is pretty much out to survive. In the flashes sideways, he is James Ford's partner on the force,

Charles Widmore - Finally returns to the island ready to rule it for his own purposes. He quickly abducts Desmond and subjects him to a horrific experiment. In the flash sideways, he is a billionaire whose son is a piano prodigy,

Ben Linus - Changing sides almost every episode, he is on the run for his life when Ilana realizes he killed Jacob. Almost rescued by the man who appears to be Locke, he begins to question which side in the conflict for the island he actually wants to be on. In the flash sideways world, he is a history teacher who must choose to either help his favorite student or make a play to become principal of the school,

Desmond - Brought to the island again, he is experimented upon in a way that allows him to be used by Widmore and feared by the man who appears to be Locke. His love for Penny makes him want to leave the island more than anything else. In the flash sideways, he was on Oceanic 815 and actually works for Widmore directly,

Ilana - The bounty hunter who is bound to protect the remaining candidates, she becomes distraught when she learns Jacob has been killed. In the flash sideways experience, she is a lawyer who reunites Claire and Jack,

Claire Littleton - Left alone on the island for far too long, she went pretty much crazy, though she recognizes the man who appears to be Locke for who and what he is. She vows revenge against Kate and the Others for stealing Aaron. Protected by the man who appears to be Locke, she reenters the mix in a dangerous way. In the flash sideways universe, she is still pregnant and is aided by an unlikely Kate in her attempts to find the people who were supposed to adopt Aaron,

and John Locke - Having been revealed as only the form of the man, his true nature is slowly revealed as more than just an enemy of Jacob. He single-mindedly focuses on leaving the island while he tries to convert the remaining candidates to his cause. When Charles Widmore arrives on the island, he sees that he has one last opportunity and obstacle to leaving and sets about removing those obstacles. In the flash sideways, Locke is aided by Hugo in becoming a substitute teacher at the school Ben works at.

In the sixth season of "Lost," the acting is exceptional. For performers like Daniel Dae Kim and Evangeline Lily, this means honing their roles. But for actors like Jorge Garcia, Josh Hollowell, and especially Emile de Ravin, this season is a chance to branch out. Jorge Garcia gets a chance to play Hugo in an entirely different way in the flash sideways bits and he makes excellent use of that opportunity to reinvent the character. Hollowell is absolutely amazing in the way he plays a broken Sawyer. But from the moment de Ravin, who was absent from the prior season, returns, she is electrifying. She manages to play Claire as disturbing and disturbed in a way that will make fans realize just how much they missed both the character and the actress.

On DVD and Blu-Ray, the brief sixteen episode season (two are double - or better - long) of Lost comes with the Lost-standard bonus features. There are four featurettes, one on the flash sideways, the featurette that preceded the series finale and two others which talk about how the season progressed and the series ended (at least one is never-before-seen, produced for the DVD/Blu-Ray). There are also commentary tracks on four episodes ("The End" is NOT one of them) and fans are likely to be happy with the commentary track on "LA X" and the sidestory episodes. The Complete Sixth Season also includes deleted scenes and a blooper reel.

Fans of Lost will want to own "The Complete Sixth Season" and it is a great value for those completing their DVD series. But for those who haven't started, pass this buy, shell out a few extra bucks and buy the big set instead; this is a series that is worth the faith we put in it and "The Complete Sixth Season" ends it remarkably well.

For other Lost works, please check out:
Lost The Complete Series
Bad Twin
Lost Series 1 Shannon Rutherford action figure


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

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