Friday, 24 September 2010

LOST: The Complete Sixth Season (2010) [Blu-ray]

Friday, 24 September 2010

[SPOILERS] Now the dust has settled, we can reflect on the divisive final season of ABC's Lost with some distance and clarity. As a dyed-in-the-wool fan there's always a danger your love for a TV show makes you blind to its failings, or at least keener to overlook them. Alternatively, it can make you too critical in the moment because you're demanding perfection, making you unable to take a step back to see the bigger picture with a level head.

The sixth season of Lost caused internet quakes when its final episode, the literally tremorous "The End", was simulcast worldwide. There was no way a finale to a complex six-year story involving dozens of characters, multiple storylines, and a plethora of questions, could satisfy absolutely everyone. The writers made a judgement and opted to focus on character and emotion, rather than coldly dispense logical answers. And that's fine. Of course, quite why rewarding answers, while focusing on character and eliciting an emotional response, can't be packaged together, is perhaps the great unanswered question of this series.

I've already reviewed Lost season 6, so won't recycle my thoughts about each episode in an abridged fashion. Instead, please browse my archive of reviews:

6.1 & 6.2 - "LA X"
6.3 - "What Kate Does"
6.4 - "The Substitute"
6.5 - "Lighthouse"
6.6 - "Sundown"
6.7 - "Dr. Linus"
6.8 - "Recon"
6.9 - "Ab Aeterno"
6.10 - "The Package"
6.11 - "Happily Ever After"
6.12 - "Everybody Loves Hugo"
6.13 - "The Last Recruit"
6.14 - "The Candidate"
6.15 - "Across The Sea"
6.16 - "What They Died For"
6.17 & 6.18 - "The End"

With the benefit of hindsight, how do I feel about Lost's swansong four months later, having now read a multitude of reviews and heard the impassioned responses from everyone? Well, I still remain impressed by the overall journey and breathtaking enormity of the challenge in creating a show like Lost, which became the most multifaceted and imaginatively fertile sci-fi hits of the past few decades. Lightning in a bottle we're unlikely to see repeated any time soon.

But the final season did fail in many ways, perhaps crippled by the fact its mythology was in flux for too long. I truly believe that, had the writers been told they had to wrap things up by season 4, during production of season 3, they could have pulled everything together far better at that mid-series point. Instead, knowing they'd been guaranteed three years by ABC meant season 4 and 5 had to create fresh questions for the fans to chew on. They did this by introducing largely superfluous ideas/plot-points (time-travel, a hydrogen bomb) and brand new characters (Charlotte, Miles, Faraday, Lapidus), that bloated the show and ensured the final season became too unwieldy once it arrived. Looking back, with some necessary tweaking, season 4 would have been a more effective finish-line. There's an argument to say that's where it ended spiritually, at the very least, with season 5's twin storylines (returning to the Island, living in the '70s) having little to no impact on the sixth season's events.

And naturally, with a half-dozen years of feverish anticipation from an rabid fanbase who could concoct elaborate theories to explain Lost's many riddles (some of which were better than the eventual explanation), nothing could surpass that voracious hive-mind's inflated expectations. But I think we're forgetting how exciting and emotionally rewarding many episodes of the sixth season were, or how perfect the final scene with Jack in the bamboo field was... so, really, Lost may not have had the perfect ending we craved and deserved, but its legacy's intact because it dazzled for much longer than it disappointed.

Blu-ray Review

Picture (1.78:1, 1080p/AVC MPEG-4) This is my first time sampling the delights of Lost in high-definition, and the season 6 box-set didn't fail to impress. There's a depth of colour and detail that standard-definition can't capture, so the 1080p image quality here really "pops" and gives you a fresh appreciation for the show's production standards. Naturally, it helps that Lost's filmed on location in beautiful Hawaii, so the lush scenery in HD is worth seeing alone.

Sound (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English DD2.0, French DTS 5.1, Spanish DTS 5.1, Spanish (Latin American) DD2.0, Portuguese (Brazilian) DD2.0) Similarly, I've rarely heard Lost in surround sound, and the DTS-HD 5.1 audio track added extra depth to the ambiance of the show. Previously impressive action sequences are now even better with a thriving sound mix, while Michael Giacchino's beautiful score really sings through in HD.

Special Features

Audio Commentaries: Showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse give two smattering of audio commentaries across the box-set, including season premiere "LA X", but the most interesting is for "Across The Sea" because it was such a polarizing mythology episode. If you're a fan of "Darlton"'s official ABC podcasts, you'll know they're an entertaining double-act who are acutely aware of the response and the range of attitudes towards their show. They're once again wary of spoiling any ongoing discussion of the series, by giving "official" answers now Lost is over, which some people may take issue with, but I personally I agree they should leave loose-ends for die-hard fans to chew on. After all, discussion of Lost was 50% of many people's enjoyment, so why not let that continue now the show's over?

That said, they do give credence to a popular fan theory that Mother (Allison Janney) was actually a "Smoke Monster" during the episode (explaining her single-handed destruction of a village's well-armed inhabitants, and why she likely conned her adopted sons into both becoming her successor and killing her). Cuse and Lindelof definitely stick to their guns when it comes to defending this episode, which enraged some quarters of fandom. They deliver a few decent arguments for why "Across The Sea" should be re-evaluated, but none of it's convincing enough for me to forgive the handful of ridiculous answers this episode gave us. I think the key reason many fans were upset is that "Across The Sea" answered mysteries that have been teased for years using information that only appears during this 43-minute episode. How could anyone possibly have guessed the genesis of the Smoke Monster using the clues breadcrumbed throughout season 1-5? It kind of devalues the effort uberfans put in trying to decipher it all, no?

Two other commentaries exist on the box-set for "Dr. Linus" (with writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, joined by actor Michael Emerson) and "Ab Aeterno" (with writers Melinda Hsu Taylor and Greggory Nations, joined by Nestor Carbonell), and both are entertaining insights into the creative process I think fans will appreciate. Of course, it's very frustrating than there's no commentary track for finale "The End", which is definitely the episode most fans would appreciate some insight into. Frustratingly, during the "Across The Sea" yakker, Lindelof and Cuse mention they'll record an audio commentary for the finale one day, perhaps evidence that some kind of "Ultimate" box-set will be released in the future.

Flight 815: A Crash Course (HD, 8m) On Disc 1 you can watch this very entertaining catchup video for the events of season 1-5, narrated by a hilariously deadpan woman.

The New Man In Charge (HD, 12m) Comfortably the most hotly-anticipated extra feature on this box-set is this official coda to Lost's finale -- a canonical "last act" that gives a glimpse of Ben (Emerson) and Hurley's (Jorge Garcia) era as protectors of the Island. Arguably even more divisive than the finale, it's essentially a way to explain a handful of the show's trivial mysteries (who was organizing the DHARMA food drops? What was the "Hurley bird" was? What were the polar bears trained for? What was Room 23 used for?) It basically exists to fan-service anal fans, but even if you don't likes the rather awkward way it dispenses its answers (via DHARMA-brand DVD), I appreciated the thought and it did clarify half-a-dozen minor questions.

Crafting A Final Season (HD, 38m) The key documentary of this box-set takes a look at the creation of the sixth season and Lost's legacy as a whole. It features other TV executive-producers giving their opinions on Lost's journey and its place in TV history, from Shawn Ryan to Stephen J. Cannell, and many of the show's actors fretting about if/when their characters might die. In one particularly moving moment, we see Jorge Garcia reading the finale script and crying when he reaches a significant point for his character Hurley, which is rather beautiful to see. This featurette definitely works very nicely as a glimpse behind-the-scenes as this huge show drew inexorably closer to its end.

A Hero's Journey (HD, 9m) A short featurette on how Lost's storytelling utilizes the principles set out by author Joseph Campbell's "Hero's Journey".

See You In Another Life, Brotha (HD, 9m) More behind-the-scenes footage taken throughout season 6's filming, paying particular attention to the "flashsideways" plot-device and its use of mirrors. We're also reminded of the many callbacks to season 1, as a means of bringing the show full circle.

Lost On Location (HD) A collection of brief featurettes, each focusing on a prominent episode from the final season. "LAX" (6m) shows us the impressive Temple set made of polystyrene on the lot and the details of its hieroglyphics; "The Substitute" (3m) looks at the dangerous cliff side stunt from that episode featuring Josh Holloway and the stunt crew; "Recon" (3m) reveals how the episode's car crash was filmed; "Ab Aeterno" (5m) features an intriguing look at the Black Rock set and how a "fake pig" was used for one scene; "Happily Ever After" (5m) shows us how Henry Ian Cusick and Dominic Monaghan filmed the underwater sequences following a car crash into an L.A marina; and "The Candidate" (6m) keeps an aquatic theme with a look at the claustrophobic submarine set that was flooded with many of the principle actors inside.

Deleted Scenes (SD, 10m) As is typical of deleted scenes packaged together, most if not all don't really add much to the conversation. "On Guard", "Bearing Fruit", "Maternal Instincts", "Parched", "A Helping Hand", "Fatalities", "The Lab & The Well", "Epiphany" and "Desmond's Task" all sound a lot more intriguing than they ultimately are. Dispensable.

Lost Bloopers (HD, 4m) This assortment of outtakes isn't exactly side-splitting material, but it's generally good fun if you enjoy seeing actors crack up, fluff their lines, or trip up.

Miscellaneous: The season 6 box-set comes equipped with ABC's Season-Play facility, which is a Blu-ray exclusive way to create a viewing profile that tracks exactly where you are when watching the series, even if you eject the disc and watch something else inbetween. A useful feature for hardened marathon box-setters.