For the past six years, despite my insistent proddings, many of my friends steadfastly refused to give Lost a fair shake. “I saw one episode and it was too confusing” or “They’re never going to answer all these questions they’ve set up, just like The X-Files” were the common responses to my pleas. Lost has reached the end of its run and firmly cemented its place in the firmament of important television, having been showered with awards and critical praise and, most importantly, ending on a largely satisfying note. So now I can say with firm conviction that the show, which played out more like a book than most television does (thus explaining why you’d be confused trying to start in the middle), was an incredible and complete experience, one that its fans will be sure to want to revisit, examine and celebrate often. So take that, cynics. It's another entry in the (very) small pantheon of plot-driven television shows that actually delivered what it promised. More so than not, anyway.
This 117-episode show launched on Sept. 22, 2004, with a two-hour pilot that cost somewhere between $10 and $14 million, easily the most impressive and expensive salvo launched across television viewers' bows in history. Luckily for original executive producers JJ Abrams and Damon Lindelof, the financial gamble paid off in spades, as its cast of charismatic characters, who were stuck in a cross between Lord of the Flies, Cast Away, The Twilight Zone and the computer game Myst, attracted a gigantic audience immediately, with some critics even saying the show’s high ratings actually saved a floundering ABC.
Right from the beginning, Lost made its intentions and theme, at the very least, symbolically clear. The show’s first shot was an extreme close-up of the opening eye of Jack Shephard (Matthew Fox) before pulling back and showing him disoriented and injured on his back in a jungle, following his fall from the mid-air destruction of Oceanic flight 815. The eye opening would become a leitmotif for the show, indeed, even specifically to the pilot, book-ending the entire series. Its symbolism was obvious, indicating awakening or awareness, which is ultimately what Lost's seemingly self-aware island had in mind for all its new and old inhabitants.
As complex and crazy as the plot got, with its polar bears, smoke monsters and time traveling, there still never was any question that the show’s creators' goals were character-driven. With such an immense cast, even with characters dropping dead here and there, it’s a testament to how well these island survivors were written that the show’s fan base had no problem keeping track. Over the length of the six seasons, and starting with 14, the show would end up with 26 (27 if you count the dog) primary characters and an almost uncountable list of secondary ones, practically all of them memorable. This was achieved through the use of ‘flashbacks,’ which, through character-centric episodes, would balance the events transpiring on the island with scenes from characters’ pre-island past. Eventually, this technique of adding meaningful depth to the cast transposed into ‘flashforwards’ and ‘flashsideways.’ I’m not going to explain this any further than that. It’s a mystery that one has to watch play out to get why it works, and was one of the strokes of genius that was key to the show’s wild success.
With the conclusion of the heralded final season earlier this year (it was trumpeted as such seasons before it even began), much discussion was made of the ending. Certainly every aired episode had launched a hive of virtual and real water-cooler talk and arguments before their credits had even ceased. The two and half hour finale was the all-time king of the mountain of discussed Lost events, revealing, much as the show had all along, not as many absolutes as some would have liked but defining the arcs of every character on the show right to the end. Certainly there was some amount of grousing; no show with this many mysteries could go and wrap up every last dangling thread. Even so, what was left behind was, for many, just the right amount of mystery, enough to belay the dreaded ‘I don’t like these answers’ possible fan reaction with more of a set of guideposts (or lamp posts, if you will) to the larger answers. This reflected the show’s theme since shot one: While the island wasn’t a purgatory or afterlife or limbo as some viewers feared, it did represent something metaphorically spiritual, a path to awakening and wisdom that is unique to each person who experiences it; in the show’s context, it was unique to each character and perhaps, in some ways, to each viewer. In other words, as many have said before, it’s the journey, not the destination, that has importance. From my perspective, the entirety of Lost feels like the middle book of three, the center leg of a longer journey. And I like it that way.
Almost as much speculation as there’s been about the show’s mysteries along the way has been directed at both the release of the sixth-season DVD/Blu-Ray set and the giant Lost: The Complete Collection set. With teasings of more reveals hidden inside the monster $200 set, fans are pre-ordering as if there wasn’t a recession going on. At the time of this writing, it sits at No. 7 on Amazon’s Blu-ray sales chart -- and well it should. This collection of all the seasons is an impressive endeavor, surely the most significant release of its kind in terms of, well, sheer coolness.
Right from the get-go, taking this set out of its black box inscribed with the names of all the survivors like a memorial wall (great ... something else I can’t ever throw away), there’s a feeling of mystery. The container for the set inside it has a grain and design of something ancient; perhaps it’s the base of the famous remaining foot of a giant statue from the show? Inside, you’ll find a beautiful relief map of the island, a ‘Senet’ game as was seen in season 6, an episode guide, a cool Ankh like the one Jacob used to send messages in the show, a UV flashlight (hmmm, wonder what THAT is for), and more -- much more that the powers that be don’t want me to talk about. The pleasure of Lost all along has lied in the discovery, and that’s true as well for this set. Along with the secrets included with the previous releases of every season of the show, of which there were MANY, this super-set comes with its own surprises, one of which in particular is easily the coolest thing I’ve seen in any DVD collection. Nope, I’m not gonna help. As a fan if this show, would you really want me to? No complete-set spoilers here, I’m afraid.
Of course, whether you buy the big collection or just season 6 on its own, you’ll get season-specific extras included. Here’s the breakdown of the bonus features with six that I AM allowed to tell you about:
-Audio Commentaries - Only four? And none with the final episode? Hmmmm.
-Lost in 8:15 - A Crash Course - That ‘Previously on Lost’ type thing they do, this time for all five previous seasons.
-The New Man in Charge - What the fans are dying to see -- an epilogue mini-episode that details some of the way things change on the island with the new boss. That’s all I’m saying.
-Crafting a Final Season - A nice 38-minute documentary on the final year that does something pretty neat by including commentary from other well-known TV show runners about coming to the end of their own shows and how they did it, including Shawn Ryan (The Shield), Rob Bowman (The X-Files) and more.
-A Hero's Journey - Nine minutes on the influence of mythologist Joseph Campbell and the nature of storytelling
-See You in Another Life, Brotha - An eight-minute look at the flashsideways of the final season and what they meant.
-Lost on Location - Episode-specific behind-the-scenes shorts, now with new sequences analyzed from earlier seasons.
-Deleted Scenes - Nine of them, which surprised me as I’d have expected much more.
-Lost Bloopers - Four minutes of goofing off.
-Lost University: Master's Program - Season 5 had the ‘Undergraduate Course’ of this series of ‘lectures’ and quizzes that gets into some surprisingly serious amounts of academic depth into the themes and ideas behind the show. The sixth season adds new stuff.
As I said before, that’s FAR from all, but that’s all I’m allowed to tell you about. There’s certainly enough here to make big Lost fans sell their previous copies of each season in order to pick this up instead. For those of you out there saying you’ve been waiting for it all to end to hear whether or not it was all worth your time ... it was, and this is the way to see it. Because Lost is very smart and has lots of depth to plumb through, much of which is impossible to fully conjugate until a second or even third viewing, and a set like this gives you not only the best and most compact way of doing so but adds every last frill for the ride. Most importantly, though, and I know of no simpler way to put it, this show is crack. It’s about as fun as television has ever gotten and is the visual equivalent of a bestselling page-turner of a book: It’s almost impossible to put down until you’re through.