I'm probably one of the few people on the planet who isn't hooked on "Lost." It's not that I don't like it. I just happened to miss the first season, and everyone who told me how wonderful it was also told me that I too would be Lost if I tried to jump into the middle of this series.
And yet, as I heard these addicts talking about their favorite TV dramatic fix, it struck me that no one had a really clear understanding of what was going on. There was a lot of speculation, and a lot of puzzling over each season's complications. In other words, the first three seasons of "Lost" provided more questions than answers. This is also a demanding series, with scenes presented in "real time," flashback, and flash forward, and sometimes you can't tell which right away. Then there's a number thing going on, and an unexplainable magnetic/polarized/medical thing happening, where passengers on Oceanic Flight 815 who were in a wheelchair or had cancer or were sterile suddenly found their medical problems solved after the flight crashed somewhere in the Pacific between Australia and Los Angeles, and the island they landed on seemed somehow alive. Miracles happen. But so do other reversals. Women who get pregnant on the island die with their babies. There's something weird happening with life and death, sickness and health. Plus, there's another group of people on the island called the Others, and a second splinter group of survivors that the first group thinks were Others. Then there's the scientific Dharma Initiative, which had researchers trying to study the island and its mysterious ways. And, of course what would a mystery-thriller be these days without some sinister corporate involvement? Is there a cover-up? What's with the second plane that's found in the ocean with all passengers accounted for . . . and dead? Is this island a kind of alternative world? Who exactly gets off this rock, and how? It's all of these complex ingredients that make for a more complicated show than if it were a simple cross between "Gilligan's Island" and "Survivor."
Anyway, since no fan I've talked to has it all figured out yet, I thought to myself, why not jump right in and see what this "Lost" phenomenon is all about? After all, I was practically invited to do so by the ABC-TV folks, who included a bonus feature on the Season 4 Blu-ray called "Lost in 8:15," pun intended. And hey, I'm game. If they want to try to summarize everything that's happened so far in eight minutes and 15 seconds, just to jog people's memories (in a campy, humorous way), I'll lace up the Nikes and go for it.
Season 4 seems to be a good one to jump right in. Three would have been awful, as I understand it, since it dealt mostly with the Others. But with so much fast-forwarding in the early going of Season 4, including a pretty big focus on the Oceanic Six (survivors who apparently get off the island), you're seeing things that don't always depend upon prior knowledge. Sure, some characters like Michael surface, but you can infer an awful lot about what went on just by the characters' reactions. So I did find that it's possible to jump right into this series and get hooked, at least with this season as the point of entry. This season, other Others fly onto the island and the question of who really are the good guys and who are the bad gets muddied even more than it apparently had been. This season begins where 3 ended, with a funeral and this burning question: "Who's inside the coffin?" That question is answered this season, as this dramatic version of "Survivor" does more to the losers than simply snuff out their torches. There's a bunch of snuffing in this show, which has more violence in it than many parents might be comfortable with. Then again, it's not for families or kids. But it's one of the best-acted, best-written television dramas today, with incredible scenery and cinematography to boot. And when so much of contemporary television is just hypnotic white noise, this show forces you to actually think. What's not to like?
Fans of this show already know who's starring, but it bears mentioning that while this show flirts with melodramatic plotting, there's nothing soapy about the acting. It's first-rate, and you can go up and down the ensemble and pat people on the backs for their work. Naveen Andrews is riveting as former killer Sayid, Matthew Fox has just a commanding presence as doctor Jack, Jorge Garcia is just plain lovable as former lottery-winner "Hurley," as are Daniel Dae Kim and Yunjin Kim as the Asian couple on the island, Jin and Sun. Terry Quinn is suitably menacing as John Locke, named for a 17th century British philosopher whose theories (e.g., the mind as a blank slate) seem to be in full flower on the island. As Ben Linus, a weasel who reminds me of Dr. Smith on the old "Lost in Space" series, Michael Emerson does a good job of sniveling and making you want to join the others who keep punching him in the face. "Sawyer" is probably the smarmiest character (Josh Holloway), Kate (Evangeline Lilly) a murderer who doesn't seem the type (there has to be a reason!), Claire (Emilie de Ravin) almost as radiant playing a new mother on this show as new mothers typically are, and a host of other characters lending credibility to an otherwise far-fetched plotting with some superior acting.
Since this show depends upon its puzzlements and suspense, I won't even attempt to summarize the plot. But to refresh your memories, here's a rundown on the 13 episodes, which are housed on four single-sided discs (with a fifth disc containing bonus features): The Beginning of The End, Confirmed Dead, The Economist, Eggtown, The Constant, The Other Woman, Ji Yeon, Meet Kevin Johnson, The Shape of Things to Come, Something Nice Back Home, Cabin Fever, and There's No Place Like Home (Parts 1 & 2).
Now, after watching Season 4, my wife and I are going to have to backtrack to watch the first three seasons. Like the rest of the addicts, we're hooked too. The problem is, logic would dictate that we start with Season 1 now and work our way up to 4. However, after watching "Lost" in glorious Blu-ray, and with only the last two seasons released in HD, I just don't know if I can bear to watch in standard definition. The show is shot on location in Hawaii, and it looks drop-dead (yeah, pun intended) gorgeous in 1080p. Come on ABC/Disney. Release those first two seasons in Blu-ray!
As I said, "Lost" is unbeatable in Blu-ray (AVC/MPEG-4 codec). I'm almost as captivated by the look of this series as I am by the show itself. The colors are bold and vibrant, the level of detail is astounding, and there's a nice sense of 3-dimensionality to boot. I can't find a thing wrong with this picture, and the sweet thing is that it's presented in 1.78:1 widescreen, so it fills out the full monitor.
I love PCM, and this English PCM uncompressed 5.1 (48kHz/16-bit) soundtrack rocks! Like the picture, the sound is so pure that you can't imagine it streaming any clearer or more precise than it is here. Additional soundtrack options are English and French Dolby Digital 5.1, and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0, which is often the case. It kid of makes you wonder, are there no audiophiles in the Spanish-speaking world? Or are they connoisseurs who prefer to watch in the original language with subtitles? Subtitles are in English SDH, French, and Spanish.
There's a boatload of extras, but first I want to comment on some glitches. Blu-ray has always been at a disadvantage, as far as I'm concerned, because, unlike DVDs, when you stop them you can't just go back to that same spot. So in theory, it's great that Disney/ABC Studios came up with a SeasonPlay tracker that's supposed to let you click on the place where you left off. But if I clicked directly on that, all I got was a blank screen. I had to go back to the episodes, find the one we needed to watch, and access it that way. Kind of defeats the purpose, doesn't it? I had problems loading the fifth disc as well. Those were my complaints.
The bonus features included here are pretty decent, but also pretty average. The commentary tracks aren't as compelling as the show itself, but fans will probably enjoy hearing what Lilly and Garcia have to say about "The Beginning of the End," or what editor Mark Goldman and producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse say about "The Constant." I enjoyed listening to director Stephen Semel and actors Kim and Kim from "Ji Yeon," and if you're finding your way, as I am with this series, the commentary for "There's No Place Like Home, Part 2" with Lindelof and Cuse is pretty good.
Disc 3 is full of featurettes. There's "Lost on Location," which zooms in on behind-the-scenes filming of some of this season's most dramatic scenes; "The Freighter Folk," which is a guide to new characters with some insight into what producers were looking for; "The Island Backlot: Lost in Hawaii"," which shows how a large crew of technicians transformed paradise; "The Right to Bear Arms" features a rundown on the firearms used in the show, with cast members talking about what it's like to use them; "Soundtrack of Survival: Composing for Character, Conflict & the Crash" is a live performance of the score by the Honolulu Symphony Pops; "Course of the Future: The Definitive Flash-Forwards" uses this season's leaps into the plot-future as the basis for an interactive feature that includes actual script pages (but didn't work very well on my Samsung stand-alone player); "Offshore Shoot" shows the giant rigs that were built to get the freighter shots; and "The Oceanic Six: A Conspiracy of Lies," a fake documentary that tries to get at the truth behind the stories the six survivors are telling.
Rounding out the bonus features are deleted scenes and bloopers, and another symphonic performance for "The Others Theme." Oh, and the color insert is a cutesy replica of the kinds of safety instructions you find in the seat pocket on airlines.
Count me among the admirers for this TV drama. The quality is consistently high, it makes you work to try to figure out what's going on, and the scenery is so beautiful you can't help but think it wouldn't be so bad to be lost . . . in Hawaii. Even if you haven't seen this show before, you can get a pretty good sense from Season 4 of what's going on, and there's enough new drama to be compelling whether you've seen the previous few seasons or not. In fact, I decided it probably wouldn't make any difference for me even if I had, since my memory stinks. So I'm glad I decided to watch this in mid-stream.