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"Pilot," "Tabula Rasa," "Walkabout," "White Rabbit," "House of the Rising Sun," "The Moth," "Confidence Man," "Solitary," "Raised by Another," "All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues," "Whatever the Case May Be," "Hearts and Minds," "Special," "Homecoming," "Outlaws," "...In Translation," "Numbers," "Deus Ex Machina," "Do No Harm," "The Greater Good," "Born to Run," "Exodus"
by Walter Chaw From the two-part pilot, I gotta tell you, I don't trust it. I like the gore, I like the United Colors of Benetton centrefold models as castaway chic, I love Terry O'Quinn and invisible dinosaurs... What I don't like so much is this sinking feeling that "Lost" is a throw-it-all-at-the-wall creation cashing in on post-9/11 discomfort and zeitgeist Ludditism that was genuinely surprised to be asked to hang around for six years. Meaning I have my doubts that any of this cool-ass shit has been remotely plotted out to provide for a commensurately cool-ass resolution--especially since it's not on HBO and therefore not privy to HBO's seemingly bottomless roster of brilliant short-form, long-term dramatists.
I'm interested in it vaguely from the standpoint of knowing about the history of the show's development and how it stands alongside "Desperate Housewives" as something like a monument to Michael Eisner's expulsion from Disney for his shortsightedness--but more because its popularity highlights this transition in the American psyche from island fortress to a deserted rock in the middle of nowhere with the universe conspiring against it. It plays on our insecurities, from casting impossibly-beautiful people in their skivvies (plus a fat guy to stand in for someone we can relate to) to throwing out a few cryptic number sequences to remind us of how many of us didn't do our homework. And didn't the way a few Al-Qaeda guys learned to fly commercial airliners and coordinated the most devastating attack on American soil ever, guys we like to think of as illiterate camel herders beheading one another in the desert, didn't that make us feel a little...worried? Displaced? Lost? Its cycle starting exactly concurrent with the exceptional, apocalyptic redux of "Battlestar Galactica" and the all-timer HBO masterpiece "Deadwood", the timing of "Lost" is far from accidental. Rather, it's indicative of wheels turning in sympathy at the exact moment the Towers fell down.
Consider, though, how blasé the plane-crash survivors seem during the series premiere, ready to go about their hard work of making everything old appear new again. Observe how the only people crying and beating their breasts are in the fuzzy fore- or backgrounds, while the principals of this passion play break off into different varieties of steely-eyed soap-opera archetype. Dashing Dr. Jack Shephard (Matthew Fox), our first shunt into "Lost", is handsome, bland, and so stoic that it's commented upon in the opening minutes by natural love interest Kate (Evangeline Lilly), who harbours a dark past, a black secret, and a bangin' body we get to ogle for a full minute in the second hour. Fat comic relief/audience surrogate Hurley (Jorge Garcia) faints in the second episode, among other humiliating things (such as trying to run and carry stuff). Beautiful Korean couple Jin and Sun (Daniel Dae Kim and Yunjin Kim) play out the Evil Asian Husband thing. Pregnant damsel Claire (Emilie de Ravin) catches the eye of rock star Charlie (Dominic "Fool of a Took" Monaghan). Single black father Michael (Harold Perrineau) is set up as the family-dysfunction analog for the other characters, as single black father characters are wont to do. Bad boy Sawyer (Josh Holloway) assumes his role as the natural rival for Kate's affections. John Locke (O'Quinn), a mystic psychopath named for a philosopher, practices grimaces presumably learned at the feet of Roy Batty. Finally (more or less), Middle Eastern every-guy Sayid (Naveen Andrews, a London-born man of Indian descent) reminds the 'necks in the audience that non-specific Middle Eastern guys are people, too. You say "melting pot," I say boilerplate. Before long, the format for the series breaks down into scenes from the island drama alternating with flashbacks that flesh out the characters and their relationships before eventually paralleling/metaphoricalizing the stuff happening in the storyline we actually care about.
By the end of episode 3, "Tabula Rasa," we've seen a polar bear shot in tropical rainforest, seen Evangeline Lilly bathing in a sheer halter and bikini bottoms with her signature sad look, and not-seen a giant dinosaur thing eat the co-pilot. We've heard a mysterious transmission in French recorded on a loop, learned that Locke experienced some kind of miracle recently in addition to surviving a plane crash, and observed hilarious Hurley listening to the last CD Walkman in the Western hemisphere. We've only had one musical montage (which should count as Locke's third miracle), and we've barely had time to wonder why the survivors aren't more concerned that an invisible carnosaur is walking around in the jungle behind them. Episode 4's "Walkabout" finds time for our Mr. Locke, who, befitting the dual (no, triple) meaning of the title, discovers that he's gone from paraplegic to able-bodied by grace of NTSA nightmare and is now able to literally walk about. Other meanings of the title include Kate's backstory Down Under as the world's cutest/dullest fugitive, what Locke views as all of the islanders' futures undergoing a massive, six-season long vision quest, and how the series is deeply in love with its own cleverness. The signs are everywhere. In this one, Locke goes on a wild boar hunt while Hurley gets wet, waddles around, and fails to capture a fish with a piece of tin on a stick, proving that old bald guys are insane and young fat guys are stupid. I get it. Sayid is shown to be a soulful family man in love with that girl from the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC cover; Dr. Jack does a mean impersonation of an Easter Island Moai; and it's fast apparent that there's going to be no real point in describing every episode in detail. It may be interesting, however, to note that it's not until this fourth episode that anyone even thinks of mentioning the fifty-foot thing that ate one of their party back in episode one. Of note, too, is a scene where the names of the dead are read on the beach at night in a genuinely unpleasant reminder of the 9/11 death rituals that were, at the time, only three years old. Oh, and Charlie is a heroin addict. As for trust? Nope, not feeling it.
The very next episode, "White Rabbit," is Jack's turn in the wayback machine, his giving the ladies a little somethin' by stripping down to rescue a pair of drowning Gilliganites juxtaposed with an incident from his childhood wherein he was unsuccessful in saving a friend from a bully. (There's your pop-store Freud about why he feels the need to save the world.) The titular will-o'-the-wisp is a phantom of Jack's father, Christian (John Terry), whom Jack chases into his actualization wonderland. Meanwhile, Sawyer establishes himself as a purveyor of black-market contraband he's looted from the fuselage, leading us to episode 6's mainstream Yellow-bait "House of the Rising Sun," which refers of course to our mysterious Korean couple and their story of love under the threat of Sun's mafia daddy, thus explaining why Jin is such a suspicious, miserable sonuvabitch. At one point, Sun smells a lotus flower and cries that it's too beautiful. Moving on. "The Moth" (1.7) is Charlie's turn--did I mention that he's a heroin addict? On the island, in the meantime, Jack initiates his plan to relocate the survivors from the beach to this cozy cave inland--never mind the invisible T-rex nobody seems to be worried about. The moth of the title, by the way, refers to Charlie's emergence from his cocoon of shame.
Everything about "Lost" is sort of half-assed: its sexuality, its character development, its writing, its plot. There's too much reliance on stock situations, and did I mention that Sayid is an Iraqi? Relevance! In the Sawyer-centric "Confidence Man" (1.8), we explore, in simplified form, America's endorsement of torture as a diplomatic tool. Next episode, Sayid himself is tortured by a French lady he discovers living somewhere else on the island--said French lady revealing that there are "others" on the island and that there's a "sickness" going around. Then pregnant Claire disappears, then she's back, and then more with who Kate's going to fuck, then more black man Promise Keepers, then Sayid, then Sawyer... It's exhausting and fruitless. Perhaps most exasperatingly, when a mysterious hatch materializes in the middle of the wilderness around episode 11, because it's not quite the halfway point of a season the creators probably more than half suspected wouldn't make it this far, they have to prolong the hatch-opening until the cliffhanger finale.
The constant is that Hurley is going to puke, pratfall, get the shits, need to be peed on after stepping on an urchin, faint, take offense when someone asks him if he's hoarding food, and basically serve as the no-'count coon scareda ghosts--accurately identifying Hurley-the-fat-guy as the new nigger. I get it. When Hurley wins everybody over with a game of golf, Jack moans that he saves lives, digs holes, and taps water, and all it took to make people feel secure was Hurley's golf. In Jack's shit-eating, self-effacing way, he's saying that compared to the genuinely useful, specialized, heroic things he's done as the show's designated hero, all frickin' Hurley had to was be a dumbass, lazy, obese piece of shit. In the episode revealing Hurley's backstory (1.18, "Numbers"), he wins the lottery after his doting, long-suffering mamacita rags him about being fat and watching television all day. The winning numbers are part of the show's mythology, natch, probably as much as the number 815--815 being both the flight they were all on and the safety-deposit box Kate breaks into in her bank-robbin' flashback. (Contents of the box? A toy airplane, or something else portentous that probably won't amount to anything.) The whole of Hurley's episode is a joke, with calamity upon calamity befalling the comic-relief dipshit once he wins his millions, except that the jokes involve the death and dismemberment of his loved ones. It's Final Destination with a whimsical score and a central figure everyone feels safe to piss on--metaphorically speaking.
It's not to say there aren't interesting moments--moments in which Michael's young son Walt (Malcolm David Kelley) seems like he might have the nasty ability to manifest what he fantasizes à la Bill Mumy in that one "Twilight Zone", or when creepy Ethan (creepy William Mapother) appears in the castaways' midst like a bad Terminator. But these are offset by extraordinarily awful characterizations (like Charlie, or Hurley) that absolutely don't hold up under extended scrutiny. Also not effective is the Boone (Ian Somerhalder)/Shannon (Maggie Grace) brother/sister V.C. Andrews intrigue, and as it becomes increasingly clear that Kate's only superpower is cocking her head and concentrating, her big decision--who to fuck--isn't interesting, either. Why, then, if there's nothing much going on, is "Lost" this phenomenon racing towards an anticipated sixth and final season?
THE BLU-RAY DISC
A commentary track recorded by executive producers J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, and Bryan Burk decorates the two-part "Pilot" with what's come to be Abrams's trademark enthusiasm. He's the glue as the trio regurgitates much of the subsequent feature-length making-of (105 mins.), going over how the show was first pitched as "Cast Away: The Series" and how it was love at first geek sight between Abrams and Lindelof, who won everyone over with his horn-rims and vintage Bantha T-shirt. They go on to say that "Lost" was essentially a plane crash and a hatch and then a lot of shading-in, though Burk drops the idea that all involved knew from the beginning how it was going to end. Believe me that I'm skeptical--but also that I was a lot more skeptical before seeing the Abrams-produced Cloverfield and the Abrams-directed Star Trek, each of which surprised me by being a smart genre exercise respectful of source. This, combined with the genuine dread engendered by the first season's twin child-kidnappings and the climactic opening of the hatch, has drawn me into the next cycle.
Presented in 1080p in screen-filling 1.78:1, the first season of "Lost" on Blu-ray looks...what's the word? Really, really good, if just shy of amazing. Blacks are a little crushed here and again, but the lack of any edge enhancement (or anything, ultimately, that could be called an artifact), well--it's really, really good. Particularly impressive is the jungle foliage, delineated and saturated. Ditto the oceanscapes of vivid blue for a million miles in every direction. Check out a moment about 25 minutes into the 23rd episode: every crag, every breaker. Nice. You can even see white caps break in the distance. It's the dark scenes that prove uneven, almost murky. I'm reassured that a peek at my next 16hrs or so of viewing with Season Two suggests that the situation improves. The D-BOX-encoded DTS-HD 5.1 audio (mislabelled PCM uncompressed on the packaging) is loud, sharp, and amazingly full. You practically feel as though you're wading through the environment along with the castaways as atmospherics flood every channel with logic and volume. Yet dialogue is never overwhelmed.
Producers Jack Bender and David Fury combine for a far more conventional yakker on "Walkabout," detailing various errata around camera set-ups and casting. Lindelof and Burk combine with marble-mouthed Monaghan for "The Moth," in turn merging one of the weaker episodes with one of the weaker yakkers. The only thing worth noting, really, is the mild discomfort around the topic of drug use and the odd censorship decisions made by Disney-owned network ABC around why it's okay to show H snorted but not freebased. Executive producer Carlton Cuse, writer Javier Grillo-Marxuach, and the hot-but-dull Grace and Somerhalder join on incest-fest "Hearts and Minds" (1.13), the latter of whom have absolutely nothing to say for the duration. You'd feel embarrassed for them, except that you knew better than to cue it up. No wonder they killed off one (or both?) in short order.
The abovementioned "Making Of" can be broken down into distinct segments or played in a single extended chunk. As they go, it's pretty interesting--particularly the stuff about how hard it was to pick a plane retired to the Mojave Desert, purchase it, parcel it, ship it to Hawaii on three giant cargo ships, and then reinforce it on a beach in a visually dramatic way that wasn't overtly threatening to the show's beautiful cast (and Hurley). I was compelled to hear that there wasn't a script completed before casting and that many of the actors pushed the development of their characters. I love hearing Daniel Kim and Yunjin Kim speaking in non-stereotyped pidgin; and I loved seeing script pages that described some cannon-fodder as "red shirts" in homage to the inevitably-murdered crewman of the original "Star Trek". Best is audition footage of Yunjin Kim trying out for Kate that is, goddamnit, heartbreaking. It makes one wonder what the show would be like with an actress playing Kate. Less interesting is drippy Fox narrating his b&w photos from the set.
"Tales from the Island" (62 mins.) continues with behind-the-scenes vignettes, covering problems working with unmotivated boars and the importance of stunt people in doing stunts. Most uncomfortable is Lindelof confessing that he doesn't know a thing about Korean culture and was mostly winging it according to his preconceptions of the Far East. (Hence all the "honour" stuff.) Scraping bottom is a discussion of fictional band "Drive Shaft" and a peek into Monaghan's "Method" (on playing dead: "I tried to pretend to be asleep") that whatever its banality reveals he at least has one. A brief blooper reel is pretty much just people forgetting lines and smirking and the standard stuff, and a breezy panel discussion (10 mins. approx) of the show at the Director's Guild of America offers no new insights. All the extras discussed so far are in SD, having been ported over complete from the 2005 DVD release. For Blu-ray, you can switch on "SeasonPlay" to have the machine remember where you left off in the marathon whenever you choose to drop back in, as well as access "More 'Lost': On Location" (5 mins.). Also in SD despite its BD-exclusive status, it recounts the challenges of designing sets for "The Moth" and "White Rabbit." In addition to a "Flashbacks and Mythology" (8 mins., SD) bit that lays out the lore one-sixth of the way into the run, there are another couple of deleted scenes (2 mins., SD) that are more or less extended flashbacks for Claire. The discs are packaged in a wide, multi-swingtray keepcase, an attractive slipcover sheathing the entire brick-sized parcel. Originally published: February 11, 2010.
43 minutes/episode; Not Rated; 1.78:1 (1080p/MPEG-4); English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English Dolby Surround, French DD 5.1, Spanish DD 5.1, Portuguese DD 5.1; English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, Chinese, Thai, Malay, Indonesian, Arabic, Dutch subtitles; 7 BD-50s; Buena Vista