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"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," "There's No Place Like Home: Part 1," "There's No Place Like Home: Part 2"
by Walter Chaw Four years into its run, "Lost" appears to have hit something of a stride--at least it does until it falls completely off the rails, maybe for good. Blame the most recent Writer's Strike, which happened in the middle of this truncated season, or better yet, blame the fact that the series can't seem to leave well enough alone. It has a chance to be transcendent, see, and resigns itself to being ordinary. The best episode of the run so far happens early in the season with episode 4.5, "The Constant." A clear homage to Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, it replaces Billy Pilgrim with our Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick), who becomes "unstuck" in time and struggles during the course of things to find a "constant" with which to anchor his consciousness in one fixed timeline. Ingeniously executed and manufacturing the first real suspense "Lost" has managed since possibly the first episode of the first season (or since the first hatch was opened), "The Constant" suggests that there are separate Oceanic Flight 815s, that reality is slippery, and that there might be a struggle somewhere, between some things, for control over a dominant reality. "The Constant" marks the moment I became a "Lost" fan. And then, in the very next episode, "The Other Woman," everything goes to shit: "Lost" scrambles to demystify all these philosophies in favour of a vast conspiracy masterminded by an evil billionaire who, apparently, has filled a fake plane with exhumed corpses and planted it in the ocean so as to prevent his daughter Penelope--named for Odysseus's wife, right?--from reuniting with a boy of whom he doesn't approve. The problem is mainly that after three-and-a-half years of this garbage, anything the creators could come up with in terms of an Answer would not be equal to the investment the show's loyal viewers have already made in it.
Give it this: it's no longer content to treat Hurley (Jorge Garcia) as an object of complete derision, instead recasting him as something of a figure of pathos who has been, accurately, put upon by his fellow castaways, his writers and creative team, and his audience. That doesn't prevent the character from being treated like a pawn, mind, making his brief ascendancy from Stepin Fetchit more of a horizontal promotion than a vertical one--and presenting a not-bad analogue for the treatment of every minority group in the history of film: you start as the nigger, you graduate to the American Indian, and then they forget about you completely. Hate, condescension, invisibility. There's a moment late in the season when Sawyer (Josh Holloway) gets into a John Woo-style Mexican stand-off with Locke (Terry O'Quinn) over the fate of Hurley that casts Hurley as the woman, oddly enough, while a subsequent scene in which he displays a brief flicker of emotion over dead girlfriend Libby plays all the more awkwardly for our conditioned response to Hurley as a creature of zero volition, sexuality, even gender. Hurley's Chewbacca--it's the only way to explain the cameo by a toy Millennium Falcon during the season's absolute worst episode, "Something Nice Back Home," in which a "flash-forward" (the season's structural innovation is to intercut parallel stories that jump ahead in time instead of flashing back) reveals Jack (Matthew Fox) and Kate (Evangeline Lilly) living in domestic bliss with now-toddler Aaron sawing toothpicks in the next room. Meanwhile, on the island, Jack has to have his appendix removed--meaning that Fox is tasked in the space of one 40-minute walk through Hell to try to convey a broad range of emotions from a script that maybe/maybe not proves monkeys with typewriters can write dialogue. For as bad as Fox is, though, for as consistently not up to the task of reading lines off a page he is, Lilly matches him awkward pronouncement for lemon-slurp reaction shot. If not for the overwrought score, you wouldn't know whether she was having an orgasm or cutting an onion; I doubt Kuleshov had Lilly and Fox in mind when he was pitting objects up there against each other.
Embarrassed by its treatment of Michael (Harold Perrineau) as well, apparently, "Lost"'s fourth season has him going incognito--on a cargo ship enlisted in the rescue/assassination of our beloved castaways--in the hire of Others leader Ben (Michael Emerson), who really wants his island to remain hidden to supervillain Widmore (Alan Dale). The series can't resist making Michael a janitor tortured to near-death before burning down Massah's plantation, so to speak--a rough way of saying that "Lost" hasn't done very well in paying for its sins against Hurley and Michael and thus seeks to redress the Orientalism of its Korean characters by introducing an Asian-American psychic medium, Miles (Ken Leung), who doesn't smell lotus flowers, speak of losing face, or find himself on the lam from angry Yakuza. "Lost" is a terrible racist, but in the character of Miles it atones for some of its sins, even if Sawyer, noticing Miles noticing Claire (Emilie de Ravin), warns him off in a way both homicidal and hysterical that calls up a few ghosts of Yellow Peril past. On the one hand, you could say that Sawyer has every reason not to trust this yahoo--on the other, you would be right in wondering why it's OK for smack-addict ex-rocker Charlie and not Asian Miles to crush on boring white Claire. Maybe it's for his own good: remember that every interracial couple on "Lost" is punished by either instant or lingering death. The problem with that has a couple of horns, too, in that because "Lost" has now decided to be about temporal looping rather than alternate universes (and there is a difference), no one who dies stays dead for long. Meaning that when there's a big emotional peak over the detonation of Sun (Yunjin Kim), the only person feeling bad about it is Jin (Daniel Dae Kim). There is, in other words, no longer any sort of tension whatsoever in the mortality of our heroes, effectively neutering any season cliffhanger that hinges on the death of a major character.
Anyway, newly convinced that time travel is the way to go in "Lost", the season ends on the 'hanger that Ben, who's proven himself to be one of the most consistently reptilian characters in the history of the medium, has descended into an ice cave on the island to turn a giant crank that causes the island itself to "unstick" in time. Which of course doesn't explain why it disappears geographically just as a helicopter piloted by guest star Jeff Fahey tries to land on it. It doesn't really matter at this point, as concepts of time travel, teleportation, and parallel universes mash-up in this mess of misdirection and jibber-jabber that sees Ben teleporting to Iraq in the future to enlist Sayid as his own personal assassin whilst new character C.S. Lewis (Rebecca Mader) discovers a polar-bear skeleton on an archaeological dig in the Sahara before endeavouring to uncover a few skeletons in her own closet (oooh, smooth transition, that). It's entirely possible that the island is a Tardis--I wouldn't put it past them. The best new hire is probably Jeremy Davies, not because he's got that much to contribute, but because the distracted, space-cadet, Charlie Manson-on-Quaaludes shtick Davies has perfected throughout his career reminds me in a cozy way of his identical performance as an inexplicable alien clone in Soderbergh's Solaris. Being the love child of Steve Railsback and Henry Thomas has to count for something. Davies's Daniel Farraday acts as the show's Doc Brown--the resident expert on temporal logistics and given once every other episode to meandering explanations of why it is that everyone's suddenly wearing bell-bottoms, though he has no thoughts on why nobody's nervous about walking around in a forest infested with alpha-predators and a smoke-osaur. Because "Lost" is a soap opera with genre elements as opposed to a genre show (as it would like to be considered), Farraday wants to diddle C.S. Lewis. Romantically, natch. Say this for Season Four of "Lost": it's given up providing a sting for every commercial break. That's either progress (which would be nice) or exhaustion (which would be likely).
THE BLU-RAY DISC
"Lost on Location" (42 mins., SD) is pretty much indistinguishable from the other on-location docs included in these season sets, although this one focuses a little more on slam-bang action sequences that, when all's said and done, are action sequences on a network television show produced by Disney. We also get to spend time with some of the new cast members, only one of whom, Mader, makes something like an impression. "The Island Backlot: Lost in Hawaii" (18 mins., SD) should have been the on-location doc and, come to think of it, already was the last three times I saw it. "The Right to Bear Arms" (12 mins., SD) reveals that there's actually a continuity monkey in charge of keeping track of who has what firearm, when. "Soundtrack of Survival: Composing for Character, Conflict & the Crash" (26 mins., SD) has composer Michael Giacchino front and centre as one of the last members of the production team not exhaustively profiled in a "Lost" DVD feature. "Lost Bloopers" (3 mins., SD) and "Deleted Scenes" (9 mins., SD) are utterly negligible and not even interesting for the devout, I gotta think, while "The Oceanic Six: A Conspiracy of Lies" (21 mins., SD) is a mockumentary about conspiracy theories erected to debunk the lies told by our surviving Gilliganites to protect those they've left behind. "The Freighter Folk" (13 mins., SD) covers this year's quartet of new characters; "Offshore Shoot" (8 mins., SD) sort of discusses the challenges, such as they are, of shooting on said freighter; and "Lost: Missing Pieces Mobisodes" (31 mins., SD) are thirteen Internet-exclusive webisodes notable mainly for the introduction of a character named, derogatorily, Frogurt and played by Sean Whalen of The People Under the Stairs fame. Paired with Hurley in an episode in which they argue over wooing rights of poor, dead Libby, it endeavours to show how funny it is when ugly nerds try to get dates. Exclusive to the format is a feature that, once you solve a chronology game, stitches the flash-forwards together into a single boring episode. "More from the Symphony" (16 mins., SD) has clips from a performance of the score by the Honolulu Symphony Pops Orchestra, with narration by Terry O'Quinn.
"Lost: The Complete Fourth Season" docks on Blu-ray in a 1.78:1, 1080p presentation that exhibits a good deal more edge-enhancement and, hence, haloing artifacts than usual, yet it would still be a high watermark if not for the comparison against the other BD releases of the show. The uncompressed PCM 5.1 audio is crystal clear and genuinely immersive. "Lost in 8:15" (8 mins. 15s, HD) is a recap of the first three seasons to bring masochistic neophytes up to speed, should anyone have decided to jump into this thing in medias res, as it were. Why anyone would do that is a matter for a different, also witty, short subject. The first of the obligatory yak-tracks pairs Lilly with Garcia on "The Beginning of the End" (4.1) in a diversion one would generously describe as a time-passer. They giggle, bond over how humidity affects their curly locks, and have nothing to say about a show that likewise has nothing to say for the same amount of time. Flip to the brilliant "The Constant," with executive producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof and editor Mark Goldman, for an exercise in blind squirrels finding the nut before losing it again almost instantly. What I would've enjoyed is a deeper discussion of how Philip K. Dick and C.S. Lewis (and Ambrose Bierce) tie into a pop fabric with John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the one episode out of the sixty or so so far with a thought in its head. Instead, there are conversations revolving around stubble continuity. 4.7, "Ji Yeon," pairs actors Daniel Dae Kim and Yunjin Kim with director Stephen Semel for a yakker that clarifies again how these "Lost" creators absolutely should not be trying to write a Korean story. In the words of a good friend of mine, "that there is some bullshit." It's nice, however, to hear Dae Kim speaking in his perfect, unaccented English as he talks about pretending to be a much different, more acceptable kind of Korean for the show. Season finale "There's No Place Like Home: Part 2" reteams Cuse and Lindelof for a discussion of how the Writer's Strike fucked with their mojo, necessitating a two-part finale. That would be more credible if the show hadn't already indulged in two-part conclusions every previous season. They don't have much to say. This is just proof. Originally published: May 17, 2010.
43 minutes/episode; Not Rated; 1.78:1 (1080p/MPEG-4); English 5.1 LPCM, English DD 5.1, French DD 5.1, Spanish Dolby Surround, Portuguese Dolby Surround; English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Thai, Korean, Japanese, Malaysian, Indonesian subtitles; 5 BD-50s; Buena Vista