ABC Studios // 2009 // 731 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // December 7th, 2009
"Don't worry, dude. Everything will be fine when Jack changes the future. Or the past. One of those."
The fifth season of Lost is one of the most convoluted and complicated in terms of plotting, jumping in wild new directions at a breakneck pace. For newcomers, it would be near impossible to describe where the show is at this point in time in a coherent manner. For those who have seen the first four seasons, even describing the plot set-up that occurs during the first couple of episodes would involve some major spoilers. For those who have seen the show, well, you obviously know what happens. Considering this, I'm going to pass on providing a plot scenario and simply tell give you a few quick facts about Lost: The Complete Fifth Season:
* When the season begins, Jack (Matthew Fox, Speed Racer), Kate (Evangeline Lilly, The Hurt Locker), Ben (Michael Emerson, The Legend of Zorro), Sayid (Naveen Andrews, Planet Terror), Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick, The Gospel of John), Sun (Yunkin Kim, Two Sisters), and Hurley (Jorge Garcia, Deck the Halls) are not on the island.
* Sawyer (Josh Holloway, Stay Cool), Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell, V), Daniel (Jeremy Davies, Saving Private Ryan), Charlotte (Rebecca Mader, The Men Who Stare at Goats), and Miles (Ken Leung, Inside Man) are still on the island.
* Locke (Terry O'Quinn, Masters of Science Fiction) and Jin (Daniel Dae Kim, Spider-Man 2) are supposedly dead, but terms like "life" and "death" become increasingly relative as the season progresses.
* At any given moment, the characters could be at any point in time between the 1950s and the present day. Yes, you heard me.
The penultimate season of Lost was a divisive one for many fans of the show, and it's not hard to see why. The program that began as a mysterious, slow-burning drama about a group of people attempting to survive on a very strange and often frightening island had transformed into a fast-paced, action-packed science fiction show. Whereas the early seasons worked very hard to ensure that viewers were able to suspend their disbelief at times, the fifth season threw out wild idea after wild idea without pausing to take a breath. It's a crazy ride, and odds are it will either leave you very disgruntled or completely enthralled by the time the (literally) explosive season finale arrives. Personally, I'm in the latter camp.
Lost: The Complete Fifth Season might feel like a rather different show at times, but that doesn't mean it's any less compelling. This is smart, intriguing television that gets away with a lot of awfully convoluted material simply because there's never any doubt that showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse know what they're doing. Granted, I'm not sure precisely how much of the show's direction was planned out from the beginning, but this stuff definitely isn't being tossed out in a desperate bid to shove all of the pieces together. The fifth season of Lost is a masterful piece of clockwork, whizzing and spinning forwards, backwards and sideways with the fury of a berserker and the elegance of a ballet dancer. It's fascinating stuff.
Time travel is a concept that has a way of moving from fun to frustrating very quickly (compare Back to the Future to Back to the Future Part II), but I never found myself getting weary of the time travel-related complications of Lost. There's a lot to wrap your head around and you will get very lost (no pun intended) very quickly if you aren't paying close attention, but the series offsets that "this is more like homework than television" vibe with a triple-dose of adrenaline and some welcome dashes of humor (In the late 1970s, Hurley contemplates sending George Lucas a script for The Empire Strikes Back with, "a couple of improvements").
The entire season more or less takes its cue from "The Constant," a fourth-season episode that beautifully blended thoughtful science fiction concepts with emotionally-charged character-driven moments. Though there may not be a single episode that quite matches the brilliance of "The Constant," the strengths of the season as a whole are similar. In addition to the plethora of sci-fi ideas on display, there's some excellent character development during this season. Sawyer began as one of the more simplistic characters of the series, but he has grown considerably as the seasons have passed. His growth is perhaps most noticeable during this season, as Sawyer tends to approach situations with a good deal more thoughtfulness and maturity this time around. Make no mistake, he's still an unmistakably distinct character, but he's grown a lot more nuanced.
Daniel and Miles are also given a good deal of development during this season, and prove to be even more essential to the show this time than they were in season 4. I was particularly surprised by the material surrounding the villainous Charles Widmore (Alan Dale, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull), as the character was permitted to demonstrate new shades that caught me (and surely many other viewers) off guard. Elizabeth Mitchell and Michael Emerson continue to do superb work as Ben and Juliet, with the former being put into some very uncomfortable situations and the latter striking up an unexpected romance with Sawyer.
The transfer is nothing short of magnificent. Lost has set a standard as one of the best-looking hi-def television shows, and this season is no exception. The image is just stunning, as the rich visuals practically leap off the screen and immerse the viewer in this show's marvelous world. Background detail is superb, darker scenes benefit from deep blacks and excellent shading, and facial detail is generally stunning (you can see every bit of stubble on Jack's increasingly weathered face). As with the previous seasons, a minor layer of natural grain is intact, which I feel prevents the naturally beautiful setting from feeling more glamorous than it ought to. The audio is equally brilliant, offering one of the strongest television sound mixes I've ever heard. The action scenes will rock your room, while the suspenseful moments in the jungle simmer with subtle atmosphere. Michael Giacchino's reliably excellent music comes through with clarity, adding immeasurably to the suspense and emotional impact of the show.
Unfortunately, this set is surprisingly thin in the supplemental department, offering considerably less in the way of bonus features than the previous four season collections. Let's run down the list:
* Audio Commentaries: The previous sets have been blessed with multiple audio commentaries, but this season only gives us two (and only one actually worth listening to). The substantial track accompanies "Because You Left" and features Lindelof and Cuse. It's a great listen, covering elements of the entire season and featuring lots of intriguing behind-the-scenes info (be sure not to listen to it unless you've seen the whole season). In addition, writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz provide a track for "He's Our You," which is a lot more narrow in terms of focus and considerably less interesting.
* Lost Starter Kit (5 minutes): This piece is contained on Disc 1, and attempts to quickly recap what has happened in Lost through the end of season 4. It actually does a poor job of catching viewers up, proving much less effective than the "Lost in 8 Minutes" piece included on the season 4 set.
* Lost 100 (19 minutes): This featurette is contained on Disc 4. Set against the backdrop of the show's 100th episode, the piece features reflections on various aspects of the show from cast and crew members. A nice watch.
* Lost on Location (38 minutes): A collection of brief making-of pieces on seven different episodes of the show. You can "Play All" or watch them separately.
* Mysteries of the Universe (26 minutes): This is a faux '80s television special that claims to offer behind-the-scenes info on the Dharma Initiative. It's a cutesy piece that a lot of effort has been put into, but ultimately very insubstantial and not particularly informative.
* Making Up for Lost Time (14 minutes): A fun featurette in which the crew talks about the complications of keeping up with the convoluted time travel plotting. As hard as it is to keep up with while watching, I can only imagine how tough it must have been for the production team to keep all their ducks in a row.
* An Epic Day with Richard Alpert (12 minutes): Actor Nestor Carbonell gives us a guided tour of the season's final day of shooting. It's mildly interesting.
* Building 23 and Beyond (12 minutes): Actor Michael Emerson provides an enjoyable behind-the-scenes look at the writers going about their day-to-day routine in Burbank. Fun stuff.
* Deleted Scenes (14 minutes): Eight deleted scenes are here. They're all pretty dull, so it's easy to see why they were cut.
* Bloopers (4 minutes): A fairly dull blooper reel with the usual blown lines and laughter.
* Lost University: This is the set's most prominently promoted bonus feature. "Lost University" was created as an interactive experience for fans of the show, offering original featurettes and behind-the-scenes content while viewers wait for the final season to begin. Only BD-Live enabled viewers will be able to access most of the content, as it can't be accessed from the web without BD-Live and isn't being made available on the DVD set. The content doesn't start becoming available until December 8th, 2009, so I was not able to access it as of the writing of this review. Personally, I would have preferred such material to be presented on the discs rather than as a BD-Live feature (BD-Live has generally proven to be of little value, in my eyes), but hey, whatever.
Obviously, the set is equipped with BD-Live, but it's also D-Box enabled and features the "Season Play" option (which I suppose could be handy, but which makes the disc more cumbersome to navigate).
For all the season's strengths, it's going to be difficult to fully judge this season until the series has concluded, because whether or not this journey was worthwhile depends largely on what sort of payoff is provided by the show's conclusion. It's entirely possible that the sixth season could reveal most of what happens in this season to be an elaborate waste of time (though I really doubt that). What I am a little bit more concerned about are the seemingly supernatural elements of the show. Though a lot of crazy things have happened in Lost up to this point, most of them have had (relatively) rational explanations. I would hate to see the producers of the show answer some of the biggest questions with answers rooted in inexplicable elements of magic, religion, or fantasy.
Additionally, let me express disappointment at the fact that certain elements that were left hanging last season aren't even touched on this season. In particular, I was curious to know what was going on with Claire, who mysteriously disappeared during the fourth season. However, her storyline is only addressed briefly and we never actually see the character. In addition, the show juggles so many plot arcs that certain characters tend to languish while they're waiting for their card to come up (I'm specifically thinking of Sun, Desmond, and Sayid).
Finally, as the ever-expanding cast of Lost has been growing larger and more compelling, two major characters have been spinning their wheels: Jack and Kate. These two characters were once genuinely appealing leads, but as the seasons have passed their scenes have become some of the show's least interesting. While other characters appear to have plenty of untapped depths, Jack and Kate haven't really developed much at all lately. There's nothing terribly wrong with the performances of Fox and Lilly, but the writers seem to be taking the characters for granted and putting little effort into making sure we stay interested in them. This would be a bigger problem if Jack and Kate were still the unofficial "leads" of the show, but Lost is more of an ensemble program in this season than ever.
Lost: The Complete Fifth Season is a terrific ride. The problems pale in comparison to the sheer thrill factor, and it certainly has me excited for the final season. The show looks and sounds as spectacular as ever, so the lackluster supplemental package doesn't prevent me from strongly recommending the set.
Review content copyright © 2009 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ABC Studios
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (French)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 731 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Episode Commentaries
* Deleted Scenes
* Starter Kit
* Lost University
* D-Box Enabled
* Season Play
* Official Site