Lost Review: 1 Year Later
Lost can be described in 4 words: Lightning in a bottle. Lost was a show that found the perfect combination of science fiction concepts, intense drama, and great character development, and used all of this throughout an amazing (well mostly) six season run. Lost was a one-of-a-kind show that may have influenced numerous shows but will never be successfully copied.
Lost followed survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 (a plane that crashed on a mystical island) as they tried to survive polar bears, a mysterious group of natives known as the Others, a smoke monster and (of course) themselves. However, the title Lost is also a double entendre. These characters were not only lost on an island, but lost (metaphorically speaking) in their own lives. This is where Lost's great gimmick of flashbacks (and later in the series, flashforwards and flashsideways) came into play.
J.J. Abrams may be given a lot of the credit for Lost (and he does deserve a lot of the credit for "The Pilot" which was something television had never seen before on a blockbuster scale), but the true masterminds behind Lost were Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse. Lindelof and Cuse (or as Lost fans affectionately call them "Darlton") created a grand epic. Darlton and the writing staff did at times give us material that was filled with cheesy lines (just look at "Across the Sea" which was filled ridiculous lines that not even the great Allison Janney could pull off) but they never committed the ultimate sin (which most shows of this genre commit) of treating the plot as being more important than the characters. Darlton and company not only created great characters but never made them serve the plot, the plot served them. The best example of this occurs early in season 6 when Sawyer breaks off from the main group of characters. A lesser show of this genre would have him find something that would begin a new plot line for the show. The character would be serving the plot. Instead, the episode spends the rest of the episode trying to find some alone time to death with the death of Juliet. While Lost was a sprawling epic that covered multiple decades (and dimensions) it always followed the characters there. Sure, some complaint about the ending of Lost not giving us all of the answers to the questions raised during the plot (and they do have a right to be), but Darlton gave all of those characters one helluva ending.
Another impressive feat pulled off by Darlton was that they could at any moment change the nature of the show. This was a show where anything could and would happen at any given moment. Gamechanger is probably the most overused word in critiquing television (actually overrated is but gamechanger is up there). However, Lost was definitely one show that actually deserved the word gamechanger attached to it. This was a show that completely flipped itself on its head in the season 3 finale, "Through the Looking Glass" when it revealed that what we were witnessing was not a flashback but a flashforward (thus changing the entire narrative nature of the series) and that some of the characters got off the island (something most viewers thought wouldn't happen until the end of the series). More on "Through the Looking Glass" for a moment: This episode is Darlton's writing at its finest and probably includes the ultimate twist ending in television history. This was also a show that killed off its second most important character in John Locke (the antithesis to the main character, Jack Shephard) in the third season. It suffices to say that Lost was a show that was willing to take major risks and most of them worked out.
Not only did the nature of the show change constantly but so did the crew. Many skilled writers and directors went on to other projects during the first half of the series (J.J. Abrams only involvement in the show post season 1 was writing the season 3 opener "A Tale of Two Cities", David Fury, a two time Emmy winner, left after the first season, and the show's best writer, Drew Goddard, left in the fourth season to work on Cloverfield). More on Drew Goddard for a moment: This guy wrote what is easily one of my top 3 favorite episodes in the series with "The Man From Tallahassee" and should be the one credited for the season 3 revival of the show as he wrote two of the other most acclaimed episodes with "One of Us" and "The Man Behind the Curtain" so he was a major loss when he left. Despite all of these losses, Darlton were able to keep the quality going. They made one of the smartest in television history by making an ABC announce an end date for the series (This move made Season 4 the fast paced and perfectly constructed season that it is). They also developed a knack of being masters of the twist. The best example of this is when they revealed in the premiere of season 6 that Locke was actually the Man in Black and the smoke monster. This was set up way back in the season 5 episode, "Dead is Dead", where Locke suddenly disappears and the smoke monster suddenly appears at the same time. Surprisingly, and to the writers' credit, nobody caught this until the reveal.
After, J.J. Abrams directed the pilot, you would think the quality of direction would go down (Abrams is one of the best in the business after all). The directors of Lost (most specifically Jack Bender) proved the audience wrong. Jack Bender truly deserves to be heralded as one of the best directors in the business. Just look at who directed all of the best episodes of Lost. The ones that truly were revolutionary. "Exodus", "Through the Looking Glass", "The Constant": Jack Bender directed them all. Despite all of these accomplishments, Bender's true masterpiece of direction is "The End". Bender takes a script that in other hands would look ridiculous on screen and turns it into a stunning achievement. He recreates scenes from past seasons with apparent ease (when in fact this is a difficult task to pull off) and creates the most satisfying ending possible with the material. Scenes such as the waterfall scene, the opening with the casket and, of course" the final scene are true tour de forces of directing.
Despite all of the great work from the creative minds of Lost, the ultimate achievement of this series is the ensemble. It would be easy to make a case for Lost having the best ensemble in television history. Let's start with the creme de la creme: Michael Emerson and Terry O'Quinn. I think it is safe to say that Lost would not be what it is today without Michael Emerson's Benjamin Linus. The man pretty much singlehandedly saved season 2 by bringing in some much needed ambiguousness and uneasiness. Following season 2, Emerson turned Benjamin Linus into an icon by deftly portraying a perfect combination of psychopathic darkness and unfulfilled ambition. Michael Emerson also proved to be the most versatile actor of the bunch as he could in any given scene be funny, scary or even be able to play a noble figure. Michael Emerson turned Benjamin Linus as the villain we all wanted to root for. The true MVP of the cast, however, is Terry O'Quinn. O'Quinn was given the enormous challenge of playing three different characters during the course of the series. The result was an iconic character in John Locke, a great villain in the Man in Black and a classic tragic figure in the limbo version of John Locke. O'Quinn also had amazing range on the series (although not as much as Emerson) as he bounced between playing a completely good character to one that was evil and scary. A true testament to O'Quinn's acting is when the real John Locke once again emerges in the final hour of the series. The transformation almost feels as if it is an event, as if the true Christ has come back. O'Quinn has a huge presence and can nail any emotional scene (just look at "Dues Ex Machina", "The Man From Tallahassee" or "The Candidate"). He is a true acting god. The most important contribution these two actors make to the show, however, is their chemistry. "Terry O'Quinn and Michael Emerson" should be listed in every dictionary for the definition of chemistry. These two may be acting gods but when together, they are acting titans. Daniel Day Lewis would even look puny in a scene with these two.
Another strong performance came from Matthew Fox. Rarely did O'Quinn and Emerson overshadow the true lead of the show. Fox received a lot of hate for his performance in season 4 and season 5, but in reality, this was just the writing of the character. Jack Shephard was written as a heroic character that was not a leader. He needed to be a man that would make mistakes that caused terrible things because, in the end, he would be the one that found true redemption. Fox is given the character that is written most symmetrically. Major credit has to be given to Fox for portraying this character with such subtlety. Sure, he did have a lot of big, emotional moments (such as in "Through the Looking Glass") but Jack Shephard's greatest moments were the much quieter ones. "The End" is a perfect example of this. Jack and Fox's best moments in this episode were the moment of silence where Jack tells Hurley he is going to die (all done with only facial expressions by the masterful Fox) and the moment Jack realizes that he has died and is in some sort of afterlife (impeccable line reading done by Fox in this scene). Fox was worthy leader of this amazing cast.
The rest of the strong supporting men include Adewale Akkinuoye-Agbaje, Naveen Andrews, Nestor Carbonell, Jeremy Davies, Jorge Garcia, Josh Holloway and Dominic Monaghan. Adewale Akkinuoye-Agabje may not have been on the show long (his amount of episode appearances probably only amounted to a season's worth) but he left a presence. This all due to his considerable acting ability. Agabje played the mystical Mr. Eko and could at times fill Terry O'Quinn's shoes as the island's source of mystery (a monumental achievement). Naveen Andrews had one of the worst written characters in Sayid (I mean the zombie Sayid was not only ridiculous, but served no purpose in the larger story) so it is to his credit that Sayid was such a likable character among fans and critics. It is also worth mentioning that Andrews had the most physical role on the show, and he made Sayid a believable tough guy. Nestor Carbonell's Richard Alpert was always the character that never got enough screen time. So I was stunned when Carbonell gave a performance for the ages by carrying the screen by himself and speaking in multiple languages in "Ab Aeterno". Jeremy Davies didn't come onto the show until later in its run but he is still gives one of the most memorable performances on the show as Daniel Faraday. Some may say that Davies schtick is wearing thin (he has a very quirky and antsy like demeanor in almost of his roles), but he breathes new life into it with this performance as Daniel Faraday is his most relatable performance (and the one filled with the most heart). Jorge Garcia is perfect as playing the "voice of the audience" for the show. His Hugo "Hurley" Reyes is the most relatable character on the show and the one character that is completely good. Garcia got so good as playing the "voice of the audience" that the audience would actually start reacting the way Hurley did to certain events. I heard of numerous instances after "The Candidate" in which the moment people admitted to getting teary eyed over was the moment when Hurley broke down in grief and not the big deaths of Sun, Jin and Sayid. I will admit that even I got teary eyed when Hurley realized Jack was going to die in "The End". The final thirty minutes of "The End" are a tour de force of acting by Jorge Garcia. Josh Holloway deserved the most improved actor award. During the first season, Holloway was just visual material (although he could also give out great one liners). By the end of the series, Holloway was right up there with Emerson and O'Quinn as one of the best performances of the show. Most of this improvement has to do with the immediate chemistry he was able to develop with Elizabeth Mitchell. Who would have honestly thought that Sawyer and Juliet would make a good (let alone great) couple? Holloway turned Sawyer into a multi-layered rogue and deserves much of the credit for the icon status the character receives. In the beginning, Dominic Monaghan was on the show to pull in the ratings. By the end of his stint on Lost, Monaghan proved he could change his once annoying character into a painstakingly dead man walking.
The women might not have been as plentiful on the series, but they were just as good led by L. Scott Caldwell, Yunjin Kim, Rebecca Mader, Elizabeth Mitchell and Sonya Walger. L. Scott Caldwell turned what could have easily been a background character into a fan favorite with Rose. It is easily to find out how this occurred as Caldwell easily displays a motherly-like quality in every aspect of her delivery. Yunjin Kim might have had the toughest role to pull off in the show with Sun. She had to speak in multiple languages throughout the entire series, and, at times, she had to play the antagonist to the heroes of the show. Yet, Sun was always one of the most loved characters on the show. This is all thanks to Kim pulling off the role. Rebecca Mader got little screen time (I don't think she even appeared in 20 episodes), but she was able to build up great chemistry with Jeremy Davies in that small time. Daniel and Charlotte were a great couple. Mader was also aces at being able to play an ambiguous character. Elizabeth Mitchell was the powerhouse among the female actors. As Juliet, she could pull off chemistry with anyone (whether it be Matthew Fox or Josh Holloway or even Evangeline Lilly). Anytime, she was given one of those Oscar scenes (one of those big time emotional scenes such as many of her flashback scenes with Michael Emerson) she would use it to full potential and deliver a knockout performance ("One of Us" is the best example). Sonya Walger was part of the best couple on the show (Herny Ian Cusick created the other half but his acting was inconsistent--at times he was amazing like in "Live Together, Die Alone" but at other times he overacted like in most of season 4). As Penny she had perfect chemistry with Henry Ian Cusick and a great sense of grace.
The rest of the cast was good, but they weren't Emmy worthy. The only true weak link was Evangeline Lilly who was just bland in every aspect. Even when the writers gave her great material, such as in "The End", she could not pull anything worth mentioning out of it.
The behind the camera aspects of the show could at times be a mixed bag (though when they were on, they were amazing). The one true consistency of the show was Michael Giacchino's masterful score. Giacchino created themes for every character and for every location. He truly gave life to the series. Giacchino's score is an instant classic (probably the best ever on television) and the fact that he only won one Emmy (while Sean Callery won for his inferior work on 24 twice in that span) is a grave error by the Academy. The editing was also pretty good and consistent. Lost could definitely be confusing at times but imagine what it would be like without good editing. The cinematography would at times leave much to be desired, but the work in "The Pilot" and "The End" were phenomenal. The costume design was nothing special but the art direction was aces. The island really felt like a character on the show. A lot of that has to do with the writing and directing of the show, but without a distinct look from the art direction, that could not have been pulled off as effectively. The visual effects started off with amazing quality (the pilot could have been released as a summer movie) but became laughably bad by series end (the submarine in season 5 was an atrocity). The sound mixing left much to be desired but the sound editing (especially the editing for the monster effects) were phenomenal.
Lost was by no means a perfect show. Then again, there really is no such thing as a perfect show. Every show has some sort of imperfection. What Lost did that made it great was that it found perfection within imperfection. Lost took every risk it possibly could and is much better for it. Could a show like Lost ever exist in the future? It may be possible to catch "lightning in a bottle" twice but it is very rare.
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