Review by KC Carlson
To paraphrase someone much smarter than me, “Writing intelligently about Lost is like dancing about architecture.” There has been so much written about Lost over the past six years that it’s been on broadcast TV — and especially this final year — it’s difficult to find anything new to say about it. Besides, it seems somewhat appropriate to attach Lost to a famous literary quote, especially one whose actual origins are widely disputed. (The original quotation — “Talking about music is like dancing about architecture” — was probably first uttered by either Frank Zappa or Martin Mull, both of whom could have been characters on the Island for all we really know.)
Why We Went Blu-ray
ABC/Disney was kind enough to provide a copy of Lost: The Complete Sixth Season (also available on DVD) for review, but I went ahead and purchased a copy of Lost: The Complete Collection, which features all six seasons, plus groovy extras. I’ve been messing around with the Complete Collection, and it is amazing! The packaging is beautiful and unique and, like the series itself, holds many secrets.
As has been mentioned elsewhere on the blog, this set was one of the main reasons that we finally broke down and bought a Blu-ray player. Not that I always agree with their marketing — in fact, I never purchased Lost Season 5 because I was mad that the Lost University material was Blu-ray only, which I felt at the time was very exclusionary. But when it came down to considering whether or not to get the Complete Collection — if I was going to spend that kind of money on a “complete” set — I wanted it to be as complete as possible. Needless to say, there is a lot of Blu-ray-only material on the set, including all the Blu-ray-only extras that were added to the previous season sets when they were reissued on Blu-ray. That includes much material that was originally only available on exclusive bonus discs produced for Best Buy and TV Guide.
What I didn’t expect was how beautiful the Blu-ray picture is, especially considering how beautiful the series itself is, 98% of it having been originally filmed on or around the islands of Hawaii. The Blu-ray picture on the Lost set is presented in 1080p MPEG-4 AVC/H.264, which is basically gibberish to me, but apparently it’s the top-of-the-line picture quality currently available on Blu-ray. (And I’m sure that you’ll tell me otherwise if I’m wrong about this.) In layman’s terms, the picture image is breathtaking, and in many instances, it actually appears to be in 3-D. (It isn’t.) And that’s on our seemingly antique 35” TV screen (We have a little living room. We had to sacrifice something for all the comic books also living here.)
The Beautiful Box Set
What I can talk about intelligibly is how gorgeous the Complete Collection is. First of all — and this is important because most of you will probably have to have this delivered directly to you — it comes in its very own shipping container, including protective styrofoam (like an electronics box) to protect the box set during shipping. Then the set itself comes in its own decorative box, which features as a design element a list of all the major characters in the series (or is it the Candidates list?). This box also features plenty of internal protection for the actual box set itself. Once you finally get it out of all the protective wrapping, you’ll see that it’s a tabletop replica of the Temple (from the last season of the show), nicely textured to look sculptured.
Opening the lid (using the pull-tab) and flipping it over, you’ll find a textured map of the island itself on the underside. Looking inside the box, there are special compartments on top and bottom of the box itself which have little doors to open and close, again with pull-tabs. Inside you will find some of the special swag. One of the things it comes with is a black light pen. I didn’t think much about that until later, when it dawned on me — why a black light pen? Sure enough, you need the black light to uncover some of the secrets. As you’ll discover, there is mysterious writing (that can only be seen under a black light) all over the box and its contents.
Also in the compartments are black and white stones and sticks (real stones — not cheap plastic), a tiny ankh (which might be plastic — it looks kinda “off”), and a small piece of old parchment paper with difficult to read old-timey cursive. If you can’t figure out what these things actually are, the back of the packing box will tell you.
In the main, center section of the box, there is a beautifully designed episode guide for the entire series (filled with some great photos from the shows), and a small board that looks like the Senet board from the show (so that’s what those stones and sticks are for!). Under these, which require some provided aid to get out of the box, is another box– again beautifully textured — which houses six folders (one for each season), with each one holding from five to seven discs — a total of 35 discs.
I initially messed around with all the stuff for about an hour, before I started watching one of the discs. Later, I remembered that there was supposed to be a bonus disc with the set. I quickly realized that it wasn’t in the booklets with the rest of the discs. Instead of thinking that the bonus disc was missing, I realized that — in the spirit of the show — the bonus disc was probably hidden somewhere in the packaging. So I went back to studying the box carefully.
It took me a bit to find it. Along the way, I found clues on how to find the disc, but since it was Lost, the clues didn’t always make much sense, at least initially. So I had to figure those out first. I quickly realized where the disc probably was located — there aren’t that many places to hide it, actually — but it did take a while for me to carefully extract it without ruining where it was hidden. (I recommend that after you retrieve it, you store it separately in another protective sleeve with the other discs, as it will be pretty easy to ruin the hiding place with repeated attempts to open and close the secret location.)
Interestingly, this isn’t the first J.J. Abrams-associated collector’s set to feature a hidden disc. The special edition Alias Complete Series collection also features a “hidden disc”, although nowhere near as complicated to find as this one. By the time they get around to doing a Complete Fringe Set, I suspect that the bonus disc will actually be a hologram.
I think there’s still some things to find. There’s a lot of stuff here. I haven’t found the rules to the Senet game yet, but I just checked the internet, which says the game is so old that the “rules” of the game are are disputed by historians. Only Lost would include a game you can’t actually play.
I ended up watching the hidden bonus disc first. I feel like I earned it!
“Shippers” vs. “Listers”: The Ending
Season Six of Lost proved to be one of the most controversial seasons of the show, including a radical (and confusing to many) new storytelling device with the “Flash Sideways”. They kept fans guessing until the very last episode and managed to irritate a large, vocal group of fans. Also, the series offered up two unique episodes (nothing new for Lost), both of which almost exclusively dealt with answering questions about the mythology of the show. They were controversial with fans because one (Across the Sea) featured no regular characters, and the other (Ab Aeterno) focused mostly on the history of a single (but unique) supporting character, Richard Alpert. Both episodes were big “time-outs” in the ongoing episode-by-episode continuity of the final season, and many fans disliked not seeing their favorite characters in every episode. Despite this, those were two of the best single episodes the series ever produced, along with the finale, The End.
This was the TV season that could be subtitled “When the Fans Turned Ugly”, as many (but not all) fans became outraged over how two of my favorite series — Lost and Chuck — were progressing. Over on Chuck, the fans who were more interested in the relationships of the characters than the action/spy intrigue of the show had a well-publicized meltdown over the producers’ perceived slowness in moving along the romance between the leads of the show, Chuck and Sarah. (Ironically, if they had only waited one more week, they would have gotten pretty much all that they wanted, as the big hook-up finally occurred on the next episode.) This phenomenon really popularized the term “shipper” (short for relationshipper) into the ongoing dialogue about extreme fan behavior.
Meanwhile, on Lost, the “shippers” were pretty much getting what they wanted (or at least they did by the end of the series), and the fans that were the most upset were the ones demanding answers to the myriad unanswered questions the show set up and ultimately didn’t bother to tie up. Some of them were relatively minor in the grand scheme of things, but since a large number of the show’s fans championed the show as a mystery first and romance second, it developed a huge following of list makers, with literally dozens of unanswered questions piling up over the six seasons.
I’m an old hand in this kind of thinking. I’m still kinda mad that there were dozens of unresolved items in my earlier TV favorites, like St. Elsewhere (which were all rendered moot, anyway, by the radically unconventional conclusion to the series) or Homicide: Life on the Street, most of which went unsolved by the nature and limitations of episodic television itself. Actors, writers, and producers move on to other projects. Bigger ideas take precedence over smaller ones. As well, who knows what kind of interference by clueless network execs took place, or what the budgetary considerations were. Bottom line: for me, Lost answered the biggest questions in a tremendously satisfying way, and the others will be eventually dealt with (see below) or (and sorry to burst bubbles here) some of it just doesn’t matter in the long run. Virtually every TV show has left some unanswered or unresolved questions — or questions left to the viewers’ imaginations. The latter of which is as it should be. Creative endeavors exist to ask questions, especially unanswerable ones.
Lost: The Complete Sixth Season: The Details
Lost: The Complete Sixth Season includes all 18 episodes from the final season, including the extra-length final episode The End. It is available in both DVD and Blu-ray formats. Both versions include plenty of Bonus Material, with the Blu-ray including a few Blu-ray-only features.
Much has already been reported about The New Man in Charge, the 12-minute “epilogue” to the series that appears on both the Season 6 and Complete Collection sets. Featuring Ben and Hurley (and maybe a surprise cast member or two), the short film is touted as revealing the answers to (or at least acknowledging) many of the unanswered questions of the show. The film itself is set at two different locations, one very familiar to Lost fans — the Santa Rosa Mental Health Institute. The other is a DHARMA Logistics Warehouse in Guam, where Ben suddenly and unexpectedly appears to shut it down for good. Just for good measure, the film also features yet another DHARMA Orientation Film, which, as usual, is packed with information as well as a little mystery. It also acts as a shout-out to all those fans who were unhappy with all the unanswered questions left over from the series finale. The New Man in Charge also answers a new question that most fans hadn’t even thought to ask yet.
A lot of people are asking why it wasn’t included as part of that final episode. Probably because a) the finale was already running long at 2 1/2 hours, and b) it really doesn’t fit within the finale without altering its tone (being slightly more light-hearted than either the edge-of-the-seat action of the episode or the heart-rendering final moments of the finale).
So why wasn’t it run on the Jimmy Kimmel show that served as the show-bizzy farewell to the series? Good question. I don’t believe I’m alone in thinking that it’s really an underhanded cash grab on ABC/Disney’s part by making this essential piece of the Lost mythology a DVD/Blu-ray only featurette, rather than making it free-for-all as the original series was originally broadcast. Of course, the internet being the internet, it’s probably already up there somewhere (probably multiple somewheres) for those who know where to look, but ABC/Disney should soon do the right thing and post it prominently somewhere — for free.
Other Season 6 Special Features
THE END: Crafting a Final Season is a 38-minute featurette with the usual cast members and creative team discussing the ending of the series. Also included are several TV creators who’ve already faced the end of their popular series commenting on how they dealt with it. James Burrows (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Cheers, dozens of others) wryly comments on series finales:
“Every one of your audience has a different requirement of what they need to be satisfied. You try to go off the air on a high note. No matter what you say, no matter what you accomplish, no matter what you do, no matter how funny the show is, nobody’s gonna like it… because you’re going off the air.”
Stephen J. Cannell, who has created (or co-created) over 40 TV series (including The Rockford Files, The A-Team, and The Greatest American Hero), matter-of-factly states “I never voluntarily ended anything. So, in all the years that I’ve done this, 42 shows I’ve put on the air, I’ve never had a chance to finish one off the right way.” Cannell largely worked in an era of television where final episodes were not necessarily common, as they are today. Shawn Ryan, creator and executive producer of The Shield comments, “You think it’s your TV show, but once it’s on the air, it becomes everybody else’s TV show too.” X- Files producer/director Rob Bowman also weighs in with comments about his show. The Lost guys (Lindelof and Cuse), as usual, start out waxing philosophical, but end up talking about blowing up a bunch of stuff. And actor Jorge Garcia (Hurley) is touchingly shown reading the series finale script for the very first time. This is one of the very best bonus feature documentaries I’ve ever seen.
Other features include A Hero’s Journey, a nine-minute feature about the classic hero’s quest storytelling tradition and the problems of telling a modern story with (at least) 14 different heroes. See You in Another Life, Brotha’ is a nine-minute look at the final season’s controversial flash-sidewise storytelling, which sprang out of the previous season’s cliffhanger where the characters were desperately trying to alter the flow of time and ended up fracturing it. (Or did they?) Lost on Location details the production of six different episodes with all-new footage and interviews with cast and crew (over 28 minutes total). Plus, there’s another in the always snarky series of rapid recaps — this time it’s Lost in 8:15. Everything you need to know about Lost in the time of an average commercial break/station identification!
There are four episode commentaries: two with Darlton (Damon Lindelof & Carlton Cuse), LA X (Part 1) and Across the Sea; one with writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz and actor Michael Emerson for Dr. Linus; and one for the amazing Ab Aeterno, with writers Melinda Hsu Taylor and Gregg Nations and actor Nestor Carbonell. Interestingly, there is no commentary for the series finale, The End.
I’d like to be able to tell you more about the Blu-ray only Lost University Master’s Program, but apparently either I or my new Blu-ray player aren’t smart enough to open it up (something about local memory capacity…). Apparently, I have to finish the Introductory classes from Season 5 before I can proceed to these, anyway. (Just between us, even the Cliff’s Notes are tough! And heavy!)
As always for a Lost box set, there are numerous Easter Eggs, some exclusive to the Blu-ray. Apparently, there are four eggs on the DVD version of the set (all on Disc 5), while there are ten on the Blu-ray (the same four on Disc 5 and all the rest scattered over Discs 2-4).
Complete Collection Bonus Disc (assuming you find it…)
As mentioned earlier, there’s also a “hidden” special bonus disc in Lost: The Complete Collection with over three more hours of extra material pertaining to the series, including:
Letting Go: Reflections of a Six-Year Journey — A 40-minute beautiful and emotional travelogue of various Lost sites around the Hawaiian Islands, hosted by the cast and crew of the show.
Planet Lost — A 12-minute look at Lost around the world, featuring its fans and the actors who do the dubbing of the show’s soundtrack into their native language, as well as a look at Lost internet fans and a peek of Lost at Comic-Con.
Artifacts of the Island: Inside the Lost Prop House — A 14- minute look at ankhs, knives, guns, books, squirrel baby, Aaron stand-ins, Sawyer’s letter, Faraday’s journal, The Hourglass, DHARMA cans, and more of the ephemera of Lost.
Swan Song: Orchestrating The Final Moments of Lost (13 minutes) — Another look at how the amazing music of Michael Giacchino is produced and enhanced for the show. Quite moving.
The Lost Slapdowns — 16 different promotional films first aired on the internet where guest stars (various Muppets appear in four installments), cast members, and even major league baseball players (C.J. Wilson) attempt to trick Darlton into revealing some of the final season’s secrets. (SPOILER ALERT: Only Wilson and the Swedish Chef actually succeed.) Extremely amusing, and all of these together run for 45 minutes!
More Lost on Location (20 minutes’ worth) and Deleted Scenes (about 6 minutes) from across the entire series. Plus there are approximately 21 minutes of More From the Series snippets from Seasons 4 and 5. One of the Blu-ray exclusives for the bonus disc is the Best of the Lost Podcasts — audio-only excerpts from over 25 of the fan-favorite podcasts, where much information is teased and explained by Darlton and various cast members and creative staffers. Apparently hours of information that I’ve only barely dug into as yet.
Plus, Bonus Disc Easter Eggs: I thought I was doing pretty good in finding 14 of them. There seem to be 19 of them, possibly some on Blu-ray only. They run the gamut from goofing around on set, to a couple of Mr. Cluck commercials staring Hurley, to Muppet outtakes, to Special Thanks to the fans from Damon Lindelof, to a montage of Lost DVD screen menus which will run for almost 8 hours (how much time is on a Blu-ray anyway?) — and then keep cycling. My favorite menu is the one with the Lost logo flying along on Flight 815, and as the flight keeps hitting turbulence, the letters of the logo shake and fall out of alignment. I am greatly amused by stupid stuff like this. Also, there is apparently a tutorial on how to play Senet somewhere on the bonus disc. Maybe The Complete Collection does have everything!
I simply cannot tell you how excited I am to be able to dive back into Lost — from the beginning, and in this greatly enhanced format — over the next few months. Especially with the added value of hindsight, I can look for all the clues, all of the Numbers, all the mysterious whispers, all the various guises of the Man in Black, cross-check all the bizarre character connections, mythology, and timeline details, and just in general have a great time reliving one of the modern TV classics of heroic storytelling all over again.
Lost is dead! Long live Lost!