10 May 2010

Lost - Season 2

Lost: Season 2
Starring Matthew Fox, Evangelline Lilly, Daniel Day Kim, Jorge Garcia, Yunjin Kim, Naveen Andrews, Josh Holloway, Harold Perrineau
Co-starring Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Michelle Rodriguez, Cynthia Watros, Michael Emerson, Maggie Grace
Developed by J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse
Original transmission season: 2005-2006
ABC, 24 episodes, 43 mins.

Plot: A very large group of plane crash survivors are stuck on a island that holds a lot more mysteries than just 'so how many trees do you think are on the island?'.

They weren't lying - this program is friggin' addicting! The characters, the stories, the strong writing, the suspense, the mysteries, and the gorgeous scenery - Lost is a very interesting show. I'm already pulled in by the characters and their subsequent flashbacks, clinching to every word uttered by Henry Gale, rooting for Sayid in nearly any situation, smiling like a dumbie when the beautiful Evangeline Lilly is on screen, digging every one-liner Hurley gives, and being captivated by the newly introduced Mr. Eko.

You'll have to forgive me if this review isn't brilliant and in-depth on the philosophical implications Lost presents, my mind is still reeling from the events of the first two discs of season 3, which have thus far been spectacular. But first, a brief overview of the season...

Season 2 consists of 4 main plots: 1) 'the hatch', discovered by Locke and Boone midway through season 1, and a series of numbers that must be entered into a computer every 108 minutes or it will cause 'the end of the world' - as said by the newly introduced enigmatic character of Desmond (Cusick), 2) the four survivors of Flight 815 that landed on the other side of the island - Mr. Eko, Libby, Ana Lucia, and Bernard, 3) Micheal's obsession in finding Walt, and 4) the continuing threat of "the Others."

First up on the discussion board is the hatch. Metaphorically, it represents the power struggle
between Jack and Locke, two people of opposing ideologies that have been designated, so to speak, as leader of the Oceanic 815 survivors. The two who make the rough decisions and play the 'hero' role. For Locke, the hatch - and furthermore, the code that needs to be executed every 108 minutes: 4 8 15 16 23 42 - is a representation of destiny, a reward of his unyielding faith. What's interesting about the Locke character is that as the season progresses, he slowly goes from this charge to a doubting man, a questioning man, while Jack begins to consider the concepts of destiny and fate. A beautiful scene in "Orientation" juxtaposes the two men's ideologies when they first decide to enter the numbers: Locke urges Jack, and Jack's adamant that nothing is going to happen. Makes for some great drama. The very concept of fate/destiny/free will is front and center this season, especially with the introduction of Mr. Eko, a man who firmly believes everything that has transpired the last 48 days have been the act of God.

As far as Desmond's claim that not entering in the code would end the world, well, in the finale we did see the disastrous after effect of not doing the whole code-executing thing, but it wasn't globally devastating. Hopefully further explanations on the numbers, the electromagnetism of the hatch, and the overall importance of all these elements will shed more light on the subject. Just, in the grand scheme of things from what I've read about Jacob and the Man in Black, how does the Dharma Initiative and these hatches fit into the whole equation?

Apparently Lindelof and Cuse felt they needed more cast members added to their already lengthy billing, so we're introduced to the other survivors of Flight 815 who landed on the other side of the island, in the episode "The Other 48 Days." Ana Lucia was a cop until she shot and killed a man who shot her; the utterly awesome and equally awesomely-named Mr. Eko was a drug lord-ish dude in Nigeria until he renounced his wicked ways (although they're not entirely gone) and followed the path of God as directed by his deceased brother Yemi; Bernard is the husband of the old African American lady on the beach and really wants to get back to her - although whenever I see that bloke onscreen I see him as Holland Manners, head of the LA Wolfram & Heart branch; and Libby, a sweet gal who ends up having a awesome arc with Hurley later in the season.

The third over-arching storyline is Micheal's mad hunt for Walt, reducing his entire episode lines to him screaming "WALT!!!!!!!" and "They took my son!!!", as if we didn't get that part the first 1,505 times he actually said it. However, his irritating presence is lessened in the middle portion of the season, as he's absent searching the island for WALT!!!!!! However, with his return episode, we're given one hell of a cliffhanger ending that literally made me shout "Holy friggin' AWESOME!" Even though it was spectacular and completely unexpected, it was sad to see two characters depart. From that episode on, though, the season's momentum goes to high-gear and brings us a really jaw-dropping finale.

And finally, we have "the Others", a group of island folk that have been talked about since the first season. They present themselves as primitive individuals lacking in shoes and decent clothes, bu in actuality, they're highly intelligent, manipulative, cunning, and advanced. The whole "Others" storyline picks up speed with the introduction of Henry Gale, played to utter chilling perfection by Michael Emerson. His speech about what he would do if he was a Other - said against the backdrop of him eating breakfast - will continue to haunt me for years to come. The Others will be explored much more thoroughly in season 3, as in this season they are or more or less enigmatic enemies the Oceanic survivors need to brace themselves against.

Overall, it's amazing the show makes it feel like we've endured a miraculous, emotional and adrenaline-filled journey when, in retrospect, not a lot happened in 23 episodes. Jack and Company discovered the hatch and need to put in a particular code, a new small group of survivors are introduced and nearly quickly dispatched, relationships get complicated and convoluted, the Others finally strike and things turn to shit again. A decent enough summary, eh?

The Best Episodes of the Season: "The 23nd Psalm", the Mr. Eko-centric episode, is pure gold from a acting, scripting, scoring, and visual effects standpoint - it's just brilliant, and gives us a nice visual of the Monster (aka "Smokey"). The two-part finale "Live Together, Die Alone" is also splendid, what with the double-crossing, Henry Gale, the difficult choices that everyone is being forced to make, and most awesomely - Locke's faith put to the test down in the hatch. Speaking of betrayal, "Two for the Road" was pretty damn awesome, and delivered a definite OMG!!! ending. "Collision" was nice just to see Shannon finally bite the bullet. Oh, and "One of Them" was a awesome Sayid-centric episode; I always love those ones.

The Not Best Episodes of the Season: "Fire + Water" was dumb and pointless (yeah, yeah, even though it reintroduces the heroin subplot of Charlies, it was still worthless) and painful to watch due to utterly bad writing (although it was awesome to see Locke beat up Charlie); "Dave" was just OK, and I'm still pissed that little revelation about Libby hasn't been explored yet; and "Adrift" was sorta boring.

Characters who aren't Jack, Locke, Mr. Eko, or Hurley don't really seem to go through any character growth. Charlie remains his obnoxious, Claire-obsessed stalker-y-self successfully making him Obnoxious Character #1; Kate doesn't have anything to do, and shines best in her flashback episode "What Kate Did"; Sawyer remains Sawyer; lovebirds Sun and Jin are reunited, and after the bliss passes Jin's back to his commanding ways; Ana Lucia and Libby aren't given the opportunity to grow; Michael doesn't remotely grow - his IQ actually seems to drop; Claire's life is centered on her child Aaron; Bernard and his wife are also reunited and also go back to their bickering ways...Luckily, looks like season 3 features a bit more development with nearly all the characters.

Speaking of characters, let's take a gander at the actors. Matthew Fox is pretty darn tootin' good as Jack, able to bring the goods whenever necessary. Josh Holloway is a absolute joy to watch as Sawyer, a man who delights in being a prick. However, his flashback episode is a marvelous example of Holloway's abilities, as he's able to not only amp up the prick level but show a profound vulnerability not seen in the character on the island. Jorge Garcia shows us why he's a fan favorite, basically voicing the audiences' questions and reactions right on the show. I actually didn't mind Michelle Rodriguez as Ana, and I felt her character went away too quickly. Adewale was awesome as Mr. Eko, and it took a IMDB search to realize I've actually seen this dude before, and without the accent! Naveen Andrews and Terry O'Quinn are truly the masters of the show in my opinion, being perhaps the most versatile actors on the payroll.

Dominic Monaghan is alright, Emile de Ravin is alright, Evangeline Lilly is pretty good, Harold Perrineau did a nice job showing the emotional turmoil of Michael whenever the character wasn't highly annoying, Michael Emerson gives a tour de force performance as Henry Gale, Maggie Grace is mercifully discarded, and guest star John Terry as Jack's father is utter awesomeness.

Whenever a show tackles subjects like free will vs. fate/destiny, I'm immediately intrigued. It's one of the awesomest aspects of Supernatural, aside from the obvious Dean/Sam brotherly love. Season 2 seems to be all about that theme, with Mr. Eko and Locke being the prime advocates. Charlie seems to becoming drawn to the idea that a higher power has been guiding them and has a larger purpose for them - Claire and Aaron, specifically. The best use of the theme is in the finale, "Live Together, Die Alone", with Locke choosing not to put the code in and pushing the "Execute" button, believing that nothing will happen. The insane tension that comes out of the Locke/Desmond/Eko scenes in that episode is unrelentingly nail-biting and exquisitely interesting. I'm half tempted to go out and buy me some "Lost and Philosophy" book just to read about the show's proposed philosophy on the free will vs. fate debate.

Seasons 1 and 2 sort of act as "the island" seasons, where the emphasis what solely on the characters and their island-bound situation. As of right now, I'm 9 episodes into season 3, and already I can tell that season is very much the beginning of the real story - the meat. Since I'm a sucker for spoilers, I know about Jacob and the Man in Black from seasons 5 and 6, and there's already hints at the Jacob character twice in these last 9 episodes. Season 3 is Losts Empire Strikes Back, and the following seasons appear to be the major conflict/resolution, whereas the previous two were set-up, in a way.

Before I finish up this review, I do want to mention watching Lost week-by-week vs. the DVD format. I understand that season 3 debuted with six episodes, and then went on a lengthy hiatus until the later episodes had a uninterrupted run, and that it became excruciatingly frustrating for fans. I have concluded that watching Lost on DVD format is the way to go. The DVD route makes the bad episodes not quite as bad and irritating to watch. Lost not only likes to play with time in the show, but also likes to put a episode or two in-between giant cliffhangers and lingering questions, and I can absolutely understand fans discontent with a stellar episode being followed up with a pointless filler. Although the DVD format doesn't entirely make this problem a thing of the past, it nonetheless lessens the annoyance level of it.

Plus, it just makes everything flow much better. It nicely cements the full storyline idea, where everything flows full circle, and the longevity of some scenarios seem to take less time on DVD than waiting week for week. Take the New Caprica stuff from Battlestar Galactica season 3, for example. Four weeks of Cylon occupation constitutes a one-time sit down disc that takes no more than three hour and some change. Voila! Less time spent without the Galactica in action, and audiences are happy again.

Anyway, Lost is a pretty damn good show. I'm interested enough to continue pursuing the program, to hopefully find resolution to lingering questions and the characters. Is it at the level of greatness that many claim it to be? Might be, but season 2 isn't quite the best example of it. I'm nearly through season 3 as of press-time, and right now I'd call that season pretty great, so I have a feeling the best has yet to come.

My goal is to watch all of the seasons including the majority of season 6 before the 23 May 2010 finale, so that gives me about two weeks to watch 60 episodes...Wish me luck! A review of season 3 should be forthcoming by next Wednesday.

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