Lost - Season 4
Starring Naveen Andrews, Matthew Fox, Evangeline Lilly, Josh Holloway, Jorge Garcia, Terry O'Quinn, Elizabeth Mitchell, Henry Ian Cusick, Michael Emerson, Daniel Day Kim, Yunjin Kim, Emile de Ravin, Harold Perrineau
Developed by Jeffrey Lieber, J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof
Transmission season: 2006-2007
ABC, 14 episodes, 43 mins.
Plot: The Oceanic 815 survivors are uber-giddy 'cuz it appears that rescue is on its way - but y'know the thing about appearances....they tend to be, well, deceiving.
"I used to have dreams" - Benjamin Linus, "Cabin Fever"
Thanks to the 100 day Writer's Strike, Lost - Season 4 had a truncated season. From the usual 23 episodes, we got 14 (a extra hour given at the 11th hour due to the magnitude of events that transpire in the two-part finale). On one hand, a smaller season, but on the other hand, it offered a tighter story structure which allowed more plot points to happen at a quicker pace, and less stand-alone episodes. Plus with the announcement that Lost would be concluding its run in three seasons by 2010, every episode would be precious.
What we got is a overall decent season, but not nearly as powerful as the third. I know I said this with the previous review, but I'd say it more qualifies here: season 4 acts as a epilogue to the original story - the story of 40+ survivors on a island full of mysteries, and then moves us into the final act - which introduces science fiction elements, furthers destiny vs. free will, and introduces a whole new set of problems that will eventually lead up to the series finale.
When we left the islanders, the survivors were in jubilee, super happy that rescue is imminent, but yet Locke and Charlie's warning that something is amiss quite dampers the mood, which literally separates the survivors into Team Locke and Team Jack. Through the course of the season, both members of the groups analyze their decisions, come to conclusions about themselves and about what matters to them, and occasionally switch sides here and there.
This season's main mystery is all about the freighter, the people on the freighter, and what exactly is their purpose on the island if it isn't rescuing the survivors? It's overall not as compelling as the Others storyline from the past season, but by the finale, the suspense and masterwork of storytelling is at a all-time high, so the decent season is quite forgiven. And Lost being Lost, this season brings new characters and expands old ones as their roles in the mythology become more important.
In the category of new recruits, we've got Daniel Faraday, Miles, and Charlotte, three dudes picked by Charles Widmore to come to the island and do...stuff. Daniel is the highlight character by far, all of his awesome eccentricities and mild mannered whisper-like voice easily making every one of his scenes something special. Faraday is also the personification of a exposition tool, something that will become more extreme in the following season. Basically, it's great fun to watch this guy act and say his scientific mumbo jumbo. As a casualty of the strike, Charlotte's character isn't allowed the opportunity to really be significant, but again, this gets addressed in the first batch of season 5 episodes. And then we got Miles, the witty to-the-point bloke who apparently can 'feel' and 'speak' to our dearly departed. As far as new characters introduced, Miles is my second fave.
Alan Dale's Charles Widmore, father of Penny Widmore, becomes far more integral to the plot than ever before (and from what I've seen of the next season, he's only gonna play a even bigger role). Widmore hires some army dudes and these scientists to go to the island, extract/kill Benjamin Linus, and then murder everyone on that island. Charles is one badass mofo that you just don't want to cross paths with. As to be expected by Alan's amazing ability to be a cold, heartless jackass, his performance is rock solid. No complaints. Gotta love that dude.
Additionally, making a return appearance after being totally absent in season 3, Harold Perrineau rejoins the cast as Michael, and this time with a redemptive storyline that I actually don't mind! Michael has been on his own little journey since leaving the island - basically a journey to kill himself. He's been so emotionally burdened by what he did to Ana and Libby in season 2 - plus the fact that after he blurted this info to Walt the kid doesn't want to speak to him - that he becomes reckless and fully embracing death. It's odd that characters like Michael and Charlie, two blokes who I had no love for, became interesting only after death gets involved: for one of 'em, a prophesied death, and for the other, a need for death that won't be fulfilled by the island's reckoning. His character, although credited for the entire 13-episode run, only appears in about seven of those episodes, which is a shame. This time around, his arc of redemption is quite engaging to watch, and it's a shame it's not further explored with the exception of Michael's flashback episode "Meet Kevin Johnson."
A nifty device that that makes this season unique compared to its predecessors is the introduction of the flash-forwards, events that take place three years after everything that's happening on the island. There's the "Oceanic Six", which we quickly learn the identities to, and we get information about their official story of what happened to them during the plane crash, as well as the not-as-happy-ending-as-we-would-figure scenarios that happen to basically everyone. Legal troubles, institutions, suspensions, assassinations - these guys come back messed up, perhaps moreso than they were on the island.
Oh! And before I forget, that's another beautiful element of season 4 that gets solidified more in the flash forwards - addressing the island as its only little alive creature, basically being something really powerful, really unique, and really special. I mean that the island isn't just some place where the Oceanic survivors walk around and face off enemies, it actually seems to be something alive, something that can make decisions (e.g., being not 'done' with people yet, like in the case of Michael), something God-like almost. Hopefully the answer of what the island is and its many mysteries will be revealed in the series finale airing in...three days. Sheesh. I've got 23 episodes to watch before Sunday!
As far as our heroes are concerned - Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Juliet, Sun, Jin, Hurley, Sayid, Locke, Claire - they have two goals: 1) surviving any way they can, and 2) getting off the island (for those in Team Jack). It's those goals that bring the momentum to the season, and regrettably, with everything going on with the freighter and the determination to get off the island, characters aren't allowed to evolve. The good news is that the Oceanic Six brings some gorgeous character development - or, in a sad way, regressions. You'll know what I mean when you see the episodes. It is quite interesting that in the midst of them not knowing what to do with their lives, some of them resort to who or what they were before.
In the midst of all this ongoing war stuff with the army dudes on the freighter, season 4 delivers one of the biggest emotional punches in the entire series (as of yet), and it happens to a character we all love to despise: Benjamin Linus. Two characters that are very close to him die, one of them right in front of his eyes. The pure shock, fury, and hatred that's etched on Michael Emerson's face was worthy of a Emmy alone. By the finale, Linus takes his revenge at a great cost of many other lives. Y'know in Braveheart when Mel Gibson rides in slowly on his horse after his wife is killed and you just know that shit. got. real? Yeah, well that's Ben Linus' face when he says, "They just changed the rules."
Concerning Ben, his character arc nicely evolves as well. No longer is he the man in charge, calling for action and making the tough decisions. Instead he spends a good portion of the season tied up and dragged around until the halfway point, where he really becomes a pitiful character to a extent. Yeah, he stays true to his old ways of using nothing but his words to coerce people into doing what he wants them to do, and is as sinister as he was in the season before, but this year Ben becomes quite the sympathetic figure. The finale really hit me in the gut emotionally as Ben makes a sacrifice, nearly as much as that line I quoted before the review. It's beautiful cases like these that show the beauty of the Lost writers.
When Lost is done and gone, and we remember the show, the time traveling element and the rich, beautifully written characters will be the top two things I will fondly recall of the show.
Once again, Michael Giacchino gives us outstanding work. I'd go so far as to say his compositions this season kicks the ass out of the previous three. He shows off some particularly jaw-dropping work in the two-part finale, and a Lost - Season 4 soundtrack is definitely high on my list of must-buy stuff. Next to pizza. See, that's how important it is to me.
One final thing worth mentioning - the DVD extras. The Complete Fourth Season box set comes with a buttload of extras - two discs worth! Behind the Scenes footage galore, nearly a hour of chronological order flash forwards, and perhaps the best part of the set: audio commentaries! For those who've read earlier DVD reviews, you know I'm a commentary whore, so their inclusion is a happy bonus. The best thing, though, is that the two-part finale "There's No Place Like Home" features commentary with Lindelof and Cuse, who are friggin' awesome - a nice balance of detail, info, and jokes. For those who own the set, I implore you to listen to them, you will not be disappointed.
A strong season, no doubt, but not one of my favorites. There's some great episodes, such as the much-hailed "The Constant" and two-part finale, but it was overall just a decent, although necessary, season. The show is beginning to walk away from the stranded-on-a-weird-island storyline and is now entering new uncharted territory by introducing sci-fi elements into the program, but yet nicely keeping it in the realm of possibilities within the shows universe. Themes of fate/destiny vs. free will, individual purpose, life, death, and the human reaction to loss...it's all still there. I'm 11 episodes into Season 5, and it already is one hell of a jaw-dropping ride!