28 January 2011

Lost - Season 6

Lost - Season 6

Created by Jeffrey Lieber, J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof
Starring Naveen Andrews, Matthew Fox, Evangeline Lilly, Josh Holloway, Jorge Garcia, Terry O'Quinn, Henry Ian Cusick, Michael Emerson, Daniel Day Kim, Yunjin Kim, Emile de Ravin, Alan Dale, Nestor Carbonell, Zuleikha Robinson, Jeff Fahey, Ken Leung,
Transmission season: 2010
ABC, 16 episodes, 43 mins.

Note: This review is written with the assumption the reader has already watched the entirety of seasons 1-6, for there are spoilers abound.

Plot: It's a fight of good vs. evil on the island as the Smoke Monsters puts its plan into fruition to finally get off the island, and the LOSTies need to stop him to save everything they hold dear.

Letting go. What a powerful message, and one that seems utterly simple to execute. But it’s not; it’s difficult, and it goes against our nature. All six seasons of LOST, and especially this sixth and final season, is about each character on the show – including and especially Jack Shephard – letting go. It’s simply beautiful. No matter the amount of grievances fans point and shout at executive producers and show runners Damon Linelof and Carlton Cuse about the lack of answers or some other problem, what they have accomplished these last six years is nothing short of extraordinary, and they exit this grand show in spectacular fashion. All these years in the making, and the messages and themes the writers have explored since Day One come into fruition: the goodness and darkness within ourselves, free will versus fate or destiny, and of course, simply letting go. These wonderful and timeless themes are juxtaposed against a thrilling story of good vs. evil this season as the LOSTies face off against the Man in Black, briefly seen in the season five finale “The Incident”, the notorious Smoke Monster (“security system”?) of the island who wants nothing more than to be free.

Juliet detonates a nuclear bomb. Um, okay. So...what the frak happens now? New timeline? Alternate reality? Nothing? "LA X" opens with everything as it should be: Oceanic 815 lands, all is good. Yet we flip back to the island, where everything has gone to shit again. Welcome to the flashsideways, apparently some sort of consequence of Jack's plan that doesn't seem to actually include them. Now that would suck: executing the bomb plan, only to not have yourself be brought back to the beginning. In this world, Claire's still preggers, Jack has a son, Sawyer's a cop, Desmond's the shiz, Kate's still innocent but fugitivy-Kate, Charlie still loves him some drugs...there's similarities and differences in what came before and what happens now. Watching the Sideways world unfold is one of the true delights of the season. With each clue, with each flashback to something that happened on the island or some sort of shout out, what the Sideways world is becomes a question that's just as exciting as 'how is it all going to end?'

On the island, friendships are crushed and unexpected allegiances are formed. The Man in Black is doing everything in his power to get the frak off the island, and many of the surviving LOSTies aren't exactly opposed to the idea themselves. However, the ghost of Jacob isn't too keen on his brother getting out, so he uses the LOSTies to foil his plan.

Anyway. So: answers. The Man in Black is the Smoke Monster. Alright, coolio. There are some confusing elements about past explanations of the Monster that doesn't seem to correspond with this revelation, but I'll go with it. Also, to no surprise, the LOSTies were brought to the island by Jacob as a means to protect the island when he's gone...which was, like, two days ago LOST time. Alright, I dig that explanation. I especially liked the whole lighthouse stuff, explaining how Jacob's able to leave the island and 'touch' each of the candidates in "The Incident" flashbacks. However, my only complaint is that he shoula oughta been preparing them or something all these years. Really, what was the purpose of staying idle until he got murdered to prep them? Did he wanna see who would be the last ones standing? And isn't Jacob more or a monster than Flocke for allowing all the non-candidates to die just for, what, six people? By non-candidates I mean casualties on the plane and the people who died since...Libby, Anna Lucia, Shannon, etc. I know, I know, reading too much into this.

Although each episode of the season was pretty damn good, my favorites include: "Sundown", which was one hell of a stellar episode. Sayid kicking ass! Smokey victorious! Now that's always good television. "Dr. Linus", where even in the Sideways world Ben can be a manipulative small person, but the best part was the interaction between Ben and daughter Alex. "Ab Aeterno" (of course), with every bit of its 48-minute running time as compelling and cinematic as a feature film; "The Candidate" is just plain extraordinary, from the emotional character goodbyes to the action packed moments; "Happily Ever After" is wonderfully written, and a brilliant tease at what the Sideways actually are; and "The End", which still has some problems creatively, but is still one hell of a exit and works on so many levels thanks to the powerful performances, script, and of course, Michael Giacchino.

I Are Actor
I love the entire cast, you know I do. I love 'em, and they are all fantastic. But there is one particular individual that deserves significant mention this season: Terry O'Quinn. Yes, he's done some absolutely splendid work for the show before, but nothing can compare to his performance not only as the Sideways John Locke but also the Man in Black. With words, MIB comes off as a pleasant man, but his face and eyes convey a animalistic, wicked personality, a snake ready to lash out if you displease him. Forget Jack, Desmond, Kate, Sawyer, or even Ben, but this season was completely Lockes, and Terry O'Quinn milked the opportunity for all his worth, and it was magnificent.

Not saying Michael Emerson didn't get to play. Gosh, no. It is true that for the majority of the season, Ben was mostly overcome with a guilty conscious about killing Jacob and being manipulated himself. Ben wasn't up to his normal games or standards we've known of him since season two. Instead, like many have noted, he sort of underwent a transitional period, slowly becoming one of the good guys that's officially cemented in "The End" with his anointment of No. 2. Now, is it possible to parade a actor with accolades because of one single episode? In "What They Died For", when Ben watches Richard being thrown into the jungle by Flocke, Michael Emerson gives such a cool performance. After seeing Richard disappear, Ben just has that face that says, Oh. He slowly walks to a nearby porch, sits down faceforward, and just waits for Flocke to show up, and when asked by him where Charles Widmore is, he coldly says "in my secret closet" (or something like that). Excellent, excellent performance, and one of my top five favorite moments of the season.

Naveen Andrews provides just the right amount of disconnect to Sayid's zombie-like state. Matthew Fox can do this role in his sleep, but luckily he doesn't sleepwalk through his performance, instead allowing Jack to smile for the first time in what seems like eons and actually lead without commanding. Josh Holloway gets his grieving going on in the real world, but it's his performance as a police officer in the Sideways that had me applauding and demanding a spin-off with Miles, played to perfection (once again) by Ken Leung. Jorge Garcia - he can do no wrong, and with his escalated importance to the story this season, he rises to the challenge and is one of the most memorable elements this year. Emile de Ravin shines most profoundly in "The End", not given much to do other than 'crazy girl' for most of the season. Henry Ian Cusick commands the screen just as strongly as Terry and Michael, and any episode with Desmond in it is a blast. Evangeline Lilly is thrown to the sidelines, unfortunately, but she gets her due in the Sideways. Yunjin Kim outshines Daniel Day with emotional intensity and complexity. Nestor Carbonell gives the audience something they've never seen before in "Ab Aeterno", and Alan Dale is basically Alan Dale. As for Zuleikha Robinson, she's....okay. At the end of the day, was her character really needed? Well, I guess she did provide the necessary exposition.

The Season
If there is one absolute, unequivocal, strength with the show, it’s its unwavering dedication to their characters. Toss in as many intriguing mysteries and mythologies into the mix as one would like, but at the end of the day, LOST (and the strikingly similar science fiction show BATTLESTAR GALACTICA) are first and foremost all about the characters, the good and the bad. This season, more than anything, is a complete service to these flawed people we’ve grown to love these past five seasons, as each of them make difficult choices and in the end, face their destiny.

Hell, the writing in general is just fantastic, and pretty much some of the best that was found on television. Week after week, be in present time, a flashback, flashforward, or trip into the Sideways world, the writers of LOST created such unique, individualistic characters with distinct voices and so many dimensions. If it wasn’t for the writers, the actors wouldn’t have such strong material to work with, and the emotional stakes for each character episode after episode wouldn’t be so high and involving. LOST deserves a lot of accolades, and next to the wonderful performances, the writing is next in line.

Since I breached the topic of writing, let’s take a stab at story and the flashsideways for a little bit. Season 1 was all character, Season 2 was about mysteries and questions, Season 3 more about destiny and choices, Season 4 – hell, I don’t know, it was all over the place: love, science fictionyness, action/adventure, etc. – Season 5 was time traveling and purpose, and Season 6 is a fight of good versus evil with the greatness emphasis on character than ever before. It seems appropriate for the series to culminate in such a biblical, mythical storyline. But next to that theme and continuing the character arcs, the writers brilliantly provide us with what seems like an alternate reality: what would happen if Oceanic 815 didn’t crash and none of this destiny mumbo jumbo stuff happened. The flight lands safely, and everyone goes on with their lives. There’s little differences here and there, and lines of dialogue that are callbacks to the first season [sort of OT: I cannot believe how stoked and in love I was when the Man in Black screamed at a ghost of Jacob: “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!” Goosebumps successfully bumped], and for the majority of the season, we, the fans, are completely stumped at what the hell was going on. What is the Sideways world? Why take up time in the shows final season to do this weird…thing? And when everything turns crazy in “Happily Ever After” as Desmond Hume starts a chain of events that lead up to “The End”, I was confused, worried, and filled with theories. How it all comes together and the final, painfully obvious in retrospect answer to what the Sideways world was is brilliant and just as emotionally moving as anything seen on television. I love what Lindelof and Cuse did with the Sideways, I love that this aspect of the story needed to be told. The series could not have worked without this new device, I now believe. It’s so important, so integral to these characters (and especially Jack), that there would be so much weight and story untold and unfelt with its absence.

So, the Man in Black, or ‘Smokey’, the big bad of the season, and, it seems, the entire series. Alright, I’ll give it that. I always love the theme of good versus evil, and won’t fault LOST for centering its final season on such a mythic storyline. But the more we get to see how the unnamed Man in Black came to be who he is, why he wants to kill Jacob, and what his whole motivation is, not to mention his upfront and rather suave personality, I don’t really see this entity of pure evil that, if unleashed, will cloud the world, as Jacob seems to think will happen. Yes, he did kill Jin, Sun and Sayid (and other non-Candidates), but either I’m a heartless bastard or just peculiar but that alone doesn’t make him an evil person. If Cuse and Lindelof failed in anything this season, it was their inability to make the Man in Black’s so-called ‘evil side’ live up to the hype. Instead, I quite found myself not minding the guy. He has a valid reason to hate Jacob by all means, and with the exception of a manipulative side (which Jacob himself has in spades), I get this character, and I don’t fault him. MIB just came across as a desperate man who will do anything to live.

On that note, R.I.P. Jin, Sun, and Sayid. Concerning their deaths, and I’m singling them out because I daresay they made the most impact, I thought there was some poetry and beauty to it. True to, say, the mind of Joss Whedon, it makes perfect sense to have the long-apart couple that once united must die. It just fits, and I applaud the writers for going that route, not to mention how stunning and beautiful and heartbreaking it came across on film. As for Sayid, it’s unfortunate that the kickass individual he could have been was unrealized, but just like Jin and Sun, there is something strangely right about Sayid being a emotionless shell of the man he once was. He felt nothing, he cared about nothing, and he had no hope or (seemingly) conscious. It was a fitting ending for the character, really, when he made his final choice.

One of the amazing things about LOST since the first season is it’s wonderful pacing. This is especially abundant from season four onwards. From the first episode of the season to the last, every beat and every episode feels perfectly placed and planned: where all the characters are geographically from beginning to end, where the characters are emotionally and story-wise, where the plot is at, etc. There’s this amazing coherency and inevitable destination vibe to the whole thing that I don’t see often. And this season is no different. In no time after starting ‘LA X’, we’re at ‘The End’, because the story moves so melodically and smoothly. There’s almost poetry to the whole thing.

I understand there were questions left unanswered, and I frankly didn’t expect any sort of Answer of the Week type thing happening. But there were a few that I felt were far too important and repeated that just didn’t get their just rewards. For one, this whole Walt thing. Now I get that behind-the-scenes, the actor playing Walt just grew up way too fast, so he had to go bye-bye. But all this emphasis on him (and other characters) being “special” [a phrase I so hate after being overused to death in HEROES] goes nowhere. Not even “The New Man in Charge” really shines a light in this area. I don’t care if it was an offhand comment about his specialness, like Ben just saying something to Hugo when Hugo says perhaps, “Hey, Ben, why were you guys all batshit about Walt, again? I forget.” One line, I’d be happy. But most importantly, I wanted a bit more details on the island. What I understand of the island comes much more from interviews with Damon and Carlton than in context of the show itself, and when that’s the case, perhaps there’s something wrong. I’m appreciative that we got “Across the Sea”, showing how long the island’s been around as well as its mystical properties; I appreciate season 5 with all the stuff about electromagnetism and Dharmaville. But the question Charlie asked in the “Pilot” remains largely unanswered. With the Man in Black being so intent on leaving his prison, it was the perfect opportunity for him to spout off some exposition like, ‘in my attempts to destroy/get off the island I discovered…’ Easy peasy. Yes, the characters were the number one most important element of the show, and they serviced them exceptionally well, but the question of what the island is – and more of its history – should be just as important. At the end of the day, obviously nothing I can do about it now other than guess and make up my own history and opinion of the place, but I just feel it was a important question that was left unanswered, and maybe to the shows detriment.

One last element – and perhaps one of the single most crucial if not the crucial – is the score, provided by Michael Giacchino. Anyone reading my LOST season reviews back-to-back will notice one thing in particular: I friggin’ love this guy. Each season Giacchino delivers new themes, new renditions of old themes, and suites that just sink your heart (in a good, I-need-a-cry type of way). With season 6 good and done, it’s safe to say that Michael Giacchino is truly one of the top five best composers working in the business today. You need proof? One could literally pick any episode at random and listen to purely the music, and the evidence is right there on the table. Without Giacchino’s transcending awesome score, would LOST carry the same emotional weight and impact it would otherwise? I personally vote no. No matter the writing or the outstanding and nomination-worthy performances, it’s completely the work of Michael Giacchino that brings everything home, that will, in the end, resonate with the audience more than the events of “The Candidate.” This season, Giacchino’s mastery over music is best exemplified in the season premiere “LA X” [as everyone gets off the plane for the first time since ever], and the series finale “The End” [the CD tracks “The Hole Shebang” and “Moving On” deserve awards on their own]. Seriously, my love for this man has basically cemented my seat in any movie he composes – with the exception of a HANNAH MONTANA sequel because I don’t think my conscious could cope (although it would be interesting to see how he deals with that…). So the point is Giacchino rocks, and one should appreciate the awesomeness of the music. There’s a reason he wins awards (although I wouldn’t necessarily had given it to him for UP).

In the end, season 6 of LOST is a masterpiece of television, of storytelling, of staying true to characters, and of maintaining the same integrity, originality, and brilliance since day one. For all the naysayers who aren’t interested in LOST (and subsequently most likely wouldn’t be reading this, but in the off-chance you are, this is for you), I absolutely recommend it. Initially I wasn’t in the fan-loving league, either, wondering where the excitement of a show about people stuck on an island could possibly come from. But lo and behold, I was captivated from the “Pilot”, and I will think of this show often and analytically. It demands careful attention; it demands thought and self reflection. It demands to, most importantly and impossibly, let go.

Series Review
I had watched Season 1 long before I started really getting into the show, and although I felt it was a very good show, I wasn't particularly enthused to continue. That and the library didn't have the next season (this was before I had Netflix). So for over a year I had seen those first twenty-plus episodes and read some spoilers on the island shenanigans (knew about the time travel aspect of season 5; knew about a few deaths here and there and the infamous Nikki and Paulo storyline), but never really gave it a shot. Then with the info that the final season was about to start, the girlfriend and I thought it'd be fun to fast-track through all previous five seasons and (by that time) the season 6 episodes that had aired by the time "The End" aired. So, in mostly rapid succession, we watched the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth season, and only three of the season 6 episodes before we decided "screw it!" and watched the series finale. I know, I know, dumb choice and all, but it's not as if I was overly spoiled by some aspects.

The entire series is amazing, and it's just as amazing to see the continuity from episode one to the last. Although it does feel like this one grand over-arcing story, anyone else feel there's a sort of double trilogy thing going on? The first three seasons were purely island and character stuff, and the last three was time travel, character, fate material. Just thought it was an interesting observation.

So, my favorite seasons in order: 5, 6, 3, 4, 2, 1. Five is just superb. Six was, as you've read, great. Three was compelling as hell. Four had a good middle and end, rough beginning. Two was pretty damn good. One I need to rewatch again, but still loved. Basically, I loved them all, and a complete series marathon is mandatory during the summer. Perhaps I should post my thoughts here. Again.

I would be remiss to end my coverage of LOST without mentioning something no fan of the show should be without. First and foremost is Nikki Stafford's comprehensive and always enlightening FINDING LOST books, delving into the mythology, characters, mysteries, theories, and other anecdotes relating to the series that is absolutely riveting and insightful. $14.99 a piece, these are must-owns in any fans collection. Online, I direct you to We Have to Go Back - A Year-Long LOST Rewatch. At the time of this writing, they're six episodes into season 2, and their insights and retrospective look is always worth a read. Coming from a vantage point of people who had already seen the entire series, they note correlations with later seasons, themes, character arcs, dialogue motifs, etc. Great stuff.

In the end...
I'm glad I watched LOST.

Misc. Season Notes:
- It was fantastic and immensely satisfying to have Nestor Carbonell elevated in his importance to the story, and he gave hell of an great performance each episode, making him undoubtedly a series highlight.
- Miles: "Well I lived in these houses 30 years before you did... otherwise known as last week.”
- Jack in the Sideways: I loved the continuous nods to Jack's fate from "LA X" all the way to "The End", with the puncture wounds showing up on his neck and side. Moments like that just make me giddy.
- Juliet. Not entirely sure if it was necessary to have Juliet in "LA X" just to die at the end, because really, I don't think her presence in the premiere helps the story along at all. There's dialogue between Sawyer and Juliet that echoes "The End", but when Miles reports her last thoughts ("it worked") it doesn't really mean anything to the characters but more to the audience, so I question her inclusion, welcome as it may be.
- Crazy hair Claire. Yikes.
- Dialogue and STAR WARS references at an all-time high, although nothing can quite compare to Hugo rewriting THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK in season 5.
- Even though it was a tad corny at the beginning, the Jack vs. Flocke fight in "The End" was epically awesome. There's even a pretty decent YouTube rendition of this fight with lightsabers!
- Benjamin Linus and Charles Widmore's final moments in "What They Died For." Fantastic.

Goodbye, LOST!


Marie said...

I agree. The show was incredible, flaws and all.

jeremythecritic said...

Loved the finale and totally thought it went out on top. Also glad I'm not alone in thinking Season 5 was the best.

Andy the Time Lord said...

@Marie: Perfect summation of LOST!

@Jeremy: Yes, I honestly can't think of one bad or even 'meh' episode of S5. It's just soo damn brilliantly written and executed.

I read all your LOST coverage on your blog a while ago, and sometimes I couldn't help but chuckle describing the uselessness of Claire, Charlie and (sometimes) Jin and Sun until "The End" just sorta clicked them in place for ya. I loved your detailed analysis of "LA X" and "The End".

However, I need to know if I'm alone in this: but did you see MIB as a evil bastard or did he come across as more a sympathetic, understandable character as I did?