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Reviewed by Jason Zingale
f Tim Kring were smart, he’d check out the last two seasons of “Lost” for pointers on how to fix his own troubled show (“Heroes”), because despite running into a bit of turbulence during the second (and even the start of the third) season, the island drama is flying higher than ever before. Credit the brave souls at ABC for allowing executive producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof to set a 2010 endgame to one of the network’s highest-rated series. Along with assuring its viewers that the creators had already mapped out an ending, the three-year plan also meant fewer episodes per season, which in turn led to more focused plotlines. The writers’ strike nearly ruined that ingenious strategy, but despite a break in action, and two fewer episodes than originally planned, “Lost” promptly returned to deliver its best year yet.
The Season Three finale may have introduced the concept of the flash-forward, but it didn’t become a major storytelling device until Season Four, where we learned that survivors had not only made it off the island, but were now trying to find a way back. As the season opens, the Oceanic Six (the name given to the six survivors of Oceanic Flight 815) are worldwide celebrities, but no one knows that it was all a big cover-up. Jack (Matthew Fox) is having trouble dealing with the lie, and has resorted to drinking to cope with his decision, while the other survivors have had similar trouble with moving on. Kate (Evangeline Lilly) is now raising Claire’s (Emilie de Ravin) son, Aaron; Hurley (Jorge Garcia) is back in the nut house and seeing ghosts; Sayid (Naveen Andrews) is working as an assassin for Ben (Michael Emerson); and Sun (Yunjin Kim) has purchased a controlling share in her father’s company, which she plans to use for reasons involving a return to the island.
Meanwhile, present day island life has reached an emotional boiling point. After Jack and Locke (Terry O’Quinn) butt heads over the incoming rescue helicopter, the survivors split up into two groups: those who want to seek rescue and those who believe Charlie’s warning enough to stay on the island. When the rescue team finally does arrive, Jack learns that their salvation isn’t the “primary objective,” but rather to capture Ben Linus and bring him back to their boss. Though the team members – physicist Daniel Faraday (Jeremy Davies), cultural anthropologist Charlotte Lewis (Rebecca Mader), ghost whisperer Miles Straume (Ken Leung) and pilot Frank Lapidus (Jeff Fahey) – are viewed as the outsiders of the group, they’re actually much more civil than the mercenaries waiting on the freighter just off the coast. And as Sayid and Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick) soon discover, Ben has an inside man on the freighter who may just prove to be the wild card in the big coup.
As we all know by now, that man was none other than Michael (Harold Perrineau). Recently recruited by Ben following a series of failed suicide attempts, Michael views his latest mission as a means of redemption for selling out his friends at the end of Season Two. Unfortunately, Perrineau’s top secret return wasn’t a secret at all, as he was not only listed in the opening credits weeks before his first appearance, but the news was posted all over the web months before the season even began. This made the big reveal about as exciting as the one-off return of Ana Lucia, since Michael as a character has always been less interesting than the plots he’s involved in. For many, myself included, it was worse than cramming Nikki and Paolo down our throats. Still, despite the fact that the writers wasted an entire hour detailing the events that led to Michael becoming a crewmember on the freighter, it was one of very few episodes that can truly be considered a failure. Usually, most seasons have a pretty even good-to-bad episode ratio, but the fourth season represented a major increase in quality from week to week. There weren’t as many standout episodes as before, but there also weren’t as many bad ones either.
Still, no matter how you feel about the lack of memorable episodes, it’s hard to forget “The Constant,” the mind-bending Desmond-centric story that found the Scot traveling back in time (in his consciousness, natch) to meet Daniel Faraday for help in preventing a brain aneurism. It was not only the best episode of the season, but quite possibly the series as well, and it will live on in the hearts of every sci-fi fan for years to come. In fact, if you love sci-fi and don’t follow “Lost,” stop what you’re doing right now and watch it. It might not make you a fan of the show, but it’ll at least make you appreciate what Cuse and Lindelof have brought to the series and the genre.
The other major reason why Season Four is so much better than the previous two years is the addition of new cast members Davies, Mader, Leung and Fahey. The show has proven in the past that there’s a right way to introduce new characters (Ben and Juliet) and there’s a wrong way to do it (Paolo, Nikki, and to some extent, the Tailies). And with an ensemble cast that continues to grow in size each year, the writers have finally figured out that the only way to properly insert new characters into the mix is to make them essential to telling the story. It also helps when you’ve got four of the most underrated actors in the business playing them. Jeremy Davies, in particular, is so good as the twitchy physicist that he should have been rewarded with a nod at this year’s Emmy Awards. Though his character was last seen stranded in the middle of the ocean, it’s hard to believe he won’t return for the next season. After all, with Desmond recently reunited with Penny, who else will be the go-to guy for all of Cuse and Lindelof’s crazy time-traveling excursions?
Special Features: ABC usually does a good job of compiling a massive collection of bonus material every year, but the fact that they’ve matched that level of output for a season with almost half as many episodes is incredible. What’s even more so is that most of the extras are actually better than those that have appeared on past sets. The five-disc Blu-ray release only features four audio commentaries, but the ones that do appear are for some of the most important episodes of the season. Actors Evangeline Lilly and Jorge Garcia reminisce about the season premiere, “The Beginning of the End”; Daniel Dae Kim and Yunjin Kim discuss fan favorite, “Ji Yeon”; and writers/producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse geek out over the “The Constant” and the season finale, “There’s No Better Place Like Home.”
With the exception of the lighting-fast recap, “Lost in 8:15,” the rest of the extras appear on the final disc, including featurettes on everything from shooting on location (“The Island Backlot”) to a music featurette (“Soundtrack of Survival”) with three excerpts from the “Lost”-themed concert held in Honolulu. “Lost on Location” offers a behind-the-scenes look at production on eight different episodes, while “The Right to Bear Arms” is a cool featurette about how one unlucky crew member was put in charge of tracking the guns that constantly switch possession throughout the course of the first three seasons. Rounding out the set is a fake news special (“The Oceanic Six: A Conspiracy of Lies”), a character featurette (“The Freighter Folk”), the option to watch all of the flash-forwards in chronological order (“Course of the Future”), deleted scenes, and all 13 “Missing Pieces” mobisodes.