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Jaffa

Jaffa views the Israeli/Palestinian conflict through the lens of young love. —Matt Anderson (DVD review...)

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For all practical purposes, Lost, The Complete Third Season (like its two predecessors) is a one-disc set of bonus features with six extra discs containing the shows that can be used as reference by fans furiously digging for easter eggs, in-jokes and future clues.

But there’s a mystery occurring on Lost Island, and I’m afraid that it won’t be solved by watching Lost, The Complete Third Season.

Mystery Island

Season 3 spends time with The Others
Season 3 spends time with The Others

The mystery is how so many talented people with so much money riding on it were able to suck the life and magic out of the show. I have my suspicions about the usual suspects, and perhaps they are yours as well. There’s the all-powerful ability of corporate management to turn a thriving enterprise into a zombie mockery of itself. There’s the frantic effort by the writers and producers to sustain the show’s success for a third year (some might say, jump start it after the 2nd years downward trajectory) This may be a case of “the harder you try, the less likely you are to succeed.” There were gambles that didn’t pay off and roads that weren’t taken.

Or maybe it’s all just a question of having had a success without really understanding why it succeeded.

Having thought about it for about 48 minutes, I’ve decided to blame the flashbacks. The show simply spends too much time in filling in the back-story to the characters. This turns Lost, whose original premise was to take a cross section of middle-class folks and throw them onto a spooky-weird island, into a show about what happened to our heroes before they crashed — in other words, a program pretty much like any other about doctors, lawyers, cops, and crooks. We already have TV shows like that. What we didn’t have was a show about mysteriously haunted and menacing tropical islands inhabited by unseen monsters and polar bears. Occasionally there were glimmers of the original magic like when Hurley’s lottery numbers matched those on the Hatch, but that kind of thing hasn’t been sustained.

The Others

When viewing a complete season on DVD, you see the broader arcs of the story, and Season Three seems to be dedicated to The Others, the folks who were already on the island when the plane when down, and who menace our crash survivors. Who are they? What do they want?

These are the things that Season Three dwells on... sort of. The problem is that, having explained the who, what, and why about The Others, you’ve let the air out of their tires... mystery solved, game over. For instance we learned that The Others live in a suburban enclave on their end of the island. If The Hatch let our heroes escape their Robinson Crusoe/Gilligan’s Island lifestyle in Season Two, Other Town does it in spades. And instead of replacing the mystery of The Others with perhaps an even greater mystery , we get bogged down in Other political in-fighting... and, yes, Other flashbacks... sigh. Sure there’s the mystery of Jacob — who, or whatever that might be — but I sense a bit of shark-jumping here.

In the end, even the Lost writers seemed burned out on the flashback and tried their hand at a flash-forward which, apart from the novelty, produces exactly the same effect of yet another mundane soap opera. We see Jack still has his drinking problem but he and Kate seem to be back in LA. How did they get there? Were they rescued? Whose funeral did Jack attend? (and why wouldn’t Kate go to it?) Will we find out what happened up on the radio tower mountain? Is it all a dream? Will we care? I hope so.

For Season Four, I would refer the Lost writers to a plot device used by Arthur Clark in Childhood’s End that they could use to re-inflate the mystery of Lost Island. In Clark’s story, seemingly all-powerful aliens come to Earth, take over and in 50 years of benevolent dictatorship bring about a golden age for mankind, all the while remaining unseen to the humans. When the human race is ready, aliens are revealed to be dead ringers for Satan himself. But at that point Clark raises the ante and we discover that the aliens are just working for a higher power who is as mysterious to them as the Satan-aliens were to the Earthlings. Furthermore, that higher power has some grand design for the humans that the Satan-aliens are not capable of participating in. Nevertheless, the aliens solider on and complete their task.

Likewise on Lost, we could find out that The Others are in turn pawns in a bigger game, a game in which they know our original survivors are more important and hence their sibling-like anger at being replaced. There you go guys, do that, and Season Four just writes itself. Heck, you could even start with the Jacob thread.

DVD Extras

Out of the 23 episodes in this set, there are 4 commentary tracks. For me the pick of the litter is on Disc 5 featuring Damon Lindelof (Co-creator/Executive Producer), Carton Cuse (Executive Producer) and Michael Emerson (Ben Linus/Henry Gale). The two producers do most of the talking, though I think pairing Emerson up with a couple of the other actors on another episode would have been more interesting than having him sit quietly in the background. Though we do learn that the actress who plays Ben’s mother is Emerson’s wife.

There is also a printed table of contents with a synopsis and disc number for each episode. Curiously, this is where I would have expected to find a listing for the commentary tracks, but there isn’t one. Amusingly, each synopsis ends with a sentence that begins “In a flashback ...” (though of course the last two say “In a flash-forward...”). Is the flashback seen as a feature and not a bug?... probably so.

Picture and Sound

The high production values are one thing that has remained constant for three years on Lost. This show is still a beauty to watch — even the flashbacks.

How to Use this DVD

Lost fans will go straight to Disk 7 for the good stuff, like “Lost In A Day,” one day in the life of Lost. Then there is the “Lost Book Club” where we are shown “the significance of Lost’s literary references.” Sawyer would appreciate Ayn Rand, Steven King is great, and no, we are not referencing Lord of the Flies. And yes there are even more flashbacks that were not used.