Lost: Season Five

Phew, so, finally I’ve got my lovely new laptop and I’m able to start blogging again. You might remember, a very long time ago now, I’ve been re-watching all five previous seasons of Lost, in preparation for the sixth and final season, which has now started. Every night next week, I’ll post my thoughts on the first six episodes of the season, but first there’s some unfinished business to do, with a look back to season five.

As usual, the rest of this post contains spoilers for people who haven’t seen all five seasons so far…

The season begins where the fourth left off, showing us what happened immediately after the island “moved” while flashforwards continued the story of the Oceanic Six and their bid to return home. While I did feel that these first few episodes were quite imbalanced, with the time travel on the island being vastly more interesting than the goings on off the island, the quality of the episodes overall was very high.

The time travel was a great device for tying up some loose ends (no more so than the glimpse of Rousseau’s first days on the island that we all wanted to see) and reminding us of important past moments (including the night Aaron was born while Locke was banging on the hatch door) and uncovering some startling revelations (such as a young Other in the 1950s being revealed as Charles Widmore). It also foreshadowed one event we’ve yet to see the other side of, with our heroes being shot at by unseen people in a boat. The second episode of the season very quickly purged virtually all of the background cast of Oceanic 815 survivors, leaving only Locke, Sawyer, Rose, Bernard and Vincent on the island, along with Juliet and from the freighter, Faraday, Miles and the ill-fated Charlotte.

Eventually, the two timelines converged with the arrival of Ajira flight 316, a pivotal moment in the season which inspired awe and incredulity in equal measure. The idea that the Oceanic Six had to get as close as possible to the conditions of flight 815 to reach the island, “just because” that’s how it works, was quite a difficult one to swallow and took as much of a leap of faith for the audience as it did for Jack – indeed, Ms Hawking’s conversations with him were as much directed at us viewers. But moments such as the closely observed re-enactment of the opening of the pilot episode when Jack wakes up back on the island and the fact that the runway the Others were building on the Hydra island way back in season three was given it’s purpose here, reaffirmed the belief that there is some real genius behind the writing of this series.

And so, the remaining half of the season is split in two in a slightly different way. The time-travelling Losties end up in 1974 and join the DHARMA Initiative. Three years pass before they are joined by Jack, Kate, Hurley and “Hostile” Sayid. Everything that’s great about Lost can be found in these 1977 scenes. There’s beautifully emotional character-driven drama, humourous riffs on pop culture, and an unfolding, intricate mythology punctuated by shocking twists.

The other half of the story is set in 2007, and is equally as interesting, as Sun, Ben, and Frank arrive on the Island, along with the Others, Ilana and her group and a seemingly resurrected John Locke. Although it’s very interesting to spend time with the DHARMA Initiative and tie those loose ends up, it’s always been said by the writers that the story of Lost could easily be told without DHARMA. It’s in these 2007 scenes that there’s a sense of the real meat of the story being told, and the answers starting to come.

Locke’s fate is particularly interesting in this season. All throughout the series we had been told that Locke was special, and despite seeing in his flashbacks how pathetic and miserable his life really was, all the evidence on the island led us to believe that there really was something important about him, especially when he appeared to come back from the dead, something that even shocked Ben. The story of John Locke really began when he flashed through time next to the beechcraft and Richard Alpert gave him a compass. When he later arrived in the 1950s, he gave the compass to Alpert (thus creating a time loop) and said that Jacob sent him. Thinking that this made Locke important, Alpert visited him several times as he grew up, which of course led to Locke’s sense of being special. It was only in the final moments of the season that the truth emerged – there was nothing special about Locke, he had been used by the Man In Black just like his father used him before, and the whole idea that there was something special about him was all a self-fulfilling prophecy. Despite what we had been led to believe, John Locke was not the wise man who was so in tune with the island that he was brought back to life, but the same desperately tragic man we had seen in the flashbacks, a wannabe hunter whose life ended in a seedy Los Angeles hotel, strangled by the jealous and manipulative Benjamin Linus. This was a remarkably brave, shocking move by the writers, after years of making it seem as if the story of Lost might end with Locke as the protector of the island.

Upon rewatch, I felt this season of Lost was almost faultless. I know that there were a number of people who didn’t enjoy it so much, those who felt confused by the time travel or uninterested in the DHARMA stories. I thought it was mostly well written and well performed, and had a cinematic style in terms of cinematography and sound that surpassed everything that had come before. The direction became more daring and creative, creating an incredible atmosphere in so many scenes.

The Blu-ray discs also include a special feature, called Lost University, which includes short lectures and “exams” on a variety of subjects related to the series. Taking full advantage of Blu-ray Live, your test scores are uploaded to the ABC website, where there’s a whole “campus” community to engage with. Even without the Lost connection, many of the topics covered would be very interesting, including the physics of time travel, the philosophers many of the characters are named after and a fascinating look at hieroglyphics. There’s even one lecture that helps you to learn important phrases (like “4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42”) in Korean.

where it starts

As is the tradition, this season of Lost opened with an unexpected scene, and like seasons two and three, involved a character playing a record. This time, the mystery character was Dr. Marvin Candle/Hallowax/Wickmund (or Pierre Chang to give him his real name, a play on the actor’s name, Francois Chau), and at the time it was quite a thrill to see him outside of a DHARMA orientation film for the first time. But this opening was a double-whammy, as there was also the shock of seeing Daniel Faraday, looking no younger than usual, in the 1970s.

The rest of the episode continued straight from where the end of season four left off. In 2007, Jack and Ben started to set about getting the Oceanic Six to return to the island, with Jack’s first move being to shave off that beard. Meanwhile, Sayid helped Hurley to escape from Santa Rosa, finding a brutal new use for a dishwasher along the way. Back on the island in 2004, Ben turning the donkey wheel caused the island to start skipping backwards and forwards through time.

When the season was first broadcast, it was a two-hour premiere, but unlike seasons 1 and 6, which started with a double-length episode, this was followed by a second, the Hurley-centric The Lie. This great episode included Hurley (who apparently ♥s shih-tzus) seeing the ghost of Ana Lucia, his mother wondering “why is there a dead Pakistani on my couch?”, Neil Frogurt being skewered by a flaming arrow, and the first sight of Ms Hawking since we last saw her way back in season three.

the best episode

This is a difficult choice, because there are so many great episodes in this season. Aside from the brilliant finale, which I’ll look at later, there was the absolutely phenomenal The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham which took us through Locke’s final days as he attempted to convince the Oceanic Six to return to the island. The companion piece to this episode, 316, while having some moments that made you really have to trust where the writers were going (the audience being in a similar position to Jack), featured some incredible scenes, including Ben telling Jack the story of Doubting Thomas, and that opening sequence which copied the first scenes of the first episode. Other brilliant episodes included the heartbreaking Whatever Happened, Happened, Faraday’s episode The Variable and the revelatory Dead Is Dead. In fact after rewatching season five, I can’t think of a single episode that was anything other than completely brilliant.

But my choice for best episode is perhaps not one many people would choose, it’s LaFleur. The episode begins when Sawyer, Juliet, Jin, Miles and Daniel first arrive in DHARMA times in 1974, and then flashes back and forward between then and 1977, ending with the arrival of Jack, Kate and Hurley. Structurally, this was a very difficult thing to pull off, but the episode flowed well, with the help of some “Three years later” captions, which was particularly poignant when it appeared just after Juliet mentions staying on the island for just two more weeks. The episode shows us the beginnings and then the later stages of the very sweet relationship between Sawyer, now known as Jim LaFleur, and Juliet, a relationship many viewers didn’t expect but took to very easily.

What made this episode particularly good was the cinematography, it just looked incredible. The most memorable scene is when Sawyer, Daniel and the others are sitting outside at night talking, with the camera always moving around them. But many other scenes looked fantastic too, including the closing moments where Sawyer lays eyes on Kate for the first time. The music in this episode, as always, is very good, with a new love theme for Sawyer and Juliet, while the Saywer-Kate-Jack theme plays when he talks about a girl he fell for three years before but can hardly remember her face now.

While I absolutely loved all the time travel and island mythology throughout this season, this episode reminded us that at the heart of Lost is it’s characters.

the best scene

Ben Linus murdering John Locke in The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham was the most tense, electrifying scene of 2009. Every time Michael Emerson and Terry O’Quinn are on screen together, we get something special, and this was no different. The performances, haunting music and slowly paced direction allowed the scene to breathe, as we witnessed the lowest moments in the life of one of television’s most tragic characters, and one of the most shocking scenes in all five seasons of Lost so far.

the best line

See, we did crash, but it was on this crazy island. And we waited for rescue, and there wasn’t any rescue. And there was a smoke monster, and then there were other people on the island. We called them the Others, and they started attacking us. And we found some hatches, and there was a button you had to push every 108 minutes or… well, I was never really clear on that. But the Others didn’t have anything to do with the hatches. That was the DHARMA Initiative. The Others killed them, and now they’re trying to kill us. And then we teamed up with the Others because some worse people were coming on a freighter. Desmond’s girlfriend’s father sent them to kill us. So we stole their helicopter and we flew it to their freighter, but it blew up. And we couldn’t go back to the island because it disappeared, so then we crashed into the ocean, and we floated there for a while until a boat came and picked us up. And by then, there were six of us. That part was true. But the rest of the people who were on the plane, they’re still on that island.

Hurley’s attempt to explain the story so far to his mother was both touching and funny at the same time. It was such a relief to him to finally blurt out the truth after three years of lying about what happened, and so nice that Mrs. Reyes believed him despite his previous problems. It was hilarious to hear him put into words just how crazy this show we’ve been watching really is.

This season proved just how important it is to have a character like Hurley in the show. Funny and always on the side of the audience, he provided moments of light in an otherwise very dark and complex season. Other highlights included him staring at his hands, thinking he’d fade away like Marty McFly in Back To the Future, or his 1977 re-write of Empire Strikes Back before it’s been made.

the worst parts

There is very little that is wrong with this season. The only thing that possibly grates is that there are number of inconsistencies between what we see in The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham and what we were told previously For example, in the season four finale, There’s No Place Like Home, Walt calls Locke by his alias despite him never mentioning it when they meet in this episode. In the season three finale, Through the Looking Glass, shortly after Locke’s viewing at the funeral parlour, Jack mentions that he has been flying “practically every Friday night” in the hope the plane would crash on the island, but here Ben tells Locke that Jack has just booked a ticket (presumably for the first time) just before he kills Locke. There are also a few other things that some characters mention “Bentham” has told them, that we don’t see during the meetings in this episode.

questions asked

As usual plenty, but all those questions are eclipsed by those raised in the finale, which can be boiled down to two things – who really is Jacob, and what happened after Juliet hit the bomb?

questions answered

There are a few things tied up about DHARMA, including meeting Stewart Radsinsky at last (who would later go on to partner Kelvin in the Swan) and learn a little more about their time on the island and their relationship with the “hostiles”. We also discover just what made Ben the way he is – ironically caused by Sayid trying to kill him. We also get questions answered about Rousseau’s arrive on the island and learn a little more about the smoke monster as it judges Ben. But the biggest answers come in the finale – we finally see the Incident, finally meet Jacob and most of all the end-game of the series is set up.

what we know now

Of course at this point there’s not much more that we do know compared to before, except for one major thing. Watching the season back in the knowledge that the person on the island in 2007 is not John Locke but Jacob’s enemy makes for very interesting viewing.

where it ends

The final two hours of season five, titled The Incident, are as memorable and spectacular as the four previous season finales. Beginning with a scene which sets up the beginning of the end of the story, we see Jacob for the very first time, a much younger man than expected, living in the shadow of the four-toed statue, which is finally revealed to be of the Egyptian fertility god Tauwet. As he gazes out to sea, watching what is presumed to be the Black Rock on it’s way to the island, he is joined by a man dressed in black. Their dialogue here seems to be so important that it is worth quoting word for word.

MAN IN BLACK: Morning.
JACOB: Morning.
MAN IN BLACK: Mind if I join you?
JACOB: Please. Want some fish?
MAN IN BLACK: Thank you. I just ate.
JACOB: I take it you’re here because of the ship.
MAN IN BLACK: I am. How did they find the Island?
JACOB: You’ll have to ask them when they get here.
MAN IN BLACK: I don’t have to ask. You brought them here. Still trying to prove me wrong, aren’t you?
JACOB: You are wrong.
MAN IN BLACK: Am I? They come. They fight. They destroy. They corrupt. It always ends the same.
JACOB: It only ends once. Anything that happens before that is just progress.
MAN IN BLACK: Do you have any idea how badly I wanna kill you?
MAN IN BLACK: One of these days, sooner or later, I’m going to find a loophole, my friend.
JACOB: Well, when you do, I’ll be right here.
MAN IN BLACK: Always nice talking to you, Jacob.
JACOB: Nice talking to you, too.

We also, throughout the episode, see Jacob appear off the island, meeting some of our characters in some of the most important moments of their lives. He meets a brilliantly cast young Kate when she tries to steal the lunchbox that she and Tom later use as a time capsule. He meets little James Ford when he needs a pen to write his letter to Mr Sawyer, something he’d carry with him for 25 years. He meets Jack after performing his first solo surgery (the operation he talked to Kate about back in the very first episode), Sun and Jin on their wedding day and Locke moments after being pushed out of a window, perhaps healing him a little. It seems that his interventions someone are pushing them in some way toward the island, something made explicitly clear when his intervention ends up with Sayid’s wife Nadia being run over, and most clearly of all when he tells Hurley to go back to the island and hands him his guitar case.

He also meets Ilana, heavily bandaged in hospital, and asks him to help her. Throughout the episode, she is carrying a large box across the island, with Frank Lapidus who is apparently “a candidate”. At the end, the contents of the box are revealed – the dead body of the real John Locke. So, who is the man who went into Jacob’s home with Ben moments before? The Man in Black.

The episode ends in the aftermath of the Incident, with Jack determined to carry out Daniel Faraday’s plan of detonating the Jughead hydrogen bomb to prevent the Swan being built and therefore flight 815 crashing. The bomb doesn’t go off, and as the electromagnetism pulls everything metallic towards the hole where the station is being built, Juliet tragically is dragged down, in yet another deeply emotional moment. Just as it seems that the plan has failed, Juliet strikes the bomb with a rock, and… boom!

The flash of white at the end of the episode, followed by the black-on-white “L O S T” gave me chills the first time I watched, and still makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. Season five was an absolute triumph. Onwards, now, to season six, and the end of the story. Namaste.


One response to “Lost: Season Five

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