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Reviewed by Jason Zingale
or anyone who remembers the many shortcomings of year two (and how couldn’t you?), fans of “Lost” probably experienced some unwelcome déjà vu walking into the premiere of the new season. Designed to operate as a mini-season before the long holiday break, the first six episodes were mediocre at best – spending way too much time focused on the show’s Terrific Trio (Jack, Kate and Sawyer) and very little of anything else. As fans of the series have become accustomed to, though, patience is key to enjoying J.J. Abrams’ island mystery, and though the season got off to yet another rocky start, head writers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof quickly proved why “Lost” is still one of the more interesting dramas on television.
After being captured, bound and dragged away by the Others at the end of season two, Jack (Matthew Fox) awakens to discover that he’s being held prisoner in an underground dungeon. Separated from Kate (Evangeline Lilly) and Sawyer (Josh Holloway) – who are currently trapped like animals in zoo cages – Jack is propositioned by the Others’ resident doctor, Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell), to perform spinal surgery on their fearless leader, Ben (the deliciously evil Michael Emerson). Using Ben’s life as a bargaining chip, Jack secures the release of his friends and gains a new ally in Juliet along the way. But when a deal to get off the island goes sour, Jack is forced to rethink his gameplan.
Meanwhile, the recent hatch explosion has left everyone in shambles. With Locke (Terry O’Quinn), Charlie (Dominic Monaghan), Mr. Eko (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick) presumed dead, and Hurley (Jorge Garcia) still making the trek back from the other side of the island, Sayid (Naveen Andrews), Jin (Daniel Dae Kim) and Sun (Yunjin Kim) must step up in a big way. Of course, none of the aforementioned survivors are dead just yet, but it doesn’t take long before Mr. Eko bites the dust courtesy of the Big Bad Smoke Monster. Charlie seemingly isn’t very far behind – that is, if Desmond’s new precognitive abilities are to be believed – and while Locke and Sayid are out exploring new territory (including the Others’ base of operations), Desmond is left playing babysitter to poor Charlie.
Joining the cast as a full-time player, Henry Ian Cusick’s performance is every bit deserving of his recent Emmy nomination. He exerts charm and charisma in even the most despairing moments, and with the sudden departure of Dominic Monaghan, will ensure that at least a few more flashbacks take place somewhere in the United Kingdom. Speaking of which, Charlie’s unexpected death (and it was unexpected, no matter how many signs we were given throughout the course of the season) is probably the saddest yet. Boone and Shannon were never really fan favorites, while the deaths of Mr. Eko, Ana-Lucia and Libby came so quickly after their respective introductions that they weren’t nearly as hard to swallow.
What’s perhaps most upsetting about Charlie’s death, however, isn’t the loss of Monaghan, but the fact that the writers never made it as necessary as it should have been. We were led to believe that in order for Claire (Emilie de Ravin) to be rescued, Charlie had to die, but that simply wasn’t so. Charlie’s actions leading up to his death are the main reason why the survivors will be rescued, so why did the writers find it necessary to kill off such a beloved character? Sacrificing oneself for the love of others is exactly the poetic justice Charlie deserved, but if you don’t make it for something, then it loses all meaning. Still, you’ve got to credit the writers for at least killing off Charlie in style. The former hobbit went through a handful of different scenarios (including an arrow through the neck) before finally succumbing to Mikhail’s underwater kamikaze bomb. Monaghan also delivered some of his best acting in those final episodes, including the last Charlie-centric story, “Greatest Hits,” in which he recounts the top five moments in his life.
Unfortunately, there are only a handful of episodes that rank as high as “Greatest Hits,” and most of the season falls into the all-too-familiar pattern of one great episode for every three bad ones. Those that are worth noting are the Desmond flashback-within-a-flashback mindfuck “Flashes Before Your Eyes,” the Hurley-centric episode “Tricia Tanaka Is Dead,” the two-part season finale “Through the Looking Glass,” and, believe it or not, the Nikki/Paolo-centric episode “Exposé.” Fans of the series may have reviled the newest additions to the cast – leaving the writers no other choice but to kill them off in the most brutal way (read: buried alive) – but “Exposé” stands as one of the stronger episodes of the season.
Still, despite some major problems with the first half of the season, JJ Abrams and Co. did not hold back in regards to answering some of the show’s biggest mysteries, as well as revealing a few more that fans previously weren’t privy to. We found out that Claire is actually Jack’s half-sister, how Locke became confined to a wheelchair, that his father is the same man who conned Sawyer’s mother, and that Claire was the very first woman to ever successfully give birth on the island. We also now know that a rescue ship is on the way, and that the survivors eventually make it home, but we’re still unclear as to whether it’s that particular rescue ship that takes them there. Here’s hoping the current writers’ strike doesn’t force us to wait any longer than we already have, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past, it’s this: patience may be a virtue, but if you didn’t already have any to begin with, you’re going to have a hell of a time finding some while watching “Lost.”
Special Features: The seven-disc release of season three is a mildly disappointing affair. While audio commentaries have never played an extremely large part in past box sets, the fact that only four appear here (on “A Tale of Two Cities,” “I Do,” “Exposé” and “The Man Behind the Curtain”) really makes one wonder what exactly the cast/crew is doing to give back to the fans. Dominic Monaghan clearly isn’t very busy anymore, so why couldn’t he be bothered to record something for “Greatest Hits?” And why the hell don’t we at least have a commentary track for the season finale (“Through the Looking Glass”)? It would be all very suspect if it weren’t for the decent selection of extras that appear on disc seven.
Highlighted by the behind-the-scenes featurettes “Lost: On Location” and “Lost in a Day,” the bonus material also includes a character and location featurette (“The World of the Others”), a look at the novels that appear throughout the series and their relation to the show, and a short tribute to the crew. Rounding out the set are 17 minutes worth of deleted scenes, three previously unaired flashback sequences, a mandatory blooper reel (no matter how unfunny), a short featurette on the upcoming video game (“The Next Level”), a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the Todd McFarlane toy line (“Cast in Clay”), and a funny little bit that shows off Terry O’Quinn’s knife-throwing skills.