For a mystery story to really take wing and become truly compelling to an audience, it has to be the nature and quality of the journey that forms out of the very quest for answers itself, which ultimately imbues that story with any sense of wonder or power it may come to possess -- either to captivate, to entrance, or to encourage one to invest one’s time in pouring over the details of the journey once more, relishing the unique timbre of the unexpected associations it produces; or basking in the endless resonance of possibilities forever just out of grasp. The longer any mystery story can sustain this note of ambiguous longing, the richer and more compelling it seems to become. Would anyone have considered the Jack the Ripper case to be anything more than just another tawdry example of brutality in the gin-soaked slums of nineteenth century London if the murderer had been quickly apprehended and the case closed after a few months of plodding police investigation? The fact that no one knows the identity of the person responsible for them has, over time, enabled these crimes to develop a rich historical mythology that propels their fascination into another realm and gives their mystery a cultural life and meaning that takes it far beyond the niche ken of the student of crime.
But for the storyteller, attempting to reproduce this delicious, complex matrix of reverberating suggestiveness in drama, there is always, it seems, the same unavoidable dilemma -- apparently woven into the very fabric of the dramatic undertaking: every story needs a satisfying ending, and the longer it goes on the more it seems to demand one. Yet, at the same time, the very nature of the mystery story demands this lack of closure be maintained and a sense of tantalising possibility prolonged -- for any straight ‘tying up of loose ends’ and ‘crossing of every T’ immediately seems to dissolve all that carefully built up sense of wonder and, ultimately, cheapens the whole experience.
Actually, it’s a dilemma that confronts the audience just as acutely as it does the makers and writers of such works. For instance, the chances are that if you managed to make it through all six seasons of “Lost”, maintaining just as avid and intense a desire to see the multifarious puzzles of the island and the travails of its long list of flawed castaway inhabitants brought to some sort of a conclusion, then you’re probably not one of those people who need or require every straightforward mystery to have a straightforward and reassuring (but completely wonder-lust-puncturing) solution – those idiots all buggered off halfway through season three, after all! But, at the same time, I’ll bet that you’re not exactly feeling completely satisfied by the outcome either. If you’re anything like me, you probably find yourself seesawing between thankfulness that the deep sense of mystery, mystique, and the central impenetrability in the show that made us watch it all these years in the first place has not been completely betrayed; and at the same time harbouring the suspicion that this is only because the answers and the founding myths we have been given (at least where the producers have deemed it fit to actually address the questions they’d previously posed at all!) seem to be full of obvious holes or raise more questions than they answer; or simply fail to really address the original questions we were asking in the first place. In a sense, the show was a victim of its own success. It’s worth considering just how hard it is to think of any other TV show in the history of the medium which has been so successful at keeping the viewer hanging on every line, imbuing every turn of plot with unfathomable significance and generally creating such an air of suspense and expectation that, the longer they managed to sustain it (and six seasons, give or take the odd hiccup or misstep, is a pretty impressive record), the greater and stiffer became the rod the show’s producers were creating for their own backs.
But, in the end, it’s the tension between this emotional need for every mystery to be solved and the equally resonant desire to hold onto them, which underpins the approach series creators and executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse had to take. The answer to the show’s conundrum, they seems to say, depends on our realising that we mistook the nature of that conundrum: perhaps mirroring audience misconceptions of the creative process behind the show itself, we thought we were piecing together a puzzle, and that all the pieces would, out of necessity, have to fall into place at the end. But in reality, we’d been following something that’s more akin to a board game, like the games of Backgammon Lock and Walt used to play back in season one, but with one crucial difference (a difference which was ultimately the undoing of the character John Lock himself, as well as those of us viewers who couldn’t get to grips with it): the rules of the game have to be inferred from play rather than learned in advance -- thus you can never really be sure what the rules are, or when and if they’re being broken (or even if they can be broken). The show itself illustrates this in episode fifteen of this last series, the closest the show ever gets to providing an origins myth, when Jacob and his unnamed brother are shown playing the Egyptian game Senat – one of the first recorded board games in history, but a game whose rules are lost in the mists of prehistory, forcing archaeologists and historians to extrapolate them using educated guess work. The fact that this game also had religious significance to the Egyptians based on its reliance on luck reverberates with the show’s abiding consideration of the dynamic between determinism and fate; choice and free will. There is much mention by various characters throughout the series of ‘the rules’, but they are never elucidated, their origins never revealed; and that is what in the end gives Lindelof and Cuse their ‘out’ of course, because any contradiction or inconsistency might just be the result of our having incorrectly assessed what the rules are, or of a ‘loophole’ having being found in them by one of the players, or perhaps the mystical players in charge of the island’s dynamics aren’t bound by the rules at all and can simply cheat when they feel like it!
In the end, “Lost” must continue to stand as one of the greatest television shows ever brought to the screen. Simply unparalleled in its scope (its ceaselessly inventive variations each season on the flashback structure giving it the ability to encompass almost any genre -- from hospital drama to religious parable -- and bend the rules of all of them at will), its imagination, and the level and subtlety of intelligence at work behind its evocative mix of popular drama elements , the show in the end compelled us so much precisely because it managed to create such a rich collection of believable characters; they were complex and coloured with many shades and gradations in their motivations and personalities, and this final series, in the end, worked so well by concentrating on bringing a sense of closure to their stories. The whole of the sixth season is full of resonances and reminders of what drew us in back after season one, and it’s fitting that after ending that first series with John Lock discovering a golden light emanating out of a deep tunnel in the ground (really just Desmond Hume going to the loo in the Swan Hatch) that the secret of the island should after all, actually turn out to be embodied in a golden light emanating out of a tunnel .
A further revelation awaits fans of the series that have not yet seen the show in high definition. This Blu-ray transfer is quite simply reference quality. It looks stunning in every way, with the island sparkling to new life thanks to the beautifully detailed imagery and the depth and vibrancy of the colours on display here. The sound, in 5.1 DTS HD, is fantastic and there’s a Dolby 2.0 Stereo track included as well. There are English subtitles, English subtitles for the hard of hearing and Spanish, French, Swedish, Norwegian and Danish subtitles also available.
The five disc Blu-ray set is crammed with hours of extras starting on disc one with a superfluous but fun “Lost in 8.15” – an attempt to summarise the preceding five series in just eight minutes and fifteen seconds (a reference of course to flight 815). Next up are four commentary tracks: Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse deliver their usual slightly surreal double act once more for series premiere “LA X”, in which they elucidate the ideas behind what they were aiming to achieve with the final season as a whole and the thinking behind the ‘flash sideways’ strand in particular. Next up, writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz are joined by actor Michael Emerson to talk about the episode “Dr Linus”. Here they reveal the struggle they had to get their story idea accepted, since it involved making Ben Linus sympathetic in the flash sideways. Then, the last two episode commentary tracks are, significantly, reserved for the two ‘origins’ episodes: episode nine, “Ab Aeterno”, sees writers Melinda Hsu Taylor and Greggory Nations joined by actor Nestor Carbonell to discuss this story which reveals the origins of the Black Rock and of Richard Alpert’s connection with Jacob. The two writers also tell of their excitement that they also get to reveal what the island actually is in this episode as well as define the birth of The Others. Lastly, Lindelof and Cuse return for the final commentary, for “Across the Sea” – which turns out to be the closest you’ll get to an answer as to why not every mystery has been addressed with this episode and the season finale.
The fifth disc in the set is where you’ll find the featurettes and all the other extras. The most intriguing for all “Lost” fans will be the mini epilogue episode which kicks off proceedings. “The New Man in Charge” takes place sometime after the island-based events of the season finale and depicts Ben visiting two low ranking Dharma operatives in a warehouse to tell them that the DHARMA initiative is no longer in operation. He plays them one of the orientation films that explains the nature of the time travel experiments on the polar bears, the origin of the hybrid birds and the purpose of Room 23. Later, Ben and Hurley meet up with a grown- up Walt, who is now a resident at the Santa Rosa Mental Health Institute, to offer him a job – suggesting Walt is to become the new island guardian.
“LOST: Crafting a Final Season” documents the making of the final series and the countdown to the end of the show from the cast and crew’s point-of-view. “A Hero’s Journey” looks at the overarching themes of the saga in terms of Joseph Campbell’s theories, although Damon Lindelof half-jokingly admits that it all comes down to them being obsessed with Star Wars.
“See You in Another Life Brotha” examines the season’s flash sideways structure while “Lost on Location” offers in-depth behind-the-scenes making of footage of several key scenes from throughout the season including the making of the series’ Temple set; the filming on board the sinking submarine; and the car flipping into the harbour stunt -- along with Henry Ian Cusick and Dominic Monaghan filming their underwater scenes.
Bloopers and some rather inconsequential deleted scenes (don’t expect any great further revelations from them) round off the main body of extras, but those with Blu-ray Live capability can also enrol themselves in the ‘Lost University Masters Programme’. Frankly, the introduction film makes it sound like an awful lot of work, but those who refuse to let go (like the “Lost” characters themselves) can bury themselves in LOST arcana to their heart’s content thanks to this extremely involved programme of articles, films and message boards that’s opened up by accessing this on-line feature through your Blu-ray player.
“Lost” was an amazing show and whatever faults one might find with the way it was eventually wrapped up, it certainly gets its due with a Blu-ray set that lets it look as fabulous as it could ever look and makes me, for one, eager to experience it all again with the added texture of high definition. Recommended.