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“If anything goes wrong, Desmond Hume will be my Constant” — The Great Lost Rewatch Project: Season 4!

March 8th, 2010

My season-by-season analysis of Lost continues!  Click here for my thoughts on season 1, here for my thoughts on season 2, and here for my thoughts on season 3.  SPOILERS ARE AHEAD, gang, so beware!

“Rescuing you and your people… I can’t really say it’s our primary objective.”

There were times, watching seasons 2 and 3 of Lost when they originally aired, when I must admit that my faith in the show wavered.  There were so many mysteries raised but not answered, and after the terrific first season there seemed to be many times when the show was spinning in circles, narratively.  But season 4 firmly established Lost, in my mind, as one of the greatest TV series of our time, as opposed to a show that started off brilliantly but then slowly settled into mediocrity (cough 24 cough).

The writers brilliantly reinvigorated the show by abandoning their signature story-telling device, the use of flashbacks.  Instead they began presenting us with tantalizing flash-FORWARDS that hinted at what would befall to our castaways in the time between the on-island events of 2004 and what we glimpsed of 2007, when we met the desperate, suicidal off-island Jack in the season 3 finale.  That finale set up all sorts of questions: How did the castaways get off the island?  Why did only SOME of the castaways leave?  What happened to everyone else — were they dead, or did they decide to stay for some reason?  What happened to Jack (and the other Oceanic Six) in their three years off the island?  What drove Jack to become the destroyed, shell of a man that we saw in the season 3 finale?  Whose body was in that coffin??

One of the great strengths of season 4 is that way that, in decidedy un-Lost fashion, every one of those above questions were answered by the end of the season.  Season 4 feels like the most complete of all the seasons of Lost, with a distinct beginning, middle, and end, and in which all of the major questions raised at the beginning of the season (well, really by the finale of season 3) were answered by the end of the season.  That all this was accomplished despite the fact that the season was truncated due to the lengthy writers strike is quite astounding.  (Season 4 was scheduled to be 16 episodes long — much shorter than the 24 episodes-per-season that seasons 1-3 were — but it was shortened to only 13 episodes because of the strike.)  In many ways, I suspect the shortened length of the season turned into one of its greatest strengths.  There’s no flab in season 4 — with only 13 episodes to play with, the writers didn’t have a moment to waste.  As a result, every single episode of the season seems critical to the narrative, and the story rushes forward like a freight train from start-to-finish.

“I’m here, Charles, to tell you that I’m going to kill your daughter. Penelope, is it? And once she’s gone, once she’s dead, then you’ll understand how I feel, and you’ll wish you hadn’t changed the rules.”

I love that, in a surprising change of pace, the first episode of season 4 gives us a spotlight on Hurley!  I enjoyed meeting Matthew Abbadon (played by Lance Reddick, who played Cedric Daniels from The Wire!), though I wish we’d seen more of him during the year.

While season 2 introduced us to the Tailies, and season 3 spotlighted the Others, here in season 4 we meet the “Freighter-Folk.”  Looking back, it’s interesting to contemplate just how critical these characters (Daniel Faraday, Miles, Charlotte, Lapidus) have become to the show.  (This is in contrast to the Tailies, who were pretty much all dead — except for Bernard — by the time season 2 ended.)  Lost‘s writers have repeatedly noted how the Freighter-Folk were the ones most impacted by the writers’ strike shortened season — we’d have to wait until season 5 to have many of our questions about them answered.  But this doesn’t weaken their story-lines in season 4 for me at all.  If anything, now having seen season 5, during my Lost rewatch project I found myself even more hooked by the intriguing glimpses we got into these enigmatic Freighter-Folk (such as the weird scene when Charlotte tests Daniel’s memory with playing cards in “Eggtown”).

“You people had therapists?”  “It’s very stressful being an Other, Jack.”

As the season progresses, there is great fun to be had in watching all the pieces fall into place on the island for the events that we know, from the flashforwards, will be happening to our castaways.  Much of season 4 has a tragic inevitability, and watching Jack & co. struggle mightily to get off the island while we know of the misery that awaits them makes for powerful, compelling viewing.  In the two-part finale, “There’s No Place Like Home,” we see the moment we’ve been anticipating for 4 years – the castaways (some of ‘em, anyways), disembark from their rescue plane and are joyfully reunited with their families (some of ‘em, anyways).  We see the press conference in which they tell their (made-up) story.  (Note that in the cover story, the castaways left the uncharted island on which they had been stranded 108 days after the crash.  That’s a familiar number!!)  Then we get a fascinating series of glimpses into how the Oceanic Six spent their 3 years off the island, scenes that help put into context many of the flash-forwards we’d seen all season long.

Then, finally, we circle back to the Jack/Kate “we have to go back!” scene from the end of season 3. Kate angrily tells Jack that she’s spent the last 3 years trying to forget all the horrible things that happened to them the day they left the island. Jack returns to the funeral parlor, where he meets Ben and we see that the “Jeremy Bentham” in the casket is actually John Locke. Ben tells Jack that they ALL must go back to the island.  Bring on season 5!

“I’ve heard you tell that story so many times I’m starting to think you believe it.”

I’ll see you back here tomorrow, for more specific thoughts on my favorite & least-favorite moments from season 4.

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