Television Review: How flash-forwards reinvigorated Lost in its fourth season

People seem to hate cliffhangers nowadays. In the era of binge watching and Netflix, people are able to watch the next episode or season of a show immediately after the previous one finishes. Lost is a show that learned how to deploy cliffhangers incredibly well: the first season ended with Locke looking down the hatch, the second with Kate, Jack and Sawyer kidnapped with the others, and the third with Jack in LA telling Kate that they have to go back to The Island. That’s a great cliffhanger, and I can only imagine how the internet speculated in between the third and fourth seasons. As someone who didn’t watch the show when it originally aired, I don’t have to deal with that, and I moved through the start of Season 3 fairly quickly. Since I’m watching it now, I know that part of the reason the third season started slowly is because Lindelof and Cuse were negotiating with ABC for an end date and overall plan for the show, and at least in the short term, that’s paid off. “Through the Looking Glass” is the best season finale the show has done, and that momentum carried through to season four.

It’s strange to think that Lost won its Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series for its first season. It was a good show in the first two seasons, got a bit boring at the start of season three, but by the time we got to “The Man From Tallahassee”, the show exploded just like the submarine. I understand that Lost was one of the very first shows to get the episodic review treatment because of all the mysteries, but it’s very hard for me to think about individual episodes other than the ones that really stand out, which is basically anything with Sayid, Ben, Desmond, Locke and Juliet. I tried my hardest to avoid getting sucked into the mysteries, but “Through the Looking Glass” is one of the best season finales I’ve ever seen. And Lost’s fourth season is one of the best seasons of television I’ve ever seen.

Despite the issues that fans have with the end of the show, Lindelof and Cuse’s agreement to end the show on their own terms definitely improved Lost from a creative perspective. Part of the problem with Lost‘s third season was its flashback structure; we knew that Jack had daddy issues, that Kate ran away whenever she got too comfortable, and everyone had already figured out that Christian was Claire’s father. There was that terrible episode about Jack’s tattoos, and Nikki and Paulo. The episodes leading up to the finale were so much better that they seemed like a different show, and I’m glad that momentum carried over into the fourth season. Having a select number of the castaways get home via mystery methods and flash forward to what their lives were like post-Island was one of the best decisions Lindelof and Cuse could have made. What made it better was that the realisation that they had to go back to the Island is what made the Oceanic Six so desperate. Hurley went back to the mental hospital because he was seeing Charlie all the time and played chess with Mr Eko; Jack was drinking and addicted to oxy when he was yelling that they had to go back to the Island. For all his daddy issues, Jack became his father, the cruellest irony there is. Sayid was an assassin working for Ben, Sun made it back to Korea but Jin didn’t, and Aaron was now Kate’s son instead of Claire’s.

The mysteries weren’t just about how The Oceanic Six got back, but why those six characters. It was always going to be Jack and Kate, but I’m glad that it was a diverse group with Hurley, Sayid and Sun. Sun had to go back so her baby would live, and that was definitely the most heartbreaking episode of the season. Meanwhile, we learned a little bit more about the Island. The team of Jeremy Davies as Daniel Faraday, Jeff Fahey, Miles and Charlotte was a great addition to the regular cast, even if I felt that the showrunners were introducing new series regulars faster than they killed them off. Charlotte is a multilingual anthropologist with a knack for finding Dharma Initiative artefacts, Miles is some sort of medium/blackmailer, and Daniel Faraday is a physicist who seems to be working in the field of time travel. I’m so glad that Jeremy Davies won his Emmy for Justified, because he definitely deserved an Emmy for his work on Lost; he has a twitchy energy that makes his performances stand out. What united these people was the belief that the plane that Charles Widmore put at the bottom of the ocean wasn’t Oceanic 815.

What we learned about the physics of The Island was fascinating. It doesn’t exist in the same time as the rest of the Earth, as we learned when Faraday (perfect naming there, Lost writers) asked to have a beacon sent from the ship and it had a different time on it to the one he was holding in his hand, and the freighter’s doctor washed up on The Island before he even died. The Island has specific co-ordinates, but you can only get there if you’re travelling at a specific bearing, and most importantly, the Island can be moved.

The few answers that the writers chose to give the audience of course raised more questions, and the season’s best episodes were good enough that I rolled my eyes when Jack and Kate were in their weird relationship. As much as the writers want to make “fetch” happen with those two, they should have just stuck with their already established couples. Desmond and Penny is the television relationship I’ve been the most invested in since Josh Charles decided to leave The Good Wife. “The Constant” is one of the greatest love stories ever told, and it’s a shame that Henry Ian Cusick doesn’t have an Emmy for that performance. I had no idea that I would get a Desmond and Penny reunion in the season finale, and that’s the nicest surprise the show has given me so far (also if Ben kills Penny to get back at her father, I’m going to be so mad. So. Mad.) . Similarly Daniel Dae Kim and Yunjin Kim play the hell out of Jin and Sun, a relationship that seemed to be over when the show started, but recovered on The Island. Seeing Sun at Jin’s grave in the flashforward was even more heartbreaking the speech Sun gives to Jin in English back in season one.

The one thing that season four of Lost doesn’t have over season three is the finale. Sure there were commandos invading the Island and then Ben literally moved it, and Jin might be dead (noooooooooooooooo), but seeing Locke’s body (the mysterious Jeremy Bentham the Oceanic Six had mentioned) didn’t have the impact of “We have to go back”. Overall however, it was downright enjoyable to watch season four of Lost. It soared in some moments; there were some dud episodes, but that was by season four standards. There’s nothing better than watching a season of a show that is consistently good, and that’s what I experienced with Lost‘s fourth season. I’m looking forward to season five.

Other thoughts:

  • I really enjoyed the addition of The Others in season three, and it was disappointing to not see them again until the season finale
  • I was going to put something else here that may or may not have been about Ben, I have no idea.

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