Many fans were tough on the second season of Lost, contending that the series became as stuck in the “hatch”, as tethered to that computer crying out for its numbers like a heroin addict going cold turkey, as the characters themselves. I was still engrossed (what can I say, I’m a sucker for Lost), but the point’s well taken; lucky for them, the show’s writers and producers blew the hatch up in the second season finale, opening up, dramatically, the characters’ space for the third season. And then…most of the main characters wound up locked in cages.

At least they were locked up by “the Others”, though, that still-baffling gaggle of mysteriosoes who were already on the island where our heroes’ plane crashed. Season three really belongs to the Others, as the second belonged to the “tailies”, or the other plane crash survivors from the other side of the island, who are by now, for the most part, thankfully (especially Michelle Rodriguez) dead. The Others assume as much of the narrative’s focus as the survivor-heroes from the previous two seasons and, as is the producers’ remarkable talent, we find out much more about them without really finding out anything at all. Lost does nothing but constantly reveal new information, and yet the audience can’t help but feel as though they’ve learned absolutely nothing.

That’s what keeps viewers tuned in week after week, I suppose. Lost works a lot better on DVD than it does as a weekly television program because, by nature, its absorbing mystery is so compelling that once you watch one, you want to watch them all, without meals or bathroom breaks. Waiting an entire seven days, over 10,000 slowly-ticking minutes, can be unbearable, especially when an episode leaves on a cliffhanger, so luckily, on DVD, fans can keep on watching until they can’t bear to watch anymore.

That’s the way Lost is best consumed.

It’s an especially effective way to overcome one of Lost‘s central faults, which is its occasional “filler” episode. The most egregious offender in the third season was certainly the infamously divisive “Tricia Tanaka is Dead”. Lostpedia describes the plot thusly: “Hurley’s discovery of an old, wrecked car on the island leads him on a mission of hope not only for himself, but for a fellow survivor in need of some faith.” Could anything be more offensively distracting from the show’s main thrust, the mystery of the island and its inhabitants? Imagine, those of you who’ll be catching up with the third season on disc, waiting a whole week for it, and then having to wait an entire additional week for another episode. Insufferable.

(A subsequent episode, “The Man Behind the Curtain”, made reference to “Tricia Tanaka…” and therefore made a weak attempt at redeeming the episode. At least it wasn’t all for naught, I suppose.)

The other infamously divisive filler episode in season three was “Expose”, which told the backstory of (and, incidentally, killed off) two characters who had hitherto barely played a part in the series. “Expose”, though, was at least full of snarky winks and in-jokes to fans as it went through the season’s course of events, up to that point, from an outsider’s point of view. It also functioned well as a standalone episode, with enough self-contained tragedy and creepiness to make an hour’s worth of television worth watching, even for non-Lost addicts. (At least going forward, the writers won’t have to digress, at least not as often; as a set amount of remaining episodes have been announced, the writers, assuming they ever stop striking, can get straight to finishing off the story they’ve been telling since episode one without having to stall for time.)

Another unfortunate aspect of Lost‘s third season was that the show still adhered to its fundamental weakness, its flashback structure. This works to attract non-regular viewers, so I hear, since each week’s episode has a free-standing structure as well as continues an ongoing storyline, but really, are there any non-regular viewers of Lost anymore? Anyone who turns in from time to time just to kill an hour on some characters’ banal backstories?

Mild Spoiler Alert!
But the flashback structure could be entirely forgiven when Lost used the audience’s inurement to it as a means to a masterfully surprising season finale, one of the finest two hours (or less, minus commercials) that dramatic television’s ever broadcast. From the action and pathos to the twist ending, it blew me away. The fourth season can’t start fast enough.

Grade: A-

Release Date: December 11, 2007
Rated: Unrated
Running Time: 991 minutes
Number of Discs: 7
Cast: Matthew Fox, Evangeline Lilly, Josh Holloway, Dominic Monaghan, Terry O’Quinn
Studio: Buena Vista Home Entertainment

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