Like anyone who stuck with it through six beguiling seasons, my experience with Lost became a pretty personal one-- I plowed through Season 1 on DVD while home from college on winter break, suffered through the doldrums of early Season 3 in my first Manhattan apartment, gave a new boyfriend the Season 1 DVD for Christmas when I didn't know him well enough to give anything else, and three and a half years later watched the finale with him, joking that the foundation of our relationship was gone at last. For us Lost devoted it wasn't just a TV show but a cultural experience, something you kept up with just to know what your friends were talking about, something worth traveling to Comic Con or even Hawaii to experience with fellow fanatics. Like Star Trek or The X-Files before it, Lost was a model of how passion for a TV show could form vast communities-- and in that way became much bigger than itself.
And even though the Lost: Complete Collection box set is packaged in a ridiculously elaborate stone box and is packed to the brim with special features, it gives us our first chance to look at the show on its own terms, simply as a story told over six years, not a phenomenon or that thing you wanted to get your friends hooked on. Having the entire story in your hands is like getting back to square one, sitting down with the whole giant saga and seeing what it still has to offer. So with the mysteries resolved and the Smoke Monster vanquished at last, what's worth returning to in Lost?
Anyone who's ever screamed in frustration when the "LOST" logo popped up at the end of an episode will relish the chance to watch the show this way, all six seasons laid out before you, every cliffhanger resolved at the touch of a button, every suspected callback confirmed by flipping back a few episodes or seasons. As fun as the suspense could be from week to week, this may be the way Lost was meant to be experienced, an ever-expanding saga moving briskly form point to point, never giving you time to look at the bigger picture.
Looking at the bigger picture-- that's my job. And regarding Lost as a whole it becomes hard to ignore the show's many flaws, the loops into plot diversions that went nowhere-- the Season 3 cages! Dogen and the Temple in Season 6!-- and characters who started off promising but petered out. Forget all the little nagging questions, like the Dharma food drops and LIbby in the mental hospital-- how did they abandon Walt like that? Why did Kate morph from a gun-toting badass into a needy surrogate mom who couldn't pick between two men? Why did they start treating Sun and Jin as chess pieces to emotionally manipulate the audience?
But getting caught up in frustrations like that is what we've all been doing since the finale ended, mentally going over what we'd seen and trying to sum it all up. The experience of holding all six seasons in your hands is something different, quieter and more sentimental-- you're not looking at the Big Meaning of the show, but of all the moments that thrilled and delighted you for six years, all of them ready to be seen in glorious HD. No, the raft launched at the end of Season 1 never got them anywhere, but watching that scene can still give you chills. The beginning of Season 3 was almost entirely a boring wash, but skip around to those scenes between Jack and Juliet for some serious acting sparks-- then compare them to Juliet and Sawyer's relationship in Season 5, just for fun. Watch "The Constant" on repeat, or just the moment when Hurley and Ben are given control of the island-- for the first time you've got the ability to pick and choose the Lost you want to remember, and it's a heady feeling.
Watching Lost free from the anticipation of explained mysteries or mythology is also surprisingly liberating. You can watch "Expose," the reviled Nikki and Paolo episode, and see it for what it was intended to be, a little detective story set in the background of the main drama. Even the diversions of Season 6 that infuriated me at the time-- get to the answers already!-- don't feel so bad the second time around, with no ticking clock or growing dread that they would just cram all the answers into 10 minutes at the end of the finale. There's still no excuse for spending all that time with narrative dead end Dogen and the Temple, but I enjoyed the visit to Richard's past in "Ab Aeterno," and even found it in my heart to forgive Allison Janney as Mother-- even if the glowing cave of light seems even more ridiculous now than it did back in May.
Remember how Lost's creators explained the sappy finale by reminding us that the show had always been about the characters, and how half the diehard fans scoffed and insisted it was the mysteries that mattered instead? I challenge you to pick up The Complete Collection and go searching for shows about mythology or island history instead of great character moments or even the better action scenes. What makes owning the entire series worth isn't finally being able to chart the history of the Dharma initiative or figure out exactly where they wound up when the island skipped through time; it's revisiting Charlie and Claire's tender relationship, figuring out the moment when you decided Jack was an OK guy after all, getting heartbroken again about Locke's untimely death. Now that the mysteries are solved, at least as much as they ever will be, Lost is worth revisiting now because of the reason we started with it-- people trapped on an island, trying to escape and move on. Especially knowing everything we've been through since then, it's even more compelling on the next go-round.
Lost: The Complete Collection is quite literally a brick, cardboard souped up to look like a stone from the Temple so big you could probably use it to kill the woman who just arrived on your island and gave birth to the twin boys you intend to raise as your own. Packed with a Senet game (with no instructions on how to play it), a black light that's key for tracking down the secrets of the box set, an Ankh with a "secret note from Jacob" that points toward another Easter Egg, and a diary page "found" on the Black Rock, the box set is so big you have to wonder how anyone is going to make room for it on their shelf-- maybe the point is that if you're a devoted enough Lost fan, you'll make it the centerpiece of your coffee table for the rest of time?
Happily the important part of the set, the discs themselves, are reasonably packaged in a standard-sized box-- though be warned, a final disc with extra bonus features is hidden inside the box set, and will require some sleuthing to find. The Blu-Ray HD quality on all of them is stellar, though given what we've seen on the previous sets, that should come as no surprise. The first five seasons are precisely what you've already got if you own the earlier Blu-Rays, and the sixth includes a similar set of bonus features and sparse commentaries. There are four commentary tracks, two of them by executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse-- season premiere "LA X" and big Jacob/Man in Black mythology explainer "Across the Sea"-- though the two maddeningly tease a commentary track for the finale that isn't included on this set. The other two commentaries are the standard-issue but hilarious "Dr Linus" (with Michael Emerson and writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz) and a pretty dull rehash of "Ab Aeterno" (with Nestor Carbonell and writers Melinda Hsu and Greggory Nations), in which they simply compliment everyone who worked on the episodes. Because the commentaries seem to have been recorded before the finale aired, none of them come from the perspective of a finished show, so they feel oddly like commentaries on any regular season of Lost-- and it's a huge missed opportunity for Lindelof and Cuse to have avoided recording a commentary for the finale.
The most substantial bonus feature in the Season Six set is "The Making of a Final Season," based largely on interviews with the cast conducted near the end of filming, and featuring the familiar behind-the-scenes stuff, with actors joking around and playing the guitar during their downtime plus crew chatter about the challenges of production. We see the copies of the finale script printed out on red paper (to avoid photocopying) and with each actor's name watermarked on it, and a touching moment in which Jorge Garcia tears up reading the scene where Jack hands island power down to Hurley. If you like all the emotions of watching the producers give wrap speeches and actors dismissed after their final scenes, get used to it-- you're going to be seeing a lot of variations on that in the features to come.
The other Season Six features are pretty puffy and insubstantial-- a "Heroes Journey" piece in which Lindelof reminds us for the hundredth time that the show is inspired by Star Wars, the "See You In Another Life, Brotha" featurette about the meaning of the flash-sideways, and the recurring feature "Lost on Location," which shows the work that went into some of the season's more impressive stunts and sets. It's fascinating and hilarious to watch props guys create the Smoke Monster with blue tarps and making clicking noises with their teeth, and surprisingly emotional to see Yunjin Kim and Daniel Dae Kim film Sun and Jin's death scene, even with a boom mic visible over their heads. The deleted scenes and bloopers don't add much to either the story or the content of the extras, though if you ever wanted to see exactly how Vincent left that pawprint outside the well where Desmond was held captive, you're in luck.
Once you track down the other bonus disc of features, you've found the real reason this set is worth buying. The first featurette on the disc, "Letting Go," is the longest and by far the best; it's essentially the "Making of a Final Season" piece from the Season Six set but spanning the entire season, and featuring interviews conducted with cast members all over Hawaii. Michael Emerson and Jorge Garcia reminisce in the valley where they built the golf course, probably deliberately allowing you to pretend they're Ben and Hurley during their island reign. Naveen Andrews and Maggie Grace wander the jungle together, Matthew Fox pontificates fireside, Evangeline Lilly strolls down a beach, the odd trio of Ken Leung, Jeff Fahey and Emilie de Ravin sail together, frequent series director Jack Bender works on a painting at home, and weirdest of all, Daniel Dae Kim leads us on a helicopter tour of Hawaii. Their memories are intercut with footage from the show and, best of all, behind-the-scenes footage from the entire series, including frequent shots of J.J. Abrams directing the pilot. It's exceptionally well-made and extensive, revealing how the actors felt about their own character arcs, how they built their relationships behind the scenes, and simply validating that, yes, many of them were as wrapped up in all this crazy nonsense as you were
If "Letting Go" leans heavy on all the saying goodbye emotions, though, "Swan Song"-- ostensibly about Michael Giacchino's final scoring session with the orchestra-- sends it all home. Not only do we see Lindelof and Cuse weeping in the sound mixing booth as they hear the full orchestra for the first time, but the segment ends with seeing each actor wrap their final take, and even Giacchino walking away from his conductor's podium. So many of the commentaries specifically singled out Giacchino's work that it's great to see the maestro himself get his due, but by the time you're done with this one, you are probably more than ready to get the tears over with.
Lucky for you, that's pretty much the end of the weepy stuff. The rest of the disc includes a cheeky and funny visit through the props department that gets the actors in on the fun (Claire's squirrel baby sheds on Evangeline Lilly!), the "Lost World" tribute to fans that includes footage from last year's hilarious Comic Con panel, the only moderately funny "Lost Slapdowns" that aired as webisodes last season (and can be seen online), highlights from Lindelof and Cuse's audio podcast that have zero video content whatsoever, and a mishmash of deleted scenes and behind-the-scenes featurettes from seasons 3-5-- maybe they were unearthed in the archives after the previous DVDs came out? It's a little weird to come across the story of how they built the rat maze in Faraday's office this long after the fact, but if you're willing to poke around there's some interesting stuff in there along with the typically uninformative deleted scenes.
The bonus features overall are well worth the purchase, both for diehard Lost fans and anyone interested in how a show so large manages production each week, but it could have been a little better organized. Why do we see all the actors wrap production in a segment ostensibly dedicated to the music? Why do they try to choke us up over the finale in so many featurettes? Why are the commentaries so very useless? This might not bother you if you watch the bonus features separately, with actual episodes sprinkled in-between-- that's how you're supposed to watch it, probably, and I rushed through them for the sake of writing this review. But still, given how meticulously edited the pieces themselves are, you'd think they could have flowed together a little better, and without being quite so repetitive of each other.
It's also worth noting that, hey, this is a Lost set-- there are probably Easter Eggs in there I haven't been able to crack yet. Trust me, tracking down all the randomly hidden deleted scenes and figuring out that the "Lost on Location" bits on the bonus disc really were new content from Season 3 was more than enough Easter Egg hunting for me. As much as better organization could have helped things, though-- where are the rules to the Senet game, anyway?-- The Complete Collection makes for a satisfying puzzle, and offers more than enough to keep Lost diehards entertained-- and a little bit weepy-- for weeks. You may want to stretch it out a bit longer, both to preserve your sanity and to let Lost live a little bit longer that way.