Lost: The Complete Fifth Season (TV)

(2009) *** 1/2 Unrated
731 min. ABC. Cast: Matthew Fox, Naveen Andrews, Jeremy Davies.

/content/films/3652/1.jpgThere's no show on TV like Lost, a serially bold experiment in audience engagement and the ability to produce feature-quality genre entertainment (science fiction and action, in particular) on a weekly television budget. The series' fifth and penultimate season ups the ante in terms of action, as executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse move within spitting distance of paying off long-harbored mysteries.

As Lost fans well know, the hook of Season Five is time travel, as the mysterious island populated by the castaway protagonists unmoors, spinning the characters dangerously through time. As such, the series' structure, once dominated by flashbacks and then, cleverly, by flash-forwards, becomes even more unpredictable and deliriously, scarily unhinged. While the Oceanic Six make surprising choices in 2007, those left behind unexpectedly find themselves in various eras of the island's history—and primarily the year 1974. Resident physics expert Daniel Faraday (the perfectly cast Jeremy Davies) rises in prominence during this season, one that also surprisingly and winningly develops the romance between the newly responsible Sawyer (Josh Holloway) and hopeful doctor Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell). Jack (Matthew Fox) and Kate (Evangeline Lilly) are still kicking around, as are power players Ben (Michael Emerson) and John Locke (Terry O'Quinn).

Season Five truly is a wild ride, best left to be discovered by the viewer, but suffice it to say that the storytelling in these seventeen episodes is vigorous and unafraid, with the writers working hard to convince us of the character's jeopardy (a couple of key characters expire) and that nothing is impossible. Production values remain top-notch, taking full advantage of the Hawaiian production base (while the show is written and executive produced from a suite of offices in Southern California) and its ability to provide lush locations. The photography, special effects, editing and music (by J.J. Abrams' stalwart composer Michael Giacchino) never fail to transport the viewer one hour at a time. No show on television can claim Lost's credentials in casting genius, sustained mystery and weekly suspense, the secret weapon being a wry sense of humor.

Lost's accelerated pace since the 2007 decision to set an end date benefits Season Five enormously, and true to the series' form, the Season Five finale features an enigmatic but obviously game-changing appearance by two opposing characters: the much-discussed Jacob—a.k.a. the "Man in White"—and the "Man in Black." Of course, at this late hour in cultural history, wearing the "white hat" or the "black hat" is no guarantee of respective goodness or badness. Only time will tell these character's true motivations and what kind of mayhem or grace they will bestow on the more familiar characters. With only eighteen hours left to go (and rapidly approaching), there's no time like the present to catch up on (or revisit, with pen and paper at the ready) the fifth season of Lost.

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Aspect ratios: 1.78:1

Number of discs: 5

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 12/5/2009

Distributor: Buena Vista Home Entertainment

For both A/V quality and bonus features, Lost can stand up to any other TV series on Blu-ray. The Complete Fifth Season: The Journey Back—Expanded Edition lives up to the standard set by previous seasons. The picture is perfection: often beautiful and often foreboding in its island settings. The picture is invariably clear and rich in color, with proper contrast, depth and detail that exceed even high expectations. Certainly, TV has come a long way in the audio department, a fact evident when listening to the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround mixes provided for Lost. Surround effects and ambience are sharper than ever, with carefully considered sound designs appropriate to each natural or fantastical setting.

The big news for The Complete Fifth Season is Lost University, an unprecedented suite of bonus features that emulates a college major in Lost Studies. Through use of BD-Live, "students" can enroll in courses, watch lectures, experience lessons and streaming videos, and do homework (!) to gather vital insights and clues as the show heads into the home stretch. The depth and intelligence of this "bonus feature" is tremendous, and a true gift to fans wanting to squeeze every ounce of juice from the oft-interactive Lost experience. Two commentaries also grace the five-disc set: "Because You Left" with executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, and "He's Our You" with executive producers/writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz.

The featurette "Lost 100" (19:00, HD) goes behind the scenes of the series' 100th episode with Lindelof, Cuse, executive chef of Charm City Cakes Duff Goldman, second assistant director Carla Bowen, director Paul Edwards, Kitsis, transportation captain Richard "Udee" Dahl, co-executive producer Jean Higgins, first assistant director Richard Gershman, Josh Holloway, Jorge Garcia, Daniel Dae Kim, Elizabeth Mitchell, Jeremy Davies, Evangeline Lilly, Charm City Cakes decorator Lauren Friedman, director of photography Cort Fey, Eric Lange, Michael Emerson, Horowitz, Nestor Carbonell, co-executive producer Stephen Williams, and executive producer Jack Bender.

The delightful, hilariously retro "Mysteries of the Universe" (26:15, SD) comes with this amusing bogus introduction, which I can't top: "The following is an episode of a short-lived [ABC] television series from the 1980s. The topics explored may be of particular interest to fans of Lost."

"Making Up for Lost Time" (13:47, HD) is another behind-the-scenes featurette, with a broader focus on Season Five and its time-traveling demands. Participants include Garcia, Holloway, Lindelof, Cuse, Francois Chau, script supervisor Diane Frauenholz, key set costumer Lizabeth Maggini-Mackay, art director Tim Beach, set costumer Aaron Milsap, Higgins, production designer Jonathan A. Carlson, supervising producer Paul Zbyszewski, set decorator Carol Bayne Kelley, co-executive producer Elizabeth Sarnoff, Bender, Kim, Rebecca Mader, Williams, Alan Dale, Emerson, Horowitz, dept. head hair stylist Doreen F. Schultz, co-producer/script coordinator Greggory Nations, co-producer Melinda Hsu Taylor, Kitsis, make-up department head Steve LaPorte, Davies, Ken Leung, Yunjin Kim, and Naveen Andrews.

In "An Epic Day with Richard Alpert" (12:14, HD), Nestor Carbonell allows us to follow him as he works with directors Bender and Williams.

"Building 23 and Beyond" (12:00, HD) finds Michael Emerson at the show's Burbank HQ, where he meets Kitsis, Horowitz, Sarnoff, staff writer Kyle Pennington, Hsu Taylor, producer/writer Brian K. Vaughan, Zbyszewski, writer's room assistant Rupa Magge, co-producer Samantha Thomas, asst. to Damon/associate producer Noreen O'Toole, Lindelof & Cuse, writer's room assistant Jim Galasso, associate producer Amanda Lencioni, post coordinator Jamie Kaye Wheeler, post assistant Brandon King, post assistant Josie Kavadoy, Edward & Adam's assistant Adam Nussdorf, Elizabeth's assistant Sean Farina, writers' PA Michael Schaub, Carlton's assistant Cory Bird, editor Mark Goldman, editor Christopher Nelson, editor Stephen Semel, and assistant editors Lance Stubblefield, Chris Braun, and David Eisenberg.

This time around, the seven segments of Lost on Location (37:44, HD) are "The Lie," "The Little Prince," "The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham," "Namaste," "He's Our You," "Whatever Happened, Happened" and "The Incident." The behind-the-scenes glimpses include comments from prop assistant Jennings Fowler, stunt coordinator Michael Trisler, Sean Whalen, Mader, Holloway, Leung, Mitchell, stunt double Kim Koscki, assistant location manager Dustin Gomes, key rigging grip Brian Vollert, camera operator Tommy Lohmann, Williams, chief lighting technician Mark "Kiwi" Kalaugher, rigging gaffer Adam House, special effects supervisor Archie K. Ahuna, marine coordinator Victor Lozano, lead painter Chris Barnes, Beach, Davies, stunt driver Conrad Palmisano, Gershman, Bender, associate producer/location manager Jim Triplett, best boy grip Ane Tranetzki, stunt double/stunt driver Hubie Kerns, Terry O'Quinn, Chau, Garcia, Zbyszewski, Lilly, director of photography John Bartley, 2nd second assistant director Norman Kali, Kitsis, Horowitz, Sterling Beaumon, Lindelof, Bowen, Cuse, Carbonell, Matthew Fox, property master Rob Kyker, and Mark Pellegrino.

Last up are eight "Deleted Scenes" (13:43, SD) and some enjoyable "Lost Bloopers" (3:48, HD). The folks at Lost and Buena Vista Home Entertaiment have done it again, keeping Lost ahead of the pack in pleasing its core audience and inviting the casual viewer to succumb to becoming a fanatic.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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