Sunday, May 23, 2010

My Favorite Episodes of Lost - Season 6

Season 6.  It had so much potential.  It had so much to prove.  It had so much to live up to after the stellar season 5.  Sadly, I don't think it did.  It's been a good season, but it's been a frustrating season too.  It's been exciting and has had some big revelations, but it also hasn't totally felt like Lost.  All the cryptic stuff that happened at the Others Temple felt a little "off."  I haven't been thrilled with the sometimes significant switch in focus from our Losties to Jacob and the "Man in Black."  Maybe I'm just jaded because of what happened to Juliet.  ;)  I do like the sideways universe, but I'm not sure exactly what it's purpose is in terms of storytelling, but I guess/hope we will find out later tonight.

Season 6 - Favorites

[6.01]  LA X (Part 1)
[6.02]  LA X (Part 2)
[6.07]  Dr. Linus

Season 6 - Honorable Mentions

[6.04]  The Substitute
[6.05]  Lighthouse
[6.06]  Sundown
[6.08]  Recon

I loved the two-part / two-hour season premiere because of the introduction of the sideways universe.  It had a lot of "Easter Eggs" with old characters, sometimes ones who had died, coming back for an appearance in the new timeline.  I like seeing how some things turned out the same, how some things turned out completely opposite, and how somethings were similar but with a twist.  It was very amusing, very nostalgic.

"Dr. Linus" was, by far, the most Lost-like episode of the series.  It contained a redemption storyline, it showed parallels between the prime timeline and the alternate timeline, it had some of our characters back on the beach, and I think it's the only episode of the season to have a classic music montage near the end (I love those).  This felt like the old classic days of Lost.  Too bad it couldn't last...

I liked "The Substitute," "Lighthouse," and "Sundown" because of the information we learned about the numbers, Candidates, and Jacob's use of the lighthouse mirrors to observe the Candidates.  Actually, I don't even remember right now why I liked "Sundown," but I marked it an 8 out 10 at at the time, so I must have liked it.

I got a real kick out of the Sawyer-centric episode "Recon."  It was so cool seeing him be a police officer with Miles has his partner.  While I would have been *thrilled* to see Juliet in this episode, having James hook up with Charlotte (who looks much better off-island) was a decent consolation prize.

No, "Ab Aeterno," the Richard-centric episode, is neither a favorite nor an honorable mention.  Maybe once I get some distance from it, I'll like it better.  I will admit, it had some great production quality.  Out of *all* the episodes, it was the one that felt the most like a movie.  It had some of the most beautiful vistas of the island since season 1.  It had a great, romantic love story between Richard and his wife.  And, Nestor Carbonell should get an Emmy nomination for carrying this episode with excellence.  *But*, in the final season, when there's such little time to conclude so many subplots and solve so many mysteries, I do not care enough about Richard to see him get an entire episode when the only thing we learn about him that is important in the grand scheme of things is that Jacob made him immortal -- something we *already* knew.

My Favorite Episodes of Lost - Season 5

Season 5.  The best season of Lost, by far.  One of the best seasons of TV, out of all my favorite shows.  This is the season in which Lost peaked.

Season 5 - Favorites

[5.08]  LaFleur
[5.09]  Namaste
[5.10]  He's Our You
[5.11]  Whatever Happened, Happened
[5.13]  Some Like It Hoth
[5.14]  The Variable
[5.15]  Follow the Leader
[5.16]  The Incident (Part 1)
[5.17]  The Incident (Part 2)

Season 5 - Honorable Mentions

[5.01]  Because You Left
[5.02]  The Lie
[5.03]  Jughead
[5.04]  The Little Prince
[5.05]  This Place Is Death
[5.06]  316
[5.07]  The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham

Yes, that's no mistake.  I count every episode of season 5 as either a favorite or an honorable mention except [5.12] "Dead Is Dead."  Even that episode was still decent.  The season is just that good.

Basically, season 5 is the time travel season.  On the island, Locke, Sawyer, Juliet, Jin, Miles, Daniel Faraday, and Charlotte are bouncing around in time.  According to Lostpedia, they experienced at least 14 time flashes.  In those flashes, one or more people each got to witness the birth of Aaron, the washing ashore of Rousseau's science group on the island, the presence of an atom bomb on the island in the 1950s, and the Tawaret statue being intact on the island in an earlier century.

I love the time flashes.  The only thing better is when the time flashes stop, and the survivors join the Dharma Initiative in 1974.  It was great seeing James (hard to still call him Sawyer at this point) taking up a respected leadership position and even better to see him in a relationship with Juliet.  It's funny; after three seasons of developing the Jack/Kate/Sawyer love triangle (and, maybe a few months of Juliet just barely making it a "love trapezoid"), all it took was a few scenes of seeing James and Juliet together for their relationship to be just as believable as Sun and Jin's or Desmond and Penny's.

When Jack, Kate, Hurley, and Sayid time flash back to 1977, after the other Losties have lived comfortably in the Dharma Initiative for three years, there's this horrible sense that fun time is over.  The game is back on.  While the final hours of season 5 aren't as action-packed as season 4, it's even better because of the tension between characters, the philosophical aspect of fate vs. free will, the nostalgia of seeing the Swan station being built, and the big question as to whether the group could -- or should -- try to change their pasts.  And, the final moments of the episode are the most jaw-dropping and gut-wrenching of the entire series, and again, it's because of the believability of the James/Juliet relationship and how much Juliet was my favorite character.

Other highlights of the season include:  Hurley trying to write The Empire Strikes Back for George Lucas, finding Rose and Bernard (with Vincent) who are hiding from both Dharma and the Others because they have "retired," Miles getting to interact with his dad and finding out he wasn't so bad after all, the horror of knowing that Eloise Hawking killed her own son, getting to see Hurley drive a fully intact Dharma van, and Hurley asking Miles questions about time travel that some of the audience were probably wondering too.

My Favorite Episodes of Lost - Season 4

Season 4 really picked things up.  Setting an end date was the best thing the producers could do because it increased the pace and gave the overall story arc a destination to work toward.  Unfortunately, this season was reduced in episode count because of the writers strike.  However, that may be a good thing for two reasons:  (1) We got extra hours in seasons 5 and 6 to compensate.  (2) Season 4 was ultimately a season about shuffling characters back and forth making us wonder the whole time how the Oceanic Six became the Oceanic Six.

Season 4 - Favorites

[4.05]  The Constant
[4.13]  There's No Place Like Home (Part 2)
[4.14]  There's No Place Like Home (Part 3)

Season 4 - Honorable Mentions

[4.03]  The Economist
[4.07]  Ji Yeon
[4.12]  There's No Place Like Home (Part 1)

"The Constant" is generally regarded as one of the best episodes of the series.  Instead of us seeing a flashback of Desmond's character, we actually follow his character as he bounces back & forth in time.  This serves as more proof that Desmond is special when it comes to properties of space, time, and consciousness.  And, it gives us one of the series' most emotional moments as Desmond reunites with his love Penny albeit over the phone.  Hearing Penny's voice helps ground Desmond such that he gets his memory back in the present and stops bouncing around in time.

The three-part / four-hour season finale is one of the most exciting story arcs of the whole series.  We see events that eventually lead to some of the characters getting off the island, though not in as easy a way as we might have expected.  I can't remember exactly why, but I count Part 1 as an honorable mention instead of a favorite probably because the action and intrigue was just ramping up at that point.

"The Economist" is definitely the best Sayid story.  In retrospect, it's a little depressing though.  When combined with what happens to Sayid in season six's sideways universe, it's pretty obvious that Sayid was perpetually screwed.  No matter how hard he tried to redeem himself, on the island, in 1977, off the island, or in the sidewaysverse, he was always meant to be a killer.  It reminds me of a line from the otherwise forgettable 1996 Michael Douglas film "The Ghost and the Darkness" in which his character, a famous hunter named Charles Remington, is hired to kill two lions reeking havoc on a railroad operation in Kenya.  Someone asks Remington if he enjoys killing and if not, why do it.  Remington responds, "Because I've got a gift."  It's the same with Sayid.  His gift, but also his curse, is his ability to torture and kill.

No surprise, but "Ji Yeon" is another honorable mention simply because it's a Sun-centric episode.  I love the part at the end when Hurley goes to visit Sun in Seoul.  She and Hurley take Ji Yeon to a grave that is reserved for Jin.  At that time, we still didn't know if Jin was really dead, on the island but pretending to be dead to the outside world, or assumed to be dead by the Oceanic 6 but actually alive.  Consequently, another tear-filled moment.

My Favorite Episodes of Lost - Season 3

Ahh, Season 3 of Lost.  Lost is one of my favorite shows, even at its worst it’s still better than most of the crap on TV, and the season ended pretty well.  But, let’s face it.  Season 3 was the worst season of Lost.  Or, I guess it’d be more appropriate to say it’s the “least good” season of Lost.
Season 3 started off with the lackluster six-episode mini-arc in which Jack, Kate, and Sawyer are stuck in love triangle hell while held captive by the Others.  Despite those six episodes not being that great, their saving grace is the introduction of the character of Juliet Burke, the sympathetic, blond Other (played by Elizabeth Mitchell) who became one of my favorite characters.  Also, the first few minutes of the season premiere episode are dedicated to her (one of the best character introductions ever) as well as the sight of the Oceanic plane breaking up in air from the viewpoint of the Others barracks, also introduced for the first time.
Season 3 also brought us “Stranger in a Strange Land,” the infamous Jack-centric episode dedicated to the origins of his tattoo in Thailand, generally considered to be one of the worst episodes of the series.  According to, that episode was the turning point in which the studio finally allowed the producers to set an end date for the series.
Season 3 - Favorite
[3.16]  One of Us
Season 3 - Honorable Mentions
[3.10]  Tricia Tanaka is Dead
[3.14]  Expose
[3.18]  D.O.C.
[3.21]  Greatest Hits
[3.22]  Through the Looking Glass (Part 1)
[3.23]  Through the Looking Glass (Part 2)
“One of Us” is my favorite episode of the season mostly because it focuses on Juliet.  I love how it shows her vulnerable side as we see her a normal doctor before her time on the island hardened her.  I think it’s a great image of Juliet climbing out of the hatch of the submarine and taking her first look at the island.  It’s such a polar opposite to her character’s fate in the season 5 finale.  When she comes to the island she climbs up out of a hole in the water (the submarine hatch), willingly, into the light (sunshine of the island).  In the season 5 finale, she falls into a hole in the earth (the 1977 Swan Station drill site), unwillingly, into darkness.  Her character goes full circle, and though this is the 2nd Juliet-centric episode of this season, the best part of her backstory begins here.
As if her character introduction in the season premiere weren’t already Emmy-worthy enough, Elizabeth Mitchell continues to deliver in the scene in which Ben shows Juliet on a TV monitor that her sister is now cancer free and has a son named Julian.  Juliet is overjoyed and grips the screen crying wishing she could hold her sister and nephew.  That’s heartbreaking enough, but when Ben radios to Mikhail to turn off the connection, and the monitor goes blank, Juliet begs for more time and for the opportunity to go home after being stuck on the island for three years.  Ben won’t let her until she finishes her work for which she adamantly claims she’s exhausted all possibilities.
“Tricia Tanaka is Dead” and “D.O.C.” are two of my honorable mentions simply because they focus on two of my other favorite characters, Hurley and Sun, respectively.  I also love the triumphant moment in “Tanaka” in which Hurley is able to get the old Dharma van running again.  And, “D.O.C.” also marks the beginning of the freighter storyline as Charlie, Desmond, Hurley, and Jin deal with the wounded Naomi Dorrit, the first member of the freighter crew to land on the island, which eventually leads to the Oceanic 6 getting off the island.
Most fans *hated* the way new characters Nikki and Paulo were written into the show in season 3.  They simply emerged out of the nameless, faceless extras littering the beach (as at that time, Oceanic 815 still had over three dozen survivors from the middle section of the plane) and started injecting themselves into the story, such as the mission to one of the underground Dharma stations.  Even the producers eventually admitted those characters were a mistake.  I didn’t mind them nearly as much as others did.  Regardless of how awkwardly Nikki and Paulo were introduced, “Expose” is one of my honorable mentions from the season because it was a brilliant way of writing them out of the show, sending them to a horrifying death deserving of such hated characters.
“Greatest Hits” and Parts 1 and 2 of “Through the Looking Glass” are all honorable mentions for basically forming one looong, exciting four-hour season finale (with part 2 of “Glass” being two hours).  They’re just short of being favorites because of a heavy centricity on Jack in the final three hours.  But, the Charlie-centric “Greatest Hits” was a great way of writing out an un-even, yet ultimately likable character who’s last sacrificial act served as a heroic warning that would drive much of the tension and mystery for the rest of seasons 3 and 4.

My Favorite Episodes of Lost - Season 2

While I really like Season 2 overall, because I like the Swan Station setting and the introductions of Desmond, Ben (a.k.a. Henry Gale), and The Others, not many episodes stand out as exceptional enough to be all-time favorites.

Season 2 - Favorite

[2.07]  The Other 48 Days

Season 2 - Honorable Mentions

[2.04]  Everybody Hates Hugo
[2.05]  ...And Found
[2.16]  The Whole Truth
[2.17]  Lockdown
[2.19]  S.O.S.

I like "The Other 48 Days" the best out of Season 2 because it shows us something completely different -- what happened to the people in the tail section.  We see that there were actually several survivors.  Some were abducted by The Others, including the kids.  We're introduced to whole new set of characters:  Ana Lucia, Libby, Mr. Eko, Rose's husband Bernard, and the flight attendant Cindy.  Considering that Ana Lucia, Libby, and Eko all get killed, Cindy joins the Others, and Bernard eventually "retires" with Rose, the tail section story doesn't really add much in the grand scheme of things, but it's an interesting diversion, especially considering how it's woven so intelligently into the main storyline with the Tailies finding Sawyer, Michael, and Jin after the raft explosion.

I like "Everybody Hates Hugo" because it focuses on one of my favorite characters, Hurley.  It begins with a dream sequence in which he's speaking Korean, and Jin, standing beside a guy in a chicken outfit, speaks perfect English.  Later, we see what happens when Hurley wins the lottery and how it affects his responsibility in rationing the Swan Station food stash.  Many of my favorite scenes in Lost are the "music montages" in which emotional music plays over a scene without dialogue.  They're occasionally done in slight slow motion and usually involve departures, reunions, mourning, celebration, etc.  The music montage in this episode is Hurley giving out *all* of the food to the entire group of survivors in one night, which brightens everyone's mood and basically turns a normal night on the island into a party.  It's one of Hurley's finest moments.

I like "...And Found" and "The Whole Truth" simply because they focus on Sun & Jin who are always interesting characters to learn more about, even when they're story doesn't seem that important in the grand scheme of things.  "Lockdown" is good because we get to see the map drawn in invisible ink on the Swan Station blast door and see some interesting interactions between Locke and Ben.  "S.O.S." is unique because it's the only Bernard & Rose -centric episode.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

My Favorite Episodes of Lost - Season 1

After six seasons, the TV show Lost ends tomorrow night.  A lot of satisfaction in the series is riding on the climactic finale.  Even though unanswered questions & dangling plot threads are at this point a foregone conclusion, it’s still my hope that the final 2.5 hours will wrap up the mind-bending, time-twisting series in a way that surpasses expectations.  I simply don’t know how they can do it, but maybe Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse will pull off the seemingly impossible and deliver a finale packed full of drama, emotion, humor, clarification, cohesion, and closure.  (And, there better be a prominent guest appearance from Elizabeth Mitchell as the massively-missed Juliet.)
In preparation for Sunday’s finale event, as well as the replay of the pilot episode tonight, I thought I’d list out my favorite episodes from the series.  It’s too hard to rank them or to limit them to a top 10 list, so I’ll just go season by season...
Season 1
[1.01]  Pilot (Part 1)
[1.02]  Pilot (Part 2)
[1.04]  Walkabout
[1.05]  House of the Rising Sun
[1.06]  The Moth
[1.17]  ...In Translation
[1.18]  Numbers
[1.23]  Exodus (Part 1)
The two-part “Pilot” episode is more than just the pilot of a series; it’s virtually a movie.  I remember being pleasantly surprised at how action-packed it was.  I’m not sure I knew ahead of time that there’d be a sci-fi or fantasy element, so I was immediately intrigued by the unseen yet formidable-sounding monster in the jungle.  I didn’t know that character flashbacks would be a staple of the series’ early run, so Lost did a good job of concentrating on character development from the very beginning.
The other episodes are my favorites almost entirely because of one scene per episode...
  • "Walkabout":  The shocking revelation that Locke was confined to a wheelchair before coming to the island, which apparently healed him and allowed him to walk again.
  • “House of the Rising Sun”:  The Korean woman, Sun Kwon, revealing to Michael (and, consequently, the audience) that she knows how to speak English but hasn’t told her husband Jin.
  • “The Moth”:  The redemption of drug-addicted Charlie where he chooses to throw the heroin in the fire and Locke says he’s proud of him.
  • “...In Translation":  Sun unexpectedly revealing to the rest of the castaways, including her husband, that she could speak English.
  • "Numbers":  Hurley being so desperate to have someone believe him that he confronts an armed & slightly insane Danielle Rousseau about the cursed numbers and then hugs her when she agrees that the numbers are cursed.

But, the single greatest scene of the season and still one of the greatest of the entire series, is not in the two-hour season finale, but in the season’s penultimate episode “Exodus (Part 1).”  In that episode, Michael’s well designed raft is ready to set sail so that he, Walt, Jin, and Sawyer can bring back help to the other survivors of Oceanic 815.
First, Sun gives Jin a list of English words spelled out phonetically to help him communicate on the raft.  Jin apologizes for all he’s done wrong, and they have a tearful goodbye.  As the awesome musical score starts up, the rest of the scene happens without words.  Charlie collects the last of the survivors’ notes for the messages in a bottle.  Claire kisses her baby.  Walt says goodbye to his dog Vincent.  Jin kisses the forehead of baby Aaron.  Michael & Sun, who have had a certain chemistry, have an awkward moment where they don’t know whether to shake hands or hug.  Jin & Charlie hug.  Walt gives Vincent to Shannon.  Charlie gives the bottle of messages to Sawyer.  Sawyer realizes that with Kate being in the group going to get dynamite from the Black Rock (revealed for the first time in this episode) there’s no one who likes him enough to hug him goodbye.  The survivors (still several dozen at this time) push the raft into the water and hoop & holler at it’s successful launching.  Vincent runs out into the water, and Walt has to tell him stay behind.  Sayid & Charlie have their arms around each other and holler when Sawyer raises the raft’s sail.  The camera focuses on Jin as he stares with love at his wife still on the beach, and she looks back at him.  And, the music becomes exceedingly bold & triumphant as we see the raft successfully sailing off into deeper water.
If there were a Top 10 list, maybe even Top 5 list, of best scenes of the series, that would *have* to be in there.
So, that’s the best of Season 1.  This ended up being long enough, that I’ll do separate blog entries for each season...