There aren't many television shows that require fans to own each season's box sets simply because most television isn't rewatchable. Not so the case with ABC's Lost. Repeated viewings aren't only mandatory because of the show's quality, but they're often required just to make some sense of what's just been seen.
Season four of the genre-defying program is a clear example. I'm not giving too much away to those who haven't yet seen last season when I say it unfolds--how do I put this--out of order. Time is of the essence here in season four, and rewatching season four greatly helps in putting all the puzzle pieces together.
The five-disc set (available on standard DVD or high-definition Blu-ray disc) features all 14 episodes from season four (remember, the writers' strike cut the season short by two episodes, which will be made up in the 17-episode fifth and sixth seasons), and contains some of the series' best moments. The mind-bending and heart-tugging from the Desmond-centric "The Constant," the holy-crap-no-way moments in "The Economist," the introduction of the four freighter folk in "Confirmed Dead" (best character introductions ever?), and of course the highly touted three-hour two-part finale.
But the real things Lost fans want to know about are the special features. The major ones were all previewed at Comic-Con this year, but the sum total of all the special features is in the double digits.
The most fascinating of them all is "The Island Backlot: Lost in Hawaii," which shows how the 50th state is turned into a palette that mimics the entire world. While the helicopter scenes relied almost entirely on green-screen effects, some environments were created from the ground up, and it's staggering to see how much work went into each stage.
For example, the streets of sunny Oahu were transformed into Berlin in wintertime using crushed ice--lots of it--to simulate recent snowpack. The exterior of the Orchid station was thrown together by set designers, and although it looks sturdy, Hurley assures us it's fake. Computers also help add depth to scenes--the Saharan sand Ben "warps" to is real, but the miles of realistic-looking dunes behind is just the equivalent of a large JPEG. This feature really shows what a big-budget television show goes through day in and day out.
Composer Michael Giacchino--the Lost team's most underrated player--gets his moment in the sun in "Soundtrack of Survival: Composing for Character, Conflict, & The Crash." In terms of sheer fascination, this long feature is a close second to "The Island Backlot."
Sure the short has Giacchino talking about various themes and how they came about, but the real treat is footage from the Lost symphony that was performed live in Honolulu. Did you know that some of the percussion was performed on airplane parts from the Oceanic 815 wreckage? Did you know Giacchino only begins writing pieces after the entire episode is shot and edited? These types of factoids are almost as important to Lost fans as knowing the mysterious numbers.
One other nifty feature is "Course of the Future: The Definitive Flash-Forwards" (what's with all the long titles?). This lets viewers watch all the flash-forwards in sequence, which doesn't sound like much at first but really helps understand the timeline like never before. On the Blu-ray edition, the feature is unlocked by completing an interactive game where users first have to put the flash-forwards in order.
Also included in the box set are the following: featurettes on the guns of Lost, the freighter folk, the Oceanic Six, the actual freighter set (complete with seasick cast members), behind-the-scenes looks at several episodes (including an in-depth look at the fight between Charlotte and Juliet--yes!), deleted scenes, and a fairly standard blooper reel. The Blu-ray version adds interactive menus, more footage from the Lost symphony, more interactivity with the flash-forwards (including Damon Lindelof's famous expletive-drenched script directions), and SeasonPlay, which basically serves as a digital bookmark.
There's no doubt that between the two, the Blu-ray version is the one to get. Of course that requires an HD-capable television set and a Blu-ray player (time to kidnap little Johnny's PlayStation 3 for the afternoon!), but seeing Lost in super-high-res 1080p is so worth it. And all the special features are in high-def, too.
Lost season four is available on DVD and Blu-ray for the list prices of $59.99 and $96.99, respectively, but a savvy online shopper will find them on Amazon.com for much, much cheaper.
Lost season five starts on January 21--it's time to freshen up on the events of season four.