As those who kept up with my individual episode reviews will know, I found Season 4 of Lost to be a definite return to the show’s top form. Despite being ever-so-slightly truncated by the writer’s strike, the writing team still found time to cram in more plot development and big reveals than the previous 3 seasons, culminating in a fast-paced finale which not only tied up the series, but also left little doubt as to where the series was headed.
By revamping the format, offering “flash-forwards” in the place of flashbacks, Lost finally made the character vignettes of the previous 3 seasons seem fresh and interesting again. What had previously been slightly interesting moral fables at best and pointless time-filler at worst instead became a window into the ultimate fate of the characters. While that half of the show had become stale in seasons 2 and 3, the flash-forwards were, on some occasions, more interesting than the material actually on the island.
Even as the plot thickened, one-off episodes such as the Desmond-centric “The Constant” proved that you don’t need shocking revelations to grip a viewer in what turned out to be both one of the series’ high points and an astounding piece of television. Elsewhere, Ben, the former “Henry Gale” of The Others came to the forefront as one of the most compelling characters in the series, eclipsing even previous fan-favourites.
Season 4 ran for a total of 14 episodes (including both parts of the 2-part finale) as part of a deal to run the pre-planned finale of Lost over 3 years without artificially extending the content of the show. Having the finish line in sight is a clear motivator for the writing team of Lost, who are now free to lay their cards on the table with near-reckless abandon. Compared to the paucity of information received in the first few seasons, there’s little doubt that Lost’s 4 th season is the most entertaining and re-watchable yet, and thus the prime candidate for purchase on DVD.
With fewer episodes, though, the DVD set needs some substantial extras to round out the missing hours one previously found in a box set of Lost – the box does, after all, promise “The Expanded Experience” so, in theory, there should be plenty to keep you occupied.
In practise, however, there’s little improvement over previous collections. The blooper reel is, as with all US blooper reels, sanitised to the point where it feels entirely pointless. Deleted Scenes and Commentaries will interest only the most dedicated fan, and behind-the-scenes documentaries interest almost no-one. They’re competently put together, but after this much time, who would expect any less? Once again, the vast repository of supplemental material that makes following Lost so engaging is eschewed in favour of by-the-numbers (no, not those numbers) extras representing the most basic level of effort acceptable.
It’s a pity that such a good season of Lost should be marred by a lazy DVD set. With fewer discs than normal and no substantial extras to compensate, there’s really nothing here that would convince fans to buy the series beyond the episodes themselves, and certainly no extras that you’ll find yourself returning to. The sole saving grace is that the price has been dropped to £40 – £20 off the Season 2/3 RRP – which at least means that those who were happy to buy the previous uninspired collections will feel no worse about shelling out for the same approach, with fewer episodes. The goal of Lost Season 4 was to take viewers by surprise and deliver something new. The goal of the DVD set, however, appears to be the complete opposite.