Lost - Season 3 (2006-2007)
Its second season dipped slightly in terms of quality, but season 3 found 'Lost' firing on all cylinders and back to the greatness of its first. This is now my joint favourite TV show currently on air, together with 'Battlestar Galactica', although I think this season of 'Lost' was arguably of a consistently higher quality than even BSG could maintain. Virtually every episode had me dying to see the next one.
At the end of Season 2, Jack (Matthew Fox), Sawyer (Josh Holloway), and Kate (Evengeline Lilly) were in the clutches of the mysterious 'Others', a group ostensibly led by a man named Ben Linus (Michael Emerson), while Hurley (Jorge Garcia) had been released to warn the Losties to stay away. John (Terry O'Quinn), Eko (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), and Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick) were in the hatch with the strange magnetic anomaly being triggered and turning the sky purple, forcing Desmond to turn the 'failsafe' key. Charlie (Dominic Monaghan) and Claire (Emilie de Ravin) were safe on the beach, while Sayid (Naveen Andrews), Jin (Daniel Dae Kim), and Sun (Yunjin Kim) were on Desmond's boat trying to help Jack.
As with the previous seasons, the opening minutes of the first episode reveal the focus of the show. The first was about the survivors on the beach and the second was about the hatch; the third season is all about the 'Others'. The opening third of the season is split between the incarceration and manipulation of Jack, Kate, and Sawyer by the Others in a Dharma station called the Hydra, and the activities back on the beach involving everyone else. Beyond the first third, well, things twist and turn spectacularly and there is a lot of incident. There is a fracturing of narratives throughout the season as the focus jumps back and forth between the main group of Losties, the Others, and smaller groups who go off questing on their own. Most of the episodes tie in with the overall story with only a few being standalone, but those are also quite good (if not as propulsive) and add to the texture of the world and to the characters. Summarizing the events of a show like Lost, where there are myriad events that add details to the big picture layer by layer while fleshing out the characters and their relationships, would be counterproductive, so I'm going to leave it at that.
As always, the recurring themes of the show - faith vs science, free will vs fate / destiny, father figure relationships, and contrition - make themselves felt on a regular basis. In typical Lost fashion, a lot of details about the Dharma Initiative, the Hostiles, and the island's secrets are provided in the midst of introducing new mysteries, leaving viewers with plenty to chew on without giving everything away. The final episode is indeed terrific and climactic, and sets up all kinds of interesting possibilities for the next season. The storyline really seems to be coming together now, and has a cohesive quality that indicates that the writers have a good idea where they're going and how everything is going to end up; this is a conclusion that I couldn't have arrived at with quite as much confidence based on the first two seasons. It bodes well for the remaining 48 episodes, though I hope the ultimate resolution manages to live up to the standards the show has set for itself!
Despite my skepticism about the flashbacks remaining compelling for a third season, they do so for the most part. There are some nice variations on the flashback format that diverge from the norm, such as several flashbacks to events on the island itself. The characters we know and love are as well written as ever, and while their personalities are familiar the situations they are thrown into are fresh and manage to avoid things from becoming overly predictable (though some predictability from the characters is, and should be, expected by now). One complaint I had with last season has thankfully been addressed, and that's the relegation of supporting characters. It's still there to an extent, but this time round everyone pops up at routine intervals to make their presence felt, occasionally getting involved in events in a big way. The introduction of new regular characters Ben and Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell) adds tremendously to the dynamic of the show; they have an enigmatic presence and interesting and completely unique backstories, and their proclivity for mindgames and questionable actions ratchets up the suspicion and hostility levels of the Losties to all new highs.
The cast is, predictably enough, as good as the last two seasons! Honestly, I can't point at any one of these actors and say they performed poorly, as they each acquit themselves well while bringing something unique to the table. There are a few who stand out though - the newcomers, Michael Emerson and Elizabeth Mitchell, are fantastic and it's amazing how compelling they are despite being, ostensibly, the villains. From the regulars, Josh Holloway steals the show at every turn with his sardonic attitude and wisecracks, and his Sawyer is now my favourite character. Terry O'Quinn is also excellent in the role of Locke, a character that you can love and hate with equal measure. Naveen Andrews as Sayid continues to be the pragmatic badass, and it was nice to see more of him after his limited presence in season 2. I must also mention Dominic Monaghan and Henry Ian Cusick, each of whom is great on their own but together make a terrific team full of fun banter (the British slang and Cusick's accent adds a lot of charm to their relationship, brutha!).
I'm not going to bother dwelling on the production values, which are up to the same high standards of the earlier seasons. I was pleased to note, however, that music plays a bigger role this season than the last; the lack of Giachhino's engaging music was another of my complaints regarding season 2.
Season 3 of 'Lost' is fantastic; sure, there are niggles here and there, such as the Nikki / Paulo moments (two additions to the group who are ultimately dealt with quite satisfactorily!), but they are few and far between. Overall, this is as good as the first season and an improvement over the second. 'Lost' continues to deliver an engaging and addictive mixture of character drama, action, adventure, comedy, romance, and mystery; the wait for Season 4 is going to be bloody interminable!