“I’LL MISS YOU JOHN. I REALLY WILL.”
Season 5 of Lost is, with out a doubt, the absolute best season of the entire show. This might be a slightly controversial opinion to some – especially those that prefer the more grounded island survival tone of the first 3 seasons. But for me, season 5 develops the mythology of the show into new and exciting places and, despite some of the show’s most outlandish stuff taking place this season, it does so in way true to the original spirit of the show. The show still contains that winning formula of well written and well acted character drama mixed with big science fiction ideas, but the ground work has been laid for these character now meaning the show can explore crazier directions. The driving force of the season is, once again, Matthew Fox’s Jack and Josh Holloway’s Jame ‘Sawyer’ Ford. But the two characters are completely flipped on their heads. The diplomatic, compassionate, and ever so slightly boring Jack, is now on a faith driven mission to return to the island to fulfil his ‘destiny’ and doesn’t let anyone stand in his way (his bodycount this season is high). There’s more of Locke’s ‘man of faith’ about him now than the original ‘man of science’ Jack. Sawyer is flipped too, as result of spending 3 peaceful years in a Dharma community with Juliet. He goes from stubborn anti hero to genuine hero, leading the community’s security team and being the reliable boyfriend to Juliet. And the season only gets better from there…
The season begins following the boat explosion at the end of season 4 and the escape of the Oceanic 6 from the island. The flashbacks/forwards/sideways in season 5 are perhaps the most varied of all the seasons. There are traditional Lost flashbacks, which reveal the history of character and inform the present story line. But a most of the time, the narrative device is used this time around to separate the group on the mainland and the group back on the island. The group on the mainland – the Oceanic 6 (and Ben and later Locke) are trying to get back to the island, as per the instructions of John Locke. The only problem is nobody except Jack actually wants to go back. Oh and Locke is dead. Like, legitimately dead. He is still present in the flashbacks to the island portion of the season but in the ‘present day’ with Jack and the gang, he’s dead (it sounds more complicated than it is). This is actually one of the most compelling mysteries of the season and fortunately for impatient viewers, it’s not particularity dragged out. Most of Locke’s story line is wrapped up by episode 7, the fantastic and profoundly bleak “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham”. That’s not to say Locke doesn’t return in some form, but Locke as we knew him is gone.
These early episodes bounce around the Oceanic 6 and there isn’t a weak link present. These episodes see some unlikely team ups that allow for some great character beats. Jack and Ben are fantastic but my personal favourite scenes are those shared by Hurley and Sayid; they’re hilarious and action packed in equal measure (and I’ll never leave knives in an open dishwasher again). Seeing the characters slowly come back together is fantastic and again, it’s not dragged out. The mainland gang are all back together and heading back to the island on Ajira Airways Flight 316 by episode 6.
On island, the remaining survivors find themselves bouncing through time after Ben turned the wheel and moved the island at the end of the last season. This is one of the crazier things to happen in the show but just go with it, because the time travel stuff is genuinely one of the best moves the show ever made. The time travel aspect of the show allows the show runners to explore more of the shows history and lore by putting our main characters right at the centre of the action. We learn about the others, pre-Ben Linus, back when Eloise Hawking and Charles Widmore were amongst their ranks. The one constant (heh) throughout these time travelling adventures is the fantastic Nestor Carbonell as Richard, the ageless right hand of the mysterious Island leader Jacob. He appears in 1954 in “Jughead” all the way through to the present day in “Dead is Dead”. Whilst we do learn some more about Jacob and the lore of the island as the season continues, Richard fans will have to wait until the next season to get the full Richard story. What I really love these episodes though, is how they develops Josh Holloway’s James ‘Sawyer’ Ford as a character. He ends up spending 3 years within the Dharma Initiative after the time jumps stop with the island gang in 1974. Holloway is so good as the reluctant leader and I love his relationship with Juliet and Miles after they have all settled down in the 1970’s. The dynamic between him and Jack is great as Jack tries to fix everything without realising that Sawyer is perfectly happy where he is. Ultimately it’s a tragic season for James, as the finale sees Juliet perish in Jack’s big scheme to fix the island.
Season 5 is really a season of two halves; the first follows the Oceanic 6 as try to return to the island and the flashbacks show those who were left behind, bouncing throughout time. The second half is where thing ramp up as it sees the Oceanic 6 crash back into the lives of Sawyer and the others who were left behind. Not all of the Ajira passengers end up in 1977 however and it’s here where some of the more esoteric stuff begins to happen. Ben and Sun don’t disappear back to 1977 upon returning to the Island, they instead crash land in the present day along with John Locke – who has seemingly rose from the dead. The circumstances of his resurrection are another mystery answered by the end of the season, one which may piss off a few watchers. It’s revealed in “The Incident” (although it’s pretty obvious earlier on) that Locke is no longer Locke, but is instead the Smoke Monster – otherwise know as The Man in Black – using Locke’s form. This is Lost at it’s most love it or hate and season 6 delves further into this so I’ll leave the big debates until then but, for the most part, I love this. It gives the survivors something bigger than another human enemy to fight against and allows for all of the spiritual themes and discussions I think the show does so well.
The season really doesn’t have a weak point. I guess if you were watching weekly, the will they return/won’t they return dynamic of the Oceanic 6 in the early episodes might drag a little, but it’s still mostly compelling stuff. The high point of the season for me, is episode 14 “The Variable” which sees the return of one of the best characters; Daniel Faraday (Jeremy Davies). It’s revealed that the blonde British woman on the Island who the survivors run into in “Jughead” is actually Daniel Faraday’s mother. She’s also the elderly lady back in LA helping the Oceanic 6 get back to the Island, plus she also made an appearance in the season 3 Desmond-centric episode “Flashes Before Your Eyes”. How and why she can interact with Desmond during his temporal displacements is never really answered but we know she’s important. “The Variable” is great because it ties up some of these dangling plot threads and also drops a few new bombshells on us (Widmore is Faraday’s father!!). Davies is fantastic in the role as always and his death, being shot by his own mother before she has even given birth to him, is just a perfectly messed sci-fi concept. The two part finale “The Incident” is also a high point and culminates in a poetic transformation of Jack from a man of science in to a man of faith.
Season 5 fixes so much of what Lost did wrong in it’s previous seasons. Most of the mysteries are no longer dragged out across the season (and further) and the season barrels along at a breakneck speed. It’s never too fast however nor do elements of the season outstay their welcome. It’s great fun watching Jack, Kate and Hurley pretending to be Dharma initiatives when they turn up in 1977 upon their return to the island. It allows for some great tension too, as they try to stay undercover as janitors and mechanics (and in Hurley’s case, a chef). But a prime example of how the writers have learnt from previous mistakes comes when the Oceanic 6’s cover is at risk of being rumbled in “The Variable”. Previous seasons may have seen this being dragged out for multiple episodes (think of Ben pretending to be Henry Gale back in season 2). But this time around, things turn explosive quickly as conversation is instead replaced by shocking shootouts. It shows the change in the characters, Jack especially, as he no longer tries to be diplomatic and peaceful to achieve gis goals (echoing the blind faith of the late John Locke). It brings me onto another improvement within the show; the action. There are multiple shootouts this season that are surprisingly thrilling and brutal. ‘The Incident’ sees Sayid shot in the gut and Jack gunning down multiple Dharma security officers. I personally like to think this in reference to the brutal and explosive cinema of the decade our cast are stuck in, the 70’s. But whatever the reason, it does what all shows in their late seasons should do and mixes things up to surprise the viewers. Jack may have plot armour on but more than enough characters take a bullet this season to keep audiences on their toes.
Lost season 5 isn’t going to be for everyone. I’m sure some fans will be put off by the hard sci-fi direction the show takes. But it’s so worth sticking with it. Not only is the science fiction stuff wonderfully realised throughout, but the compelling character drama that made Lost such a hit in the first place is better than ever. The show cleverly switches up direction for it’s main characters, having their motivations change and their personalities develop to new places, or just shockingly killing them off entirely. The actors are all, universally brilliant and look to be having so much fun with the time travelling concept. The season is both entirely new and fresh whilst somehow remaining the same, great show you fell in love with back when flight Oceanic 815 crashed on the beach. The strongest season in one of the greatest shows ever made. Praise doesn’t get much higher than that.
Reviewed by Tom