Lost: Season Five Premiere

As the fifth season begins, the structural fluidity that makes Lost so exciting and unusual has been pushed to the forefront. That's right: we're officially talking time travel.


Airtime: Wednesdays, 9pm ET
Cast: Matthew Fox, Evangeline Lilly, Josh Holloway, Elizabeth Mitchell, Michael Emerson, Naveen Andrews, Jorge Garcia, Terry O'Quinn, Yunjin Kim, Jeremy Davies, Nestor Carbonell, Rebecca Mader
MPAA rating: N/A
Subtitle: Season Five Premiere
Network: ABC
US release date: 2009-01-21
If it didn't happen, it can't happen.

-- Daniel Faraday (Jeremy Davies)

I always chuckle when I hear the announcer say, "Previously on Lost…" Those three words can only sound preposterous, because trying to condense the series' Möbius strip of a plot into any tidy summary is impossible. The Lost mythology has long folded back in on itself, revising and shifting and yet still always expanding. The island's playful verisimilitude echoes the richest H.G. Wells novel, and ethical dilemmas seem culled from the quick-draw sci-fi philosophy of Philip K. Dick. This is old news to fans, who have from the start tried to stitch together the many thematic cross-references and plot pieces (thanks, Lostpedia). This despite the series' tendency to undo all that it's done with one crank of a frozen donkey wheel or the push of a button every 108 minutes.

As the fifth season begins, this structural fluidity -- what makes Lost so exciting and unlike anything else on network TV -- has been pushed to the forefront. That's right: we're officially talking time travel.

I'll say upfront that time travel theory makes my brain hurt. There are so many contradictions and possible outcomes that trying to hold on to any fixed idea (much less reality) becomes exasperating. Luckily, Lost has brought in time-traveling veteran and Dharma Initiative physicist Daniel Faraday (Jeremy Davies) to establish some "rules that can't be broken." The primary rule is that time is linear, and even when the island skips from one time to another, you cannot change the past as it's already occurred: according to Faraday, "Whatever happened, happened." And for the survivors of Oceanic 815, that's quite a lot.

Last week's two-hour season opener opted for an obscure character reveal. The clock struck 8:15 (oh, you're all just so clever) and a couple woke to care for their infant, to the tune of a skipping Willie Nelsen record (again, clever). The surprise was that this domestic bliss belonged to the multiple-aliased Dr. Marvin Candle (François Chau), that smug doctor first seen in Season Two on the Dharma Initiative instruction videos, the one who always gets interrupted by a fissure in the tape or an extraordinary discovery right before he's about to impart some essential bit of knowledge. This time the disruption came in the form of a melted drill, which after coming too darn close to the island's limitless energy source -- which allows for the manipulation of time -- threatened to end the world. In fact, the premiere began and ended with seemingly credible threats of apocalyptic annihilation, simultaneously too vague to be scary and too insistent to be dismissed.

What happened between these bookends was pretty much more of the same. Ben (Michael Emerson) and Jack (Matthew Fox) spent too long discussing their plan to bring Locke's corpse (Terry O'Quinn) and the rest of the Oceanic Six -- Sun (Yunjin Kim), Sayid (Naveen Andrews), Kate (Evangeline Lilly), Hurley (Jorge Reyes, and wee Aaron (William Blanchette) -- back to island, a reunion necessary to avoid that world-ending disaster. Per usual, Ben was coy and withholding, Jack, self-righteous and vacant. The theme of the skipping record found its way off the island: as Jack wheeled Locke out of the funeral home, it was hard not to remember his last trip to the island, his father's corpse in tow. More self-referential cleverness, you see.

And what of the Oceanic Six? Well, while Kate had little Aaron in front of a TV while she furrowed her brows at a series of events. A knock at her door by two lawyers demanding a blood sample indicated that someone important knows that Aaron is not really her son. She shooed them away and then did what Kate does best: she ran. Soon enough, she found herself in the hotel room of another one of the Six: Sun, now a business mogul and fairly badass to boot. With Aaron napping in the background, Sun suggested that Kate -- you know, if she were a real mother -- should stop at nothing, even murder, to keep him. "You've done it before," Sun reminded her. (That is, Sun holds Kate responsible for Jin's death on the island.)

While the ladies drank tea, Hurley, of all people, saw the most action. Freshly escaped from the asylum, he's wanted for murder, and so Sayid swooped in to take him to a "safe" house. The rescue featured Sayid's "crazy ninja moves and spy stuff," as Hurley put it, but ended with Sayid taking several tranquilizer darts in the back, and Hurley having to opt for the safety of his own family's house. Here, Hurley's father (Cheech Marin) offered comic relief, but it was Hurley's confession to his mother (Lillian Hurst) that stole the premiere's second half. Distraught over the lie that the Six opted to tell the media and authorities (that Hurley and Sayid were the only survivors and that the fake crash site full of nameless exhumed Cambodians isn't a huge Charles Whidmore-funded cover-up), Hurley reached out to his mother. His effort to summarize the story thus far was odd and affecting, and the mother-son exchange was easily the most touching of the two hours.

At the same time (if time means anything), things chugged along on the island, even if its temporal hiccups were too often reduced to flip dialogue ("When are we?" was the annoying question du jour). Sawyer (Josh Holloway) needed a shirt. Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell) almost became a lefty. Charlotte (Rebecca Mader) had a nosebleed and a headache. Bernard (Sam Anderson) was outed as a failed boy scout. Frogurt (Sean Whalen) took a well-timed flaming arrow to the chest. It all culminated with a military-looking unit of unidentified British-accented hostiles taking Sawyer and Juliet hostage and proclaiming it was their island. Talk about a skipping record -- we've definitely heard that before.


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1. The Old Dark House (James Whale, 1932)

Between Frankenstein (1931) and The Invisible Man (1933), director James Whale made this over-the-top lark of a dark and stormy night with stranded travelers and a crazy family. In a wordless performance, Boris Karloff headlines as the deformed butler who inspired The Addams Family's Lurch. Charles Laughton, Raymond Massey, Gloria Stuart, Melvyn Douglas and Ernest Thesiger are among those so vividly present, and Whale has a ball directing them through a series of funny, stylish scenes. This new Cohen edition provides the extras from Kino's old disc, including commentaries by Stuart and Whale biographer James Curtis. The astounding 4K restoration of sound and image blows previous editions away. There's now zero hiss on the soundtrack, all the better to hear Massey starting things off with the first line of dialogue: "Hell!"

(Available from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

2. The Lure (Agnieszka Smoczynska, 2015)

Two mermaid sisters (Marta Mazurek, Michalina Olszanska) can summon legs at will to mingle on shore with the band at a Polish disco, where their siren act is a hit. In this dark reinvention of Hans Christian Andersen's already dark The Little Mermaid, one love-struck sister is tempted to sacrifice her fishy nature for human mortality while her sister indulges moments of bloodlust. Abetted by writer Robert Bolesto and twin sister-musicians Barbara and Zuzanna Wronska, director Agnieszka Smoczynska offers a woman's POV on the fairy tale crossed with her glittery childhood memories of '80s Poland. The result: a bizarre, funy, intuitive genre mash-up with plenty of songs. This Criterion disc offers a making-of and two short films by Smoczynska, also on musical subjects.

(Available from Criterion Collection / Read PopMatters review here.)

3. Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas, 2016)

In the category of movies that don't explain themselves in favor of leaving some of their mysteries intact, here's Olivier Assayas' follow-up to the luminous Clouds of Sils Maria. Kristen Stewart again plays a celebrity's lackey with a nominally glamorous, actually stupid job, and she's waiting for a sign from her dead twin brother. What about the ghostly presence of a stalker who sends provocative text messages to her phone? The story flows into passages of outright horror complete with ectoplasm, blood, and ooga-booga soundscapes, and finally settles for asking the questions of whether the "other world" is outside or inside us. Assayas has fashioned a slinky, sexy, perplexing ghost story wrapped around a young woman's desire for something more in her life. There's a Cannes press conference and a brief talk from Assayas on his influences and impulses.

(Available from Criterion Collection / Reader PopMatters review here.

4. The Ghoul (Gareth Tunley, 2016)

The hero (Tom Meeten) tells his therapist that in his dreams, some things are very detailed and others are vague. This movie tells you bluntly what it's up to: a Möbius strip narrative that loops back on itself , as attributed to the diabolical therapists for their cosmic purposes. Then we just wait for the hero to come full circle and commit the crime that, as a cop, he's supposedly investigating. But this doesn't tell us whether he's really an undercover cop pretending to be depressed, or really a depressive imagining he's a cop, so some existential mysteries will never be answered. It's that kind of movie, indebted to David Lynch and other purveyors of nightmarish unreality. Arrow's disc offers a making-of, a commentary from writer-director Gareth Tunley and Meeten along with a producer, and a short film from Tunley and Meeten.

(Available from Arrow Video)

​5. The Illustrated Man (Jack Smight, 1969)

When a young man goes skinny-dipping with a mysterious stranger (Rod Steiger) who's covered with tattoos, the pictures comes to life in a series of odd stories, all created by Ray Bradbury and featuring Steiger and Claire Bloom in multiple roles. Nobody was satisfied with this failure, and it remains condemned to not having reached its potential. So why does Warner Archive grace it with a Blu-ray? Because even its failure has workable elements, including Jerry Goldsmith's score and the cold neatness of the one scene people remember: "The Veldt", which combines primal child/parent hostilities (a common Bradbury theme) with early virtual reality. It answers the question of why the kids spend so much time in their room, and why they're hostile at being pulled away.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

6. The Hidden (Jack Sholder, 1987)

In one of my favorite action movies of the '80s, a post-Blue Velvet and pre-Twin Peaks Kyle MacLachlan plays an FBI agent who forms a buddy-cop bond with Michael Nouri while pursuing a perp -- a bodiless entity that plugs into the human id. In the midst of slam-bang action comes a pivotal moment when a startling question is asked: "How do you like being human?" The heart of the movie, rich in subtext, finds two men learning to embrace what's alien to them. In pop-culture evolution, this movie falls between Hal Clement's novel Needle and the TV series Alien Nation. On this Warner Archive Blu-ray, Sholder offers a commentary with colleague Tim Hunter.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

7. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (David Lynch, 1992)

Speaking of Twin Peaks, here we have a textbook example of a movie that pleased almost nobody upon its release but has now generated such interest, thanks in large part to this year's Twin Peaks revival, that it arrives on Criterion. A feature-film prequel to David Lynch and Mark Frost's original TV serial that answered none of its questions and tossed in a raft of new ones, the film functions as one of cinema's most downbeat, disruptive and harsh depictions of a middle-class American teenage girl's social context. Sheryl Lee delivers a virtuoso performance that deserved the Oscar there was no way she'd be nominated for, and she wasn't. The extras, including a 90-minute film of deleted and alternate takes assembled by Lynch, have been available on previous sets.

(Available from Criterion Collection)

8. The Green Slime (Kinji Fukasaku, 1968)

Incredibly, Warner Archive upgrades its on-demand DVD of a groovy, brightly colored creature feature with this Blu-ray. As a clever reviewer indicated in this PopMatters review, what director Kinji Fukasaku saw as a Vietnam allegory functions more obviously as a manifestation of sexual tension between alpha-jock spacemen competing for the attention of a foxy female scientist, and this subconsciously creates an explosion of big green tentacled critters who overrun the space station. While we don't believe in "so bad it's good," this falls squarely into the category of things so unfacetiously absurd, they come out cool. There's a sublimely idiotic theme song.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

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