**If you're reading this review because you're wondering what all the hubbub is about, then I would skip down to the rest of the review to check on video, audio, extras, and overall impressions. Although I'm not going to try and reveal too much of the fifth season for you, it's impossible to discuss it without spoiling earlier seasons. You've been warned.**
In the previous season of LOST, castaways on Dharma-land were forced to choose sides. Jack was willing not to heed Charlie's warning about the people on the freighter, as long as it meant there was at least a sliver of a chance it could have meant a way off the island. Locke on the other hand was convinced through his personal experiences on the island, as well as by the Jacob character that remained shrouded in mystery, that the island needed to be protected from the freighter folk. Jack and Locke had clashed their ideological perspectives since day one, but the debates of science versus faith, as well as who should emerge as the leader, had reached its boiling point. Of course, all hell broke loose and the end result was sort of a mixed bag. Locke successfully carried out instructions to have the island moved, while others finally found the rescue they had been longing for. Upon their reentry to society - Jack, Kate, Hurley, Sayid, Sun, and little baby Aaron - were branded by the media as the 'Oceanic 6', and went on to try and live normal lives once again.
It becomes clear in the beginning of the fifth season however, that moving the island didn't exactly go off without a hitch, as those contained within have their lives dramatically altered as they're hurled through rips in time. Although LOST fans have become increasingly comfortable with the notion of seeing the castaways stuck together for better or worse since the beginning, this defining event in the series tears them apart so the final act can finally commence. Smaller and unlikely groups and pairings are formed, and this lets everyone involved shed the hassle of having to appease 'the group' for a greater good. This gives them the freedom to let their individuality shine through, and this finally enables them the opportunity to look within and figure out how they're supposed to fulfill their destinies... that is, if 'destiny' is more than a series of timely coincidences. Jack, notorious for his bullheadedness when combating the 'faith' issue with logic and common sense, isn't sure what to believe anymore. He's seen too much on the island to simply shrug off the notion that he might not be in control of his own life anymore. Another person that also finds they're no longer in control for the first time is Ben, as Locke has now completely dedicated himself to fulfilling his own destiny as the protector of the island. Furthermore, Sayid struggles with rage and revenge, as he believes the assassin within is the answer to many of the problems that's been inflicted on everyone. Sawyer finds himself in a situation where he has to keep his 'bad boy' persona in check, but it proves to be a daunting task when an old love triangle explodes into a full on love square, between Jack, Kate, Juliet, and himself. Sun is relentless in her search for Jin, Desmond strains his relationship with Penny to fulfill a promise to someone on the island, the remaining freighter folk (Daniel, Charlotte, and Miles) find they have a much greater connection to the island and its history than they ever could have imagined, and Hurley... well, he's still Hurley.
There's unquestionably more going on during this season than ever before, but as intimidating a task such as, oh, beginning to wrap one of the most complex shows in televised history might have been, it's clear the writing staff didn't let it affect their work. On top of handling the incredibly complex character storylines, the fifth season begins to explain and explore the island's history, what the Dharma Initiative really is, which 'incident' led to having someone press a button inside a hatch every 108 minutes, time travel, death, why the castaways crashed on the island in the first place, the mysterious Jacob character, and so much more. LOST typically lets the suspense build for at least half a season before trying to blow the audience away with shocking truths and revelations, but there's so much crammed in to the fifth season, that almost every episode has something of great significance clawing its way to the surface. There are still new questions being brought into play, sure, but instead of feeling the same antsy frustration I felt throughout the beginning of other seasons, I'd instead find myself with a constant 'I can't believe that just happened' grin on my face.
LOST advertised itself in the past with the idea that 'everything happens for a reason', and the writers delve into the darkest depths yet to make good on that promise. All the credit can't go to the writers alone however, as this season could have sunk faster than a raft blown up at sea if the cast couldn't deliver, and believe it or not, I was concerned that was going to be the case. I never questioned the acting talents of the cast per se, but I was worried the complexity of the transpiring events, as well as the faster paced plot development, would have made the LOST players a little apprehensive in their performance. After all, their characters were finally beginning to chart the unknown, starting from within themselves, as well as the people they would eventually become. Fortunately, the acting team didn't let the burden of beginning to wrap such an intricate series affect their work either, as the performances on display in the second to last season are the best we've seen yet. Not just from the main castaways we've known since season one either, because the secondary cast members (the freighter folk) are just as well played as the rest.
The stakes are higher, the tone is darker, mysteries and themes are unraveling, the writing is better than ever, and the acting is, in my opinion, second to none when compared to any other show currently airing on television. The only concern I have after experiencing the fifth season of LOST, is how the writers plan on doing the impossible; making sure every little hole in the LOST universe that's been dug along the way gets its rightful fill. I'm sure we're bound to have some questions left up in the air, such as, "Why was Libby staying in a mental asylum with Hurley, and what was her connection with the island?" If the faster paced writing of the fifth season is any indication of what's yet to come however, I'm sure most of the fans will find satisfaction in the end regardless... but I guess that's a topic of discussion to save for when the sixth season inevitably hits DVD/Blu-ray. The bottom line here, is if you stopped watching LOST some time ago because you thought the series was never going to get to the point, the fifth season is exactly what you had been waiting for, and serves as one hell of an incentive to pick up where you left off and keep watching. For the rest of you that stuck it out through the entirety of the third and fourth seasons, you're in for the best season of the series yet.
Considering Disney's track record with preserving one of the most beautiful looking shows on television with their Blu-ray transfers, it's of no surprise that LOST - The Complete Fifth Season gets a flawless presentation that's sure to please even the most finicky videophiles. This 1080p AVC encode (1.78:1) looks magnificent in every perceivable way. There's no digital anomalies mucking things up (artifacting, edge enhancement, DNR, you name it), and detail and depth are simply immaculate. The most impressive aspect of the video presentation is probably the contrast however, as this season relies heavily on conveying its darker tone with articulated lighting and intentional darkness, so it's a real joy to see black levels represented in the way they were meant to be seen; inky with no black crush. Furthermore, the color palette is as vivid as can be. Jungle greenery leaps of the screen and skin tones are consistently accurate. The color presentation never goes overboard however, and always retains a lifelike look to it, giving you the illusion you're practically looking through a window. As has always been the case with LOST on Blu-ray, the video presentation here is nothing less than reference quality. If you've only experienced the series in standard definition at home thus far, stop making excuses already. You won't be missing the extra money you'll spend on the Blu-ray version, I guarantee it. One look at the video presentation on this release, and you'll probably end up putting the first four seasons on your Christmas wish-list!
There's as much attention paid to the sound design of LOST as what's presented visually, and the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track presents its 'impressive even for TV' sound quality to perfection. The show always has pinpoint directional audio, be it during a shootout, or when there's subtle environmental sound effects coming through all channels to make you feel like you're actually in the jungle. Dialogue is always crisp and clear, no matter what crazy things might be happening on screen. LOST does everything it can to keep the audience enveloped at all times, and the realistically accurate audio on this set is no different.
Audio Commentaries - Because You Left (Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse) - He's Our You (Edward Kitsis, Adam Horowitz) - I'm disappointed to report that there are only two commentaries presented in this season set. Perhaps everyone behind the scenes are too busy working on the next season, or maybe they didn't want to spoil anything that might be happening in the upcoming episodes. Either way, it's a bummer. That being said, these commentaries do bring a lot of information to the table. Lindelof and Cuse use their time on Because You Left discussing numerous elements of the fifth season in its entirety, such as development in both character and story elements, as well as how the series ongoing themes tie it all together. The only downside to this approach, is that if you haven't seen the fifth season in its entirety as of yet, you won't be able to listen to this particular commentary as it's littered with spoilers. Fortunately, there's a disclaimer that notifies you of this before you begin the commentary. Kitsis and Horowitz actually utilize He's Our You to talk about that episode specifically, and reveal some very interesting tidbits on how the writing process came together to make a great final product out of so many complicated ideas. No fan should miss out on either of these commentaries, but for those of you that aren't normally fans of commentaries in general, you might find the second commentary a wee bit dry.
LOST Starter Kit - This five minute featurette acts as a quick recap to everything that's happened in the series up to this point, and it actually does a fairly impressive job at laying it all out without turning it into a complicated mess! It's more than likely that anyone who's watching this set in the first place is already familiar with LOST and the storyline in its entirety, but with so much going on, this fast paced recap certainly doesn't hurt.
LOST 100 - This featurette celebrates the show hitting its 100th episode milestone. There's discussion of the 100th episode itself, as well as the series and the booming success it had over the years. Ace of Cakes even made an impressive LOST cake to celebrate the momentous occasion!
Mysteries of the Universe - No, this featurette doesn't really unlock the mysteries of the LOST universe. Instead, it presents itself as a documentary from the 80's that focuses on the bizarre stories that keep infiltrating the media about the Dharma Initiative. This mockumentary doesn't provide any earth shattering info on the Dharma Initiative (surprise, surprise), but at 26 minutes in length, this highly entertaining piece goes above and beyond to further solidify the 'reality' of the series to its audience.
Making Up for Lost Time - Talent from the series, from both on screen and behind the scenes, discuss the hectic task of bringing all the crucial elements of the fifth season's production together. This includes dissecting how one of the major themes of this season was developed, taking a look at how special effects were integrated, as well as how much care in attention to detail was put in the stage designs.
An Epic Day with Richard Alpert - Nestor Carbonell, actor behind the mysterious Richard Alpert character in LOST, preps for his last day of shooting for the season. It's 12 minutes in length, so there's certainly an appreciable quality of seeing how things go down on the set before filming, but this featurette is really more like supplemental filler material to pad the list. LOST die-hards are most likely going to enjoy this, but I think most people won't find any replay value in this particular featurette.
Building 23 and Beyond - Michael Emerson, the man who plays the diabolical Benjamin Linus, gives a tour of the California based offices where a lot of the behind the scenes action 'magic' happens. As with the previous featurette listed, it's nice to get a glimpse at another piece that ultimately makes LOST what it is after all is said and done, but there's really nothing here that's going to make people say, "Boy, am I glad I watched that!"
LOST on Location - Now here's what I'm talking about: This featurette is 38 minutes of real behind the scenes magic! This extra takes a pretty in depth look at the filming of seven of the episodes this season, and there's more than enough here to keep any LOST fan, casual or otherwise, tuned in without ever feeling bored. Don't miss this one!
Deleted Scenes - I felt that the deleted scenes for this particular season weren't all that bad, but it's clear that if they were kept in the season, they only would have slowed the pace. One of the strengths the fifth season has is its brilliant pacing, so it's easy to see why these pieces of fat were trimmed.
Bloopers - I always have a blast watching actors break character and show the lighter side of themselves when they mess up a line, so this short featurette was a fun little treat.
LOST University - This BD-Live feature isn't accessible at this point in time, but it promises to let viewers/users at home 'enroll' in various LOST themed classes. Should this end up being an interactive experience that finally makes people excited for the prospect of BD-Live, which in my opinion, has been pretty disappointing on the Blu-ray format thus far, those who designed the feature for this release should be praised for thinking outside the box. However, this all remains to be seen on December 8th once this finally goes live.
As with every other LOST Blu-ray experience, the Season Play feature is included once again so you can track which episodes you have, or haven't watched.
There are a lot of great supplemental features here, a couple that seem kind of unnecessary, and one promising BD-Live feature. Despite the slightly bloated list of extras, all the information I could have wanted about the fifth season has been included in this set. It would have been nice to have more than two commentaries, but then again, part of the allure of LOST, at least for me, is the never ending pondering about all the hints, clues, and mysterious themes. If most every episode received a commentary, most of that allure would have been robbed from the overall experience. With only one more season left to go, I'd rather wait for every piece of in-depth analysis until after the entire series has been completed.
I've given this season a lot of praise, I know. The show beckons its fans on a weekly basis to watch for subtle clues frame by frame, or play strange whispers in the jungle backwards so they can hear what the hidden message is. So, I know how rabid the fan base is, and I know I'm probably taking my life in my own hands by making such a strong, opinionated stand. I'm sure all the hardcore fans out there have varying opinions as to what the 'best' season is, but for me, this is LOST at its best. Taking into consideration the plot and character development, the acting from all the players involved, the darker tone; it all culminates to be the best experience I've personally had with the series to date. Even more impressive, is that with all the puzzle pieces finally making their way to the surface, everything still makes perfect sense. LOST fans, whether they agree with me or not, I'm sure aren't going to be disappointed in the least. As far as the rest of you out there, whether you've stopped watching the show because you were waiting to see if it would ever get around to providing some answers, or if you've never even taken the time to watch a single episode, this season stands as a testament as to why you need to make LOST a priority. On top of the fantastic content in the show itself, this Blu-ray set is presented with reference quality video and audio, and has some pretty satisfying extras to boot... even if there are only two commentaries. It's for these reasons that I give LOST - The Complete Fifth Season the rare DVD Talk Collector Series rating.