To say that the second season of 'Lost' is the show's weakest is a lot like saying that ginger snaps are the least delicious kind of cookie. When it comes down to it, even if you prefer one type more than another, all cookies are basically delicious. What's the point of quibbling over something so good?
The first season of 'Lost' was undoubtedly a tough act to follow. Over the course of 24 episodes, the show rose head and shoulders above any other series on television at the time. Its mix of richly drawn characters, a fascinating mystery plot, and high-gloss feature film production values were instantly addictive. From week to week, its densely layered narrative grew more complex, more challenging, and more compelling. About the only thing that the first season did wrong was end on a predictable and disappointing cliffhanger. After spending half the season trying to pry open the mysterious hatch door they'd found buried in the middle of the jungle, lead characters Locke and Jack finally managed to blow it off with dynamite. As the episode concluded, they peered down into a darkened tunnel. Cut to credits. End scene.
It was exactly the ending that everyone expected and no one wanted. The show's producers acknowledged the viewer disappointment, and decided to address it right up front. No more dicking around, Season 2 reveals off the bat exactly what's at the bottom of that tunnel, and the answer's a jaw-dropper. Never underestimate the ability of the 'Lost' writers to pull the rug out from under everything you think you know about the series.
The second season makes a number of major changes from the first. Our cast of plane crash survivors spends much of the season divided into two camps, one that stays on the beach waiting for rescue, and one that moves into their newly-found shelter. Both wind up settling into domesticity and complacency. Shaking things up a bit is the revelation that another group of survivors from the tail section of the plane had been fending for themselves on the other side of the island this whole time, and had suffered even more profoundly. A good chunk of the season is devoted to learning more about the "Tailies" -- tough-as-nails Ana Lucia, lovable Bernard, adorable Libby, and the enigmatic Mr. Eko. In episode 'The Other 48 Days', the show even breaks from its usual structure, in which the main plot moves forward one day per episode while interspersed with flashbacks from each character's backstory prior to the crash, to fill us in on the events of the previous season as told from the other group's perspective.
Also introduced this season are two crucial characters who will grow to become a major focus of the rest of the series. First is the mysterious but endearing Desmond, whose presence on the island will take quite a bit of explaining. And then there's the man we initially know as Henry Gale, who is either a victim of our Losties' paranoia and misunderstanding, or is a master manipulator with a secret agenda they can barely suspect.
Most importantly, Season 2 lays the groundwork for most of the show's underlying mythology. In the first season, we were given hints that strange things had happened on the island, but nothing concrete. With the opening of the hatch, we discover the long-defunct DHARMA Initiative and its many hidden stations, cryptic orientation films, and bizarre scientific and psychological experiments that may or may not be tied to the crash of Oceanic flight 815.
In many ways, Season 2 is actually the show's most important so far in terms of relevance to the main mystery. Yet, it's held back from greatness by several issues. Ana Lucia proved to be one of the show's least popular characters, for example. Too much of the season is spent stuck inside the hatch, where our characters mainly sit around typing the infamous string of numbers into a computer every 108 minutes for reasons they aren't clear about. Michael's storyline, which consists primarily of him yelling about, "My boy! We've gotta find my boy!" for episodes on end grows wearying quickly.
Beyond all that is also a sense that the show's writers were just stringing us along. The series is notorious for asking more questions and opening more mysteries than it answers, but Season 2 seems to take that too far. Every episode piles on more strange events and inexplicable plot twists, without ever really answering much of anything. After 48 episodes, we still don't have much more of an understanding of what's really happening on this island than we did after the pilot episode.
In hindsight, that's less of a problem than it felt when watching the show on broadcast from week-to-week. Most of these issues will be addressed in subsequent seasons, which provide more context for the events of Season 2, and place these episodes in their proper perspective of the series' overall structure.
The season also has plenty of greatness in it. The dramatic conflicts between the characters are as juicy as ever. The island's mystery is undeniably engrossing. And any sense of disappointment gets blown to bits in the season finale, which provides what is (to date) still the greatest "What the hell just happened?!" moment in the series' run. 'Lost' is simply great television. If this is the show's worst, it stands at a level higher than almost any other show's best.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
ABC Studios and Buena Vista Home Entertainment have finally brought 'Lost: The Complete Second Season' to Blu-ray, released simultaneously with a separate box set for the First Season. The show's later Third Season and Fourth Season were both previously released on the format in advance of these earlier, critical episodes. It is imperative that the series be watched in proper sequential order.
The 24 episodes of this Second Season come as a 7-disc set packaged in a multi-panel keepcase with slipcover, much like the Fourth Season's Blu-ray. The box set has been subtitled "The Extended Experience" for reasons not explained anywhere in the packaging or disc contents. To the best of my knowledge, none of the episodes have been extended beyond their original broadcast lengths.
Once again, the first disc in the set is burdened with several annoying promos and trailers (including one for the very Blu-ray you're watching) before the main menu. Unlike previous releases, the studio has not provided a printed insert with episode guide or content listing. The set's packaging also contains several print errors regarding the available audio and subtitle options.
Regardless of their original broadcast order, this Second season of 'Lost' is the fourth box set of the show's episodes to appear on Blu-ray. All have maintained an extremely high standard for picture quality. Contributing largely to this is the fact that the series has such beautiful photography to start. Even in broadcast, it's the best-looking show on the air. The Blu-rays' 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfers consistently raise the bar even further. The First and Third season box sets earned our highest possible score for video quality on the Blu-ray format.
Of those released so far, Season 2 is perhaps the most uneven. At its best, the 16:9 image is extremely sharp, detailed, and lovely. However, many episodes appear too contrasty. Dark scenes often look too dark, with only adequate shadow detail. Even in daylight scenes, colors seem a little oversaturated. Conversely, in other episodes, black levels have clearly been pushed and appear washed out with exaggerated grain.
To put this in perspective, the season still looks excellent overall. Only in comparison to the other, virtually flawless box sets does it seem in any way lacking. And it's really only a small step down. More often than not, the picture is downright stunning.
As with the 'Complete First Season' set, the soundtracks for Season 2's episodes have been provided in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 format. Once again, they sound superb. From year to year, 'Lost' has terrific sound design ideally suited for home theater. Because the show sounds basically the same in each of its season sets, I'm running out of new ways to say the same thing. The series creates a rich and expansive aural landscape with crystal clear dialogue, sharp sound effects, and fascinating ambient tones. Michael Giacchino's score is presented with warmth and sterling fidelity. The low-end also gets a surprisingly aggressive workout from time to time. The final episode's climactic events will put the dynamics of any home audio system to the test.
In other words, Season 2 of 'Lost' sounds pretty great.
All of the copious bonus features from the second season DVD box set released back in 2006 have been carried over to the Blu-ray. Unfortunately, all of the supplements remain in standard-def video.
Other than the commentaries, the rest of the features are found on Disc 7. They've been arranged into three "Phases" under some clever Marvin Candle-themed menus.
The puzzle pieces are finally falling into place. With the First and Second Season box sets now available, viewers can finally follow 'Lost' from the beginning in stunning Blu-ray quality. Although the second season is arguably the series' weakest, it is also the most critical in developing the show's mythology. 'Lost is still an amazing achievement.
The Season 2 Blu-ray set once again has terrific video and audio quality, and a healthy selection of bonus features. The set is very highly recommended.