Lois and I watched the first three seasons on DVD over a relatively short period of time. On balance, we both really like the show a lot (me more than she, I believe). There were frustrations at times, but it’s a very creative story, with lots of twists and turns to hold your interest.
One of the things that is great about watching it on DVD in concentrated doses is that you can keep the very complex plot twists in the front of your mind pretty easily. In addition, even when they take a wrong (sour) turn, you can wash away that feeling quickly, by powering through and getting hooked again in the next episode (or two).
With that in mind, both of us were a little nervous about watching Lost on TV (actually, DVR) this season. The entire rhythm of the experience had to be different, not necessarily worse, but likely so. That’s exactly how it turned out (worse).
The DVR helped a drop, as we typically got to watch at least two episodes in a row (sometimes three). But, there were very long stretches in between, both because of our travel schedule and because of the writers strike, which caused a long delay between new episodes.
At best, this meant losing threads and missing some nuance.
As far as the show is concerned, they are still extremely clever, and can still regularly give me a jolt (in the good sense) of blowing my mind with their creativity. That’s great!
On the not-so-great side, they switched gears from a technique that worked wonderfully the first three seasons. In those, they used flashbacks to give great depth to each character’s development, especially in explaining why/how they might react in certain ways to different situations. It was one of the more interesting parts of the show.
In the third season cliffhanger, they introduced the concept of flash forwards. Unfortunately, they overused the technique (IMHO) in Season 4. I believe that they think it builds a sense of excitement when you know what’s going to happen, but you can’t conceive of how it can possibly come to be. For a very few story lines, that’s true, and indeed, they did achieve that effect relatively cleverly and seamlessly a few times.
Still, it’s a trick, whereas the flashbacks (to me) weren’t, as they were explanatory. This is meant to tease you as to what might be possible. To repeat, it’s not unclever, but it’s overused and generally unnecessary.
On to the story itself (don’t worry, I have no intention of giving away anything). This season was touted as being more self-contained, meaning that more stories would be wrapped up within each episode, and more would be revealed in general throughout this shorter season (by design, not just because of the writers strike). To that I say: hogwash.
Very few episodes were self-contained. Very few story lines were wrapped up even within a two episode stretch. The big reveals (as they say on HGTV) came mostly in the season cliffhanger. No doubt that there were some brilliant moments during the season. I am definitely still hooked by the general story line and characters, so I’ll definitely be watching next season. But, this season was extremely choppy, made worse for us by the long stretches between episodes.
Why did we watch it on TV/DVR then and not just wait for the DVDs? Mostly, because (unlike Lois) I really don’t want to know anything about the show before I see it. I don’t read fan sites, don’t want to hear what happened in an episode I haven’t seen yet, and I’m not interested in the speculation of what might be going on in the story line. I like to allow the actual creators/writers of the show to unveil the story to me the way they meant it.
So, I was nervous that even commercials (particularly deep into the season) would annoy me. Of course, now that I’ve written about Lost a few times, I was also worried that friends might say something, assuming that I was relatively up to date in my watching. I decided that I would rather watch it semi-regularly, than risk having some of the surprises ruined.
I’m not sorry I did that but it may very well have contributed to the feeling that this season wasn’t as well done as the previous three. Lois certainly was not enamored with this season and probably could have given up watching if I wasn’t still a big fan. In the end, this season’s cliffhanger is also a mind-blower, but it too suffers from the futuritis syndrome (which is all I’ll say about that!).