Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Michael Giacchino -- Lost Season 3 (Original Television Soundtrack)
If you want the short of this review, here it is: Lost Season 3 (Original Television Soundtrack) is overall enjoyable, but doesn't hold together quite as well as the season it was created for.
For those who want the long of it...this is going to take awhile.
Lost's third season may be the most noteworthy of the Lost's entire run--it's the hinge-pin. Show runners, Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, had to make some major decisions about the very nature of the show: what exactly is this Lost show anyway? What is it really about? How should it tell that story? How long was going it going to run? A certain fan contingent complained about how the first and second seasons would air a handful of new episodes, then a few repeat episodes, then a string of new episodes again. Despite the fact that this is how television has aired for decades, this group complained that airing the show this way was completely unfair and too confusing.
In response, ABC announced that Lost would air a six episode "pod" of episodes beginning October of 2006, take a three-month hiatus, and then air one new episode a week, continuously, for 16 weeks, without interruption (being the definition of continuously). The answer to just how long Lost was going to run for, though, was not answered til near the end of Season Three. Ostensibly, ABC wanted to run Lost for either forever, or when the show wasn't profitable anymore. This felt creatively stifling for Lindelof and Cuse. How were they supposed to keep a show like Lost going forever? How could they stretch the story they wanted to tell that far? The answer was, they couldn't. All it took to convince the network of this was an early Season Three episode entirely focused on how a particular character received a tattoo. Now they knew that Lost spinning its wheels was perhaps in nobody's best interest. As a result, Lindelof, Cuse, and ABC decided on a show end-date: May of 2010. The show would have three more seasons at its disposal, and an end in sight. As for all those more difficult, more abstract questions: what is Lost? and such...Season Three, particularly its first third acts as a sounding board.
Cuse and Lindelof had there work cut for them in that regard. Season Two ended with Lost's Oceanic 815 survivors spread across many geographical locations: several characters were kidnapped by the Others, several were scattered across the jungle in an explosion, and many were still hanging out safely on the beach. Therefore, the show had to jump around from place to place...meaning several episodes could pass before certain major characters even popped up. The majority of Lost's dozen-plus protagonists are not reunited until after the six-episode pod. Also, in a great example of the old "shoot yourself in the foot" expression, the producers made an ill-fated attempt to add two MORE characters to the show, who had apparently been there all along, so that past events could be explored from a different angle. The fans (yours truly included) were vitriolic about this creative choice. You are not only going to separate and alienate our favorite characters, but you're going to make us endure these two dunderheads in their stead?!
All of this together makes for quite a messy start. Season Three has trouble coming together during the opening pod, takes off for the two following episodes, as most of the characters reunite, then spins its wheels in the aforementioned "tattoo episode." However, after that episode, something incredible happens: the show rattles off perhaps the best 13-episode stretch of its entire 121-episode run--Cuse and Lindelof figured it out.
Apparently, the knowledge that the end was in sight freed the show runner duo to reveal the show's mysteries at a more natural pace, which then allows the show's characters to act and develop more naturally, as well. Also, they kill off those two dunderheads, halfway through the season. Most importantly, though, Lost completely flips its script in the Season Three finale...but I'll get to that soon enough (maybe not soon enough for some of you). Now, let's dive into a more thorough exploration of Lost, Season Three, and its accompanying soundtrack.
Season Three begins just as Season One, with the crash of Oceanic 815...except, this time it's from "the Others"' perspective. Turns out the Others aren't savages, but civilized people living in their own little jungle suburb, replete with book clubs and fully equipped middle-class homes. Composer, Michael Giacchino, is given the honor of revealing the true nature of these island suburbanites, as the Others' slippery string theme rolls out the moment their book club is interrupted by 815's crash, in the album opening "In with a Kaboom!"
"...Kaboom"'s suspense then mounts with clanging percussion and frenzied...harp?, and then a more definitive statement of the Others' theme with rowdy brass...then the trademark Lost "stone locking into place" sound." Next (after the customary JJ Abrams-created sound of the show's logo) is "Awed and Shocked," a high energy brass and strings piece, featuring some hammered out low-end piano that sounds like it could accompany a sinister footrace in a 70's cop film. Then boom boom percussion, and the end.
"Fool Me Twice" features restatements of Ben's theme (Ben is the Others' leader) from Season Two with strings, then segues into the action theme introduced during the build up of "In with a KABOOM!" This action statement will be repeated throughout the season, eventually listed on the soundtrack as the "Paddle Jumper" theme.
Next is "Pagoda of Shame," a further exploration of 815'ers Sun and Jin's theme and...you know what? There are 67 tracks on this soundtrack. There's is no way I am going to dissect every single one of them. You can hit up Lostpedia for that.
Let's get more general.
By this point, we've covered the first two episodes. So far, the show hasn't let us in on anything going on back at the main beach, where the majority of Lost's characters are currently hanging out. The third episode finally goes there, and features the standout track "The Island," featuring a bunch of creepy harp and then strings and clackity percussion, followed by a serious string barrage, as island seeker, John Locke, has one hell of a hallucination.
The next episode, "Every Man for Himself," further illustrates the severity of the situation faced by the survivors kidnapped by the Others, while also pinging over to the beach-dwellers, but there is no music from that episode on this soundtrack.
Also, "Every Man for Himself" is a really hopeless damn hour of television.
The next episode, "The Cost of Living," is focused on the death of a character who ends up having contributed little to nothing to the long-run of the series, outside of making Season Two a bit more interesting. The Season Three soundtrack features three songs from that episode. Granted, the actor who played this character asked to be written off the show, derailing the writers' future plans for him, but it would still have been nice if an episode that proves so inconsequential to the show's run didn't receive 10% of disc one's run-time. As it is, these three tracks feature suspenseful, sometime violent strings, with a calm little interlude in the middle...WAIT A MINUTE!!! Eko and Yemi are mirrors for Jacob and the Man and Black! How come it takes me insulting something to realize the value in it, sometimes?!
Anyway, with this particular character dead, and consequently, all of the major "tailie" characters introduced during the previous season gone (sans sometimes the guest-starring Bernard), Season Two feels put to rest. And with the next episode, "I Do," one of the most emotionally draining of the show's entire run (there's a whole lot of crying and mud and yelling and guns, and also just a little bit of sex), Season Three's opening pod is put to rest.
Giacchino contributes the gentle quivering strings of "Romancing the Cage" for the sex part, and the slow-burning string and percussion suspense of "Under the Knife" for the crying, mud, yelling, and guns part. Ben's theme comes up subtly in the background, as do the trombones, with the percussion growing heavier, leading into an emotional, almost defiant statement of the show's trademark death theme (including a brief solo piano statement), building and building suspense, and then that's it. Pod's over.
With the ghosts of Season Two laid to rest, the beach clean, and most of our band of Others-captured heroes finally out of their cages and on the move, the show can get some momentum going.
First up is "I Do," a thrilling episode which humanizes the Others' Juliet, and which features Giacchino's booming "Teaser Time," and the more tender "Here Today, Gone to Maui." At this point, it sounds like Giacchino can rattle off tracks like "Here Today, Gone to Maui" in his sleep, and while the music is wonderful in service of its episode scene, that particular sound begins to grow a little tiresome on this soundtrack. "I Do" is followed by "Flashes Before Your Eyes," which further expands the legend of consciousness-time-jumping Desmond Hume. "Flashes Before Your Eyes" allows Giacchino to unleash his epic love theme for Desmond and and his girlfriend, Penny, in "Distraught Desmond." Desmond and Penny's love is supposed to be LITERALLY mightier than time and space, and Giacchino makes you believe it (also, Henry Ian Cusick's and Sonya Walger's excellent performances certainly don't hurt...also, this episode aired on the night of my wife and my first Valentine's Day...we stayed in...nice). Granted, this hasn't exactly been a century full of orchestral love themes, but Desmond and Penny's has to be somewhere near the 21st-century top.
"Flashes Before Your Eyes" also deepens bonds between Desmond and several of the survivors, particularly Charlie, and really exemplifies what Season Three does so well: deepens character relationships while moving Lost's story forward. Unfortunately, before this great quality can be further espoused, there is one hiccup in the road: the "tattoo episode."
"Stranger In a Strange Land" is generally considered the worst episode Lost ever aired. While it's not a great hour of television, I do not think that is a fair assessment. For one thing, "Stranger In a Strange Land" begins with Sawyer singing "Show Me the Way to Go Home" from Jaws. For another thing, it's completely harmless.
Is Jack flying a kite with some random beautiful woman that runs up to him on the beach and starts hanging out with him for no reason good television? No, but it also doesn't hurt the show past the episode's 42-minute run time...unlike some of Season Two's episodes (COUGH***"Fire+Water"***COUGH***COUGH AGAIN, BUT A REAL COUGH THIS TIME...I HAVE THE FLU). "Stranger In a Strange Land" is just a silly little episode, and it's the last of the show's run that seems to obscure the Other's nature for no reason. Perhaps this is the episode that emboldened Cuse and Lindelof to not stall anymore, or maybe they were already well into the talks with ABC that led to the May 2007 decision to end the show three years later, after six seasons. Having an end date logically makes planning an ending easier, and from here on out, it's easier to tab all of Lost's seasons with the title of what they explore--3: The Others Season, 4: The Freighter Season, 5: The Dharma Season, and 6: The Jacob and the Man in Black Season, or simply, The Last Season. You can even retroactively call Season Two "The Hatch Season," now that it's clear Two is the only season to focus on it. Season Three's opening pod, as well as "Stranger In a Strange Land" share the same flaw: they want to flesh out the Others, but they don't want to show any skin. After "Stranger In a Strange Land," Season Three is a veritable Other's orgy.
As it stands, Giacchino adds two tracks from "Stranger..." to this soundtrack. The first is "Achara, Glad to See Me?" a gentle variation on Jack's theme with a nice little orchestral swell, followed by some sinister piano at the end. The second is "Ocean's Apart," a gorgeous, powerful rendition of Juliet's theme, with huge, hopeful strings, and an emotional piano line. While "Ocean's Apart" livens up the soundtrack, though, it actually makes the episode worse. The show wants us to believe that the Others move from Hydra Island to the Main Island (where the survivors' main beach is) is a big, emotional deal, but as Lost has been so mute about the Others true nature up to this point, "Ocean's Apart" is the equivalent of some stranger coming up to you off the street and saying, "Hey, we're going to be great friends!" You just want to shove them away. Still, when the episode is done, it's done, and Lost can move on to better things. In this case, better things is Season Three, Episode Ten, "Tricia Tanaka Is Dead."
I'll make a bold statement here: I think the fun, light-hearted "Tricia Tanaka Is Dead" is the most important episode in Lost's run. The second season of the show wavers in quality and lacks focus. The first third of Lost's third season wavers in quality and lacks focus. From "Tricia Tanaka..." on, the quality rarely wavers, and the show never lacks focus.
The premise of the episode is simple: the usually fun-loving Hurley is down. His best friend Charlie is down--Desmond, whose consciousness, as I've previously stated, is now jumping in time, has foreseen Charlie's death to be soon. Hurley finds a 20-year old van in the woods. Hurley decides he is going to get the van to run, in order to cheer up his friend. That's it. After so much wheel-spinning, this plot is literally about getting wheels to spin. I remember clearly, as a triumphant Hurley gives his friends a joyride in the episode's final minutes, feeling like everything was going to be okay...on Lost, and even in my own life. The show, from here on out, was going to deliver on its promises. As much as anyone wants to argue about Lost's overall ending, the show does right by every character for the rest of its run, and eventually answers nearly every question it raised (that is, if you actually pay attention). The show runners decided to dive headfirst into the crazy ride they had planned. The start off with Hurley's..
The soundtrack features four tracks from "Tricia Tanaka Is Dead," the most from any episode featured on the first disc, and sure proof that Giacchino agrees with my assessment of the episode (I like pretending that Giacchino made this CD out of plastic with his bare hands, but Executive Producer, Robert Townson, actually decided which tracks to include on this soundtrack). "The Lone Hugo" features a melancholy strings-and-brass intro that reminds me of a 1970's drama, then a sad piano line featured as Hurley talks to his dead island girlfriend's grave. "Fetch Your Arm" follows with some creepy electronic sounds, followed by high-pitched strings, and then the fun, frantic percussion and rumbling piano horns of Hurley's "running theme," before more mysterious music as Hurley finds the van. "Ain't Talkin 'Bout 'Nothin" is the kind of low-key music that I've already mentioned is a little stale on the soundtrack at this point. Then comes the uplifting "Shambala," an orchestral version of the classic Three Dog Night song of the same name (the real song blares on the cassette player when Hurley finally gets the van to start), which plays at the end of Hurley and Friend's groovy van ride.
"Tricia Tanaka Is Dead" is followed by the incredibly tense "Enter 77" (which also has a fun subplot...the latter 2/3 of this season really nails the balance between humor and drama/action). No music from that episode here. Next are "Claire-a Culpa" and "A Touching Moment," two quieter tracks from some following episodes that barely register. The former does include a lovely string part in its mid-section, but the latter adds little to this soundtrack.
Way back, about 10,000 words ago, I mentioned that the producers attempted to add two new characters to the third season, two passengers of Oceanic 815 who had supposedly been with our survivors all along, and whose perspective we would now see. I also mentioned how negative fan response was to those two characters. It turns out Cuse and Lindelof heard the outcry. "Exposé" is Season Three's dead-weight dropping episode, but also perhaps the closest the show came to fan service. The results are highly entertaining, with the two new characters literally being buried alive (after being given suitably unlikable characterizations). Giacchino contriubtes the suitably chaotic and spidery "Sweet Exposé" to the episode, a Hitchcockian tune for a very Hitchcockian episode. Brilliant.
The season continues as our survivors confrontations with the Others begin to escalate into an us or them frenzy. Meanwhile, The Island's mythos is explored more deeply, and our characters grow closer together, through drama and through some lighter moments. From this portion of the season, the soundtrack includes "Storming Monster," with the black smoke monster theme we've heard several times already, and "Heart of Thawyer," which again treads familiar ground, this time in the acoustic guitar, everyone hanging out vein. Next is "Juliet Is Lost" featuring some unusual percussion, but the track is too short to make much of an impression. It is followed by "Beach Blanket Bonding," a quiet emotional track that will really test the patience of the listener who has already been listening to this soundtrack for an hour--again, you've heard this music before. "Rushin' the Russian" is a short action piece that again uses the "Puddle Jumper" theme so prevalent throughout this season. "Deadly Fertility" is a lovely statement of Sun and Jin's romantic theme. And finally, closing out disc one is "Dharmacide," beginning as a sinister statement of the muted-trumpet theme for Ben, leader of the Others, but then taking the theme in a surprisingly tender direction. This piano-version is Ben's more dominant theme from here on out, as the rest of the show will flesh out this extremely complicated individual in a more thoughtful manner.
That ends disc one, and covers episodes 1-20. Haters hated. True fans endured. The show got better. This happened.
(We) Fans obsessed over it.
But wait...there are three episodes left! And Giacchino somehow convinced Varèse Sarabande to release an extra disc for this soundtrack with music taken solely from those three episodes (Episodes 22 and 23 are technically two-parts of the same episode, the season finale).
The first of these episodes is titled "Greatest Hits," and is dedicated to ex-junkie, ex-rockstar, Charlie, who has resigned himself to his death foreseen by Desomond, and decided to undertake a certainly suicidal mission in order to save his friends. In lieu of his mission, Charlie makes a list of the five greatest moments of his life. Eight of Disc Two's 37 tracks are taken from "Greatest Hits." Giacchino does a great job of building up anticipation for Charlie's fate with several emotional pieces, as Charlie says his goodbyes and writes out his "Greatest Hits" list.
Giacchino also builds up anticipation for the upcoming showdown between our survivors and the Others. Juliet has now switched from the Others' side to that of our heroes, and has spilled the beans to the 815 survivors: the Others are coming for them. The frequently mentioned in this review "Paddle Jumper" finally makes its appearance, and even gets a reprise, a frenetic string piece with a violin-smashing ending. The episode ends with Charlie swimming down to meet his fate in the Looking Glass station. What he does there makes up only part of what's to come in the finale--the reward to all the fans who stuck around through Season Three's early rough patches: one of the greatest television episodes of all time.
"Through the Looking Glass" is an absolute mind-exploder, and I'm going to have to simply sum up the 28 tracks it contributes to this soundtrack, as not even I'm cruel enough to make you endure that many more song breakdowns. I watched this episode live at the top of a mountain in Tennessee on the last night of the first non-Honeymoon vacation my wife and I ever took together. The setting was epic, but I could have watched it in a broom closet and been as equally blown away. Giacchino always brings his A-game--even if tracks don't necessarily work on the soundtrack, the music always works perfectly backing the scenes in which they are featured, sans the previously mentioned "Ocean's Apart." Like the writers, director, cast and crew, Giacchino brings his A+ game to "Through the Looking Glass." He gets to re-state, expand, and alter almost all of his major themes here (even "Parting Words!"), with multiple variations of his Williams-esque "travelling theme," soundtracking the survivors trek to a mountain radio tower to send out a radio signal--Charlie and Desmond's underwater mission is to destroy the signal-jammer that will potentially block it. My favorite permutation of the "travelling theme" comes on the 36-second "An Other Dark Agenda," featuring strings and what sounds like harpsichord.
This second disc is full of quick, fun tracks that barely reach half-a-minute. Ten of the tracks between the 9th and 21st fall under a minute in length.
Giacchino also gets to further explore Jack's theme. While Lost has multiple...or a multitude of protagonists, surgeon and group leader, Jack Shephard, has always been just a little closer to the forefront. Jack's theme, featured here in full on "Flying High," is an emotional piano piece that always seems to be looking for the right note, just as Shephard's heroics are a search to somehow dull his deep personal pain and feelings of inadequacy. It's a very moving piece of music.
Meanwhile, the episode, like these tracks, delivers payoffs galore.
Remember the van? Now the Others will.
And of course, who could forget the COMPLETE EMOTIONAL DEVASTATION.
Lost gifts Charlie with its most epic death, and Giacchino gives him the sendoff he deserves, as well, combining the show's classic, sentimental, piano-based "death theme" with the uncertain string motif for Charlie. His theme always gave the feeling of someone who could either be a good man, or something darker, but combined with the "death theme," "Charlie's Theme" is now at piece.
Oh, and hey, how could I forget about this guy:
Season Three sees island servant, John Locke, wavering in his loyalty to the 815 survivors, and yet not completely sold on the Others' agenda, either. Season Three is essentially one long spirit quest for Locke, as he searches for ways to best serve The Island. His desire to stay and protect The Island contrasts violently with Jack's desire to get himself and the other survivors the hell off it. All of these Island storylines are intercut with what seems to be a series of flashbacks of a rough patch Jack went through back on the mainland when he was a doctor. This Jack is an angry, despondent alcoholic. Lost. These scenes contain a strange, almost apocalyptic resonance, and combine with Giacchino's score to create a certain sense of false hope and impending doom. Check the rising strings 1:15 into "Naomi Phone Home" to hear what I'm talking about here. Those tones remind me of the time I found a pile of eggs under my lakeside friend's back porch. I couldn't wait to see the baby birds hatch...would they be ducks? Geese? In an awful twist that has perhaps shaded my life ever sense, no fuzzy hatchling emerged from those eggs. It was a nest of cottonmouths. Ironic then, that the producers' code-word for this finale's ending is "The Rattlesnake in the Mailbox." "Through the Looking Glass"' final twist is perhaps the most shocking in all of television, a spike to the hand, and it helps give Michael Giacchino a pretty cool distinction: he has scored two of the greatest, most shocking season finales of all time (the first being Alias' "The Telling."
And that's as good a place to wrap up this tome of a review as any. Lost's Third Season wraps up on an incredibly high note, and the season as a whole ends up becoming something very special. Lost Season 3 (Original Television Soundtrack), due to some repetition of more monotonous material, doesn't quite reach the heights of the season that birthed it, but its high points are still quite high.
P.S. This is the final Lost soundtrack to feature Giacchino's piece for the closing credits. While Clemmensen nonsensically holds something against it, I think it's great, a suspenseful, percussion-heavy piece that sustains enthusiasm for the show, making that week between episodes (or summer and fall between seasons) seem so much longer.
2008 Varèse Sarabande
from "A Tale of Two Cities"
1. In with a KABOOM! 1:56
2. Main Title (Composed by J.J. Abrams) 0:16
from "A Tale of Two Cities"
3. Awed and Shocked 1:34
from "The Glass Ballerina"
4. Fool Me Twice 3:18
5. Pagoda of Shame 2:02
from "Further Instructions"
6. The Island 2:57
from "The Cost of Living"
7. Eko of the Past 2:45
8. Church of Eko's 0:58
9. Leggo My Eko 3:12
from "I Do"
10. Romancing the Cage 1:48
11. Under the Knife 4:18
from "Not in Portland"
12. Teaser Time 2:52
13. Here Today, Gone To Maui 4:53
from "Flashes Before Your Eyes"
14. Distraught Desmond 3:36
from "Stranger in a Strange Land"
15. Achara, Glad to See Me? 2:25
16. Ocean's Apart 3:02
from "Tricia Tanaka Is Dead"
17. The Lone Hugo 3:34
18. Fetch Your Arm 2:24
19. Ain't Talkin' Bout Nothin' 2:05
20. Shambala 2:04
from "Par Avion"
21. Claire-a Culpa 5:21
from "The Man from Tallahassee"
22. A Touching Moment 2:34
23. Sweet Exposé 4:36
from "Left Behind"
24. Storming Monster 1:31
25. Heart of Thawyer 1:51
from "One of Us"
26. Juliette is Lost 1:28
27. Beach Blanket Bonding 1:54
28. Rushin' the Russian 1:06
29. Deadly Fertility 2:05
from "The Man Behind the Curtain"
30. Dharmacide 3:56
from "Greatest Hits"
1. Paddle Jumper 1:16
2. She's Dynamite 1:16
3. The Good, the Bad and the Ominous 1:07
4. Charlie's Fate 2:58
5. Paddle Jumper Reprise 2:12
6. Ta-Ta Charlie 1:28
7. Heirloom Holiday 1:21
8. Greatest Hits 6:03
from "Through the Looking Glass, Part 1"
9. Flying High 6:30
10. The Good Shepherd 0:58
11. Manifesting Destiny 0:40
12. The Looking Glass Ceiling 3:30
13. Ex Marks the Jack 2:10
14. Jintimidating Bernard 2:42
15. Benomination of the Temple 0:39
16. An Other Dark Agenda 0:36
17. Kate Makes a Splash 0:32
18. Diving Desmond 0:47
19. Weapon of Mass Distraction 0:50
20. The Fallen Hero 0:26
21. Sticking to Their Guns 0:58
22. Torture Me Not 2:44
23. Through the Locke-ing Glass 2:13
from "Through the Looking Glass, Part 2"
24. The Only Pebble in the Jungle 1:31
25. Early Mourning Mystery 1:54
26. Patchy at Best 2:04
27. All Jack'ed Up 0:12
28. Hold the Phone 3:49
29. Code of Conduct 1:42
30. Act Now, Regret Later 5:11
31. Just What the Doctor Ordered 1:24
32. Hurley's Helping Hand 1:06
33. Looking Glass Half Full 4:16
34. JACK FM 0:30
35. Naomi Phone Home 4:01
36. Flash Forward Flashback 4:16
37. End Title 0:32