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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Michael Giacchino -- Lost: The Last Episodes (Original Television Soundtrack)

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I'll be blunt: if you go to a movie today, you'll be lucky to even notice the music composed for it, let alone be humming its themes the next day. This isn't just some weird opinion that I'm throwing out there to give myself an easy intro to this review--one of the greatest film composers of all time agrees with me.
With that said, Michael Giacchino, composer for all six seasons of Lost, does not have a problem with memorability. Lost: The Last Episodes (Original Television Soundtrack) is an aural cascade of themes Giacchino composed for Lost's characters, moods, and situations over its entire run, all the while splashing up new themes until the end. This soundtrack covers the season's last four episodes, and
The first episode covered is "The Candidate," an action-packed, tension-filled episode, where our protagonists attempt to leave the island and escape the clutches of the evil Man in Black. They fail. Giacchino creates a frentic, pulse-pounding score for this episode, but I want to punch album executive producer, Robert Townson, in the face, for leaving out the music that closes the episode. After a shocking series of events that claim the lives of many of our protagonists deep beneath the sea, only FOUR of the show's original 14 characters wash up on the beach alive. In one of the bleakest moments in television history, our four protagonists, some injured, some barely conscious, and all completely broken, weep and wonder what purpose the deaths of everyone they have loved throughout the entire run of the show has served. Here's the scene, set to gentle, heartbreaking music that mysteriously does not appear on this soundtrack.
Townson does an excellent job choosing the rest of the selections that made it on this soundtrack, though, and speaking of mysterious...
The next episode, "Across the Sea," is set several thousand years ago, and reveals the origins of the mysterious forces of light and dark who've been utilizing our characters as pawns in their millennia-long battle. Giacchino essentially gets to compose a forty-minute long film score here, crafting new, ancient and mysterious sounding themes, while incorporating the themes he's already created for Jacob (the force of light) and the Man in Black (the force of darkness). While the episode itself can feel a bit stiff at times, I applaud the writers and producers for revealing Jacob as a very flawed character, in need of the same kind of redemption as our original characters, with just as serious acceptance issues with his parent.
The next episode, "What They Died For," features Jacob explaining to our four survivors just that, all the while juxtaposing with the season long "flash-sideways." This episode feeds directly into the series finale, "The End," though, so I will talk about this rest of the soundtrack as one ("What They Died For"'s music ends disc one, while "The End" gets the second disc to itself.)
You know what, though, let me go on this rant that I've been saving this whole time.
I don't understand. The finale reveals the flash-sideways to have taken place in a kind of purgatory our characters unknowingly created together so that they could come to grips with their issues, make peace with the lives they lived, and move on to the next plane of existence. However, the characters do not realize they are dead (all died at different times throughout the years, but all ended up in this same purgatory, at the same instant), and believe they are living their real lives. One by one, they wake up to the truth, as their lives flash before their eyes, and they are often awakened by one another. These scenes are breathtakingly beautiful and incredibly emotional, and every actor is on top of their game. Most of these scenes result in tears for the characters, and the viewer, as our protagonists in an instant recall the lives they really lived, that the person they are in the presence of is someone they love dearly, and that they are, above everything, most certainly dead. This ending has one flaw, though--American audiences apparently don't like to have to think. I have talked to dozens of people who didn't like the finale, and in every case, I find that I end up having to explain it to them, even though the series finale BLATANTLY explains what is going on, multiple times. For some reason, many viewers thought the flash-sideways implied that nothing in the show really happened and that the characters have been dead the whole time, even though series hero, Jack Shephard, is given an impassioned speech by his similarly dead father at the end of the episode that explicitly states "IT ALL HAPPENED." If one, indeed, does watch the episode with a full understanding of what they are viewing, said conversation between father and son is incredibly emotional. Fittingly, stubborn and faithless Jack is the last of all the characters to awake to the truth, and if the scene of Jack being welcomed into the afterlife by his own father's loving arms, as the two declare their love for one another after lifelong acrimony doesn't as much as moisten you eyes, why did you watch six seasons of this show? Above everything, above the mysteries and machinations, Lost placed character, and Jack's growth from a haunted, I'm in charge know-it-all control freak, to a broken shell of a man, to a servant and man of faith is one of the show's greatest accomplishments. I HATED Jack in the show's early seasons--I can't stand take-charge Alpha males who are always up in my business. I always identified most with the character, Sawyer, also an Alpha male, but one who's philosophy is, "I don't care what you do, I'm going over here to do whatever I want, and don't bother me." Naturally, from the get go, Jack and Sawyer hate each other's guts. While Sawyer grows into a hero in his own right, more thoughtful and methodical than Jack, he is perhaps intrinsically a better man than Jack, and his growth is less painful. When Sawyer loses the woman he loves, he is broken because he changed, because he became someone vulnerable. Jack is broken because that is the only way he can change. Lost does right by its characters, and "The End" gives all the character closure a true fan could want. I mean, Miles pointing out Richard's first grey hair, and Richard reveling in his mortality, after more than a hundred years of not didn't like an episode that featured that? Are you kidding me?
Giacchino expertly scores every minute, but the scenes of character awakening, often incorporating and re-interpreting characters' original themes throughout the show, standout in particular. A great example is "We Can Go Dutch." The flash-sideways scene it backs features the tear-jerking reunion of Sawyer and Juliet, as in an instant, they remember the love they shared together, the intense pain they endured as they lost one another, and realize that they are now reunited beyond death. The music, incredibly, accomplishes the same purpose.

*SOB!* These flash-sideways feature lovers reunited, murderers making penance to their victims, Jack FINALLY getting over his daddy issues...if you truly loved these characters, what more could you want?
The body of work Giacchino has built up throughout the series is astounding--a hundred hours of consistent, cohesive music--truly mind-boggling. The fact that we get more than ten hours of it over the course of these seven soundtracks is a true gift. Throughout these last discs, though, Giacchino's body of work becomes even more vast--the flash-sideways is only half the ongoing plot in this episode. The other half follows the present-day, action-film like final battle against The Man In Black to save the island, and perhaps, the entire universe. Giacchino goes all out here, as well, with some great actions themes, further evolutions of The Man In Black's theme, and general awesomeness, including callbacks, as well. My favorite Lost musical moment of all comes at the climax of "The End," and can be heard on disc two's track nineteen, "The Hole Shabang." Giacchino mounts furthering tension, suspense, and opposition for six minutes and forty-five seconds before paying the entire series off with the most cathartic musical moment of the six season run. Lost features a lot of music containing a tentative, hopeful feeling, as these are wounded people in search of redemption, on a playing field they little understand. Giacchino's most famous piece for the show came near the end of the first season, as the survivors send a raft off in search of rescue. That track, "Parting Words," is everything I listed above, tentative, hopeful, yet soaring. The climax of "The Hole Shabang" takes a sudden burst of "Parting Words" and transforms it into a wave of certainty, resurrection, victory. It is incredible.

After this climax, and with all business on the island either completed or ongoing safely, the show and Giacchino are free to wrap things up with the flash-sideways and the series itself. "Moving On" features nearly ALL of Lost's six years worth of protagonists doing just that, coming together and giving each other final greetings as they prepare to...go into the light. If you didn't understand this episode the first time through, I highly suggest you watch it again, knowing the truth behind all that is happening. "The End" improves with every viewing, as the viewer picks up nuance after nuance, but Giacchino's score for the episode and this final scene don't because they are already perfect.
If you don't like that the island was magical, fine. The show did suggest early on that science could explain everything, but the island's true origins, while perfectly enjoyable to experience, are more fairy tale than anything. That's one thing. That's why I wouldn't quite put Lost at the absolute pinnacle of television quality. But if you hated the flash-sideways, and retroactively hated the whole show because of the finale, I don't understand you. What other show in history has introduced this many well-drawn characters, and developed them so naturally over such a long period of time? These people feel real, and to watch the show for six years is to love them. How can you not see yourself in at least a handful of them? Do you yourself never feel lost? Are you fully whole? Were you born feeling and knowing that you have it all together? If so, you aren't my kind of person.
Fully embedded rant ends.
If you love Lost, buy this soundtrack. It has everything you want (except that one cue I complained about up above, but that's okay, Townson, I forgive you). All the character themes, all the event themes, all imaginatively arranged, all are here. All the new music is as high a quality as anything Giacchino ever composed. If you buy only one Lost soundtrack, this is the one you need. It was only released in a 5000 copy run, and I only have it because my cousin Adrian is awesome, but it's also available digitally from a variety of well-known legal outlets.
This ends my exhaustive Lost soundtrack run, and two months of listening to almost nothing but pure Giacchino. Back to regular life. Thanks to JJ Abrams, Carlton Cuse, Damon Lindelof, Michael Giacchino, and their network of cohorts, for creating a vast, fully-realized and comforting world that I can return to anytime I want. But for now, it's time to leave it.
Up next, my brief dalliance with Michael Knott.

2010 Varèse Sarabande

Disc One
from "The Candidate"
1. Cage Crashers 0:45
2. Shephard's Why 1:08
3. Sub-Primed 6:33
4. SS Lost-tanic 6:56
5. Flew The Coop 2:06

from "Across the Sea"
6. Across the Sea 1:54
7. Don't Look At The Light 3:31
8. A Brother's Quarrel 2:58
9. Make Like A Tree 6:10
10. Mother of a Plan 5:14
11. Mother of Sorrows 3:56
12. Love is Stronger Than Death 2:51

from "What They Died For"
13. Cereal Experience 2:25
14. The Four Amigos 1:13
15. Walk and Talk and Aah! 2:31
16. Hide and Snitch 3:00
17. A Better Ben 1:56
18. What They Died For 3:30
19. Jack's Cup Runneth Over 1:41
20. Get Out Of Jail Free Card 3:10

Disc Two
from "The End"
1. Parallelocam 3:23
2. Leaver-age 1:10
3. The Stick With Me Speech 3:05
4. Ultrasonic Flash 2:52
5. Fly By Dire 0:52
6. Down The Hobbit Hole 4:34
7. Dysfunctional Setup 2:15
8. The Well Of Holes 3:21
9. Pulling Out All The Stops 2:28
10. Blood From a Locke 0:33
11. Our Lady of Perpetual Labor 4:35
12. If A Tree Falls 2:56
13. Locke v. Jack 2:21
14. Can't Keep Locke Down 2:51
15. The Long Kiss Goodbye 5:29
16. We Can Go Dutch 2:28
17. Kate Flashes Jack 1:13
18. Hurley's Coronation 2:47
19. The Hole Shabang 7:29
20. Aloha 1:12
21. Closure 8:08
22. Jumping Jack's Flash 0:58
23. Moving On 7:55

Bonus Track
24. Parting Words (Drive Shaft) 3:32

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