The "Lost" season 6 DVD set hit stores today, and with it comes one of the most-anticipated DVD bonus features I can remember(*), "The New Man in Charge," a 12-minute epilogue to the series showing some of what Ben and Hurley were up to after the island events of "The End" (which I reviewed both here and here) and answering some fan questions that the series itself never got around to.
(*) Though I still believe that a candid making-of documentary about HBO's upcoming "Luck" and the very different professional styles of Dustin Hoffman, David Milch, et al would be the Greatest Of All Time.
Though the DVD only came out today, "New Man in Charge" has been floating around the internet for weeks, and I have some thoughts on it coming up just as soon as I play a game of Connect Four...
"We deserve answers!"
The most frequent word I've seen used to describe "The New Man in Charge," both from people who liked it and those who didn't, is "unnecessary." To which I say, of course it's unnecessary; that's why it's a DVD extra and not something Lindelof, Cuse, et al tried to incorporate into the series itself.
Darlton made it clear throughout the run of the series that the episodes of "Lost" that aired on ABC were all that viewers needed to see to understand and enjoy (or not) the story they were telling. The various fake websites, the Comic-Con videos, "The Lost" experience game, et al were all extra treats for the super-obsessed, but irrelevant to the show itself, as far as the creative team was concerned. If they couldn't provide a satisfying experience within those 121 hours of television, then they failed in their jobs. (Based on the divided and at times vitriolic response to "The End," some of you clearly feel they failed.)
So even though I lamented at various points in season six that the show was never going to go into greater detail about, say, the history of The Others and how much Smokey was yanking Ben's chain throughout his leadership of them, I went into "The New Man in Charge" not expecting some crucial missing chapter from the "Lost" saga, but a chance to spend a few more minutes with Benjamin Linus and Hugo Reyes, and to maybe get a few blanks filled in.
And since that's what I got, I was satisfied.
I'll never tire of watching Michael Emerson as Ben, who oozes menace even now that he's on the side of the angels (and I still think Emerson should be the number one outside candidate to replace Steve Carell on "The Office"), so it was fun just to watch him dealing with those two befuddled Dharma employees on Guam. (And apparently they, and not Patchy, were the last members of the Dharma Initiative.)
And over the course of Ben's visit, and then the final Pierre Chang orientation video, we got explanations for the food pallett drops, the Hurley-bird, Chang's various aliases, Room 23, the fertility problems, the complicated fish biscuit dispenser, etc. Another complaint I've seen about the film is that all of these answers could have been (and were in many corners) easily guessed given the information we already had. But the same could be said of virtually all the dangling "Lost" mysteries at this point. To get back to my earlier example, I feel pretty comfortable filling in the blanks on why Jacob let Smokey lead The Others astray for such a long time (it was all part of their game about the innate goodness of people), even though it was never explicitly spelled out on the show, but I would still enjoy seeing it dramatized in some fashion.
There was, however, one huge, unsatisfying dangler that the show itself never resolved: Walt.
That Lindelof and JJ Abrams hadn't considered how they would deal with Walt as Malcolm David Kelley grew faster than the show's timeline always struck me as odd. (Though Lindelof has said a few times that they didn't expect the show to succeed long-term, so perhaps this was one idea that was written off as one of those good problems they should be so lucky to have to worry about.) And I was disappointed when Walt didn't return for anything but a couple of cameos after the timeline advanced far enough that Kelley could have returned full-time without a problem. Walt's powers, and The Others' interest in them, was such a huge part of the first two seasons that it definitely felt like a lot of wasted time when we came to the end of the series and Walt wasn't a factor.
So his presence as a Santa Rosa patient (under the Keith Johnson alias Michael would have gotten for him in "Meet Kevin Johnson") was by far the most pleasant surprise of "The New Man in Charge." We still don't know everything about why Walt was special, but the discussion of helping his father - who, when last we saw him, was still trapped as a spirit on the island(**) - and Hurley's offer of a job (perhaps as Hurley's successor?) offer us strong enough hints that I can live with it.
(**) Michael's absence from the sideways universe was one of the bigger objections I've seen to the finale. Certainly, Michael's sins (murdering Ana-Lucia and Libby in an attempt to rescue Walt) are bad, but they pale in comparison to the things that, say, Ben did, and Ben got to move on to an afterlife where he gets to hang out with Alex. Perhaps the difference is that Michael died near the island, where we don't know where/when/how Ben died, or perhaps Michael eventually, with Walt's help, moved on as well, and for some reason he wasn't one of the Oceanic passengers Desmond felt compelled to track down.
And, yes, the idea that the show would have to resolve Walt's storyline in a bonus feature goes against what I was talking about above about the show itself being all we needed to see. The TV show definitely failed us when it came to Walt. And fans of the show shouldn't have to get the season six DVD to find out (a bit more of) what happened to him. But I'm still glad I got to see that, and to hang with Ben some more, and to have a reminder that, though we'll never see it, there was still a whole lotta story to tell in between Jack's death and when all of his friends turned up in that metaphysical church. I have enough sense of the shape of a Hurley-run island that I can picture some of those stories in my head, ponder more about what happened to Desmond and Penny, whether Sawyer ever looked up Clementine, etc.
What did everybody else think? Did "The New Man in Charge" live up to your expectations?
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