Friday, May 14, 2010

Top 10 Sets from "LOST"

Continuing my 10 day run-down of my favorite things in LOST, today I'm going to focus on set designs. One thing about LOST is that because it is filmed in Hawaii, it is easily the most gorgeous show on television. The producers/directors have been able to maximize Hawaii's various locale elements to create an incredible number of awesome sets.

At times, the Island itself has been a character in this epic, and that has caused each of the sets to take on a life of their own. Not only do they give us something cool to look at, they also affect the way the story plays out. Here are my top 10.

10. The Temple

While the jury may still be out as to how essential the Temple storyline was in season 6, it's hard to deny that this is one of LOST's most imaginative sets. Its design has the feel of Apocalypse Now, or Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, but the way it is used is totally unique. Inside, we have secret passageways and an awesome Pool of Life that has mysteriously gone from clear to dirty waters. This pool was used to heal Ben, but it changed him. It brought Sayid back from the dead, but apparently caused him to be "claimed."

And if this weren't enough, underneath the Temple are an elaborate series of tunnels that are covered with tons of mythological mumbo-jumbo. One of LOST's pivotal scenes, in which Ben is judged by the Smoke Monster, took place in front of an altar featuring hieroglyphs of ancient Egyptians worshipping the Monster. Indeed, the Temple is not only super cool, but essential in the telling of LOST's story.

9. New Otherton/Dharma barracks

We were first introduced to this slice of Island suburbia in the season 3 premiere, and it changed the way we saw the Others. During the first two seasons the Others were seen as Island savages with super-duper strength and stealth skills who stole babies and children without any remorse. The introduction of New Otherton revealed that this was all a front, another charade in the LOST history books. Suddenly, the Others became human. They baked muffins, held meetings of book clubs, played football, and even had a playground for the (absent) kiddies.

New Otherton also became the location for some of the most significant events of seasons 3-5. Locke’s submarine sabotage. Alex’s murder. The Purge. The Great Dharma Shootout. It’s one of the most important sets, and one of the coolest. (One last thing I love about it: all of the houses look exactly the same, which makes the place still feel somewhat disorienting. So, it’s as if we feel we know the Others, yet still don’t know them. And that’s how it should be.)

8. Beach Camp

This is where the show started. A lot happened here for our rag-tag castaway crew. And as our characters left the beach camp to learn of other parts of the Island, they always managed to come back. Since the show has given us so much game imagery over the years, the beach camp plays the role of “base” or “GO.”

What I love about the beach camp is how much like home it became. The castaways established addresses for characters – Sawyer’s place being my favorite with his hidden stash of reading materials – a medical center, and a kitchen. We’ve always felt safe here because even when it appeared that someone was ready to storm the camp, the castaways were always prepared. They were never taken by surprise at home.

7. Polar Bear Cages

I know a lot of people didn’t like the six episode arc on Hydra Island at the beginning of season three. The biggest complaint – rightfully so – was that there was too much padding in these episodes. Those six could have easily been turned into three and I don’t think we would’ve lost much. But they did give us one of the coolest sets: the polar bear cages. In the game of LOST, this is “Jail,” and it was here that Sawyer and Kate learned a lot about themselves and each other. Besides, LOST has never been much of a sexually charged show, so it was pretty cool that one of the few sex scenes would be in a cage.

I love the look of these cages, too, and all the little details, like the open tops and especially the fishbiscuit vending machine. Season three was about the humbling of Sawyer as he went from grade-A douche to epic Romantic hero, and the fishbiscuit scene in which Tom tells him the polar bears figured out the mechanism faster was classic.

6. The golf course

Before LOST went into the Hatch and opened up the Pandora’s Box of mythology, it was still a fairly simple show about people trying to survive. When Hurley found the golf clubs in the plane’s wreckage and came up with the plan to build a golf course, it was great comic relief, but also a calm before the storm.

What I loved best about the golf course, though, was how it really displayed the majestic beauty of Hawaii. We can go from jungles and waterfalls to beautiful valleys. Being that I’ve never been to Hawaii, this was the closest I’ve ever been, and LOST made that possible.

5. Hoffs/Drawler Funeral Parlor

It’s such a simple set. A table, some chairs, and a coffin, but the way this mortuary is filmed gives it a dread that is worse than death. As Jack stands over John Locke’s coffin, you’re never far from thinking that the dead will rise…and that it won’t be very happy.

This set gets extra points for its name, which is an anagram for “flash forward.” Gotta love the writers of LOST for giving us puzzles within puzzles.

4. The Lighthouse

There’s a lot of reason to be pissed off at Jack over the years, but nothing upset me more than when he went and fucked up one of my favorite sets in the history of LOST: the lighthouse. Here we discovered that Jacob had been following our castaways for quite a long time, using the lighthouse as a directional tool to guide them to the Island like ships lost at sea. It was an amazing visual metaphor. The set itself is a series of dials and mirrors, which only added to the overall themes of the series.

While I’m angry at Jack for destroying the cool set, I was quite glad he actually did it for purposes of the story. This moment is pivotal for him as a character. Breaking the glass was the equivalent of him ending the vicious cycle he’d been on since the show began. He was forced to realize in this moment that Locke was right and he was wrong. Without the lighthouse, Jack is not the character he is in these last few episodes of season six. And for that, I’m grateful for the lighthouse.

3. The Looking Glass Station

This is where Charlie died. That alone is enough to make it one of my favorite sets because it is one of the best scenes in the entire series. But, there’s a lot more to it. First of all, the Looking Glass Station was an answer to one of season 1’s biggest mysteries – the cable in the sand. It also provided an explanation for why no one on the Island was able to make contact with the outside world – there was a signal box in the station blocking all outgoing signals.

Visually, the set is stunning, and almost the inverse of the Temple set. It is underwater, and yet still has a giant pool in the middle. It’s dark and dingy, almost alien, with blinking lights and metal doors. There are those super cool lockers where Desmond found the spear gun. But, despite all this, it is the significance of the place that gives the Looking Glass Station its place on this list. Charlie died here and warned Desmond about the freighter. In the end, that’s enough.

2. The Orchid Station/Frozen Donkey Wheel

From the botanical fa├žade to the grimy elevator ride that felt like it was descending into hell to the polar cavern with the fantastic time travel wheel, the Orchid may very well be LOST’s most creative set. There is so much to be discovered and explored here. There’s a television with a strange, looping video tape. There’s an experimental enclosure that can’t be filled with metal. And then there’s that damn wheel that seems to connect to the Island’s energy source.

Mystery and mythology collide in this subterranean Dharma station that set into motion the time travel story of season 5. Personally, I love the details and hidden easter eggs. This is LOST’s design team at their best.

1. The Hatch/Swan Station

The mystery of the show really began here when John Locke stumbled across this hatch in the middle of the jungle. LOST had its first Pandora’s Box, and boy was it exciting. When we finally made it down the hatch into the Swan Station, we were introduced to a new major character – Desmond – and to a scenario that is still having ramifications in season 6 – entering the numbers.

The design of the Swan Station is impressive. The classic look of 70s computers, record player, and exercise equipment deepened the mysteries because they required us to consider the origins of these things. But the Hatch had other things going for it, from the cool kitchen nook area to the weapons closet and the pantry. What finally put the design over the top, though, was the blast door map. When Locke discovered this, it revealed that discovering what was in the Hatch was only the tip of the iceberg.

Your turn! What are your favorite sets?

1 comment:

  1. One of LOST's pivotal scenes, in which Ben is judged by the Smoke Monster, took place in front of an altar featuring hieroglyphs of ancient Egyptians worshipping the Monster.

    And how sad is it that a scene that pivotal has been undercut by the revelation that the Monster-worshiping hieroglyphics make not a lick of sense, considering we now know they pre-date Smokey?

    I can't think of any sets I'd want to add to your list; the Swan and Orchid stations are definitely tops.