Lost Season Four (2008)

Composed by Michael Giacchino

Season four of Lost was the shortest of the seasons at 14 episodes. The producers were actually already planning for shorter seasons, but it would have been 18 episodes. A writer’s strike had forced them to cut things down, unfortunately resulting in underdeveloped new characters. Still, it’s an engaging season where the pace really picks up. Also, the shorter runtime means that it was easier for the album producers to select highlights for a full single disc. The soundtrack for season four is where Michael Giacchino’s music reached true cinematic levels, even though the booklet shows that he still had the same number of musicians. Some of the lengthier tracks sport four or five themes in interplay with each other, and some of the action cues are able to sustain themselves beyond one or two minutes. The higher level of emotion and intensity make this the best single disc presentation of music from the series. It’s definitely the first that can safely be accessed by people who have never watched the show.

This season also introduced the Oceanic Six theme for its three-part finale. This theme appears around the album’s halfway point in “There’s No Place Like Home.” As with many of Giacchino’s theme introductions, it starts on piano and then repeats on more dramatic strings. The construction of this theme is epic, and noticeably utilizes the first six notes of the main Lost theme at the end. “Of Mice and Ben” reuses the theme with heavy percussive elements for a cliffhanger. “Can’t Kill Keamy” brings in the theme for a very stirring moment, this time with the full Lost theme as counterpoint (0:46). “Landing Party” provides a final grand iteration, this one with a heart-tingling flourish of cello at the end (2:44). This theme is so notably epic that Giacchino used it as the main emotional identity for the series finale two years later.

At this point anyone who doesn’t want spoilers should skip to the last paragraph, as it’s hard to discuss the music without at least some spoilers. Season three’s finale was a game-changer, where the show transitioned out of island survival into a conflict with wider repercussions. The album has a deceivingly tender start. “Giving Up the Ghost” is a reflective emotional piece with cello and piano, as well as long ethereal notes for a supernatural encounter. The strings get more suspenseful at the end, but not in a particularly exciting or bombastic way. “Locke’ing Up Horns” is an isolated reprise of a piece from the previous season where the Life and Death theme intertwines with Charlie’s. “Lost Away – Or is It?” provides the first sweeping moment. Sayid’s theme soars for a triumphal moment, only for downbeat strings and creepy piano to end things. “Backgammon Gambit” is the first action cue. Though short, it displays the higher intensity action of this season. The second part of Locke’s Spiritual theme dramatically plays out. After a slower, but still tense interlude, Kate’s theme appears in hurried fashion.

“Time and Time Again” builds into a swelling bit of Desmond’s theme that often serves as its own separate motif (0:33). This in turn introduces the Freighter theme, an epic theme made of five-note statements (0:52). After the Freighter theme slowly fades out, the main Mystery theme appears. The Freighter and its crew was the source of many new themes and motifs. Surprisingly only the main Freighter theme itself made it onto album. The rest of the themes were a trio of similarly fast-paced and somewhat mischievous rhythms (not full-out evil as Giacchino was not yet aware who was or wasn’t really a villain). The main Freighter Crew theme, made of two-part pieces, does appear in fragmentary form or as rhythm-only in “Backgammon Gambit,” (0:27) “Benundrum,” (1:28) and “Locke-about.” (2:48) Oddball scientist Daniel Faraday and psychic Miles have their own themes which do not appear at all, though the latter would get onto the season five album. It’s here that I address one quibble. With so much music to choose from, it’s impossible for the album selections to be a hundred percent to my liking. However, I do feel that several of the shorter cues could have been left off since they’re shorter statements of already released material. These include “Karma Jin-Itiative,” which is Rose and Bernard’s theme, and “Bodies and Bungalows,” a truncated version of season three’s “Hold the Phone.” There’s also a minute at the end of “Keamy Away From Him” that could have been lopped off. Just a few more free minutes could have allowed for further incorporation of the Freighter themes.

Getting off that tangent, “The Constant” provides the definitive version of Desmond’s theme. The previous album had the full theme, but not to the length of this cue. “Maternity Hell” starts as a suspenseful cue with a piece of Sun & Jin’s theme, but switches over into one of the show’s most light-hearted pieces with racing comical strings and positive statements of the Lost theme. “Ji Yeon” mixes the Life and Death theme with Sun & Jin’s. The Life and Death theme doesn’t meld with the love theme as well as it did with Charlie’s but it’s an obvious highlight nonetheless. “Michael’s Right to Remain Wrong” finally puts the titular character’s theme, a simple three note motif, on album. The rest of the track is a racing suspense piece. The album kicks into high gear with “Benundrum.” This cue was largely edited over when its episode aired (or at least drowned out by a lot of shooting and explosions) and came as a total and pleasant surprise to me. It’s a wonderfully dissonant cue built around the four-note Contact motif. It begins with an eerie version of Ben’s theme. Primal drumbeats along with the Contact motif ramps things up. The drums pick up speed and a trombone blare leads into a bombastic series of Contact motif statements (1:02). The mischievous rhythms from the Freighter Crew theme interlock with cascading piano. Though the pace does go down a little, the intensity is kept up by harsh periodic string thrusts and the Contact motif.

“Hostile Negotiations” begins with some suspense that could have been trimmed, and then launches into a heartrending version of Ben’s theme. “Locke-about” is the sole representative of one of the show’s best episodic scores: “Cabin Fever.” As disappointing as it is not to have more material from “Cabin Fever,” this six-minute cue does a good job at encapsulating it. The first part is from a Locke flashback. Giacchino transforms the Locke Emotional theme into a dark melody. This transformation came into handy with the character’s later development. As a weird character tells Locke he needs to go on a spiritual trek, the character’s Spiritual theme appears with underlying tropical percussion. At 2:32 the scene shifts to the present with aggressive Freighter music. Dark suspense takes over for a while, with a tense throbbing bit for a sinister device. The track climaxes with the Freighter theme in counterpoint to more tropical percussion (5:27).

The finale’s score was so tremendous that it takes up the entire second half of the album. “There’s No Place Like Home” introduces the Oceanic Six theme. “Nadia on Your Life” has Sayid’s theme followed by the Trek theme from “Hollywood and Vines.” I found this track not exactly album-worthy, as the Trek theme makes a much stronger appearance four tracks later in the escalating and loud “Timecrunch.” “C4-titude” has more of the Freighter theme, with some tense music at the end portending one of the finale’s big threats. “Of Mice and Ben” dramatically gets into the Oceanic Six theme and also has a tense end. “Keamy Away from Him” is an awesome action cue. It begins with a suspense piece from season three (“Patchy at Best”). Kate’s theme appears on low percussion (0:28) and the suspense starts to gear up as everyone gets into battle positions. At 1:44 the track breaks out into furious wailing strings as a big shootout breaks out. The Finale Action theme returns in extended form to accommodate a chase followed by a big knife-and-fist fight (2:22). The action concludes, but unfortunately the album producer decided to keep the full cue, resulting in an extra minute of anonymous suspense material.

“Can’t Kill Keamy” simulates the upwards movement of a helicopter with swirling rhythms while the Lost theme plays. As it reaches the sky, the Oceanic Six theme makes a flourish. “Bobbing for Freighters” takes things to an even higher level. A soft iteration of Kate’s theme leads to a statement of the Freighter theme. Ben’s theme eerily appears and then more action bombast ensues (1:07). Harsh strings and trombones continually build up the tension as the characters race the clock. Things take a more dramatic turn when the second part of the Lost theme, following tinkling percussion, turns into an escalating action motif (3:20). The Freighter theme makes a round of final grand statements, with part of Sun & Jin’s theme appearing in its midst (4:28). The track then fizzles out with creepy strings.

“Locke of the Island” sets a new record for longest Lost cue. It’s as epic as the big action cues, but in a different, non-frenetic way. Though the track has Locke’s name, Ben’s theme is the real highlight here. After a suspenseful rhythm it appears in a subdued, spiritual form. At 1:33 Locke’s Spiritual theme gets an ambient playthrough. Ben’s theme returns amidst unsettling strings. At 3:45 however it takes on determined, even heroic tones. After Ben’s theme has hits its conclusion, dark string twangs lead to a slower iteration of the main Mystery theme. “Lying for the Island” is a fairly long cue with eerie ambience. I feel it was only included for its statement of Desmond’s theme and resulting string-and-piano denouement (2:30), but I do love this track. 0:40 introduces an ominous harp motif that would get a couple prominent reprises in the last two seasons. “Landing Party” would have served as a great album-ender, but Giacchino or one of the producers opted to have a more honest ominous closer in “Hoffs-Drawlar.” Jack’s suspense motif appears in eerie fashion. Most of the track is very creepy suspense that I love, but I can understand how some would question its inclusion. Around 2:25 there is actually a call-back to “The Eyeland,” the very first Lost cue. The man Mystery theme breaks out at the end for a shocking cliffhanger revelation.

The soundtrack for season four is the easiest to just pop in and listen to. It matches the show’s attempts to branch out into a more epic narrative, exemplified by the Oceanic Six theme. It’s got some of the best action and is the only album to feature the Freighter theme. It’s also wonderful to see Giacchino’s various themes work with and through each other. I do have to dock a point as the album space wasn’t fully maximized. There is at least five minutes of music that could have been replaced by more original material, perhaps another cue from “Cabin Fever” and one of the Freighter character themes. I honestly believe that, even with the season being the shortest, this could have made a great two-disc album. If one wants to check out one single disc from the series, this is one of the better recommendations.

Rating: 9/10

Tracklisting

  1. Giving Up the Ghost (2:40)
  2. Locke’ing Horns (1:52)
  3. Lost Away – Or Is It? (1:41)
  4. Backgammon Gambit (1:19)
  5. Time and Time Again (2:42)
  6. The Constant (3:52)
  7. Maternity Hell (2:31)
  8. Karma Kin-Itiative (1:24)
  9. Ji Yeon (3:09)
  10. Michael Right to Remain Wrong (1:54)
  11. Bodies and Bungalows (1:23)
  12. Benundrum (3:24)
  13. Hostile Negotiations (2:21)
  14. Locke-About (6:05)
  15. There’s No Place Like Home (2:35)
  16. Nadia On Your Life (1:42)
  17. C4-Titude (2:00)
  18. Of Mice and Ben (2:19)
  19. Keamy Away from Him (4:58)
  20. Timecrunch (2:06)
  21. Can’t Kill Keamy (1:48)
  22. Bobbing for Freighters (5:20)
  23. Locke of the Island (7:07)
  24. Lying for the Island (4:53)
  25. Landing Party (3:23)
  26. Hoffs-Drawlar (3:50)

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