The Lost Room

This review is spoiler-light, and appropriate to read before watching the series. The comments section, however, is fair game for anything that happens.

Back in 2006, when this six-episode miniseries premiered, TV Guide’s Matt Roush declared that it an “especially silly descent into incoherence.” Oh, how the world of TV has changed since the fourth season of Lost! More than ten years later, The Lost Room seems like a charming artifact of a simpler TV world in which science fiction shows neither aspired to greatness nor achieved it.

That may sound like damning with faint praise, but the straightforward, earnest quality of The Lost Room is one of its greatest strengths, particularly as embodied by lead Peter Krause. Not to mention a strong supporting cast and a narrative that has just enough mystery to delight, but not enough to confuse.

When Detective Joe Miller stumbles upon a magical key that opens any door—and leads to a motel room that appears to be frozen in time—he’s appropriately nonplussed. When his daughter uses the key, enters the room, and disappears, he becomes a man on a mission to find his daughter.

That quest leads him to a variety of other magical objects and their bearers, as well as various factions associated with the objects. Some people hoard them, others will kill for them, and some want to destroy all the objects, since they tend to bring bad luck to those who possess them. Joe’s key is one of the most powerful objects, which makes him both the hunter and the hunted.

As Joe, Peter Krause brings a necessary deadpan incredulity to the proceedings, especially when interacting with characters who have been obsessed with the objects for many years. Standouts in the supporting cast include Kevin Pollak as a wealthy collector and Peter Jacobson as the owner of a bus ticket that whooshes people to an abandoned highway outside of Gallup, New Mexico. Juliana Margulies is tough-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside the love interest.

The appeal of the show extends beyond its quirky characters, though. There’s something enchanting about the premise: everyday objects possessed of magical powers, cults jockeying for power over the objects, and so on. I’ve seen this miniseries twice, and both times I wanted an object of my own, just for the pleasure of having a tiny, extraordinary thing. (Knowing my luck, I’d probably get the wristwatch that hardboils an egg.)

Going out on a limb, I’d say there are two types of cult genre shows: those that develop a following because of the mystery (Primer is a good example), and those that develop a following because of the mood. We all love Firefly for many reasons, but it has taken on a cozy quality for me over the years. The Lost Room isn’t Firefly, but it has that same effect: a friendly show, with just enough peril to keep you engaged.

Objects:

• Joe’s daughter is played by Elle Fanning, who is more charming than any child actor has a right to be.

• For that quote from Matt Roush in the first paragraph, I had to rely on Metacritic, as Roush’s original review doesn’t appear to still exist on the internet.

• In fact, Metacritic’s links were a disaster here. Allegedly, Gillian Flynn in her pre-Gone Girl iteration reviewed The Lost Room for Entertainment Weekly, but that link didn’t work, either.

Three out of four objects.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

9 comments:

Patrick said...

"What does the gun do?"
"It shoots bullets REALLY fast."

I've been a huge fan of this mini-series ever since it first aired, and I would KILL for a proper blu-ray release. Peter Krause was great as the least, there were a bunch of interesting characters, and the whole mythology was fascinating. I loved that the visual effects were low-key, so that rather than lots of whiz-bang sci-fi stuff, it felt more like physics was being twisted, which it basically was. Part of me would have loved to see a follow-up even if it involved a totally different set of characters, but the rest of me thinks they ended it just right.

Josie Kafka said...

I love that quote, Patryk!

The idea of a reboot with new characters is a really good one.

Billie Doux said...

I really enjoyed this miniseries, too.

There seems to be a new trend where stuff is available to stream, but they don't do a physical DVD set any more unless it's big enough to sustain the cost. The Lost Room never came out on DVD.

Patrick said...

Josie, it's quite possibly my favorite bit of dialogue from the mini-series. :)

I think if they had gone back to do a follow-up, the best option would've been to set it in the same continuity, feature new main characters, but keep some of the secondary characters from the "Object Community". But the window for that has probably passed.

Patrick said...

Billie, it did come out on DVD. I know cuz I bought it IMMEDIATELY when it was released. :) The release was...problematic. One, they changed the episode arrangement. It originally aired in two-hour segments over three nights, with each episode title referencing two objects. The DVD release broke it into six episodes, one for each object in the titles. And while it did seem like they originally made the show so that it *could* be broken down into 6 parts, the extra breakpoints felt a little awkward. The other issue that was both copies I got had problems playing in the DVD player I had at the time. This was back in the days when that was still a thing.

Your mention about streaming though. Josie, what prompted this review? Did you stumble upon it on Netflix or Amazon and decide it was worth writing about? However it happened, I'm glad. This show deserves some love.

Billie Doux said...

Oops! I thought it had never come out on DVD because when I searched for a link to an Amazon ad, it didn't come up. Maybe I didn't look carefully enough.

Patrick said...

Billie, I'm pretty sure it's not in regular circulation anymore. If you search for it on Amazon's main site, you can find it for sale. I'd love for some of the mini-series aired on SciFi/SyFy to get proper hi-def releases. Lost Room, Tin Man, 5ive Days To Midnight, and especially Taken(which featured BOTH of the Fanning sisters, though Elle was only in one scene).

Mallena said...

I watched this show on Comic-Con HQ. I had subscribed to the app to check out Alan Tudyk's Con Man series, (which was good, but kind of raunchy) and then decided to watch The Lost Room. I hadn't heard of it before, but it looked interesting.

I really liked it; the mysteries of the room and the objects were very compelling. I don't think that I understood the ending, but I think I will watch it again, sometime.

I was thinking of subscribing again for a month so that I can watch Kings of Con, anyway. I've no doubt that Kings will be raunchy as well. Why can't men write a comedy without having to film scenes in bathrooms?

I also liked Syfy's Tin Man. That one is available on Blu-ray.




Josie Kafka said...

Patrick, I'm so sorry--somehow I missed the question in your comment:

Josie, what prompted this review? Did you stumble upon it on Netflix or Amazon and decide it was worth writing about? However it happened, I'm glad. This show deserves some love.

Long story short: I downloaded a free trial of Comic-Con HQ to watch Alan Tudyk's Con Man show, and The Lost Room is airing for free on that service. Or it was, at least--I don't know, since I didn't renew past the free trial.

(Con Man has some good moments, but kinda just does exactly what you'd expect it to.)

Anyway, The Lost Room always stuck with me, so it was nice to watch it again. I'd forgotten some stuff, but was surprised at how much I remembered, which says something about its staying power.