My Top 10 Episodes of Lost

A little over two years ago, I counted down my Top 10 Favorite Television Shows. Topping that list was Lost. I loved the story telling: the connections between the characters; the non-linear nature of the narrative with its flashbacks, flashforwards, and flashsideways; the depth of the characters; the genre mash-up of action, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, adventure, comedy, and so forth; and the tremendous production values. The series finale was divisive among fans, but I thoroughly enjoyed it when I first saw it, even if it didn’t answer a few of the mysteries. I had come up with enough satisfactory explanations anyway.

I bought the complete seasons on DVD as soon as they were released. Prior to the final season, a friend and I met weekly to rewatch episodes. It was enlightening and enjoyable watching those five seasons knowing how they ended and seeing all the seeds for the events as they developed. I hoped one day I’d watch the complete series again when my children were old enough. I wanted to share something I loved with them.

Last summer, when my oldest turned 16 and my twins were 13, we started, and they loved what they were seeing. It was fun reliving the series through their eyes, especially as they wondered what different things meant: What is the Smoke Monster? Why are there polar bears on the island? What do the numbers mean? And so on. When summer ended, we were finishing up the second season. Because they’re only with me on weekends during the school year, it took a lot longer to complete the series. And sadly, because of her part-time job and other school commitments preventing her from being with us every weekend, my oldest was left behind after three episodes, but the twins and I pressed on and finished in mid-June. They love the show!

After we finished, my twins helped me compile this list. The only restriction I imposed was that we had to have at least one episode from each of the six seasons. Turned out, that wasn’t too difficult. And it was fortunate that we all agreed on the best episode.

If you’ve never seen the show, please be advised that there will be SPOILERS AHEAD. Images are linked from the Lostpedia entries for each episode. And if you don’t plan on ever watching it, you might be Lost

 

#10 – Live Together, Die Alone

The season finale episodes are always fantastic because they’re a culmination of so many story arcs. Here’s the finale of Season Two. First, there’s the unexpected delight that the flashback focuses on Desmond Hume. We’re introduced to his true love Penelope “Penny” Widmore, and we learn how he first came to the island and ended up inside The Swan station pressing the button. Meanwhile, there are three major groups of survivors doing things. With Desmond, there’s Charlie, Mr. Eko, and Locke, the latter ultimately deciding not to push the button, until Desmond learns his previous late push may have caused the crash of flight Oceanic 815. Meanwhile, Sayid, Sun, and Jin are taking Desmond’s boat around the island to ambush The Others who are holding Walt. They’re doing so because Sayid doesn’t trust Michael, who is leading Jack, Kate, Sawyer, and Hurley across the island because that’s who The Others want in exchange for Walt. At their confrontation, we learn about Michael’s betrayal, and we learn the enigmatic “Henry Gale” is the leader of The Others. The episode ends with Michael and Walt boating away, while Jack, Kate, and Sawyer are captured. Also, the sky turns purple when Desmond has to turn the fail-safe key, resulting in an unexpected final scene where two men in an Antarctic listening station call Penny to tell her they found it. At the time, it was assumed they meant the island, but these were awesome cliffhangers. What’s going to happen to Jack, Kate, and Sawyer? Why do The Others want them? What happened to the folks in The Swan? When I watched it live, it was an agonizing four-month wait to get those answers.

 

#9 – Exodus

But the first season finale was a little bit more intense. The flashbacks were fun, as they showed what everyone was doing in the airport prior to Oceanic 815 taking off. Particularly funny was Hurley’s mad dash from a hotel in Sydney and through the terminal, with lots of appearances of the numbers, including a girls soccer team with uniform numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42. But what’s happening on the island is even more exciting. Jack, Locke, Kate, and Hurley have trekked to The Black Rock to retrieve dynamite, where Arzt explodes. They encounter the Smoke Monster—first shown as such—in this episode. And then the blow off the hatch to reveal a broken metal ladder leading down into the depths, this being the final image of the show. Meanwhile, Sayid and Charlie trek across the island in pursuit of Danielle Rousseau, who had kidnapped Claire’s baby Aaron. Rousseau hoped to exchange the baby for her long lost daughter Alex, and she had warned the Losties that The Others were coming for the child. But the big twist was that the child wasn’t Aaron. The Others wanted Walt, who was taken from Michael, Sawyer, and Jin on the raft, which they destroyed, leaving everyone adrift. That was one of the biggest cliffhangers I’d ever experienced on a TV show, and it just made me love the show more.

 

#8 – The Incident

Another season finale, this time the fifth season. The characters are separated in time this time around, with most of them in 1977 with The Dharma Initiative. The title refers to The Incident which caused the button to have to be pushed every 108 minutes. Daniel Faraday, who was shot by his mother in one of the previous episodes, had a plan to detonate the hydrogen bomb, which would destroy the Swan Station (or maybe a good chunk of the island), and thus there’d be no need to push the button, so Oceanic 815 would never crash, and everyone on board would have made it to LAX as intended. Jack, relying more on faith than science, willingly executes this plan. But so much other stuff is happening. Lovebirds Sawyer and Juliet are poised to get off the island, but Kate convinces them to stop Jack. Meanwhile, Sayid was shot by Ben’s father. The flashbacks in the episode are unexpected, as they show how the mysterious Jacob appeared at key points in the lives of the other characters. Meanwhile in 2007, Richard Alpert is leading Locke, Ben, and Sun to Jacob, where Locke orders Ben to kill Jacob! It’s the dual surprises at the end of the episode that give this episode its emotional punch. It’s revealed that Locke isn’t Locke because Locke’s dead body is in a box brought to the statue by Ilana and her crew. But more devastating, at least to me, was Juliet falling into the shaft that ultimately becomes the hatch for The Swan. Close to dead at the bottom, she pounds a rock on the bomb, ultimately detonating it into the series’ only fade to white ending. Wow.

 

#7 – Flashes Before Your Eyes

Every now and then, Lost would experiment with a different narrative device, and most of the time, it really worked. My daughters and I placed this episode on our list because it was a new format and because it focused on one of our favorite characters—Desmond. In this eighth episode of season three, we learn what happened to Desmond after being so close to the discharge of The Swan’s electromagnetic energy at the end of Live Together, Die Alone. Charlie and Hurley have deduced that Desmond can see the future, so they get him drunk and he tells them everything. A majority of the episode shows Desmond, who has jumped back in time to a point when he was happily living with Penny despite her father’s disapproval of him. He goes to buy her a ring, and this is where we’re first introduced to the mysterious Eloise Hawking (she wasn’t identified by name at this point). She tells him that he can’t change what happens and that he must go to the island. Ultimately, he breaks up with Penny, and when he returns to the island in the present, he confesses to being able to see the future. But here’s the great twist: The things he did after seeing the future were to SAVE Charlie’s life because, as he says it, “Whatever you do Charlie, you’re gonna die.” This raised some great stakes for some beloved characters through the phenomenal second half of season three.

 

#6 – Ab Aeterno

Like Flashes Before Your Eyes, this sixth season episode is an extended flashback for one character, this time the never-aging Richard Alpert. Ever since his introduction in season three, there were many questions about him, mainly why he didn’t age. It was clear he didn’t age because in season three’s Ben flashback The Man Behind the Curtain, we see him interact with pre-teen Ben. In season four’s Cabin Fever, we see him at the hospital where John Locke is born. In this ninth episode of the season, titled with a Latin phrase meaning “from eternity”, we learn that he was on board The Black Rock in 1867 when it shipwrecked on the island, crashing through and toppling the statue of Taweret. He was enslaved on the boat for accidentally kills the doctor who refuses to give medicine for his wife Isabella. The Smoke Monster kills everyone but Richard and tries to get him to kill Jacob, but Jacob teaches Richard about the island. In exchange for Richard becoming the liaison between Jacob and other followers (like The Others), Jacob makes him immortal because this way, he won’t go to Hell for his sins. Richard was a religious man, but at the start of this episode, he’s broken and wanting to die. The episode worked well because of Nestor Carbonell’s outstanding performance and telling a really cool story.

 

#5 – Pilot

The two-part pilot episode had to make this list, simply because there had never before been anything like it on network television. The production values were amazing. The extended scene of the plane crash, with Dr. Jack Shephard running around trying to save anyone and everyone who needed saving. It was a great introduction to many of the characters and starting situations: how the plane split apart, the “monster” in the jungle, polar bears, Danielle Rousseau’s 16-year-running distress signal. It also sets up the flashback structure, particularly focusing on Jack, Kate, and Charlie on the plane prior to it crashing. We get the first info that Charlie is a heroin addict, which explains why he joined Jack and Kate trekking to find the pilot of the plane—who tells them they were a thousand miles off course and had lost radio contact, before getting killed by the monster. It also gives the first glimpse of Kate as a felon in the marshal’s custody, which was a nice segue into her following episode Tabula Rasa. It was intense and gruesome, like when the poor guy got sucked into the plane’s engine! There was nothing like it on television before it—and I don’t think there has been since.

 

#4 – Walkabout

If the pilot episode was impressive for production values, the first season’s fourth episode was the first one that really showed what the series could be about. The flashback this time focuses on John Locke, who on the island is portrayed as some kind of mystical guru by intuitively knowing when it’s going to rain, how to hunt for wild boar, and just being exceptional at helping people. Before the island, he’s portrayed as a kind of loner/loser, working as an office drone for a box company, playing strategy board games during his lunch break, and convincing himself he’s in a romantic relationship with a phone sex operator. It nicely suggests that his character is going to use the tragedy of the plane crash in a more positive light to reinvent himself. That alone is an uplifting message. But it’s the final few moments that reveal exactly how uplifting it is. Locke was in Australia to go on a walkabout, but he’s denied service because he’s in a wheelchair! Through clever camera work and staging, Locke is only filmed seated to hide the wheelchair, so the reveal was a huge surprise. Then to flash to Locke immediately after the plane crash, lying in the sand and watching his toes wiggle, was amazing. Oh, and the episode introduced his catch phrase: “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!” I was watching the episodes before this because they were full of action, but this one’s ending packed the greatest emotional punch.

 

#3 – One of Them

As my daughters and I compiled this list, they wanted to rank the fourteenth episode of season two one spot higher. The only reason I overruled them is because of how much of a game-changer my #2 is, but this—upon my rewatching of it—proved not only to be an intense episode but also an integral one to the plot going forward. The flashbacks focus on Sayid Jarrah, who gets utilized by the United States military (Kelvin Inman and Kate’s father!) to interrogate and torture one of his own. It also features the first appearance of the hieroglyphics when Locke misses pushing the button in time. Sawyer is annoyed by a tree frog for some comic relief. But the real significance of the episode is that it’s the first time we encounter Benjamin Linus, although he introduces himself as “Henry Gale” from Minnesota, who crashed on the island with his wife in a hot-air balloon. Love The Wizard of Oz reference! Naturally, Sayid doesn’t believe his story and locks him up in the armory inside The Swan station. That’s where it really gets intense. Sayid interrogates “Henry” and the questions are about burying the dead wife, answers Sayid insists he’d have in agonizing detail. That’s when Sayid starts beating him up, only to be eventually stopped by Jack—after a face-off with Locke who had changed the combination to the room! It was great seeing Sayid both fierce and vulnerable in the same episode, and the addition of Michael Emerson to the cast was brilliant.

 

#2 – Through the Looking Glass

Hands down, the third season finale is the absolute best season finale of the show. The conflict between the Oceanic survivors and The Others has really ramped up to this point. So many characters are acting not only for the greater good but also for their own reasons. Let’s take stock of what everyone’s doing. Jack is leading most people to the radio tower, where Naomi (who had parachuted onto the island five episodes earlier) can contact the freighter. But before that can happen, the radio jammer at the submerged Looking Glass station has to be turned off, so Charlie and Desmond head there. Meanwhile, The Others are heading to the beach camp to abduct Sun and any other potentially pregnant women, so Sayid, Jin, and Bernard stay behind to ambush them with dynamite. Juliet, Sawyer, and ultimately Hurley (in the Dharma van!) head back to help. Meanwhile, Locke, left for dead by Ben in the Dharma Initiative’s mass grave, sees a vision of Walt and gets up, only to throw a knife into Naomi’s back! The twists like that come fast and furious. And there’s true tragedy when Charlie sacrifices himself and drowns in The Looking Glass, but not before leaving the iconic NOT PENNY’S BOAT message on his palm. But the biggest twist is watching a clearly disheveled, depressed, and addicted Jack off-island in what we suppose is a flashback… until the end of the episode when he calls someone to meet him, and it’s Kate?! This isn’t a flashback; it’s the first flashforward, and he says “We have to go back, Kate. We have to go back!” MIND. BLOWN!

 

Before I get to MY FAVORITE LOST EPISODE, here are six Honorable Mentions:

Lockdown – Season 2, episode 17: “Henry” plays great mind games with Locke when The Swan goes into lockdown mode. The glow-in-the-dark map on the blast door is shown for the first time while Locke’s legs are pinned underneath the door.

Catch-22 – Season 3, episode 17: Desmond sees flashes of a parachutist landing on the island, which he thinks is a way to be reunited with Penny, even if Charlie may die in the process.

The 23rd Psalm – Season 2, episode 10: Mr. Eko’s first flashback episode, where we learn he’s not a priest but a Nigerian drug warlord, and the Beechcraft plane on the island contained his brother Yemi. It also has a great scene where he faces off against The Smoke Monster.

Not in Portland – Season 3, episode 7: Juliet’s first flashback, where we learn she was specifically recruited by The Others to solve their pregnancy problem. It made her a truly sympathetic character among The Others, who until then were portrayed as the bad guys.

There’s No Place Like Home – Season 4 finale: We learn how The Oceanic Six (Jack, Kate, Sayid, Sun, Hurley, Aaron) are the ones who make it off the island. The Kahana freighter explodes, with Jin possibly on it. And Ben goes to The Orchid Station to turn the frozen donkey wheel (yeah, that was odd) and move the island.

The End – Series finale: Love it or hate it, it’s epic in its scope. Watching it with my daughters, I love the dual stories going on in the present on the island (the Jack vs. Man in Black final confrontation) and in the flash-sideways afterlife as many of the characters finally remember the island.

 

And finally, MY FAVORITE EPISODE OF LOST

#1 – THE CONSTANT

My daughters had asked me what my favorite episode was, and I told them it was in season four (fifth episode). When we finally got there, I indicated we were watching it. Maybe I was trying to sway their opinions, but I don’t think I really needed to as this episode tops—or comes really close to the top of—almost every other list of best Lost episodes. Again, it’s one that breaks away from the standard format, as it more or less follows one narrative. Desmond and Sayid take off in the helicopter for the freighter, and as soon as they’re away from the island, Desmond jumps back in time to 1996 when he was in the Royal Scottish Regiment (after breaking up with Penny). As he flashes between past and present, he becomes more unhinged. Fortunately, they get in touch with Daniel Faraday on the island, who says to find him at Oxford. Desmond does that, and after flashing once again, Faraday tells Desmond to find a CONSTANT—something that’s present in both times—otherwise the jumping will ultimately kill him. His constant is naturally Penny, and they’re the love story of the series. Ever since Live Together, Die Alone (and through Flashes Before Your Eyes and Catch-22), fans wanted the two of them to reunite. It’s this episode where they finally speak. Desmond in 1996, not so long after their breakup in Flashes begs her not to change her phone number for the next eight years so Desmond on the freighter in 2004 can call her. When they finally speak, it’s such a romantic moment that I dare you not to get teary eyed. But then—THEN!—in typical Lost fashion, the final image is mind-blowing: Faraday opens his journal to a page that says “If anything goes wrong, Desmond Hume will be my constant.” This episode was great storytelling with actual stakes, a clear build to the climax, and a tremendous payoff so when Desmond and Penny finally meet again in There’s No Place Like Home, it’s amazing. Notice how the Desmond episodes feature prominently on this list; it’s because he’s my daughters’ favorite character. Yeah, he’s awesome, and so is this episode.

 

Agree? Disagree? Comments, compliments, complaints? See ya in anotha life, brotha!

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