Before J.J. Abrams became known for the Star Wars sequel trilogy and Damon Lindelof wrote HBO’s highly-acclaimed Watchmen series, they were two of the creators behind ABC’s hit series Lost. The sci-fi series about a mysterious plane crash and the survivors who find themselves trapped on an island has officially been off the air for a decade this year. A decade! Anyone feel old yet? But Kate… er reader, we have to go back! It’s time to look back at the best episodes of the series.
Disclaimer: If you haven’t yet seen Lost, I’d recommend you start from the top and run with it and then return for my all-time ranking. It's best to binge without a ton of knowledge about what to expect. As a longtime and devoted fan of the show, picking between 118 episodes of greatness was no cluckity-cluck-cluck day, but I settled on choosing the ten episodes that best embody the series as a whole. Now roll the emotional theme song Giacchino, let’s go.
10. Orientation, Season 2, Episode 3
Remember when Jack and Locke learned about the button? Iconic. At the top of Season 2, “Orientation” is the dawning of one element of Lost that became central to the entire series: the Dharma Initiative. Up until this point, there is an exciting mysticism that has been built up about the lore of the Island. This first dive into the “what” through the purpose of the hatch only heightens the intrigue of the series.
Henry Ian Cusick’s Desmond Hume is hauntingly memorable here at the start of his role in the series here. And this episode beautifully illustrates the opposing ideals between Jack Shepard and John Locke when faced with the concept of the hatch. A man of science and a man of faith. Will punching those numbers really save the world? “We’re gonna need to watch that again.”
9. The Life And Death Of Jeremy Bentham, Season 5, Episode 7
We’re jumping to an entirely different era of the series for the next entry with Season 5’s “The Life And Death of Jeremy Bentham.” In this episode, John Locke is sent back into the real world (so to say) to convince the Oceanic Six to return to the Island and save the other survivors they left behind there. As Locke meets with Sayid, Jack, Kate, Hurley and Sun in their new lives after their experiences on the island, it serves as a satisfying reunion for the core cast with the ghost of the Island they left behind and Locke.
This episode strikes a new tone than your typical Lost episode because it has Locke on this outside mission that is completely out of the element of his typical role in the show.
8. The Brig, Season 3, Episode 19
Josh Holloway’s Sawyer is in many ways the soul of Lost and the Season 3 episode called “The Brig” allows the actor to deliver one of the most poignant performances in the series. Throughout Lost we're well aware of Sawyer’s mission to cast revenge on a man named Mr. Sawyer, who slept with his mother and in turn caused her murder by his father, who kills himself shortly after pulling a gun on his wife. “The Brig” places Sawyer right in front of this man in an especially creative way because it challenges the audience in a completely new way. What if the island they’ve been on the whole time has really been Hell? This episode explores this possibility, all while digging deeper into Locke’s past.
7. The Constant, Season 4, Episode 5
There’s so many memorable romantic moments within Lost, whether you are Team Jack or Sawyer for Kate or your heart melts every time you see Jin and Sun on screen. But the best love story in all of the series is Desmond and Penny. No, I will not be taking questions, this is just fact and Season 4’s “The Constant” is the perfect representation as to why. In the episode, Desmond’s memory of all things island is suddenly wiped while he’s on a helicopter with Sayid. He finds himself in some sort of time loop between himself in 1996 and in present day in 2004 with Sayid. Desmond must find Daniel Faraday in the past in order to get answers in the present. It has a beautifully self-contained feel to it and Desmond’s “PENNY!” glow is always worth it.
6. The End, Season 6, Episode 17
Sometimes legacy is best remembered by the taste in your mouth something leaves. And for many the Lost finale left a bitter one. It’s a controversial episode that tends to lead most conversations about the series nowadays. But there’s something to be said about the kind of ending that can challenge its viewers so divisively. “The End” deserves a place on the top ten due to this, but mostly for concluding the series with incredible use symmetry that hammered in the show’s deepest messages.
It blended the concepts of faith and science with the juxtaposition of the cast meeting in a church all while meeting their own fates back on the island. It’s not a perfect finale and left a lot of questions on the table (hence its spot in the middle of the list) but, wow did I bawl at the end of this episode and that counts for a lot.
5. Walkabout, Season 1, Episode 3
In a series full of incredible story arcs, Terry O’Quinn’s John Locke is one of the greats and his first episode exploring his past is proof of this. Just four episodes into the entire series, Locke's miraculous story of being ridden to a wheelchair and determined to go on a spiritual journey in Australia is still well-remembered for sixteen years later.
“Walkabout” is the moment in the show where audiences sat up and paid attention. Lost was an important moment for the shift toward more character driven television and the use of flashbacks in this episode cemented its ability to change the game. “Walkabout” is clever in its ability to trick the audience into the epiphany of Locke's condition until he gets to the heart wrenching point of his line delivery: “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!”
4. There’s No Place Like Home, Season 4, Episode 12
What’s left in this ranking does have an unfair advantage, I have to say. Lost tends to pack their best stuff in massive event episodes that are longer than your typical 40 minutes and can be broken into parts. What can I say, Lost was at its best when it leaned into its drama, action and big twists and turns. Season 4’s season finale “There’s No Place Like Home” matches the scale of a full-fledged action movie and has a lot of gears to spin at once. Between the jaw-dropping moment where the Oceanic Six make it back to civilization and the Island disappearing, this finale is an all-out epic.
3. Pilot, Season 1, Episode 1
When it comes to the best of Lost, Season 1 gets a lot of love and it all started with the beautifully executed “Pilot.” The first episode of the show is extremely well crafted as it plunges audiences right into the thick of a plane crash on the island from Jack’s perspective as he runs around trying to save who he can. “Pilot” cleverly introduces the main cast of the characters in subtle ways that pique our interest and are addressed as the season unfolds. There’s a close attention to detail that holds up after finishing the show years later. Popping it on brings in a swell of emotions that might just convince one to binge the whole series all over again.
2. Exodus, Season 1, Episode 23
At the end of a perfect first season for Lost is one of the best season finales for the show: “Exodus.” This episode consists of two parts and combines everything that’s great about the show. Jack and John’s philosophical arguments about what rabbit hole to go down that fuels the show’s most lofty ideas. There’s a careful mistrust between them as they prepare to blow open the hatch door and this plotline comes at a time when audiences were walking in blind to what the show would later explore. There’s also the excitement for the survivors to finally get off the island with the raft Sawyer, Michael and Jin board and the paranoia within the camp about the Others. This finale has the memorable “you have some Arzt on you” moment too.
1. Through the Looking Glass, Season 3, Episode 22
The all-time greatest hit of Lost happens exactly midway through the series, funny enough. The season finale of Season 3 titled “Through the Looking Glass” is a perfect episode of the show and illustrates the very best parts of why we love this ABC series. You may remember it as the “Not Penny’s Boat” episode when Charlie sacrifices himself for everyone after the prior episode discusses his fate. The memorable sequence is central to a key theme within the series about deconstructing one’s relationship with life and death.
On top of that, this episode follows flashback sequences about Jack in a way that calls back to how “Walkabout” implemented flashbacks as a device to surprise. After a series of scenes of Jack throughout the episode, we learn not about the past but a look into the future. Jack has somehow returned from the island (the entire goal of the show) but he’s worse off. He's drunk and depressed, verging on suicide. The finale leaves fans with this revelation when Kate appears for a meeting with him where Jack tells her “We have to go back!” after opening up to her about his wishes to be in another plane crash. “Through the Looking Glass” is the pinnacle of Lost in every way.
Anyone else ready to revisit Lost again? The series is currently available to stream on Hulu. Stay tuned here on CinemaBlend for more rankings of your favorite shows.