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The Best and Worst Episodes of Lost

Its time for a new edition of my Best and Worst Episodes series, where I choose a TV show to rewatch, rank all the episodes, and then give you the ten best and worst episodes.

I have done this previously with the following shows:

The X-Files

Game of Thrones

The Simpsons

The West Wing

And now I am setting my sights on the tale of plane crash survivors known as Lost.  Lost was a big deal when it aired, and I stuck with it from the first premiere to the last show.  I understand that the show has some issues, but on the whole I thought it was full of great characters, interesting story twists, and touching details that kept me loving it.  I’ll talk about the problems of the shows in a little bit, but first I want to showcase what I believe are the highlight episodes.

Please note that this post will include spoilers for the entire series.

Top Ten Episodes

10. Walkabout

Season 1

If you were to show someone only one episode of Lost to give them a sense of what the show is, Walkabout would probably be the best one to choose.  It encapsulates a lot of what makes Lost great.  It includes the survivors struggling to continue to survive and build a society by developing a hunting party, has some great interactions between characters, includes the weird island oddities like “the monster”, but most of all it has that great island flashback twist.  Learning Locke’s backstory added a lot, not only to the character himself, but more importantly to the show’s mysterious nature and ability to tell a great, surprising story.

9. The Constant

Season 4

Though not part of the original crew, Desmond quickly became a fan favourite, mostly because of his true romance story with Penny, whom he hasn’t seen in the three years he’s been stuck on the island.  Desmond also has a strange connection with time and reality, as he dins himself in this episode flashing back and forth from his past and his present.  However, the time jumping is killing him, and he needs to make a connection between both periods.  What results is a tense, race-the-clock episode that culminates in one of Lost’s great cathartic moments – when Desmond finally reaches Penny on the phone.

8. There’s No Place Like Home: Part 1

Season 4

Season 4 was a great year for Lost, even though it came right off the heels of the television writer strike.  The result of the strike is that we ended up with a shorter season, but that proved to be a great thing, as the story was tighter and things started moving very quickly.  One of the defining features of the fourth season was the flash-forwards of the Oceanic 6.  When know who makes it off the island, but how and why only them wasn’t known until the last two episodes where everything started coming into place.

This penultimate episode of year 4 may have been a lot of set up for the finale, but it was done very well. It had some great flashbacks to the Oceanic 6 first getting back to the real world and some excellent intensity in the acting in the island story line.

7. Live Together, Die Alone

Season 2

One thing that Lost is great at is creating exciting, climactic season finales.  A motif you are going to be seeing through this top ten list is that there are quite a few season finales represented here, as they tend to bring together all the stories of the past year brilliantly.  This season 2 finale gives us the first flashback episode from Desmond: which is also the first flashback from someone not on Oceanic 815.  We see how he came to be on the island and got stuck supervising the hatch.  Speaking of the hatch, the “pressing the button” storyline reaches its conclusion, as does the searching for Walt storyline, leaving viewers with a great cliffhanger going into season 3.

6. Greatest Hits

Season 3

Charlie-centric episodes were never really that great.  Until, of course, his last.   He had gone almost a season and a half without seeing a Charlie story, until the second-to-last of season 3.  Throughout the year, Desmond’s new mantic powers have warned Charlie that he was fated to die soon.  As he reaches the point where he will accept his fate for the greater good of the group, he spends the episode reminiscing on the best moments of his life.  Seeing him reflect provides a lot of emotional weight, and finding out what his number one moment is, and who he is writing the list for, is quite a capper.

5. There’s No Place Like Home: Part 2

Season 4

And here comes another season finale, and still not the last, to grace this list.  This was a massive episode, in which the freighter that was supposed to save everyone exploded, Locke and Ben managed to “move” the island, and the Oceanic 6 were rescued.  The events of this episode were very cinematic in the way they played out, and seeing all the pieces you knew had to come together do so was very exciting.  This was the end of the survivors existing as a society trying to survive together, and the beginning of Lost’s end game.  And it was one heck of a roller coaster ride through the whole two hours.

4. Exodus: Part 2

Season 1

Another finale.  This one was the culmination of the first season of Lost: one of the greatest seasons of television in my opinion.  Everything led up to these two-part episodes in the last two weeks of its first broadcast year, making for one exciting finale with lots of adventure and drama.  We see Jack, Locke, Kate and Hurley trekking through the jungle on a quest to open the mysterious hatch.  We see Michael, Walt, Jin and Sawyer on the raft trying to seek rescue.  And we see Charlie and Sayid chase down the French woman who has kidnapped Aaron.  This was truly a climactic end to a great season.

3. Pilot: part 1

Season 1

Its not often that the very first episode of your TV show ends up remaining one of your best throughout the series’s run, but that was certainly the case for Lost.  This was a masterfully crafted premiere ( and the most expensive at the time) which established everything it needed to for viewers to sink their hooks into.  We started off with that incredible sequence of Jack waking up and running through the chaos of a plane wreckage.  We then have that great scenes where Jack and Kate meet for the first time.  And throughout meeting all the other characters as they deal with their trauma, we also have to deal with that mysterious thing knocking over trees and killing pilots in the jungle.  What a way to start!

2. Through the Looking Glass

Season 3

One more season finale for you.  The end of season three was exciting just with the island happenings.  Jack was leading the entire camp on a trek to the radio tower to finally be able to call for help.  Meanwhile, Sayid led an ambush against the others and Charlie and Desmond went on a mission to an underwater station to turn off the jamming signal.  Lost does a great job of engaging almost every character in the season ending climaxes.

But then there is Jack’s off-island story and that incredible twist ending, one of television’s greatest.  Jack’s flashback seems weird at first, hard to fit into what we already know about his life.  But at  the end when we see Kate, we realize that not only were we looking at his future, but they both got off the island!.  Great storytelling there, giving us a cliffhanger which would reshape the course of the series.

1. Exodus: Part 1

Season 1

The first season of Lost was outstanding, and a big part of that is because so many of the narratives built up throughout the year were able to culminate into two great series finale episodes.  I’ve already include the second part a few spots back, but the precursor to that finale is what I would consider Lost at its best.   In the first part of Exodus we get a ton of great character moments, as well as a group flashback of everyone on the day of their Oceanic flight.  The juxtaposition of these scenes with the island story does a great job of showing just how far these characters have come during their two months together.

So what makes this the top of my list?  While Exodus 2 gets really into the story adventure and is the climax of the plot, this episode contains the emotional climax of the season.  We get some great character payoffs with scenes like Sawyer telling Jack about his dad, Walt asking Shannon to look after Vincent, anything with Jin and Sun… so many great interactions.

And then of course there is one of my favourite Lost moments: the raft launch.  For half the season, Michael has been building the raft meant to find help, and here we see the entire camp pitching in to get it done before the weather changes.  When the raft is launched, we got an epic, sweeping moment which makes this show feel bigger than TV.  When the added emotional weight of Sawyer looking for Kate, and of course the just reconciled Jin and Sun sailing apart, this is one fantastic moment.

Bottom Ten Episodes

10. Whatever the Case May Be

Season 1

After a string of exciting, edge-of–your-seat episodes, this was Lost’s first real disappointment.  After just learning that there were others on the island, that one of their camp members was one of them undercover, and Claire was kidnapped, we then get an episode about… Kate trying to steal a briefcase from Sawyer.  Granted, there is some lighthearted humour in that, and the briefcase does become important as it has the marshal’s guns, but still.

But the real problem isn’t the on-island story, its Ktae’s flashback.  Lost has some really great flashbacks, but they also have others that feel too extreme and/or completely out of place in the character’s overall arc (there will be more examples of this down the list).  The idea that Kate would enter into a relationship with a bank robber, just to steal a childhood memento that is in a bank vault for some reason is ludicours.  And when we finally see what she has been struggling for all this time, a toy plane, what a disappointment.  After such great end of episode reveals, THAT’s what we get?  By the way, when its explained later in the season, it doesn’t become any less lame.

9. Some Like it Hoth

Season 5

There’s not a lot of reason this episode is on the list other than that its just kind of boring.  Not much actually happens in Some Like it Hoth other tha Miles and Hurley driving back and forth between Dharma stations.  The connection between Miles’ flashback and his relationship with his father isn’t as impactful as it should be, and the overall story isn’t advanced much.

8. Maternity Leave

Season 2

This episode is great is you love to hear Claire scream and yell a lot.

7. Across the Sea

Season 6

This was the Lost “prequel” episode so to speak, where we see the origin of Jacob and the man-in-black, and understand the purpose of the island.  It was sort of a momentum killer when it aired, coming in as the third last episode when things were really rolling.  It contains an awkward performance by CJ Cregg and a lot of less than stellar writing.  I was actually on board with it as a mythology builder when it first aired, but revisiting it it doesn’t hold up well.

6. Hearts and Minds

Season 1

I am actually a defender of Boone and Shannon from the first season, but Boone’s episode isn’t so hot.  one thing I really don’t like in television are character death fake-outs, and one of the most egregious examples is here where we are left thinking Shannon was killed, only to have  it revealed to be a hallucination.  By the way, the whole idea of Locke drugging Boone so that he would have hallucinations is in itself ridiculous.  We also see a big set up for Shannon and Sayid, the most unbelievable relationship in the entire series.  And don’t even get me started on how the flashbacks complicate Boone and Shannon’s relationship unnecessarily.  Just have them be brother and sister and leave it at that.

5. The Other Woman

Season 4

Season 4 is a pretty great season.  Its tight and action-packed with lots of great moments.  But this episode does seem to be its shortcoming.  We get a storyline about the freighter people trying to find a dharma station that has deadly gas, which has no impact on the rest of the series at all.  We get a mysterious visit from a woman from Juliet’s past which makes no sense, and again has no bearing on the rest of the series as she never shows up again.

As for Juliet’s flashback, it is indicative of a bigger problem in Lost, which is how they mishandled The Other.  At first, The Others were this mysterious, savage group of people which excited us as a viewer.  When we learned more about them, w e realized that they are basically living suburban lives, which they break out of to deal with people in extreme, unbelievable ways every once in a while.  Juliet’s story really deals with the mundanity of their lives, which adds to the disappointment of The Others.

4. Dave

Season 2

Hurley episodes are usually great, but this one late in the second season, not so much.  One aspect of Hurley’s backstory that never made sense to me was the whole “Hurley is crazy” thing, and this ep leans heavily into that.  His imaginary friend is annoying, and this is a pretty lame episode overall.

3. Stranger in a Strange Land

Season 3

This is probably Lost’s most hated episode.  This is the origin of Jack’s tattoos, that no one cared for or wanted.  The off island story make no sense in Jack’s overall arc, and is just really uninteresting and dumb.  Meanwhile, the on island story ain’t much better.  Again, we have The Others living lives that just don’t make sense, and Jack trying to live among them.  We also get a story-line where Sawyer and Kate get escorted back to the beach by Carl, one of Lost’s most annoying characters.

2. Further Instructions

Season 3

Lots of the time, Lost’s flashbacks inform the characters’ decisions on the island and help us get to know their motivations.  But sometimes they just make absolutely no sense and go places outside the experience of normal people.  The worst example of this is when Locke is seen as a pot farmer?? In some sort of cult? And he almost makes a decision to kill a cop? Seriously??  Whatever time period this takes place in Lcoke’s history, it makes no sense being there.  This is probably Lost’s worst flashback.

And s for on-island story, Locke losing his voice, creating a sweatlodge and hallucinating, is all pretty bad.  Just that image of Boone pushing him around the airport is laughable.

1. Fire + Water

Season 2

Poor Charlie didn’t get many episodes, when all was said and done.  He had one of the best with Greatest Hits, but unfortunately is only season season outing ended up being the worst of the series.  It feels like the writers went out of their way to make Charlie as much of a jerk as possible and even has him steal Aaron. And then we get that uncomfortable scene where Locke just beats him down and no one does anything about it.  And the less said about the Driveshaft commercial in the flashbacks the better.

Lost has crafted some incredible hours of television, but trying to fill out a full season slate of episodes means there are going to be some bad apples.  Fire and Water feels like one of the most mean-spirited episodes and feels like it doesn’t like its characters very much, and for that reason I have to say its my least favourite.  The characters are the reason Lost is such a great show.  Even when it has its missteps and doesn’t handle all aspects properly, whether its how they deal with The Others, or extreme character reactions, or unbelievable backstories, it more often than not provides some great moments and stories.

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