Back to IndieWire

‘Lost’ 10th Anniversary: The 15 Best Episodes of ‘Lost’

'Lost' 10th Anniversary: The 15 Best Episodes of 'Lost'

Ten years ago today, a little show named “Lost” premiered on ABC. What started out as a drama about plane crash survivors trapped on an isolated island quickly evolved into a series that addressed relationships, religion, good vs. evil and the destinies of us all.

“Lost” was a part of the beginning of what we now call our current “Golden Age of Television” (which is interesting considering that it didn’t air on one of the major cable players of today, but rather on network TV). This meant that “Lost” wasn’t able to — nay, didn’t have to — resort to some of the uber-violence, nudity and profanity that many modern shows do in order to be great television.

To celebrate the tenth anniversary of  the premiere of “Lost,” we’ve compiled what we consider are the top 15 episodes of the series. There are multitudinous moments within “Lost” that were great, but whose episodes didn’t warrant placement on this list: When Benjamin Linus shows Jack the footage of the Red Sox winning the World Series in “The Glass Ballerina,” the reveal of Sawyer and Juliet’s three-year relationship in “LaFleur” or Hurley throwing a Hot Pocket at Ben in “The Lie” come to mind, as does Michael Giacchino’s stunning score. But this list is for those episodes that really stood out and are remembered as some of the best TV of the new millennium. Happy birthday, “Lost”!
15. “The Other 48 Days”
Season 2, Episode 7
Whenever new characters began popping up on “Lost,” they were immediately scrutinized by both the characters within the show and the fans watching — the debacle that was Nikki and Paulo proved that throwing new faces onto the island didn’t always work out so well. What “The Other 48 Days” did right was give the Tailies (those flying in the tail section of the plane, who crashed on a separate part of the island) their own backstory and enough encounters with The Others to earn the audience’s sympathy. By seeing how Ana Lucia (Michelle Rodriguez), Mr. Eko (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and Bernard (Sam Anderson) experienced the crash and its aftermath, viewers were able to extend their concern and change their opinion from skeptical about these new arrivals, to caring about them.
14. “Greatest Hits”
Season 3, Episode 21
When Charlie (Dominic Monaghan) found out that his band, Drive Shaft, released an incredibly successful Greatest Hits album right after the crash of Oceanic 815, he created a list of his own “Greatest Hits”: a timeline of his best moments. With Desmond’s (Henry Ian Cusick) precognitive abilities predicting Charlie’s inevitable death, and the public knowledge that Monaghan was leaving the show, everyone knew what was coming, and this episode was a proper goodbye. Charlie’s “Greatest Hits” wasn’t just an homage to the beloved character, but also to the actor who embodied him for three seasons. 
13. “Whatever Happened, Happened”
Season 5, Episode 11
How did Benjamin Linus (Michael Emerson) become Benjamin Linus? Some would argue that being shot as a child has a way of changing a person. But did Ben become the vicious man that he was because Sayid (Naveen Andrews) shot him, creating the monster that was their arch villain? “Whatever Happened, Happened” explored the idea of destiny and whether or not all of their season five time travel was changing their future, or merely fulfilling what they’d already experienced. The episode also included a great flash-forward story for Kate (Evangeline Lilly), whose empathy for kid Ben was an immediate result of leaving Aaron behind to come back to the island. “Thirty years from now that boy’s going to be a man that locks me a cage because he needs surgery,” Jack (Matthew Fox) told her. “I’ve already done this. I’ve already saved Benjamin Linus, and I did it for you, Kate. I don’t need to do it again.”
12. “Ab Aeterno”
Season 6, Episode 9
For six crazy seasons, audiences became more and more curious about Richard Alpert (Nestor Carbonell). Why didn’t he age? How did he appear in so many places? What was with the eyeliner!? In “Ab Aeterno,” we finally learned the truth. Alpert was brought to the island aboard the slave ship the Black Rock in 1867 after being found guilty of murder. He subsequently became a pawn in the battle between good and evil: Jacob (Mark Pellegrino) vs. the Man in Black (Titus Welliver).  His waffling choices reflected the flaws in humanity on the whole, and showed that even our beloved Losties were minor players in a greater battle.

11. “The Economist”
Season 4, Episode 3
the on-island plot of “The Economist” is relatively good, it’s really
the flash-forward storyline of Sayid that earned it a spot in the
top-ten. There’s a lot to love about Sayid Jarrah. He’s badass
interrogator who’s capable of feeling empathy and guilt. He’s a romantic
at heart but can kill people with his feet. All of these traits were
fabulously combined by actor Naveen Andrews. This flash-forward story
featured some of the show’s most badass Sayid scenes, as he worked as an
assassin for a mysterious benefactor — who the final twist of the
episode revealed to be… Benjamin Linus.

10. “The End”
Season 6, Episode 17/18
The series finale of “Lost” was one of the most polarizing conclusions in television history. While some expressed anger over the two-and-a-half-hour episode not answering every single mysterious question the show posed, others found it to be a lovely finale that touched on many of the series’ grander themes. This writer falls firmly in the latter category. While the action of good vs. evil raged on the island, the more universal ideas of love and life and death were being addressed in the sideways world. For a show that always strived to be about people rather than plot, it was a powerful finish. Who didn’t bawl their eyes out when Vincent the dog came to comfort Jack in his final moments? And for those of you who didn’t get it: No, they were not dead the whole time. (Just some of it.)

9. “The Man Behind the Curtain”
Season 3, Episode 20
This far into Season 3, it was clear that Benjamin Linus was a devious and selfish man. What we didn’t know, until “The Man Behind the Curtain,” was just how far he was willing to go to come out on top. Some of the most shocking occurrences on “Lost” happened at his hands, and this episode was no exception. In an incident called “The Purge,” Ben (who had until that point been officially a part of the Dharma Initiative) helped The Others kill every member of Dharma with poison gas. It was then, after gassing and abandoning his own father, that Ben finally became a part of The Others for good (or evil).
8. “Orientation”
Season 2, Episode 3
Who is Desmond Hume? What is the hatch? When those questions were finally answered, a whole new set were asked about the Dharma Initiative and the purpose of the island. This never-ending spiral of mysteries was one of the beauties of “Lost,” and “Orientation” was one of those edge of your seat, “Shhh! Rewind that!” episodes whose made us all go, “huh?!?” Desmond’s story of how he got to the island, his deceased partner Kelvin, the button’s ability to save the world and Dr. Marvin Candle’s bizarre orientation video unleashed an entirely new mythology for the series. “Do you ever think that maybe they put you down here to push a button every 100 minutes just to see if you would?” Jack asks, to which Desmond replies, “Every. Single. Day.”

Coming up: The Pilot, “The Constant,” and flash forwards.

7. “I Do”
Season 3, Episode 6
An episode in which Nathon Fillion guest-starred as an adorable police officer was bound to be a favorite, even though everyone knew his sham marriage to Kate was bound to fail. But the real goods of this episode took place on Hydra Island, where, thanks to some trusty surveillance monitors, Jack caught Kate and Sawyer (Josh Holloway)) getting snuggly in a cage, right after she begged Jack to operate on Ben’s tumor, lest The Others kill Sawyer. Jack agreed, but then sliced Ben’s kidney open in order to blackmail them into setting Kate and Sawyer free. The first six episodes of Season 3 were rather slow, but “Kate, Dammit Run!” brought the suspense back right before a grueling 13-week hiatus.

6. “The Shape of Things to Come”
Season 4, Episode 9
Let’s just point out that this episode earned Michael Emerson one of his handful of Emmy nominations for Best Supporting Actor. The plot revolved around the freighter crew making its way to the Other’s barracks, demanding that Ben Linus be released to them. And not only did Emerson put forth a damn fine performance, the episode contained a ton of shocking moments: Keamy’s (Kevin Durand) brutal execution of Ben’s adopted daughter Alex (Tania Raymonde); the fact that Ben has the ability to “summon” the smoke monster and Ben’s declaration to Charles Widmore that to get even, Ben would now kill his daughter. Watch out, Penny!
5. “Man of Science, Man of Faith”
Season 2, Episode 1
Before we got to the epic head-to-head that was Jacob vs. the Man in Black, the original battle for island domination was between Jack and Locke (Terry O’Quinn). In the Season 2 premiere, their differences finally hit their breaking points, but while science and faith butted heads, we more importantly got to meet the man who became one of the most beloved characters of the series: Desmond Hume. The opening sequence of “Man of Science, Man of Faith” was like nothing we had yet seen on “Lost,” and like many premieres after it, would challenge our expectations and change the show’s dynamic entirely. 

4. “Pilot”
Season 1, Episode 1/2 
The purpose of a successful pilot is to set up a show’s premise and introduce the key players that will be a part of the story, all while including the potential ambiance and expectations of the series to come. The pilot of “Lost” did all of that and more, prompting TV Guide to rank it fifth on its 100 Greatest Episodes of Television of All Time. Indeed, the “Lost” pilot is one of the best in history, and made audiences chomp at the bit to learn more about the island and its ragtag bunch of survivors. While many pilots struggle to establish a handful of new faces, “Lost” managed to tackle the introduction of 15-plus characters. It also made television look downright cinematic — it was nothing like what we’d seen or heard on TV before — and then we were hooked by Charlie’s final question: “Guys, where are we?”
3. “Through the Looking Glass”
Season 3, Episode 22/23
Two words: Flash forward. The Season 3 finale was a game changer. Just as audiences began to wonder how many more backstories we could sit through, “Lost” took its regular flashback formula and turned it on its head. The on-island story line had its great moments: Sawyer getting some much-anticipated revenge on Tom Friendly; Charlie finally making contact with Penny (Sonya Walger) from the Looking Glass station; “Not Penny’s Boat.” But the closing scene’s reveal that Jack had been wallowing in drunken misery in the future, and that some of the castaways did, in fact, make it off the island, was a complete mind-fuck. From that point on, we didn’t know what was future and what was past, which made figuring out the show all the more exciting.
2. “The Constant”
Season 4, Episode 5
Remember five minutes ago when I said that Desmond Hume became one of the most beloved characters of the series? Add the love of his life, Penny Widmore, to the story and you can multiply that by a million. These two were meant to be together, but tragically torn apart. And when Desmond’s consciousness became lost in time, his mind jumping back and forth between years, the only thing that could ground him again was Penny, his Constant. In one of Desmond’s flashes in time, he asks Penny to never change her phone number, so that one day in the future, should he need her, he’d be able to find her. Forget Jack and Kate or Sawyer and Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchel). The real love story on “Lost” belonged to Des and Pen. 
Season 1, Episode 4
Many “Lost” best lists have the previous entry, “The Constant,” at the top. How could this list possibly place another episode above it? “You can’t!” you might be thinking.” To that I say, “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!”

For many fans, one’s favorite episode simply comes down to their favorite character, and John Locke was always mine. After the nail-biting two hours that encompassed the pilot, followed by a semi-bland Kate flashback episode, “Walkabout” is what got fans hooked on “Lost” for good. It was the episode that showed what kind of drama the series was capable of, and there was no going back. 

In a brilliant bait-and-switch script from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” scribe David Fury (who justly earned an Emmy nomination for the episode), the John Locke on the island and John Locke of his flashbacks were seemingly two different people. Off-island Locke was a low-level box company employee who played nerdy games on his lunch break. Island Locke killed wild boars with a briefcase full of hunting knives. The closing minutes’ reveal that pre-island Locke was wheelchair-bound said to the audience that everything we thought we knew about these people or this show was wrong, and that’s how it was going to be for the rest of the run.

It was also profoundly emotional. Having Locke’s desperate argument with
the Australian walkabout tour guide juxtaposed against some of the pilot’s opening scenes — especially Locke wiggling his toes in disbelief — put the
viewer in his shoes… or socks, rather. What would we do if we had a
second chance? While the horror and chaos of the plane crash occurred
around him, screams heard in the distance, Locke experienced one of the
most miraculous moments of his life. 

The whole scenario was brilliantly
acted by Terry O’Quinn, the only “Lost” cast member who didn’t have to
audition, having previously worked on “Alias” with J.J. Abrams. For
Locke, the island wasn’t a problem, it was his salvation, his second
chance. The man believed in destiny and for the entirety of the series
he searched for that destiny and the meaning of his life, which on the
whole, is what “Lost” was about in the end. How to we define our lives?
By the tragic moments? By the people around us? By our own insane drive?
“Walkabout” introduced the hard questions that “Lost” would pose for six
seasons, making it the best episode of the series.

Let us know your favorite episodes in the comments! 

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Features and tagged , , , ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox