12:00pm PT by Josh Wigler
'Lost' 15 Years Later: Every Episode, Ranked
Lost launched on September 22, 2004. Fifteen years past its premiere date and nearly a decade after its final installment, the ABC island drama maintains an electromagnetic hold over those who come across it, with countless imitators and would-be successors rising in its wake. Given recent television events, it may no longer boast the most controversial ending for a popular series in modern memory. What's more, in the binge-mode streaming era, new viewers are flocking to Lost like moths to the Flame. The DHARMA Initiative and the Smoke Monster are new discoveries for some, and old friends for others. The Others, of course, are friends to none, one of their surnames notwithstanding.
Among the many lessons it imparted over its run, Lost established that numbers may be reductive but are certainly not arbitrary. Ranking each episode of Lost, sorting them into numerical hierarchy over one another, however? It may indeed be as foolish an exercise as trying to delicately wrap baking hot dynamite in the middle of the jungle without blowing up. And yet, here we are! Five years ago, I ranked every episode of Lost in honor of the Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse drama's 10-year anniversary. Fifteen years on (a more notable number in the Lost pantheon, I might add) and I'm doing it again, with some different results this time out. I'm sure the results will change again 15 minutes from now. My feelings on Lost, while always positive (bad Lost is better than no Lost), are ultimately a lot like the series' villain: amorphous and susceptible to changing shape.
So, why do it? Why take this frozen donkey wheel for another spin? Why rank every Lost episode at all, if my rankings will internally and inevitably change shortly after I push the publish button, thankfully not every 108 minutes? I suppose it's as the island's wise protector once said: "It only ends once. Anything that happens before that is just progress." And as a different island protector of questionable wisdom (and an even more questionable beard) also said: "We have to go back."
With both truths in hand like white and black rocks balancing science and faith, here we go: every episode of Lost, ranked, in honor of the Emmy-winning series' 15th anniversary.
111. "Fire + Water" (Season 2, Episode 12): In which Driveshaft's "You All Everybody" transforms into a diaper commercial jingle called "You All Every Butties." My goodness.
110. "Whatever the Case May Be" (Season 1, Episode 11): The first episode of Lost to not really know what it's doing. There's a tense confrontation between Jack (Matthew Fox) and Sawyer (Josh Holloway) as the race for a gun-filled case escalates, but other than that, it's a miss.
109. "Adrift" (Season 2, Episode 2): Even without notable production woes (it was originally conceived and filmed as a Sawyer flashback), "Adrift" would score low for railroading momentum during the first voyage into the Swan Station.
108. "Meet Kevin Johnson" (Season 4, Episode 8): After killing two fellow survivors, Michael Dawson (Harold Perrineau) makes his long-awaited return to the island in an extensive flashback episode that feels way too convenient and unnecessarily convoluted.
107. "The Other Woman" (Season 4, Episode 6): Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell) goes on a quest to stop two strangers from doing something terrible to the island, except they are not planning on doing anything terrible at all, and indeed are trying to save everyone's lives. Okay!
106. "Further Instructions" (Season 3, Episode 3): A rare miss with John Locke (Terry O'Quinn), this is the one where we find out he was once a pot farmer. Weird!
105. "What Kate Did" (Season 2, Episode 9): At long last, Kate (Evangeline Lilly) stands revealed for her crime of killing her father, and the news comes by way of a wild stallion. Sadly, not a Wyld Stallyn.
104. "What Kate Does" (Season 6, Episode 3): You could reverse the order with "What Kate Did," if you find yourself especially triggered by the flash-sideways material. Roughly the same quality level, but this one has an added dose of Ethan Rom (William Mapother), always a plus.
103. "The Package" (Season 6, Episode 10): The first Sun (Yunjin Kim) and Jin (Daniel Dae Kim) joint on the list, this one from the final season. The Man in Black chases Sun and makes her forget English. Meanwhile, Jin does… something? A fairly forgettable hour that gets docked a few points due to its late placement in the series.
102. "Recon" (Season 6, Episode 8): Sawyer goes on a mission for the Man in Black and runs into Zoe (Sheila Kelley), geophysicist friend of Charles Widmore (Alan Dale). Another late-series episode dinged for similar reasons as "The Package."
101. "The Glass Ballerina" (Season 3, Episode 2): Sun and Jin join Sayid (Naveen Andrews) on a mission to fight some Others in the present; in the past, Sun's affair is revealed. There's some light boat battling, too.
100. "Stranger in a Strange Land" (Season 3, Episode 9): The Jack's tattoos episode is not the worst episode of Lost, and I will die on this hill. It ends with an all-time Michael Giacchino music moment in "Oceans Apart," and its depiction of Jack in a very bad way on a post-divorce trip abroad helps sell the idea that he would sink even further shortly thereafter, which is a huge reason why the flash-forward twist in "Through the Looking Glass" works so well. That said, "Stranger in a Strange Land" was rough enough to convince ABC execs that the time had come to set an end date for Lost — but even then, the hour earns some points for historic qualities.
99. "Every Man for Himself" (Season 3, Episode 4): It's about bunnies!
98. "Ji Yeon" (Season 4, Episode 7): Some people like this one a lot. Personally, the twist in which we learn Jin was in his own meandering flashback story, while Sun was mourning his death in a flash-forward, always felt a little too gimmicky. Still, hard to deny the power of Sun's final scene beside Jin's grave.
97. "Homecoming" (Season 1, Episode 15): The gang captures Ethan Rom, only for Charlie (Dominic Monaghan) to immediately shoot first and ask questions never. Some genuinely creepy material surrounding the Ethan of it all, sure, but Charlie's flashbacks in the episode — in which he throws up into a photocopier machine — are tough to endure. Not diaper levels of tough, but still, tough!
96. "D.O.C." (Season 3, Episode 18): An otherwise average episode is elevated by Yunjin Kim's moving performance as Sun, seeing images of her unborn child for the very first time.
95. "Special" (Season 1, Episode 14): Michael saves Walt (Malcolm David Kelley) from a polar bear, with an assist from Mr. Locke. Claire comes home.
94. "Born to Run" (Season 1, Episode 22): Might score lower than "Special," if not for the fact that this is the one where we finally meet the legendary Leslie Arzt (Daniel Roebuck).
93. "The Greater Good" (Season 1, Episode 21): Might score lower than "Born to Run," if not for the fact that a blood-depleted Jack bodyslams Locke at a funeral.
92. "Hearts and Minds" (Season 1, Episode 13): Might score lower than "The Greater Good," if not for the fact that Locke tells a riveting story about Michelangelo — the artist, not the turtle.
91. "Abandoned" (Season 2, Episode 6): It's fitting for the one and only Shannon (Maggie Grace) flashback episode to land one step ahead of the one and only Boone (Ian Somerhalder) flashback episode. A finely acted ending for a tragically underwritten character.
90. "Collision" (Season 2, Episode 8): Michelle Rodriguez takes center stage as Ana Lucia Cortez, dealing with the trauma of wrongfully killing Shannon in the present, while simultaneously wrestling with her own murderous past. The episode ends with an emotional reunion montage. Classic Lost.
89. "…And Found" (Season 2, Episode 5): Sun's search for her missing wedding ring might not light up the Lost fandom, but in its initial airing, "…And Found" was an exhilarating episode thanks to Jin and Mr. Eko (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) hiding out in the jungle from the Others. That teddy bear!
88. "Left Behind" (Season 3, Episode 15): Kate and Juliet wake up handcuffed to one another in the jungle, forced to hide from the Smoke Monster. Features a couple of great moments, such as Kate relocating Juliet's dislocated shoulder, not to mention the monster smashing into the sonic fence for the first time.
87. "One of Us" (Season 3, Episode 16): The "Left Behind" follow-up, which features a strong flashback component for Juliet, and an even stronger finishing scene, as it's revealed Juliet is working undercover against the Oceanic survivors on the Others' behalf.
86. "The Whole Truth" (Season 2, Episode 16): Sun finds out she's pregnant, and so does everyone else, with Jin more or less the last person on the island to learn the whole truth. The episode scores higher marks for its ending: the infamous moment in which Benjamin Linus (Michael Emerson), still under the guise of "Henry Gale," asks Jack and Locke for some milk.
85. "Dr. Linus" (Season 6, Episode 7): Benjamin Linus as a high school history teacher! It's cute!
84. "S.O.S." (Season 2, Episode 19): Rose (L. Scott Caldwell) and Bernard (Sam Anderson) get a saccharin sweet flashback episode, while Jack and Kate get caught in a net.
83. "Everybody Loves Hugo" (Season 6, Episode 12): Season six's first installment in which the true nature of the flash-sideways finally — finally! — starts coming into focus, as Hurley (Jorge Garcia) meets Libby (Cynthia Watros) in the pseudo-afterlife and starts remembering their star-crossed love.
82. "Happily Ever After" (Season 6, Episode 11): Okay, this is the one where the sideways really comes into focus, and as typical, it's through the point of view of one Desmond David Hume (Henry Ian Cusick), meeting a post-death Penny (Sonya Walger) for the very first time.
81. "Dave" (Season 2, Episode 18): An episode I never appreciated until my most recent rewatch, "Dave" is best viewed through the lens of Hurley going head-to-head with the Monster, disguised as his imaginary friend (played by Evan Handler). It's not canon, but it's still fun to watch through that prism, knowing the full series will end with Hurley in charge of the island the Man in Black is so desperate to escape. Solid replay value!
80. "…In Translation" (Season 1, Episode 17): Seventeen episodes. That's how long it takes before the world realizes Jin isn't a bad guy, just deeply misunderstood, on a number of fronts. Brilliantly mirroring "House of the Rising Sun," the first full-on Jin flashback ends with one of the series' best music-driven montages — one that ends abruptly, a foreboding sign for the rest of the season.
79. "Some Like It Hoth" (Season 5, Episode 13): The one and only Miles Straume (Ken Leung) centric episode, as the ghost-hunting member of the freighter crew weathers some awkward interactions with his father Pierre Chang (Francois Chau), one of the series' more mysterious figures up through this point.
78. "Something Nice Back Home" (Season 4, Episode 10): Everyone was so focused on Jack's tattoos, but nobody stopped to think about the good doctor's appendix! It comes out in this late season-four outing, alongside a tense flash-forward storyline focusing on Jack and Kate's off-island relationship.
77. "The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham" (Season 5, Episode 7): John Locke leaves the island and tries to recruit the Oceanic Six for a return trip. It does not go well, on many levels, though it does pave the way for a new man to walk around wearing Locke's face for the rest of the series.
76. "Eggtown" (Season 4, Episode 4): Kate's baby is Aaron! What?! One of the best twist endings of the flash-forward season, for sure.
75. "The Economist" (Season 4, Episode 3): Sayid works for Ben Linus! Double what?! An even better twist ending than "Eggtown." Bonus points awarded for Sayid's luscious assassin hair.
74. "Outlaws" (Season 1, Episode 16): Sawyer and Kate's turbulent relationship hits some highs as they go boar-hunting in the jungle, with a drinking game side quest for good measure.
73. "The Moth" (Season 1, Episode 7): A meditation on drug addiction and the external pressures that drive someone to their lowest point, "The Moth" is Dominic Monaghan's best acting showcase of the series up through that early point — though certainly not the finest of the whole lot.
72. "Confirmed Dead" (Season 4, Episode 2): Freighter folk Miles, Faraday (Jeremy Davies), Charlotte (Rebecca Mader) and Lapidus (Jeff Fahey) arrive on the island to welcomes of varying degrees of warmth.
71. "The Lie" (Season 5, Episode 2): In which Hurley throws a scalding hot Hot Pocket at Benjamin Linus.
70. "The Little Prince" (Season 5, Episode 4): Who. Was. On. The. Other. Outrigger?
69. "This Place Is Death" (Season 5, Episode 5): Mira Furlan's Danielle Rousseau is dead. Long live Melissa Farman's Danielle Rousseau! We finally get the backstory for the mysterious "French Woman," thanks to season five's divisive time travel storyline. Additionally, "This Place is Death" weighs in on the dangers of eating chocolate before dinner. (See: If you do it, you die in the future.)
68. "Cabin Fever" (Season 4, Episode 11): John Locke and the Man in Black have one of their first in-depth conversations, with the swirling smokey monster man taking the form of Christian Shepherd (John Terry) in the elusive, ever-moving cabin.
67. "Par Avion" (Season 3, Episode 12): In which both Claire and the audience make a shocking discovery: Christian is her father. Not quite Darth Vader levels of crazy, but still, pretty crazy! The episode ends with a different doozy: Claire's half-brother Jack playing a Friendly game of football.
66. "Raised by Another" (Season 1, Episode 10): Claire meets the psychic, who warns her that she can never let Aaron be raised by another. About that…
65. "Tabula Rasa" (Season 1, Episode 3): The first ever Kate flashback, and the first-ever proper flashback episode of Lost, period. Jack euthanizes the marshal after Sawyer botches the job and, in the past, Kate meets a one-armed peach enthusiast on her never-ending quest to evade the law.
64. "Maternity Leave" (Season 2, Episode 15): Claire's missing time from season one comes into focus in one of the show's most experimental hours up to that point, among the first episodes to feature on-island flashbacks.
63. "The Other 48 Days" (Season 2, Episode 7): The first episode to feature on-island flashbacks! Sure, "the Tailies" ultimately don't add up to much, thanks to a variety of external factors, but the extra-sized spotlight on their first 48 days on the island remains an exhilarating outing of Lost.
62. "Lighthouse" (Season 6, Episode 5): Hurley takes Jack on a trek toward a mysterious lighthouse where Jacob (Mark Pellegrino) has been secretly peeping on prospective candidates.
61. "A Tale of Two Cities" (Season 3, Episode 1): Oceanic 815 crashes onto the island, except this time, we see it from the Others' point of view.
60. "I Do" (Season 3, Episode 6): Jack intentionally botches spinal surgery in order to give Kate and Sawyer a fighting chance at leaving the island. Also, Nathan Fillion!
59. "Not in Portland" (Season 3, Episode 7): Picking up immediately after "I Do," the fallout from Jack's gambit plays out in pulse-pounding fashion. Also, Rob McElhenney!
58. "Enter 77" (Season 3, Episode 11): Enter Mikhail Bakunin, the one-eyed Other played with sadistic glee by the Wishmaster himself, Andrew Divoff. "Enter 77" also boasts the best Lost blooper of all time.
57. "Three Minutes" (Season 2, Episode 22): Why did Michael murder two fellow survivors in cold blood? The answer comes out in another on-island flashback episode, featuring some of the best work from Harold Perrineau in the entire series.
56. "Everybody Hates Hugo" (Season 2, Episode 4): "Have a cluckity-cluck-cluck day, Hugo."
55. "Across the Sea" (Season 6, Episode 15): Controversial episode, and controversial placement on this list — certainly much higher than my last go-around! The biggest issue with "Across the Sea," frankly, is placement, landing right after the Man in Black's plan to kill the candidates partly succeeds. Nobody cares about the heartbreaking backstory of the guy who just murdered Sayid, Jin and Sun. Do yourself a favor on your next rewatch: take "Across the Sea" out of its normal spot in the rotation and watch it between "The Incident" and "LA X" for maximum impact. It sets up the holy stakes of the final season in intense and mythical fashion, while also introducing the possibility of the Man in Black as a misunderstood folk hero — something that you absolutely cannot buy once he's killed three longtime series regulars.
54. "House of the Rising Sun" (Season 1, Episode 6): Sun's breakout episode. "I need to talk to you."
53. "Namaste" (Season 5, Episode 9): Welcome back, Oceanic Six! The island's escapees are back, but things are very different. It's the 1970s, everyone's wearing DHARMA jumpers, and Sawyer's the leader of the crew. Awkward on so many levels.
52. "Follow the Leader" (Season 5, Episode 15): Speaking of leaders, the reborn and refreshed "John Locke" announces his intentions to bring his flock to meet Jacob — and in a private side convo with Ben, he announces his real intentions: "I'm going to kill him."
51. "Jughead" (Season 5, Episode 3): Daniel Faraday's first time travel encounter with his mother. It goes much better than his second time-travel encounter with his mother.
50. "The Substitute" (Season 6, Episode 4): Mirroring their side quest in "The Brig," the unlikely team of Sawyer and "Locke" go off on a journey to visit another black rock of sorts: a dark cave, which Jacob once inhabited as a means of compiling his candidates.
49. "Sundown" (Season 6, Episode 6): Okay, so, Sayid should not be alive at this point. Forgiving that — and there is much in search of of forgiveness as regarding the Sayid endgame — the climax of "Sundown" is worth a whole lot of merit on its own, as the Man in Black goes into full-blown Smoke Monster mode and ravages the temple, with an assist from Candidate Jarrah.
48. "The Last Recruit" (Season 6, Episode 13): I love "The Last Recruit." It's an odd personal favorite of mine, because it doesn't really do much. I look at it as the last classic episode of Lost. The submarine is still intact so most of our fan favorites are still alive, there's a lot of wheeling and dealing as Sawyer tries to break ranks from "Locke," there's some old school friction between Jack and Sawyer, a meeting-of-the-minds between Jack and "Locke" that mirrors "White Rabbit," the first-ever "Oh, wow, we're related" conversation between Jack and Claire, a heartfelt reunion between Jin and Sun... wow, actually, that's a lot! It's the kind of episode that in a few years could rate even higher on my personal list of favorites. For now, hovering in the low-range upper half works for me.
47. "The Candidate" (Season 6, Episode 14): Sayid blows up, Sun and Jin drown, it's all expertly rendered and heartbreaking and still way too soon to talk about nearly a decade later.
46. "What They Died for" (Season 6, Episode 15): The penultimate episode of Lost. Jacob comes to the surviving candidates and offers them the choice he never had. Jack accepts the job. "Now you're like me."
45. "The Hunting Party" (Season 2, Episode 11): Jack, James and John go into the jungle to find Michael. They find Mr. Friendly instead, the first sighting of the fake-bearded Other since he took the boy.
44. "316" (Season 5, Episode 6): Okay, "we have to go back." Good. Great. Grand. Wonderful. But how? "316" offers an improbable answer, and the funky logistics aside, it also offers a compelling, mystery-driven inflection point for the rest of the time-bending fifth season.
43. "The 23rd Psalm" (Season 2, Episode 10): Mr. Eko flashback trilogy, round one! In which the holy man encounters the Smoke Monster for the very first time.
42. "?" (Season 2, Episode 21): Mr. Eko flashback trilogy, round two! In which the holy man discovers the Pearl Station, thanks to some fever-dream guidance from an incognito monster.
41. "The Cost of Living" (Season 3, Episode 5): Mr. Eko flashback trilogy, round three! In which the holy man dies, smashed to bits by the smoke show. "You're next," he tells John Locke — ominous at the time, and even more so in retrospect, if you believe the Monster was trying to groom Eko for his long con against Jacob and the Candidates. In that interpretation, Eko was bang on: Locke was very much next in line to become the Monster's apprentice.
40. "LA X" (Season 6, Episodes 1 & 2): What if the plane never crashed? What if it landed in Los Angeles? The final season premiere offers a glimpse into that possible life with the introduction of the flash-sideways, a controversial format change that led to some unexpected emotional interactions all the same. (See: Jack and Locke at LAX, bonding over spinal surgery.)
39. "Because You Left" (Season 5, Episode 1): Time travel! It's real! Lost flirted with the science fiction line in several previous instances, but it goes all the way in with the time-wandering misadventures of shirtless Sawyer and friends.
38. "The Beginning of the End" (Season 4, Episode 1): As the opening chapter of the second book of Lost, the appropriately titled "The Beginning of the End" features Hurley front and center, reconciling with the death of his friend Charlie and otherwise beginning the process of communing with the dead.
37. "Confidence Man" (Season 1, Episode 8): James "Sawyer" Ford is a complex guy, and his first flashback episode reveals why. You will never look at bamboo shoots the same way again.
36. "The Long Con" (Season 2, Episode 13): "You run. I con. A tiger don't change his stripes."
35. "LaFleur" (Season 5, Episode 8): The confidence man's longest con yet comes into focus, and oddly enough, it reveals his purest side yet: a hero with a heart of gold, forged through an unlikely relationship with Juliet.
34. "Lockdown" (Season 2, Episode 17): The blast door map! How many hours did you spend looking at that thing? If there's an episode of Lost that fans studied harder than "Lockdown," I'm failing to think of it.
33. "Two for the Road" (Season 2, Episode 20): "I'm sorry." With those two words, Michael became the sorry owner of the two most shocking murders in Lost to that point — Ana Lucia and Libby — and fulfilled the biggest heel turn in the show's history.
32. "Solitary" (Season 1, Episode 9): Danielle Rousseau officially enters the scene, as does Nadia (Andrea Gabriel). If I allow myself to spend too much time thinking about how completely unfair it is that Sayid missed out on an afterlife with Nadia, I won't be able to finish this list, so let's just move right along!
31. "One of Them" (Season 2, Episode 14): Human lie detector Sayid Jarrah meets a man in the woods named Henry Gale. The rest is history.
30. "He's Our You" (Season 5, Episode 10): The very best Sayid episode of the entire series, showcasing Naveen Andrews' spectacular range. There's the lucid laughing lunatic Sayid, and there's the soul-dry soldier Sayid willing to shoot a child if it means preventing a future monster from being born. Watch it again. It's masterful.
29. "Whatever Happened Happened" (Season 5, Episode 11): The very best Kate episode of the entire series, showcasing Evangeline Lilly's spectacular range. There's the fearless Kate who will not run away from a dying boy even if he's destined to become a monster, and there's the grieving Kate who says goodbye to the boy she's spent years raising as if he were her own, because it's the right thing to do. Again, watch it again. Again, it's masterful.
28. "Numbers" (Season 1, Episode 18): "I can make it! I'm spry!" The numbers are bad, but "Numbers" is so good.
27. "Catch-22" (Season 3, Episode 17): The most conventional Desmond-centric episode, and still, it's one of the most enjoyable hours of the whole series, thanks in no small part to the Superman vs. Flash debate (hello, legendary comic book author Brian K. Vaughan!) and the incredible ghost story from one Jin-Soo Kwon.
26. "Dead Is Dead" (Season 5, Episode 12): The Man in Black's masterstroke: "You will listen to every word John Locke says, and you will follow his every order. Do you understand?"
25. "All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues" (Season 1, Episode 10): "If you do not stop following me, I will kill one of them." Ethan hanging Charlie from a tree is still traumatic, all these years later.
24. "Man of Science, Man of Faith" (Season 2, Episode 1): Lost makes its own kind of music and goes all the way down the hatch, providing an immediate and shocking answer to the first season's biggest lingering mystery. The series' first Desmond scene never gets old.
23. "Orientation" (Season 2, Episode 3): Okay, this might be the Lost episode fans studied harder than "Lockdown." What "Orientation" lacks in the powerhouse energy of the premiere's opening scene, it makes up for it with the first-ever DHARMA Initiative orientation video, providing a crucial piece of the greater Lost mythology. Plus, Katey Sagal!
22. "Greatest Hits" (Season 3, Episode 20): The very best Charlie Pace episode, and the penultimate hour before his tragic demise. A huge part of the reason why the "Not Penny's Boat" moment lands so hard is because Lost takes the time to reinvest the audience in Charlie, showing off the five proudest moments of his life. Dominic Monaghan is a champion. I cry every time.
21. "Do No Harm" (Season 1, Episode 20): It's E.R. in the jungle, and it's fantastic. The biggest death of the series up to that point, Boone's departure is beautifully contrasted with the birth of Aaron Littleton, all scored perfectly by Michael Giacchino to form one of the most powerful series of sequences in Lost lore.
20. "Deus Ex Machina" (Season 1, Episode 19): Terry O'Quinn howling, "I've done everything you wanted me to do, so why did you do this to me?" on a loop forever and ever, amen.
19. "White Rabbit" (Season 1, Episode 5): A foundational episode of Lost, one that's all too often overlooked, featuring one of the most important conversations of the whole series: Jack and Locke in the middle of the jungle, laying track for the enduring science versus faith debate. Meat-and-potatoes man Locke tells Jack: "I've looked into the eye of this island and what I saw was beautiful." Same same, Locke.
18. "The Man From Tallahassee" (Season 3, Episode 13): The Lost fandom waited dozens of episodes to find out how John Locke landed in a wheelchair. The answer did not disappoint: Locke wound up in a wheelchair by falling out an eight-story window and landing squarely on his back. The closing scene, in which Locke's father appears on the island, is still one of the most chilling conclusions to any episode of the series.
17. "Flashes Before Your Eyes" (Season 3, Episode 8): Yet another Desmond Hume classic! Before "The Constant," there was "Flashes Before Your Eyes," another time-tripping experimental romp that solidified Henry Ian Cusick's button-pusher as one of the most mythologically significant entities of the series. Hello, Eloise Hawking!
16. "The Man Behind the Curtain" (Season 3, Episode 20): How did Benjamin Linus become one of the most powerful men on the island? The curtain pulls back and a sad answer tumbles forward in this emotional thriller of an episode, culminating with a shocking act of violence: Ben shooting Locke and leaving him for dead amongst the bones of the DHARMA Initiative.
15. "The Brig" (Season 3, Episode 19): Another season three outing with a shockingly violent conclusion, yet again tied to Locke. This time, it's his father on the wrong end of a beatdown, choked to death by Sawyer. Anthony Cooper's death satisfies three major character arcs with one chain-linked stranglehold, among the best instances of Lost tying its disparate threads together in a lethally tight ribbon.
14. "Ab Aeterno" (Season 6, Episode 9): The apparently ageless Richard Alpert (Nestor Carbonell) finally steps into the spotlight with little time left on the Lost clock, delivering a performance that's almost as romantic as Henry Ian Cusick in season four's "The Constant."
13. "The Variable" (Season 5, Episode 14): Stephen King was a major influence on Lost, and no single episode features a more Kingian twist ending than "The Variable," in which Daniel Faraday comes to learn that his lifetime of research into time travel all stems from his time-traveling death at the hands of his own mother. Vicious and delicious.
12. "Exposé" (Season 3, Episode 14): If you have not yet allowed the brilliance of "The Gang Buries Nikki and Paolo Alive" into your heart, then there's nothing I will be able to say to convince you otherwise. Okay, maybe two words: "Razzle dazzle."
11. "Live Together, Die Alone" (Season 2, Episodes 23 & 24): The season finales (which are technically multiple episodes but are counted on this list as single entities) are always blockbuster events. Season two's conclusion lands at the bottom of the finale rankings, sure, but it's still comfortably in the upper crust of the Lost pantheon, what with the four-toed statue's first appearance, the purple sky incident and a beautifully written and acted flashback component hinging on Henry Ian Cusick as Desmond.
10. "The End" (Season 6, Episodes 17 & 18): How do you end a series like Lost in a way that satisfies everyone? That question, much like the one about Maria, does not have an easy answer. Much like the narrative thrust behind season five, however, it would appear that the passage of time has helped the case. Nearly a full decade after it aired, "The End" is a tear-jerking blast. It's packed with high-level spectacle moments like Jack landing a flying jump punch on Not Locke, emotionally satisfying grace notes like Hurley inheriting the island, and a deeply moving final montage that honors the stars who made the six-year journey possible. No, they were not dead the whole time, folks — but everyone dies eventually, and as it pertains to "The End," it was a beautiful death indeed.
9. "The Incident" (Season 5, Episodes 16 & 17): Hello, Jacob! Hello, Man in Black! Goodbye, Locke! Goodbye, Juliet! "The Incident" was a riveting conclusion to the most experimental season of Lost, the best and grandest instance of the show's science-fiction elements and faith-forward mysticism fusing together as one.
8. "There's No Place Like Home" (Season 4, Episodes 12, 13 & 14): With the Writers Guild of America strike in 2007 and 2008 finally in the rearview, the Lost team found itself crunched for time on the way toward delivering a satisfying conclusion to the narratively complex fourth season. They needed to pull the Oceanic Six (plus two) from the island, move the entire island itself and wield so many other spinning plates all at once in only three closing hours. The high degree of difficulty elevates the season-four finale, no doubt about it. Even without it, "There's No Place Like Home" plays less like an episode of Lost and more like a full-scale action movie, one of the most adrenaline-packed entries in the whole series.
7. "The Shape of Things to Come" (Season 4, Episode 9): The Benjamin Linus flash-forward earns its highly ranked spot for all the same reasons as "There's No Place Like Home," but scores one spot higher because it accomplishes those same feats within the space of a single episode. The first installment post-strike, "Shape of Things to Come" features a full-on Smoke Monster evisceration of the mercenary team led by Martin Keamy (Kevin Durand), who themselves eviscerate so many Oceanic survivors — and even kill Ben's daughter Alex (Tania Raymonde) right before his very eyes. Alex's execution was and remains one of the most surprising, brutal deaths of the entire series.
6. "Tricia Tanaka Is Dead" (Season 3, Episode 10): Your eyes do not deceive you. Like a meteor — actually, a meteorite — "Tricia Tanaka" comes in for a landing as a top ten episode of Lost, very nearly cracking the top five. Frankly, in my heart of hearts, it's in consideration for my all-time number one. If I want to put on a random episode of Lost to lift my spirits, this is always the one. How can you argue against the pure joy of Hurley, Charlie, Sawyer, Jin and Vincent the dog joining forces to drink ancient beer and kickstart a defunct DHARMA van in the middle of the jungle? The Hurley-centric hour becomes all the more powerful with the benefit of hindsight, knowing this lovable lottery winner would one day come to inherit the entire island, after years of rotten luck. As his father always told him: "You make your own luck."
5. "Pilot" (Season 1, Episodes 1 & 2): Monsters and crashes and polar bears, oh my! The first two hours of Lost are still among the very best two hours of Lost. Oceanic 815 crashed onto the island with authority and the survivors spilled out with dimensionality — not all of them, sure, but go back to the pilot with the benefit of knowing the full series' trajectory, and try not to marvel at the beautiful characterization of almost every major player. The one that started it all deserves every accolade it gets.
4. "Exodus" (Season 1, Episodes 23, 24 & 25): The title-holder on my previous Lost episode ranking, I've since dropped "Exodus" down a few spots because it's technically three episodes in one, and whew! Holy unfair advantage, Batman! The top three contenders are able to accomplish many of the same emotional high points with less time, so credit where it's due. But I'll say again now what I have said before 108,000 times: the raft launch sequence at the end of "Exodus, Part 1" is the single best sequence in all of Lost.
3. "The Constant" (Season 4, Episode 5): Desmond and Penny's star-crossed love story comes into sharp focus here in the time-spanning season four episode, the number one finisher on countless Lost fans' lists. Try to watch that final telephone call without sobbing uncontrollably; simply not possible, at least not for me. The only reason it doesn't rate as my number one Lost episode on the board: the lack of an A-plus story on the island itself. Small nitpick, and definitely a personal preference. If "The Constant" is your constant, you will hear no arguments from me.
2. "Through the Looking Glass" (Season 3, Episodes 22 & 23): Which one is more iconic: "Not Penny's Boat," or "We Have to Go Back"? Trick question, the correct answer is Jack's ferocious flash-forward facial hair. If every finale is a blockbuster event, then "Through the Looking Glass" is the Avengers: Infinity War of Lost. Fiercely heroic and utterly tragic in equal measure, season three's closing installment was an absolute game-changer for the series, bringing the first book of Lost to an impossibly climactic conclusion.
1. "Walkabout" (Season 1, Episode 4): If you only had 42 minutes to sit someone down and sell them on Lost, this is the episode I would recommend. It's fueled by Terry O'Quinn, delivering one of the single best performances of the entire series. The reveal of Locke's cured paralysis still stands (oof) as one of the most powerful twists in all of Lost lore. Even knowing the twist, the final sequence is pure magic, in which Locke screams at a tour guide, juxtaposed with his glorious arrival on the island, all tied together with Michael Giacchino's soaring score. The backstory behind the episode — namely, that Locke's life in the wheelchair was a late addition to the narrative — highlights how the series was often at its best when leaving the window open for inspiration, rather than sticking to a tightly plotted plan. Look, every episode of Lost comes equipped with merit, even the Driveshaft diapers of it all. As far as personal favorites, I go back and forth between every entry in the top six. Today, as of this writing, "Walkabout" wins out. That may and almost certainly will change the next time I do a full series reevaluation — and when that day comes, and you call me out for changing my mind, I'll come back at you with a familiar refrain. Mr. Locke, take it away: