Still have fond memories of smoke monsters, the Dharma Initiative, and NOT PENNY’S BOAT? I know I do. So I re-watched the whole series and ranked all 113 episodes.
When LOST premiered on September 22nd, 2004, I was 17 years old. My senior year of high school. My parents had already introduced me to the wonders of semi-serialized network television through ER and The Pretender (shoutout to my fellow Centre heads!), but nothing had ever captured my imagination quite like the new ABC series from the creator of Alias. For me and so many others, LOST was our gateway drug for a new kind of television storytelling: a non-linear, propulsive, mystery-stuffed plot, full of easter eggs and allusions that may or may not be foreshadowing, and near-weekly cliffhangers accompanied by patented Michael Giacchino horns.
When I went away to college, for the first time I found myself participating on the message boards of the late, great Television Without Pity and devouring Doc Jensen’s obsessive recaps at Entertainment Weekly. I co-hosted viewing parties with FOTS’s Chase Branch (it’s how we met!). I explored the Hanso Foundation website. I formed an attachment to showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse through their weekly podcast (another new concept for me) and interviews. Now, in our television Gilded Age where every minute detail can be turned into GIFs for Reddit or Twitter and recap sites (including this one) are a dime a dozen, none of this sounds unusual. But for me, it was the critical piece of my formative years as a television viewer.
It had been several years, though, since I’d sat down and re-watched the series, and with the 15th anniversary of that pilot coming next year, I decided it was time to see how well it all held up. Do the characters still engage? Does it answer enough questions? Do I still ride for that polarizing finale? So, like Jacob, I weighed and judged them all, then made a list. Here’s my definitive countdown of all 113 episodes of what is still my favorite television series of all time.
113. Stranger in a Strange Land (3.9)
Best Known For: Being the show’s undeniable creative nadir and exasperating the producers enough for them to negotiate a set end date for the series. Nobody cares about Jack’s tattoos; Bai Ling is awful; the on-island stuff with Juliet’s “trial” is nonsensical. Even people who cooled on later seasons will still put this last.
112. Fire + Water (2.12)
Best Known For: Everybody hating Charlie. He hallucinates Baby Aaron drowning, gets yelled at (some more) by Claire, sets the camp on fire to prove himself, and then gets punched out by Locke. It’s just no fun at all, and that doesn’t even include the cringe-y flashback of Driveshaft in diapers.
111. Every Man for Himself (3.4)
Best Known For: Ben “killing” a bunny. The Hydra Station arc was always exhausting (especially Pickett, who is a terrible character and a one-note performance), but at least Sawyer’s heart-rate monitor story amuses, and we get the first of Desmond’s many attempts at saving Charlie’s life with the golf club-turned-lightning rod.
110. The Other Woman (4.6)
Best Known For: Doing Juliet wrong. The present-day plot with the pending gas attack is tense (if narratively meaningless), but the episode is sunk by extended scenes of Ben jealously mooning over our favorite fertility doctor as she has an affair with Goodwin; then, at the end, she and Jack kiss for absolutely no reason. Ugh.
109. Exposé (3.14)
Best Known For: I mean, it’s the infamous “Nikki & Paulo Episode,” but it’s actually not that bad. The showrunners had admitted that the rando experiment was an ignominious failure, but closed out their aborted arc with a Poe-inspired live burial and Billy Dee Williams. It certainly could have been worse.
108. Whatever the Case May Be (1.12)
Best Known For: Kate’s dumb toy plane. It’s through no fault of Evangeline Lilly that the weakest episode of the sterling first season was a Kate episode, but the writers just never figured her out. There’s some other good stuff here, though, like the Rose & Charlie scenes, and Shannon helping Sayid translate Rousseau’s map.
107. Adrift (2.2)
Best Known For: Raft antics? It certainly wasn’t the flashback, a forgettable Michael story that didn’t tell us anything new, but all of the conflict with Sawyer on the water (and the shark!) still plays well. More points docked for the Hatch storyline mostly rewinding the events of “Man of Science, Man of Faith.”
106. What Kate Did (2.9)
Best Known For: Being underwhelmed by finally finding out what Kate did. She also thinks a horse is her stepfather, moons over a delirious Sawyer, and kisses Jack for no reason (seeing a pattern)? The Locke/Eko “missing film” reveal is pretty underwhelming on re-watch, too. Just a blah episode.
105. Three Minutes (2.22)
Best Known For: Our first extended look at the Others. Michael pursues WAAAAAAAAALT to their fake fishing village setup, briefly sees his son, is ordered to be as aggressive/annoying as possible to walk his grieving friends into the Others’ trap, and everyone just goes along with it. Except Sayid, and thank God for Sayid.
104. Across the Sea (6.15)
Best Known For: Being the ultimate your-mileage-may-vary episode. But whether you thought the origin of Jacob, the Smoke Monster, and the magical Heart of the Island was fascinating or a lot of hot nonsense, it was an ambitious mythological swing. I don’t dislike it. Maybe it is nonsense. But so what? It’s got Allison Janney!
103. What Kate Does (6.3)
Best Known For: Sawyer’s heartbreaking depression spiral, assuming you weren’t enamored by the mumbo-jumbo Temple arc (torturing zombie Sayid?) or Kate’s flash-sideways. The conveniences and seemingly out-of-character decisions made in the alternate timeline play better with the ending in mind, though.
102. Special (1.14)
Best Known For: Walt has powers!…And then we never learned anything else about them. I shouldn’t be too hard on a story thread that became a casualty of puberty, but Michael episodes (with one glorious exception) are rough, and I don’t just mean the polar bear CG.I like the subplot with Charlie and Claire’s diary, though.
101. The Glass Ballerina (3.2)
Best Known For: Probably the moment when Ben shows Jack the Red Sox tape? It’s about the only thing that works on the Hydra side of this episode, as the Others generally prove to be surly and uninteresting. The Kwons’ flashback works better, giving Sun’s secret English teacher/lover a shocking death. Sorry, baldy!
100. The Package (6.10)
Best Known For: It’s not the burgeoning “war” between Smokey and Widmore, because that isn’t ever really fleshed out enough to the show’s usual standard. But the Sun/Jin flash-sideways with Keamy and Mikhail is one of the better ones, marginally making up for the whole “Sun hits her head and can’t speak English anymore” thing.
99. …And Found (2.5)
Best Known For: The shot of Jin and Mr. Eko watching the bare-legged Others skulk past, which eventually ends up being a bait-and-switch but is creepy in the moment. Otherwise, it’s another snoozer, with more “WAAAAALT” yelling and Ana-Lucia’s abrasiveness approaching unbearable levels. Cute Sun/Jin flashback, though.
98. Sundown (6.6)
Best Known For: Smokey destroying the Temple. Even when show’s plotting didn’t totally work, LOST could always deliver on the action, and that chaotic sequence is no exception. Also: Sayid’s failed assassination attempt on NotLocke, and Sideways Keamy saying “I make good eggs.” I just wish Season 6 didn’t waste Sayid so poorly.
97. The Hunting Party (2.11)
Best Known For: The torch-lit standoff with the Others. Jack, Sawyer, and Locke chase after Michael (sigh) before Kate Ruins Everything (double sigh), but the “Light ’em up” scene is staged well, as fake as it turns out to be. Not cool: the JackBack, which hammers his need to fix everyone and then his wife leaves him. Whatever.
96. A Tale of Two Cities (3.1)
Best Known For: The cold open, which serves as both our introduction to Juliet and the shocking discovery that the Others live like regular people with houses, electricity, and book clubs. That still works great. The rest of the Hydra stuff? Jack’s flashback where he thinks his Dad is sleeping with Sarah? Not so much.