5. Live Together, Die Alone (2.23)
Best Known For: Desmond blows the Hatch. The finale of the show’s darker (thematically and visually) second season builds to the showdown between Locke and Eko, as the former is proven devastatingly wrong about the Hatch. Elsewhere, Michael leads Jack, Kate, and Sawyer right into Ben’s clutches, and Sayid and the Kwons sail past the four-toed statue. But it’s the story of Desmond Hume, spread across these two hours, that provides the bulk of the emotional weight. Thanks to both Lindelof & Cuse’s strong writing and Henry Ian Cusick’s moving performance, it’s so effective that the season’s final line — “Ms. Widmore, we found it” — dropped jaws and lightened hearts despite having only met Penny that night.
4. There’s No Place Like Home, Part 2 (4.13)
Best Known For: Ben moves the island, sending the soon-to-be Oceanic 6 into the drink. I put LOST’s fourth season right behind the first (I go 1, 4, 5, 3, 2, 6 if you must know), and as goofy as you might think the Frozen Donkey Wheel is, this is a pretty incredible season finale for a show that always got its finales right. Start with Ben killing Keamy, triggering the mercenary’s dead-man switch. Michael, freezing the ship’s bomb as long as he can, until the island finally lets him go. The nerve-wracking sequence of Lapidus trying to get the helicopter airborne in time, but too late for Jin — and Sun’s shattering grief. But we also got — cue the angelic choir — the long, long-awaited reunion of Desmond and Penny. Yes, yes, yes!
3. Pilot (1.1-2)
Best Known For: “Guys…Where are we?” This is the beginning of it all, a brilliant two-hour series premiere that quickly establishes the island as a spooky (the monster eats the pilot!) and mysterious place (the polar bear! The French distress call!), and introduces our sprawling ensemble of castaways that all have secrets of their own, teased with remarkable scriptwriting efficiency. That being said, the crown jewel is of course the opening sequence, from Jack’s eyeball to the beach run to the near-misses and explosions that follow, staged with exhilarating pace and on a budget never seen before in network television. 14 years later, it’s still the best thing J.J. Abrams has ever directed. Sorry, The Force Awakens, but it’s true.
2. Through the Looking Glass (3.22)
Best Known For: Equally, “NOT PENNY’S BOAT” and “WE HAVE TO GO BACK.” Lindelof and Cuse called the latter “the snake in the mailbox,” as it lept out to bite unsuspecting viewers who thought they were getting another dreary Jack flashback, and upended everything about LOST as we knew it. It was a brilliantly played long con, but on rewatch, that big twist will always pale next to hard-won character drama: in this case, Charlie’s death in the Looking Glass.
It was soul-crushing then — we were all desperately hoping for a reprieve, and cursing the comically unkillable Mikhail — but there was poetry in the inevitability of his sacrifice. This finale has so much more: Hurley saves the day with his van, Rousseau reunites with her daughter, and Jack beats Ben to a deserved pulp. But the shot of Charlie crossing himself underwater, receding into the background as Giacchino does what Giacchino does best before we cut to Aaron crying, is seared into my mind forever.
1. The Constant (4.5)
Best Known For: The phone call. LOST’s greatest hour, and what The Ringer recently and appropriately named the Greatest Television Episode of the 21st Century, is “The Constant.” And where do you even begin? It’s everything the series did well, encapsulated in 42 propulsive, thrilling, brain-bending, heart-bursting minutes. Desmond’s search for an emotional anchor — a “constant” — to help him become re-stuck in time, unites LOST’s blooming propensity for heady science fiction with its natural gift for characterization; the transitions, as staged by MVP director Jack Bender and cut by Mark Goldman (my God, the editing during the Call), are simply a masterclass in visual storytelling.
Best of all, this is an episode that works even if it’s the only one you’ve ever seen — not to say that it’s truly a standalone, but when Penny finally picks up that phone on a very special Christmas Eve, the emotion pouring out of Cusick and Sonya Walger is so relentless and genuine the only thing that matters is that singular, thrilling moment, and you suddenly realize that you’re sobbing, once again, on your couch. It’s sheer perfection.
Love you forever, LOST.