‘Lost’ 10s: Every episode of ‘Lost,’ ever (well, except the finale), ranked for your enjoyment
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When the finale of “Lost” ends tonight, the series will have aired just under 90 hours of content split up in 121 episodes. And that’s all well and good. But it’s really worth it only if you can rank them all. Which we did, every episode of “Lost” (save tonight’s finale) from worst to first. But first, some ground rules:
--There are no bad episodes of “Lost.” We’d rather watch the last-place episode again before we’d watch any episode of “According to Jim.”
--We’re pretty sure about places 1-20 and 91-110. Beyond that, it’s anybody’s game.
--Episodes that were specifically spelled out two-parters (like “Exodus, Parts 1 and 2") were treated as one episode.
After the jump, the list.
110) “Stranger in a Strange Land” (Season 3, Episode 9): This is everybody’s pick for the worst episode of “Lost,” and it’s easy to see why. A boring flashback, an island narrative in which nothing happens and Bai Ling in the worst guest performance the show ever saw.
109) “Fire + Water” (Season 2, Episode 12): Charlie episodes often drug down the first two seasons. This one -- featuring nonsensical drug abuse -- is the worst.
108) “Something Nice Back Home” (Season 4, Episode 10): Jack episodes are often better than they get credit for. This dull, flash-forward episode, though? Deserves all its scorn.
107) “Adrift” (Season 2, Episode 2): Michael battles child custody issues; he and Sawyer sit on a raft; and we see the first appearance of Desmond from Kate’s perspective for some reason. Boring!
106) “The Other Woman” (Season 4, Episode 6): On the list of “questions that needed answering,” how the Others got their power probably shouldn’t have merited a full episode.
105) “The Long Con” (Season 2, Episode 13): Yet another episode of marking time from the middle of Season 2 as the show sets Sawyer at odds with everyone else for no apparent reason.
104) “Hearts and Minds” (Season 1, Episode 12): Boone and Shannon reveal their pre-island indiscretion. Locke gives Boone some hallucination juice. It was all a dream. Whatever.
103) “Whatever the Case May Be” (Season 1, Episode 11): On the list of infuriating reveals on this show, “Kate robbed a bank for a toy airplane” is way up near the top.
102) “The Moth” (Season 1, Episode 6): Some really nice work by Terry O’Quinn and Dominic Monaghan is squandered on yet more nonsensical drug abuse storytelling.
101) “Homecoming” (Season 1, Episode 14): There’s stalling for time. There’s putting off answers. And then there’s shooting Ethan Rom because it’s too early for the characters to know anything yet.
100) “Every Man for Himself” (Season 3, Episode 4): Part of the notorious first six episodes of Season 3, but the only outright stinker. Though it does feature some cute little bunny rabbits.
99) “Par Avion” (Season 3, Episode 12): Not really a bad episode, per se, but kind of an inconsequential one. Claire trying to use a pigeon to contact the mainland wreaks of the writers vamping for time.
98) “The Greater Good” (Season 1, Episode 20): Sayid episodes tend to have cool flashbacks and on-island momentum. This one has a good flashback, but the on-island plot -- from when the show was agonizingly delaying the raft’s launch -- really drags.
97) “Born to Run” (Season 1, Episode 21): See above, in re: the raft launch, but this one is a dreaded Kate episode. Gets a leg up on the previous episode thanks to some nifty scenes with Walt.
96) “The Cost of Living” (Season 3, Episode 5): This one is actually a pretty good piece of TV. It’s just marred by the fact that the show was forced into killing Mr. Eko, a character whose story was far from over.
95) “The Hunting Party” (Season 2, Episode 11): A pretty good Jack flashback and that cool moment when the Others light their torches are hurt by a meandering story and a cliffhanger (about raising an army) that never led anywhere.
94) “Tabula Rasa” (Season 1, Episode 2): Most shows would kill to have a second episode this good, but outside of introducing the flashback structure and the marshal’s final end, this episode has too many dead spots.
93) “What Kate Does” (Season 6, Episode 2): The show needed a breather after the breathless Season 6 premiere, but this one -- which was essentially a repeat of every Kate episode ever -- was a little too lazy.
92) "... And Found” (Season 2, Episode 5): The early episodes of Season 2 are marked by slow-building intensity. The flashback -- featuring Sun and Jin meeting for the first time -- is all right, but the on-island stuff is mostly about Sun looking for her wedding ring. Seriously.
91) “I Do” (Season 3, Episode 6): An episode that probably shouldn’t have had to have as much pressure on it as it did (acting as a mini-cliffhanger in early Season 3), but still one that brought up a big story point -- Kate was married! -- and mostly botched it, despite Nathan Fillion’s presence.
90) “Eggtown” (Season 4, Episode 4): There’s a fun reveal at episode’s end -- Kate is raising Aaron! -- but this was the first episode to slow down in the breakneck-paced Season 4, and it slooooowed waaaay doooown.
89) “The Package” (Season 6, Episode 9): Sandwiched between two all-time classics, “The Package” is serviceable but slight with a really stupid “Sun forgets English!” subplot.
88) “S.O.S.” (Season 2, Episode 19): This one’s got a bit of an unearned bad reputation. Rose and Bernard’s only flashback episode features a warm and cozy romance between the two as its center.
87) “Special” (Season 1, Episode 13): Some fantastic moments -- Walt making the bird crash into the window! -- marred by some terrible, terrible special effects. That polar bear is the worst effect the show has ever had.
86) “Abandoned” (Season 2, Episode 6): Better than you remembered, honestly. Shannon’s story is an abrupt shift from her on-island persona, but it’s very sad, and the ending is genuinely tragic.
85) “What Kate Did” (Season 2, Episode 9): One of the better Kate episodes, “What Kate Did” provides the answer to the title query -- blew up a house and killed her stepfather! -- and some trippy on-island segments, featuring a horse.
84) “Follow the Leader” (Season 5, Episode 15): The worst episode of the best season, “Follow the Leader” features lots and lots of the writers moving the characters into place for the finale.
83) “Confidence Man” (Season 1, Episode 7): Not bad, but giving Sawyer a big, epic origin story feels kind of beside the point. What makes Sawyer so great is his very unassuming nature. Still, the Kate and Sawyer scenes are ridiculously sexy.
82) “White Rabbit” (Season 1, Episode 4): Our first introduction to Jack’s story is more notable for the things it introduces -- like the Monster impersonating dead people -- than the episode itself.
81) “Catch-22" (Season 3, Episode 17): The weakest Desmond episode is still pretty good, what with the first arrival of anyone from the freighter on the island, but it makes Desmond and Penny’s first meeting rather bland.
80) “The Glass Ballerina” (Season 3, Episode 2): A good flashback (to Sun and her pre-island lover) and a terrific last scene -- wherein Jack learns the Sox won the Series -- can’t make up for a listless on-island plot.
79) “All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues” (Season 1, Episode 10): One that has not been improved by the passage of time. At the time, Jack plunging into the jungle after Charlie and Claire was thrilling; now, the show has done similar things much better.
78) “Further Instructions” (Season 3, Episode 3): Widely derided for a weird flashback -- Locke’s time among the commune hippies -- this has one of the more enjoyable excursions the show has taken into outright strangeness, as Locke builds a sweat lodge to find Mr. Eko.
77) “Left Behind” (Season 3, Episode 15): Another boring Kate flashback, but the on-island story -- with Kate and Juliet having to band together to survive the island’s dangers -- is well-done.
76) “Everybody Hates Hugo” (Season 2, Episode 4): Hurley episodes are almost always “sweet,” and it’s never immediately clear how well that tone works with the show. This one is almost too sweet, though the final moments of Hurley sharing DHARMA food are moving.
75) “The Whole Truth” (Season 2, Episode 16): Another well-done Sun and Jin flashback, another go-nowhere island story, another dynamite final scene (“Got any milk?”) that almost saves the whole thing.
74) “Collision” (Season 2, Episode 8): The first Ana Lucia flashback episode doesn’t exactly shock -- she was a renegade cop?! -- but the fallout from Shannon’s death is handled terrifically.
73) “The Little Prince” (Season 5, Episode 4): One of the better Kate episodes, this one makes most acute just how much the Oceanic Six will leave behind to return to the island.
72) “Expose” (Season 3, Episode 14): Perhaps the most divisive episode in “Lost” history, “Expose” is a throwaway, but it’s a stylish and enjoyable one with a great, great sick joke for its “Twilight Zone” twist ending.
71) “Meet Kevin Johnson” (Season 4, Episode 8): It’s arguable that we needed an episode-length Michael flashback at this point in Season 4, but Harold Perrineau has never been better, and it introduced the idea of the island being able to keep people alive even on the mainland.
70) “Three Minutes” (Season 2, Episode 22): This one is a little underrated. Michael goes to find his son, discovers the Others, and strikes a terrible bargain. From when the show was just discovering how compelling on-island flashbacks could be.
69) “The Lie” (Season 5, Episode 2): This isn’t a bad episode. Like most Hurley episodes, it features a lot of very sweet, funny material. But it is a bit of a time killer between two really fantastic hours.
68) “There’s No Place Like Home” (Season 4, Episodes 12 and 13): There are some fantastic moments here, like Penny’s boat showing up or the island disappearing, but the main plot gets swallowed up by needing to get all of the characters to specific points in time and space.
67) “Cabin Fever” (Season 4, Episode 11): Probably slightly better than its ranking, “Cabin Fever” is a dense mythological episode that sets up the tragedy of the rest of John Locke’s journey (and has a flashback to the 1950s!).
66) “A Tale of Two Cities” (Season 3, Episode 1): Not bad. The introduction of Juliet is a killer, and Jack raging against the Others is fun. But many of the big revelations -- Ben’s name, for example -- aren’t very well handled.
65) “Maternity Leave” (Season 2, Episode 15): The first purely on-island flashback -- to Claire’s time among the others -- is a great collection of unsettling revelations and character introductions.
64) “Some Like It Hoth” (Season 5, Episode 13): There’s no real reason this story is here, since it doesn’t terribly contribute to the master plot of the show, but man, this story of Miles and Hurley dealing with Miles’ father issues is hilarious.
63) “Recon” (Season 6, Episode 7): Fans complained that this hour of the Sawyer and Miles spin-off cop show was meandering and pointless. It also was a whole lot of fun.
62) "?” (Season 2, Episode 21): Mr. Eko episodes had diminishing returns, but this hour featured one of the best jungle treks ever as Eko and Locke went to find a hidden DHARMA station.
61) “Outlaws” (Season 1, Episode 15): The better of season one’s two Sawyer episodes. The boar-killing subplot is silly in the literal sense but compelling in the moment, while the “I never ...” and Sawyer meeting Jack’s dad scenes are justly acclaimed.
60) “Two for the Road” (Season 2, Episode 20): Michael shooting Ana Lucia and Libby is one of the great shock moments in TV history. Sadly, the rest of the episode (an Ana Lucia one) can’t live up to it.
59) “He’s Our You” (Season 5, Episode 10): The DHARMA plot really kicks into gear, as Sayid is captured, then kills young Ben Linus. Plus, we meet DHARMA’s reclusive torturer, a character who should have returned.
58) “Raised by Another” (Season 1, Episode 9): Claire’s first episode features that nicely spooky flashback to the psychic who was way too into getting her on that plane to L.A.
57) “316" (Season 5, Episode 6): A slow-moving episode that improves on second and third viewings, as Jack tries to get all of the Oceanic Six on Ajira Flight 316.
56) “Enter 77" (Season 3, Episode 11): One of the best Sayid flashbacks is paired with a story that both introduces Mikhail and provides a big deal of information on the DHARMA Initiative.
55) “Lockdown” (Season 2, Episode 17): Sure, this is the weakest Locke flashback (even weaker than the commune), but the scenes in the Hatch -- essentially a two-person play between Locke and Ben -- are wonderfully constructed and taut.
54) “Lighthouse” (Season 6, Episode 4): Another hotly divisive episode that improves the more the show fills in the gaps around it and the more the show makes Jack the center of its final season.
53) "... In Translation” (Season 1, Episode 16): Before Desmond and Penny came along, the story of how Sun and Jin rediscovered their love was the best romance on the show. This episode, which made Jin’s actions more understandable, was a big piece of that puzzle.
52) “The Candidate” (Season 6, Episode 13): This one has some heart-rending moments -- Sun and Jin’s death, anyone? -- but it pushes the characters a little too hard to get them all in one room at the end.
51) “Not in Portland” (Season 3, Episode 7): The best possible episode “Lost” could have come back from the mid-Season 3 hiatus with, as Juliet’s back story is filled in and Richard hits someone with a bus.
50) “Ji Yeon” (Season 4, Episode 7): A tricky and too cute structure -- Jin is in flashback, while Sun is in flash-forward -- almost obscures the episode’s deeply emotional heart. Almost, but not quite.
49) “The 23rd Psalm” (Season 2, Episode 10): One of the show’s greatest images -- Eko staring down the Monster -- as well as a compelling Eko flashback make this a great first chapter that sadly never got a worthy follow-up.
48) “This Place Is Death” (Season 5, Episode 5): Lots happens in this episode. Maybe too much, as all of the bouncing timelines and crazy incidents threaten to unmoor the story from its emotional dock.
47) “Everybody Loves Hugo” (Season 6, Episode 11): A nice breather after the emotionally devastating “Happily Ever After,” with a very sweet (there’s that word again) love story for Hurley.
46) “Across the Sea” (Season 6, Episode 14): The series finale will almost certain make this episode seem even better than it already does. Divisive, to be sure, but also a beautiful example of modern myth-making.
45) “Solitary” (Season 1, Episode 8): Probably a little underrated. Sayid embarks on a trek to explore the island, ends up in Rousseau’s clutches, and the story’s mythology expands and expands.
44) “House of the Rising Sun” (Season 1, Episode 5): Cutesy title aside, this first look into the Sun and Jin marriage proved the show was willing to try all kinds of different stories to be a success.
43) “The Last Recruit” (Season 6, Episode 12): Propulsive and epic in sweep, “The Last Recruit” kicks a final season narrative that had been in danger of getting stuck into high gear.
42) “One of Them” (Season 2, Episode 14): This one introduces one of the show’s best characters -- Ben -- and features a heartbreaking flashback to a time when Sayid still believed he could be a man of peace.
41) “Confirmed Dead” (Season 4, Episode 2): In a season that was already playing around with the flashback structure by introducing flash-forwards, this flashback into all four lives of the main freighter people was genius and thrilling.
40) “Numbers” (Season 1, Episode 17): Why do the Numbers work the way they do? We may never know, but their introduction in a Hurley flashback is appropriately ghoulish and twisted.
39) “Dead Is Dead” (Season 5, Episode 12): Crummy special effects can’t mar what’s ultimately a very moving Ben Linus story as he tries to confront being the sidekick to a man he once lorded over.
38) “Sundown” (Season 6, Episode 5): The Monster’s assault on the Temple is one of the great “Lost” action sequences, and the lost look on Sayid’s face sells the emotional side of the story.
37) “One of Us” (Season 3, Episode 16): Juliet’s introduction to the island is nicely contrasted with her time with the castaways, creating a fascinating tale of belonging.
36) “Because You Left” (Season 5, Episode 1): The island starts skipping through time, Jack begins mounting an expedition back to the island, and the show’s best season begins strongly.
35) “Namaste” (Season 5, Episode 9): Sawyer scrambling to get the newly arrived Ajira 316 castaways into the DHARMA Initiative is the genius centerpiece of one of the series’ most frantic episodes.
34) “Ab Aeterno” (Season 6, Episode 8): It wasn’t everybody’s favorite, but the show’s journey back to the 1800s gave the series an epic, romantic sweep it rarely has.
33) “Whatever Happened, Happened” (Season 5, Episode 11): Hands down the best Kate episode, this one examines the rules of time travel and the awful paradox of Sayid seemingly creating Ben by trying to kill him as a child.
32) “What They Died For” (Season 6, Episode 15): Balancing giant moments in the show’s mythology with deep sadness and big laughs, this is a nearly perfect penultimate episode.
31) “Tricia Tanaka Is Dead” (Season 3, Episode 10): The haters need to shut up. This is a nearly pure embrace of the “Lost” ethos. You make your own fate up until the moment when you don’t.
30) “Dave” (Season 2, Episode 18): Perhaps the most misunderstood episode of “Lost” ever. Dave being imaginary isn’t a big twist. The episode doesn’t even play it that way. It’s simply the biggest expression of just how messed up Hurley was before he found the island.
29) “D.O.C.” (Season 3, Episode 18): The most heartwarming Sun and Jin episode (as she finds out her baby is Jin’s and not her ex-lover’s) also comes smack dab in the middle of the show’s best stretch of episodes.
28) “The Beginning of the End” (Season 4, Episode 1): A great premiere that nicely sets up how the flash-forward structure will work and how being off the island has seemingly warped Hurley. Bonus points for introducing Matthew Abbadon.
27) “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham” (Season 5, Episode 7): Locke’s life goes from the story of a man who found purpose to a grand, epic tragedy, all in the course of one beautiful scene between him and Ben in a rundown hotel room.
26) “Deus Ex Machina” (Season 1, Episode 18): Not quite as good as the other Season 1 Locke episode (what could be?) but still very good, with the image of Locke crouching over the glowing Hatch as one of the show’s best purely visual moments.
25) “Orientation” (Season 2, Episode 3): A massive mythology download, introducing DHARMA and a host of other ideas, but also one that nicely centers its ideas on the debate between Jack and Locke.
24) “The Man from Tallahassee” (Season 3, Episode 13): How did Locke end up in his wheelchair? As tragically as everything else in his story, apparently, and this episode shows us in excruciating detail.
23) “The Economist” (Season 4, Episode 3): The best episodes of “Lost” play as mini-tragedies about characters trying to escape their destinies, and this one, in which Sayid loses his wife and his soul, is one of the best examples of the form.
22) “Do No Harm” (Season 1, Episode 19): Balancing the genuinely horrific scenes of Jack seemingly torturing Boone to save him, rather than letting him die, and Kate delivering Aaron, this is a highpoint of the show’s first year.
21) “LA X” (Season 6, Episode 1): What happened when Juliet blew up the bomb in Season 5? This episode ingeniously kept us guessing, all the while introducing a new storytelling concept.
20) “Live Together, Die Alone” (Season 2, Episode 23): An episode tasked with a lot, in that it had to pull together an often chaotic and over-ambitious season in relatively quick fashion. That the episode somehow did and introduced the Desmond and Penny romance is to its credit.
19) “Greatest Hits” (Season 3, Episode 21): Knowing Charlie was going to die in the next episode, the producers gave him what just might be the show’s most heartbreaking hour, as he compiles a list of five moments that made his life good before going to his sacrifice.
18) “The Variable” (Season 5, Episode 14): Poor, doomed Daniel Faraday marches to his death, unknowingly, as we see the story of how his mother, knowing it had to happen, though reluctant to let it happen, guided him there. Another example of “Lost’s” talent for grim tragedy.
17) “Dr. Linus” (Season 6, Episode 6): It’s rare to come out of a Ben Linus episode with hope for humanity, but this episode -- in which Ben makes the right choice in two timelines -- somehow manages the feat.
16) “The Incident” (Season 5, Episode 16): There’s some convoluted plotting in the love triangle, but most of the episode is a pure adrenaline rush as Jack launches another foolhardy plan; Ben kills his god; and we meet two men who’ve been on the island a very long time.
15) “Jughead” (Season 5, Episode 3): Desmond and Faraday are two of the show’s best characters, and this episode bounces between them, separated by more than 50 years but working toward the same goals, to great effect.
14) “The Other 48 Days” (Season 2, Episode 7): One of the first episodes to completely abandon the show’s long-standing format in favor of telling the story of how the Tailies started out as many and became a handful of stragglers.
13) “The Man Behind the Curtain” (Season 3, Episode 20): “Lost” kept the story of Ben under wraps as long as it could, but in this episode, he was revealed to be as fragile as any of the other characters. Both genius in its ability to introduce mythological story points and to illuminate a mysterious character.
12) “Pilot” (Season 1, Episode 1): Maybe a little overrated, but it’s still one of the best pilots ever produced, introducing 14 characters with an ease that made so many other producers thought they could do it too. Sadly, they couldn’t, and this one stands alone.
11) “Man of Science, Man of Faith” (Season 2, Episode 1): From the great opening sequence of Desmond going about his day to the best Jack flashback there ever was, this was a show confident in itself and at the height of its powers.
10) “The Shape of Things to Come” (Season 4, Episode 9): Ben summons the Smoke Monster and goes to cradle his daughter’s body. In another time, he confronts the man who took her life. It’s moments like these -- pure, pulp power wedded to human emotion -- that give “Lost” its power.
9) “LaFleur” (Season 5, Episode 8): Ambitious structures usually do “Lost” in, but this one, which bounces between Sawyer and pals coming among the DHARMA gang and three years later, when they’re comfortable with them, pulls it off triumphantly. Bonus points for introducing one of the series’ greatest love stories.
8) “The Brig” (Season 3, Episode 19): On its return to the Black Rock, “Lost” takes two of its most tragic characters, Locke and Sawyer, and weaves a tale of how the two of them come together over wanting to destroy a man who’s done them both great harm. But only one can, and it’s in the story of how it happens that “Lost” has one of its best hours.
7) “The Substitute” (Season 6, Episode 3): Nothing less than a powerhouse acting showcase for Terry O’Quinn, this episode explores the two very different characters he plays as John Locke learns to make peace with the man he has become after a long life of wanting more and the Monster launches his plan to escape the island once and for all.
6) “Happily Ever After” (Season 6, Episode 10): It’s rare that one episode of TV can crystallize a whole season and make it make sense, but this one did as Desmond journeyed to the flash-sideways universe and had a vision of a friend’s death and a woman’s love that caused him to find a new purpose. Swooningly romantic and evocatively shot, this is the best hour of the final season.
5) “Exodus” (Season 1, Episodes 23 and 24): The finest hour(s) of the show’s smashing debut season, this finale contains moments soaring with hope -- the launch of the raft -- and full of despair -- the Others seizing Walt. In a way, the story of the series begins here, and everything that came up until this point was just a long prologue.
4) “Flashes Before Your Eyes” (Season 3, Episode 8): By introducing the idea that Desmond had become unstuck in time, the show flirted with becoming too science-fiction-heavy for much of its audience. Instead, it came up with a triumphant episode that ended up being one of the most important in the series’ history. Worth it just for the first appearance of Eloise Hawking.
3) “Walkabout” (Season 1, Episode 3): The episode that probably created more “Lost” fans than any other. The sad twist of John Locke having been in a wheelchair at one time and now being able to walk about freely on the island is just one element of an episode that nicely delves into the story of the man who would become the series’ best character.
2) “Through the Looking Glass” (Season 3, Episode 22): Coming at a time when the series needed to prove it wasn’t just a one-trick pony and that it too could have the narrative momentum of the new contender for its throne, “Heroes,” “Lost” merely unveiled the biggest twist in its history: Some of the castaways got off the island. And now they had to go back.
1) “The Constant” (Season 4, Episode 5): Desmond and Penny’s story became the heart of “Lost” so quickly that it’s easy to forget they weren’t always there. This episode, though, cemented them as the people who made for some of the best “Lost” hours ever, climaxing with a phone call that was as moving as anything the show had done. “The Constant” is an hour of pretty heavy science-fiction, what with the time travel, but it’s also an hour that wears a full, beating heart on its sleeve. If that doesn’t make it the quintessential episode of “Lost,” nothing would.
--Todd VanDerWerff (follow me on Twitter at @tvoti)
Other “Lost” lists:
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