Welcome to Greatest Hits , an ongoing series in which we will list and expound upon episodes, chapters–the best of the best, our faves from our faves. This first installment goes out to one of the FF team’s greatest loves: Lost.
Greatest Hits (3×21)
Ever since Desmond revealed that he’s been having visions of Charlie dying, there was no limit to the amount of tension felt whenever either of the two appeared on screen. “Greatest Hits” is no exception, but with a new element of psychological torture. This time, Charlie asks Desmond not to save him. Instead of fighting for his survival (and questioning the extremely bizarre circumstances of his impending drowning), he starts to make a list of his “greatest hits,” the top five moments of his short but unimaginably important life. From a woman calling him a hero to his brother giving him a family heirloom to the moment he met Claire, both the flashback and Island components of the episode are utterly emotionally exhausting.
Just remember I love you, man.
Hurley: Yeah, whatever, I love you too.
Everyone on Earth: :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :(
“I’ll be old and wrinkled and barely able to walk, and someone will bring up this episode and I will immediately burst into tears and talk for hours about how this is maybe one of the greatest 1.5 hours in television history.” –Isabel
The episode that started it all. It’s hard to not watch this episode with a sense of nostalgia and anticipation, knowing it’s only supposed to get better from here. It introduced Jack as our hero, and our legendary cast of castaways as one of the most flawed and inherently human groups in any ensemble drama. It had all the elements of becoming a horror show: the “monster” in the jungle, the pilot’s mangled body, the looped transmission that spelled almost certain doom for the survivors of 815. Yet it thrived on hope. Somehow, this group of attractive, mysterious misfits all ended up here, together, alive . And now we join them on their journey.
Do No Harm (1×20)
“Do No Harm” is a pivotal episode for Lost , and one that doesn’t get enough nearly enough recognition (except for heaps of it from Proma and Isabel). The genius is in the episode’s simultaneously unfolding Island and flashback stories. Jack, before his wedding, when everything is supposedly going perfect in his life, and he’s miserable; Jack, on the Island, a beyond-worst case scenario for most people, in his element as he fights to save Boone’s life. It’s not until Christian tells him to his face that we all realize what we knew all along: Jack Shephard will always need something to fix. “Do No Harm” expertly employs three elements: chaos (the fight for Boone’s life), calm (Jack’s pre-wedding flashback), and comedy (literally any scene with Jin during Claire’s labor). The episode also introduced “ Life and Death ,” the most important musical theme in the history of television, as it explicitly juxtaposed Boone’s death (the first of a major character) with Aaron’s birth.
Season 1 takes viewers on roller coaster ride of emotions, of which Exodus is the climax. In this episode the survivors finally reach a turning point in their efforts to find rescue and leave the island. In one of the most emotionally charged scenes in the whole show, we see Sawyer and his entourage succeed at building a raft and sail off into the ocean, all to the soul-breaking music of Michael Giacchino and “ Parting Words ,” making this the most poignant moment in the series thus far. And who didn’t shed a tear when Vincent the dog, upon seeing his owner sailing away, charges into the water and follows the raft until it disappears from view? Off the island, the emotions continue as flashbacks show each survivor’s individual journey onto the plane.They interact as strangers in these seemingly unconnected moments, without realizing that they soon would embark into a journey with each other, and what a journey it will be. The episode ends on one of the most painful cliffhangers, when Jack and co. succeed in blowing open the hatch, without showing what they found on it. Classic Lost.
Through the Looking Glass (3×22 and 3×23)
Every Lostie remembers where they were, what they were doing, how time stopped and our brains numbed when Jack said those infamous words: “WE HAVE TO GO BACK!” Well, actually, a lot of us don’t remember because we blacked out from the shock of this total left-field gamechanger of a moment. Lost ’s first flash- forward episode once again juxtaposes two versions of Jack Shephard (a narrative technique known as Jack staposition); one leading the survivors to rescue on the Island and one coping with loneliness, depression, and pill abuse in the future. It’s not hard to see why he wants to go back to the Island when he was clearly his best self as the castaways’ leader. Plus, the beard is just not working.
How else is this episode amazing? The triumphant phone call to the freighter. The horror of Locke stabbing Naomi. Charlie’s tragic and heroic death, starting with seeing Penny “in real time” before our hearts start racing. Desmond sprints to speak to Penny, the love of his life, and Charlie doesn’t even hesitate shutting the door and sacrificing himself. As the water rushes in, everything goes quiet. This moment that has been our biggest fear is finally coming true. Aaron cries, and it’s like we’re all woken up from this daze.
The Constant (4×05)
This episode contains all the elements that made Lost great in its first seasons combined with the brilliant sci-fi elements of its later episodes. For a show that struggled for a few months to get back in the groove of things after a shortened season, a writer’s strike and the announcement of its imminent end, this episode proved to its audience that Lost was still able to create amazing, poignant storylines, heart wrenching moments, and mind-bending situations that you have to accept due to brilliant execution. The episode is a microcosm of the show itself. What begins as a set of seemingly unanswerable questions (Why is he in the 90s? How are these two men connected? How will he get back? Will they end up together?) all boils down to a simple human journey: Desmond and Penny. By those last few minutes, you stop caring what electromagnetic anomaly led Desmond to losing his grip on reality. It doesn’t matter what killed the communications officer or if the freighter is really there to rescue anyone. All that matters is watching one man find himself, anchored to his constant, and smile as he says into the phone: “I love you.”
Ji Yeon (4×07)
We were still recovering from the first flash-forward revelation when we thought Lost dealt us another timey-wimey twist (which would be repeatedly disproven over the last few seasons): Sun and Jin, who are never together during the episode’s flashes, were separated by not only space, but time . Hers is a flash-forward: the last of the Oceanic Six. We spend the rest of the episode puzzling over how Jin can be one of the Six as well (does Aaron not count?), only to learn that he is in a flashback. Worse YET: In Sun’s future, Jin is dead, and we had to learn this by watching her visit his grave with the newborn daughter he’s never met, while their character theme plays a duet with “Life and Death” and slowly destroys everything good inside of us.
“Ji Yeon” is the first television episode that ever made Proma cry (“Through the Looking Glass” was too much of a shock the first time). We’ve watched Jin and Sun go through so much: an epic, seemingly impossible romance, a miserable marriage, an affair that ended in murder, and finally finding each other and falling in love again on the Island. Their final conversation in the episode is touching; after everything that has happened between them, what breaks Jin’s heart the most is the possibility that it’s not his baby–that he might lose this last chance at redeeming the great love of his life. You’re gonna tell me that after ALL THAT, one of them DIES??!?*
*not exactly what happened but arguably their season 6 conclusion is even more depressing. WE WILL ADOPT YOU, JI YEON.
The Shape of Things To Come (4×09)
For being such a complex character, Ben Linus’s flashbacks were never particularly revolutionary; they were brought to life by Michael Emerson’s magnetic and nuanced performance. This is never more true than with “The Shape of Things to Come,” when a flash-forward Ben is doing everything you’d expect; beating people up, lying about who he is, and coercing the shattered Sayid into becoming a hit-man in the Useless War With Widmore. In the present, Ben’s world is in chaos, and he embraces his role as Golden Child of the Island by summoning Smokey and leading Locke’s camp of castaways to refuge from the freighter folk. It’s all pretty classic Ben–until Keamy kills Alex. In that moment, Benjamin Linus becomes unhinged. He’s lost the last thing he ever cared about to the enemies he’s already hell-bent on fighting–and now they’ve changed the rules.
There’s No Place Like Home Part 2 (4×12 and 4×13)
“I have spent the past three years trying to forget all the awful things that happened the day we left,” Kate tells Bearded Jack in the future, setting up the constant, horrific, completely mind-fucking events that will transpire over the next 80-plus minutes. The scariest thing by far is the single-minded determination with which both Jack and Locke pursue their opposing goals. Jack needs to leave the Island–when the helicopter is out of fuel, when the freighter is nowhere in sight, and even when Sawyer jumps out to lighten the load and get them to safety. This might be the exact moment when Sawyer becomes a hero, and some time between that and his shirtless swim back to shore, the pieces fall into place for him to also become a leader.
The flash-forward sets up what’s been hinted at all season and since the end of season 3: that once the Oceanic Six leave the Island, their lives basically fall to shit. They’ve all but shut down emotionally because it hurts to feel anything; it invites the pain of loss, separation, guilt, betrayal, and abandonment. After a gut-wrenching reaction to Jin’s apparent death in the freighter explosion, Sun shuts down immediately. Ben snaps and stabs Keamy in the neck with unflinching disregard for the lives it will endanger. Only Locke shows any measure of compassion or composure, and it is 90% motivated by his undying love for a large and questionable mass of land.
With all that insurmountable drama, the moments that make this episode shine are the simplest. There’s cautious recognition on Desmond’s face when he and the Six reach Penny’s boat, but when he definitively sees her his face literally lights up. Both of them are in total disbelief, and seeing them together after all this time, after every force of nature and Charles Widmore’s army has worked tirelessly to keep them apart–you feel the same joyous disbelief as an audience member. The same feeling stirs when the Six finally row back to civilization. Sunburnt, heartbroken, they hold and help each other along the way. The music swells (DAMN YOU, GIACCHINO) and Jack relishes the feeling of standing, after so long, on solid, safe land.
The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham (5×07)
Aaand the ongoing contest for Who-had-the-worst-life on Lost is conclusively won by John Locke. The man of faith’s character arc ends here (though we didn’t know it yet) broken, alone, away from the only place where he ever felt empowered or purposeful. And he was murdered by his main rival in a petty power war that ends up being ultimately meaningless, so there’s that as well. In his last days, Locke visits his fellow survivors, who for the most part treat him with reticence and distrust. It’s heartbreaking to watch in retrospect, but the episode provides glimpses of the Locke who intrigued and inspired us back in Season 1, before he found that damn button.
Good character development sneaks up on people. One minute you’re watching a show and there’s a charming Southern asshole and then BOOM-suddenly it’s five years later and Sawyer is the moral center of Lost, a compassionate leader and faithful companion to Juliet (who has never really been loved in the right way). What makes this episode so great is that it doesn’t paint Sawyer as a guy who has found complete peace, despite his long coming redemption. His caretaker role on the island and relationship with Juliet give him a sense of purpose, but he never quite loses his rough edges. Yes, he learns to trust people, he shows a more vulnerable and noble side, but deep down he will always be that boy who wrote that letter in Season 1, and the man who got his heart broken on the Island. The complexity and internal struggle Sawyer shows in this episode is what makes him an amazing character. “LaFleur” is also fantastic when it stands alone, which is surprising for an episode this late into the season for a labyrinthine, genre-bending ensemble show.
Written & compiled (painstakingly) by Isabel Balda, Proma Khosla, and Hannah Panek
Photo illustrations by Isabel Balda (images via Lost/ABC)