It’s been ten years. Ten years to the day since J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof unleashed Lost upon an unsuspecting public.. I still remember that evening, September 22nd, 2004, sitting down in front of my TV, flipping through channels, and stumbling on the first frames of the first episode. It captured my attention instantly, and for almost six years it didn’t let go. Though many people eventually tuned out of the show for all sorts of (often valid) reasons, there were so many of us who were sucked in for the whole convoluted ride.
It’s not an overstatement to say that Lost changed television. Sure, it built upon elements from The Prisoner, Twin Peaks, The X-Files and more, and sure, it came after the heavy serialization of The Sopranos and 24, but it took all of that and blew it up into something fantastically addictive, and impressively mainstream. When I was a kid, people who theorized about The X-Files seemed a little crazy. Only a few years later I would walk down my high school halls and hear all kinds of people coming up with wild theories about the smoke monster, the numbers (4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42!) and the polar bears. Lost turned obsessive TV-watching into something normal, and even cool, anticipating the flash success of the latter seasons of Breaking Bad and the inaugural season of True Detective. And yeah, the final season wasn’t great, but I’ll stand by the finale to my dying breath. Lost will forever stand as one of the best series to grace the screen.
To celebrate Lost’s 10th anniversary, it’s time to look back and remember the best of the series. Presenting: The Top 23 Greatest Moments on Lost! (Go ahead and tell me how wrong I am in the comments.)
1. The Opening Scene
Bar none, the best opening scene in a TV series ever. There’s no competition. As exciting and viscerally unnerving as anything ever produced for the medium, and a benchmark for television going forward. The whole sequence lasts a long time. Long enough that the episode had to push back its first commercial break to accommodate everything. It’s absolutely masterful storytelling, introducing pretty much every character in a memorable way, and all with incredible urgency.
2. Penny is My Constant
For a show that too often got up its own ass in nonsensical mysteries, its creators were very insistent that it was always about the characters. Few episodes proved that more than “The Constant”, which movingly used a sci-fiction premise to tell a love story. The scene in that episode where Desmond and Penny finally reconnect still makes me well up.
3. We Have to Go Back
Chilling. Absolutely chilling. One of the greatest twists in the show’s run, moving into flash forward territory and totally changing the game. Better yet, it tied the twist to a wrenching character moment. It’s easy and fun to quote that line, almost mocking it, but in the moment it was about as powerful as anything I’d seen on TV.
4. Don’t Tell Me What I Can’t Do
The ending of only the fourth episodes of the series, and already the show was delivering some of its most emotional and profound material. That moment where we learn Locke had been in a wheelchair was fundamental to everything the series became, and it birthed the immortal line, “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!” Goosebumps.
5. Not Penny’s Boat
In Charlie’s dying act, he passes along an important message to a friend. If that isn’t Lost in a nutshell, I don’t know what is. It’s the definition of redemption in Lindelof’s and Cuse’s eyes, and I love them for it.
6. You Guys Got Any Milk?
Benjamin Linus, or as we knew him then, Henry Gale. It’s one of the funniest moments on the show, and so creepy at the same time.
7. The Monster in the Trees
Remember back when we didn’t know what the Monster was? When we didn’t even know it was made of smoke? Remember in the pilot episode, when it seemed like the show would be nothing more than a group of people on an island trying to survive? Hearing the monster tearing down trees in the distance changed all that, signalling a very different, much more interesting show than even the opening minutes of the pilot suggested. Terrific, indeed.
8. Make Your Own Kind of Music
What a way to open the show’s second season. Set to Mama Cass’ lovely vocals, and showing a person going through a seemingly regular morning routine. But who? And where? OH MY GOD IT’S A PERSON LIVING UNDERGROUND WHERE THE HATCH IS! Way to go, Lost. Way. To. Go.
Sure, the storyline led nowhere. And yeah, the whole thing became kind of a joke. But goodness, that scene where the Others take Walt is frightening and heartbreaking.
10. The End
I’m sure I’ll get a lot of shit for this one, but screw it. The ending of Lost is beautiful. Just beautiful. The idea that what awaits the characters is to be reunited with each other, the people with whom they found redemption and repaired their souls. It’s just about everything I could have wanted from the finale. Come at me, haters!
11. The Polar Bear
A polar bear. On a tropical island. Holy crap. That opening episode really did stack the deck high.
12. Juliet’s Death
Season 5 was very strong overall, and one of the things that held it together was the Sawyer-Juliet relationship. In true Lost fashion, the best moment with them was saddest, with Juliet going to her death. And much like Charlie’s goodbye, Juliet uses her dying moments to trying and save everyone else. Plus, that flash to white made for an excellent season cliffhanger.
13. Back to the Future?
Hurley and Miles talking out the mechanics of time travel. One of the funniest moments in the series, and also the most brain-hurtin’.
14. She Means Nothing to Me
The moment Ben lost control of everything. Lost was known for killing off major characters, often in shocking ways. Still, no death was more shocking or upsetting than Alex’s. It’s unbearable and cruel, and it proved the show meant business at a time when many had started to doubt whether the show was worth the effort. For moments like that, horrible as it was, the show was definitely worth it.
15. Buried Alive
We all hated Nikke and Paolo, but I loved their big episode. Lindelof and Cuse took the two most ill-conceived characters and built a great Twilight Zone episode around them. The twist of them being buried alive? Gleefully cruel. Great TV, and what a great way to turn a weakness into a strength.
16. The Distress Call
My last pick, and yet one more from the incredible pilot episode. Translating the French woman’s distress call, which had been repeating for 16 years. And then Charlie’s great episode-closing line, “Guys, where are we?”
Corey Atad is a staff writer for Pajiba. He lives in Toronto.