So, in a few short days we reach the Beginning of the End. And then, in a few short months’ time, we’ll finally find ourselves waking on the morning after the final episode of Lost airs with mixed reactions. No doubt, some will treat whatever finale is cooked up as a slight on par with The Sopranos’ Fade to Black. While others will spy pure genius in Lindelof and Cuse’s swan song.
Personally, whatever dreams may come, I’m going to feel that bittersweet sting of melancholy. I firmly believe that regardless of what hidden truth lies at the end of this rainbow, the pure fun of this show has always been in the journey not the destination. Therefore, I don’t demand that they answer every question, tie every thread and dot every i. Hell, I don’t even need a full discourse on what the island really is.
After all – we already know what it is. It’s fantasy island. A place where your greatest dreams or worse nightmares can materialize. There’s more to it than that and over the years that I’ve been providing post-episode recaps, I have certainly spun so many different theories that they all likely cancel each other out.
But again, that’s the fun of the show. Watching the latets episode and then logging on to debate what it all means. It’s the proverbial water cooler show even if we lost the massive constituency of Middle American mainstream when the show decided to finally say screw it and fly its freak flag proudly. The second they stopped playing coy and let the Smoke Monster out to play, I knew this would go down as one of my top TV shows of all time. (#1 is The X-Files and while that show ended poorly it will likely never be knocked from its perch).
Anyway – with the mainstream gone, the cooler kids were left to set the trends. We’ve stuck with it all these years and now we’re a mere 18 episodes from the end. Starting Tuesday February 2nd, we settle down for our final leg of a whirlwind journey that started in Sydney, was meant for LAX, crashed down somewhere in the South Pacific and pinballed back and forth through time – all the while dragging us, the willing observers, along for the ride.
It will be nice to see how it all ends but I am going to miss the journey… miss it something fierce. As always, I’ll be back on this site with post-episode recaps by the following morning so stay tuned.
But ahead of that, and in anticipation of the February 2nd premiere of Episode 6.1 and 6.2 (“LAX Part I and II), I offer up My Top 10 Most Memorable Moments from Lost. I chose two per season and while these may not be the absolute best scenes, I feel they were memorable and spun the show in significant ways to warrant the spotlight. But with so many awesome moments, you are bound to have a different list which is exactly what the Comments are for below. So please – add to the discussion.
With that… on with the show.
1. “What do they call you… Wheels?” – Episode 1.4 ‘Walkabout’
The fourth episode of the series keyed in on John Locke, who over the course of the first two episodes gave off a tremendously creepy vibe. Between the scarlet ribbon that sliced through half of his face to the eerie scene where he smiled at Kate with the orange in his mouth, Locke seemed like a bad dude. He also – fairly early on – seemed very in tune with the heart of the island… leading to a memorable scene where he schooled Walt in Backgammon and taught his young apprentice about the nature, and need, for Good and Evil in this world.
My most memorable moment from the first Season, and one of my favorites in show history, is the sequence that capped Locke’s extended flashback where we saw how this great white hunter lived in the real world. A corporate drone, he was tethered to a desk, answering calls for some non-descript box company. His only solace were late night calls to a sex line and a lunch time role playing rendezvous with his impressionable co-worker who believed Locke’s lies that he was this man of espionage.
Then came the kicker. As Locke is meeting with a travel agent in Australia about heading off on a life-defining walkabout tour, he his rebuffed at all turns saying that a man of his condition would likely not be able to handle the terrain. And as Locke issues his oft-heard rallying cry “DON’T TELL ME WHAT I CAN’T DO!!!”, we learn that this man of mystery is actually confined to a wheel chair.
A one-two whammy as we learn that Locke wasn’t what he appeared to be… and now he’s somehow he’s been made better. This moment changed our notion of this character, immediately made him a pivotal element in the plot, challenged our perceptions of events and added a new layer to the island’s true power.
2. Guiding Light – Episode 1.20 ‘Do No Harm’
By this point in the first season, we had ample evidence that John Locke possessed a deeper understanding – and fervent belief – in the island. As he expressed to Boone, “I looked deep into the heart of the island… and it’s beautiful”. This reflection came after Locke’s confrontation with the Smoke Monster, which at the time had remained completely unseen by the audience, meaning we had no idea that the creature was a sentient mass of particles prowling the island. All we got was a POV shot from the creature and a look of rapture on Locke’s eyes.
That’s not the point I intend to highlight. Instead, we flash forward to Locke’s possessed desire to crack the hatch and see what’s inside. After all, Locke feels that it holds the secrets of the island and is determined to do anything, including inadverdently applying a blood sacrifice (Boone) to appease whatever godlike power is behind it all. As this episode culminated with dual medical procedures – Jack mercifully ending Boone’s life while Kate brought forth Aaron into the world – Locke is nowhere to be found.
In the closing moments, we find Locke – alone, in the woods, pounding on the hatch in desperation, pleading with it to send him a sign and imploring it that he had done everything for it and yet it still will not “open up” to him. It recalls so many of Locke’s pathetic meltdowns in his mainland life and here we see another crushing disappointment made manifest as Locke feels his new found independence slipping away. Just as he is about to abandon all hope, a blinding shaft of light pours forth from the tiny portal at the top of the hatch – shooting skyward, a beacon of renewed hope.
This moment was key because it reaffirmed Locke’s faith in the island. And Lost’s constant theme of our interconnectedness and the application of faith in the grand scheme of life would only be cemented further in the second season finale, when we revisited that moment in Desmond’s flashback…. and saw that Locke’s pounding and Desmond’s light ended up joining forces and saving both men’s lives that evening – providing them with the power to move on. It was a powerful, symbiotic moment that neatly illustrates the underlying theme behind the show. Powerful stuff.
1. With a Surprise in Every Box – Episode 2.1 ‘Man of Science, Man of Faith’
One thing the Lost creators know how to do is open a season properly. Where the first season stumbled a bit at the finish (Sure they popped the hatch but what the hell is in it?), Lost didn’t waste time when Season 2 started up. In a move that would become a signature moment for the series at the onset of each new year, they dropped us in strange environs with a character we’ve never seen before – throwing off our bearing as we seek to re-establish contact with the show after a long summer siesta.
Where are we? Who is that strange guy on the bike? What’s up with vintage Mama Cass on the soundtrack? And what does it all mean?
That’s where we found ourselves in the opening moments of Season 2. What appeared to be a cool, retro apartment or just another trip in the Way Back machine thanks to the flashback device, became the answer we pondered all throughout the break. Desmond, a mysterious dude who kept appearing in Jack’s flashback, was the secret in the hatch – trapped there for years to mind the shop and potentially serve his role in a grand scientific experiment.
This intro was significant because it added so many new layers to the mystery of the island. The DHARMA Initiative suddenly became a huge driving force. What were they doing on the island? What were they studying? And where had they gone? Their eerie underground Epcot Center with the archaic computer that needed resetting every 108 minutes posed more delicious questions that we were eager to chomp down on – and suddenly, with the simple reveal of a shaggy dude who called everyone “brother” in the box, we began to suspect sinister motives behind everyone and everything. The Others no longer felt like the biggest threat in this place and the island’s health suddenly felt vital to the survival of the planet. Not bad for a season opener.
2. I’m Not Stopping for Directions – Episode 2.17 ‘Lockdown’
By this point, we were under the spell of the mysterious Henry Gale aka Benjamin Linus, who apparently blew over to the island all Wizard of Oz style. Michael Emerson’s portrayal of Gale, a character that was only supposed to be around for a few eps, proved so electric that the creators wrote him in as the pivotal pupppet master behind so much of the madness to come. Or is he the puppet? Later episodes would color definite shades of gray to Ben’s pitch black beginnings.
This episode may have focused on the growing alliance between Locke and Henry/Ben, but the key moment is the sequence where Locke gets pinned down beneath a crashing blast door. As Henry/Ben works to sever the juice and free Locke, a brief power failure turns the lights out on Locke. In the darkness, he spies a mysterious map, written in day-glo ink – on the ceiling, providing him with a cryptic map of the island, including references to other hatches, a temple and something called Cerberus – which in Greek mythology is the guardian of Hades. Could that be Old Smokey?
It was a huge moment for Locke’s whose wavering faith is reaffirmed and a giant carrot for the hungry audience who suddenly had a mammoth mystery to chew on as soon as the high def screen grabs hit the ‘net.
1. Downtown – Episode 3.1 ‘A Tale of Two Cities’
I mentioned earlier that Lost has a way of calling back to a prior narrative moment and then goosing our expectations. As Season 3 began, we were treated to a facsimile of the Season 2 intro. Here was someone we had never seen before. Hanging out in a decent slab of real estate. Rocking out to some oldie but goodie. This woman appears sad but shrugs it off as soon as her book club comes to visit. This month’s selection – Stephen King’s Carrie. (Significant?) Suddenly, the idyllic environs are rocked as an apparent earthquake sends the group running out doors.
And then our bearings are corrected and rocked all at once, as Benjamin Linus, the evil Ethan, and other nefarious faces step forth from a Pleasantville stretch of suburban wonderland – perched in the middle of our fantasy island – as Oceanic Flight 815 breaks apart in the brilliant blue sky above.
The moment is a favorite of mine for two reasons. First, I find Juliet to be a yummy mummy. Hey, you say MILF, I say tom-ah-to. Second, and more importantly, in one fell swoop it changed out perception of the supposedly evil (and tribal) Others once more. Here they were, cohabitating in relative tranquility – a far cry from their supposed murderous deeds. As with all great Lost moments, we wanted to know more – RIGHT NOW!!!
2. The Old Switcheroo – Episode 3.22 ”Through the Looking Glass”
The season finale of the third year featured what we call in the biz – The Gamechanger. Like ‘Jump the Shark’, it’s a phrase that had joined the lexicon which essentially means that the rules we’ve lived by are being tossed aside. That’s where we found ourselves in the closing moments of “Through the Looking Glass” when the dire, desperate flashback of Jack, showing the good doctor as addicted to pain killers and driven to apparent suicide, was not a look back to the past but a glimpse from the future. The producers of Lost knew we were so accustomed to that trademark “Wooosh” sending us back to learn a little more of our beloved characters, that with a little bit of sleight of hand trickery, they were able to show us the future and essentially change the direction of the show.
In the closing minutes of the episode a number of things happened. First, we learned that some members of Oceanic Flight 815 had gotten off the island and were now deep into their newly recovered lives, for better or for worse.
Secondly – and most importantly – a seismic shift occurred in the casting of their roles. Where Jack once played Man of Science to Locke’s Man of Faith, the roles were now reversed. Jack’s painful plea to go back to the island that he spent so much time trying to escape from was jaw-dropping. And when we assembled the clues that had been laid out throughout the episode (including the sea charts that Jack spent many a drunken night scouring as well as his tearful admission to Kate that he continually flies the same route week after week in hopes the plane will crash again), the moment was both enlightening and staggering. With Jack embracing this destiny, the island’s importance grew exponentially.
Now that’s a game changer.
1. Time after Time – Episode 4.5 ‘The Constant’
What elevates a show like Lost is the character development. Sure, what draws me in is the mystery, but over time we have truly grown to love and loathe these characters. They’re indelible. Love ’em or leave ’em, we’ll never forget ’em.
And that’s the beauty of the show – as crazy as things get, we are always grounded by our ragged group of Everymen (and women) who are confronted with the surreal and supernatural. It’s the same core tenet that Stephen King has found such sweeping success with – take normal people and throw them against the abnormal. As long as the characters are written and performed well, the viewer can accept anything.
That’s why – through all the mysteries that have been woven into the fabric – it’s the realization that at heart, Lost is a tale of Love, that truly resonates. While many characters have comingled and consummated their passions, it’s Desmond and his Greek Tragedy of a quest to find his fair Penelope, that drives that beating heart. And in this episode, where not only do we get some major concrete clues regarding the effect of time travel on and from the island, it also offers up a grand, sweeping romantic gesture when Desmond is able to take advantage of the temporal fluctuations to place a call from the off shore mercenary ship to London-based Penelope, across time and space, professing his undying love for her and sowing the seeds that would eventually grow to enable his future rescue from Hell.
It was a great emotional moment in a series chock-full of them.
2. When Smoke Monsters Attack – Episode 4.9 ‘The Shape of Things to Come’
Old Smokey has always been a presence ever since we first spied him throwing a hissy fit and ripping down trees in the pilot episode. Way back then, I’m sure we all thought it was a dinosaur or piece of harvester equipment. Hell, maybe just a really pissed off polar bear. Since then, we’ve seen the changing size and shape of the island’s security system and received enough cryptic clues to start to piece together some intel as to what makes it tick.
For starters, I’m pretty sure it’s the embodiment of the ‘evil’ force that balances Jacob’s benevolent power on the island. The repeating references to black and white, yin and yang, good and evil are a constant on this show. And we’ve seen Smokey show up in the wake of ghostly visitations of warning from character’s dead loved ones (i.e. Yemi to Mr. Ecko before the latter had the smackdown laid on him).
But, we’ve never seen Smokey summoned in the manner that Ben called upon when Keamy and his merry band of mercs attacked Othersville and executed Alex in front of him. Suddenly, a sham Daddy’s rage called upon the powers of Hell to rip Keamy a new one – as Smokey barreled forth like a freight train and specifically targeted Ben’s enemies.
It’s a moment that’s memorable on two fronts. For starters, the actual attack scene was one of the more thrilling moments on Lost – with Smokey’s power on ample display. And secondly, if we were beginning to doubt that the trickster Ben had any real connection to the island, those questions were answered when Smokey heeded his call. He may not be the Chosen One but he’s got enough island mojo to make things happen, cap’n.
1. No Fate But What We Make – Episode 5.14 ‘The Variable’
I really dug Season 5 with its time-travel wackiness. When I mentioned early on that Lost finally dispensed with trying to appease the mainstream by juggling it’s out there plot with soap opera histrionics early on, in later seasons they dispensed with that – trusting in its core audience to follow them wherever the story may lead. And by embracing a bee-bopping time travel story line that gave us new insight into the island’s past while also rewriting the rules, we were treated to one of the most engaging arcs on television.
One constant was the inclusion of Daniel Faraday who acted as the audience’s tour guide to what can and cannot occur with time travel. Daniel was forever keeping us grounded – saying that essentially there was no way to change the past as it isn’t a person’s full body that moves but their consciousness. They may have influence in the past but as he explains, nothing really changes as “whatever happened… happened.”
Which is exactly when you should expect the curveball. In this episode, Daniel crashes through a tree line, wandering into The Others camp, looking to find Richard Alpert to discuss the need to detonate the long-buried Jughead. Before he can issue his warning, he is shot down by Eloise Hawking – his future Mommy who years later would send her only son back in time so that he could arrive at that moment and she could shoot him dead – presuming she knew that was exactly how things would play out, which given her unique future relationship with the nature of the Island and associated events, I’d say she knew exactly the shape of things to come. (That’s a mouthful).
With one fatal shot she proved Daniel wrong. Past events can be changed, for good or ill. After all, Mommy knows best.
2. The Dark Knight – Episode 5.16 ‘The Incident’
Last season’s finale finally brought Jacob from the shadows, revealing him as an omniscient wanderer who had appeared at key moments in each of our castaways’ lives – in a journey spanning decades. This was a neat reveal as it helped connect the dots for why these characters seemingly appear at scattered points in their own lives. In Lost, there are no coincidences for coincidence sake. There’s a master plan to all of this.
In more ways than one.
Early on in the season, I theorized that the Locke we’d been hanging with was not the Locke we’ve grown to love. After all, the last time we saw Jeremy Bentham, he was locked in a box getting ready for his long dirt nap. Still, the island has healed people before so despite Ben’s protests that it has never brought someone back from the dead, we’re willing to believe anything is possible.
And then, in one fell swoop, the grand deception is revealed. Locke is dead and has been inhabited by that mysterious man in black who served time alongside Jacob on this island prison – apparently for centuries. And, the mysterious stranger is pulling the strings on Ben who is forced to kill Jacob. Evil finally overcomes Good.
It’s a huge moment in the series as it seems to validate the thought that this island is somehow the birthplace of good and evil – or the resting place – and that with one out of the way, the balance of power on a global level has shifted. It remains to be seen how it will all play out in the upcoming season, but as Season 5 closed out, the stakes had been elevated substantially.