This is the best: the one that started it all. We were introduced in episode 1 to an island that threatened to be much more mysterious and much more engaging than any place on television yet. There were smoke monsters, polar bears, secret hatches, secret “Others”, secret ghostly visions, and let’s not forget the incredible cast of characters, whose stories came beautifully unraveled in a series of episode-by-episode flashbacks (a tactic since exhausted over the course of its running). Lost was always at its best when it was at its most mysterious, rather than “most confusing,” which it got later on, as they added layer on layer of plot detail. In Season 1 we became attached to the characters and the island, not just emotionally, but spiritually. All these people had skeletons: and this island was the one place where they faced them (ex: John Locke’s struggle with nature as he struggled with the past of his disability). It was truly wonderful watching each story play out and, in many moments converge. Insert nerd guy voice: “Hey, you remember that time Sawyer met Jack’s dad in the bar and his dad made that reference about the Red Sox?” Season 1 was truly the greatest part of Lost’s 6-year running.
The second-best, obviously. The mystery of the hatch ended in forced settlement as the survivors discovered a ticking time-clock (so, to speak) that had to reactivated every 108 minutes to prevent an electromagnetic catastrophe. And there were the “Tailies,” the other half of the plane that blew off and crashed on another part of the island. And then, the best part that in later seasons became the worst part: we got to see more of the mysterious “Others” who, at the end of Season 1 had kidnapped Michael’s son, Walt. And, after that, we would never hear the end of it: WAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLTTT!! But there was always the intrigue: who was this ragged band of kidnappers, what did they want with Claire back in season 1, or anyone else that they snatched away? Then, we got to see one of them, in person: the truly spine-tingling, unforgettable villain known as Ben Linus, or at this point, Henry Gale (spoiler alert: he’s really a bad guy). Season 2 still kept the mystery going from Season 1 and it wasn’t overbearing yet, in spite of the fact that we were still itching for answers.
This is, uhhhh…where it kind of dropped off. The “Others” were fascinating as an elusive gang of kidnappers, but something just didn’t seem so dark and relentless about them now as a bunch of civilized villagers living in a sunny island community complete with houses, gazebos, frolicking children, and the occasional book club. We did, however, meet another of the show’s greatest characters: Juliet. She was Ben’s “assistant,” with a soft spot for Jack, and a precarious mid-season alliance with the survivors of Flight 815. We also saw the unnecessary end of another show favorite: Mr. Eko, one of Lost’s most tragic and spiritual characters, an excellent counterpart to Locke (would have been great to see more back and forth between them). We saw the untimely introduction and not timely enough end of two of Lost’s worst characters (I’m talking about Paulo and Nikki). And the flashbacks became tiring: really, really tiring. Nobody cared to know the story of Jack’s tattoos. Or that Kate married a cop. Or that Desmond was once a monk. We did finally get to see the story of how Locke became crippled (what a shock). We lost another favorite, Charlie Pace, as he gave his life to save the survivors, with a final, cryptic warning to Desmond “Not Penny’s boat.” We got to see the brief, faux introduction of the island’s god, Jacob, who would later become both elusive and prominent at the same time, in the show’s running. Lastly we found out that the final episode’s flashback is really a flash-forward, to a future where some of the survivors have been rescued, are back home, and not quite so comfortable adapting to their new lives (spoiler alert: Jack is bearded, depressed, and hooked on oxycodone tablets). He utters the lingering line that closes an otherwise disappointing season with a note of appeal for the next: “We have to go back!” Indeed, Jack. Back to the better days of Lost.