Lost will undoubtedly go down in pop culture history as one of the best and most frustrating shows on TV. For six years, the show about a group of plane crash survivors stranded on a mysterious island captivated viewers, making it must-see TV. Between its stellar utilization of flashbacks, three-dimensional characters, and more than a few mysteries (The smoke monster! The Whispers! The Hatch!), Lost made for passionate discussions at the office water cooler and arguably wrote the book on how to balance televised mystery and intrigue with quality character work.
Even over a decade after its finale, it’s hard to forget about characters like man of science Jack (Matthew Fox), the faithful John Locke (Terry O’Quinn), the feisty, independent Kate (Evangeline Lilly), or any of the dozens of unique and memorable characters that Lost used to populate its fully realized world. And while it might’ve been frustrating for some viewers that a handful (or two) of the series’ mysteries were never resolved or given the focus they thought they were due, it’s hard to deny that the series succeeded in crafting fully developed characters.
Despite an extremely divisive finale (which just might be the understatement of the decade), Lost cements itself as one of network TV’s best — and insanely bingeable — character dramas. So whether you’re looking to reminiscence about sharing your fan theories with your friends, or embark on a complete series re-watch, here are all 6 seasons of the show, ranked. Just watch out for smoke monsters.
6. Season 6
Season 6’s position on this list might not come as a complete shock to Lost fans. In fact, it’s probably expected. Season 6 is one of the biggest missteps in television history and should be a cautionary tale of how not to end a TV show. In terms of satisfying answers to the series’ many questions and mysteries, it’s not as successful as it could’ve or should’ve been. Fans had been waiting for years to get gratifying answers regarding Jacob, the smoke monster, and the island’s unique properties, and the explanations that were given feel incredibly rushed and incomplete after six seasons of build-up. Season 6 also doesn’t use its time wisely. There are too many new characters introduced (nobody asked for you, Zoe!) and suddenly important island landmarks that we’ve literally never heard of before (the Temple, the Lighthouse) that take time away from the mysteries and core characters we’ve spent six years with. Not to mention that the “flash-sideways” concept feels like time enormously wasted, retreading ground and plot beats from past seasons. Season 6 is just not as satisfying as past seasons in terms of engaging storytelling or answering the show’s lingering questions.
5. Season 3
Season 3 is a case of Lost introducing too many mysteries, balancing too many characters, and doing too many things. There’s plenty of questions to unpack and plot threads to unravel after the implosion of the hatch in the Season 2 finale, but the show’s continuation of its incredibly robust episode count (23!) results in quite a lot of filler. Did we really need the inclusion of the universally despised Nikki and Paulo to take away time and focus from the core cast, or Kate and Sawyer (Josh Holloway) having gratuitous sex inside a locked polar bear cage? On the flip side, Season 3 is also responsible for some of the series’ best storytelling decisions. Not only were we introduced to one of the show’s best and most multi-dimensional characters in Juliet Burke (Elizabeth Mitchell), but we got more insight into the mysterious “Others” and their manipulative leader, Ben Linus (Michael Emerson). The conflicts that arise when the Oceanic 815 survivors clash with the Others invigorates the show with new conflicts that make for juicy storytelling throughout the season, right up to the stellar finale. And if your head didn’t explode at the final bonkers reveal of the flash-forwards (They left the island?!), well…you’re probably a smoke monster then.
4. Season 4
Even with a shortened episode order due to the 2007 Writers Guild strike, Season 4 manages to be a lean and mean rollercoaster ride. It’s fast-paced, plot-focused, and leans hard into the series’ mythology. The addition of the flashforwards after the Season 3 finale gives the season a new flavor by showing what happens to some of the characters after they get off the island. It turns out that getting off the island wasn’t exactly a blessing for everyone, and these glimpses into their lives raise new questions while also further deepening the core characters. Season 4 is a kind of tipping point for much of the show’s plot and characters, and the events that occur in Season 4 directly lead into the show’s endgame in Seasons 5 and 6. Whether in the rising tensions between Ben and Charles Widmore, or the islanders and the freighter’s mercenary team, the stakes are significantly raised with characters put into situations that make you wonder; How the heck are they gonna get out of that? And to Lost‘s credit, sometimes they don’t. There’s more than a few bold moves here, and the risk absolutely pays dividends. Plus, it gets bonus points for leaning into the show’s time travel elements and featuring some of the series’ best episodes in “The Constant” and “The Shape of Things to Come.”
3. Season 5
Another shortened season ends up working in the show’s favor. There’s no time for filler, and each episode feels purposeful and propels the plot in an engaging way. The continued storyline of the “Oceanic 6” from Season 4 makes for compelling drama as the characters who got off the island are forced to lie about what they went through. The flashbacks are character-driven while also answering fans’ questions regarding what happened after Jack, Kate and the rest of the survivors left the island. In terms of the series’ mysteries and mythology, Season 5 is the most unabashedly sci-fi, especially with its focus on the show’s time travel elements. It’s a storytelling decision that leads to high stakes and edge-of-your-seat plot developments, especially when it relates to the interconnectedness of characters like Ben, Eloise Hawking, Daniel Faraday, and Danielle Rousseau. Plus, the focus on the island and the Dharma Initiative in 1977 is just plain fun. Season 5’s dedication to its sci-fi elements and propulsive storytelling (not to mention that whopper of a finale cliffhanger in “The Incident”) makes it one of Lost‘s best seasons.
2. Season 2
Season 2 does a great job at diving head-first into the mysteries of Hatch. If Season 1 was about leading up to the cliffhanger of “What’s in the Hatch?” Season 2 is about paying it off. And it does so spectacularly. The introduction of the Dharma Initiative and deeper focus on the Others widens the scope of the show and provides new and exciting plot threads to unravel, especially the importance of the Numbers and their involvement in the crash of Oceanic 815. Season 2 also sees the introduction of several new characters, especially the Hatch-dwelling Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick) and Dharma Initiative employee Dr. Pierre Chang (Francois Chau), that breathe new life into the series. It’s also a lot of fun that the show continues to play with clever flashbacks about how many of the characters intersect with each other pre-crash. Despite some missteps like focusing too much time on characters and plot threads like Mr. Eko and his plane full of heroin, Season 2 effectively keeps the characters and plot fresh and exciting.
1. Season 1
It’s the season that started it all and had people buzzing around the water coolers the day after a new episode aired. How could it not be the best? Season 1 is largely successful due to the time it spends devoted to crafting fully realized characters, compelling mysteries (What are the whispers?! What’s in the Hatch?!), and heightened plot stakes. Lost learned early on that if its audience can be made to care about the show’s characters — and if they’re grounded in real stakes and emotion — they’ll be more willing to accept the show’s sci-fi elements and mysteries. The characters’ flashbacks off-island are utilized to perfection to inform their current predicaments and makes the season both narratively juicy and insanely bingeable. Despite having some filler here and there from its long inaugural season of 25 episodes, Season 1 gets plenty of credit for kicking off one of the best, influential, and emotional network dramas of all time.
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