On September 22nd, 2001, ABC premiered the first half of a two-hour long series premiere for a high-concept, serialized non-linear television show that would not only garner massive ratings, but spark new obsessions for millions of viewers. Lost was nothing short of a game-changer. Week after week, audiences tuned to watch the exploits of the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815, which crashed on a mysterious island populated with polar bears, immortals, smoke monsters, and lots of love triangles. The show was mysterious, soapy, scary, and best of all well-acted and produced. Lost became the template for prime time serialized dramas, spawning tons of knock-offs and imitators (and even a few other great shows: Fringe, anyone?).
While the rating did dip in subsequent episodes and leveled off after the show started spinning its wheels in the middle of season three, the fanbase for Lost never lost a drop of veracity when discussing the events of each new episode the next day around water coolers across North America. Theories about what was really going on in the show populated slews of blogs and pop culture websites across the Internet. The only thing that was more omnipresent than think pieces about Lost, were the memes.
15 HAVE YOU SEEN MY GUN?
There’s an old Lostie saying that goes: “Guns don’t kill people; Michael kills peoples!” One of the biggest and earliest shockers in Lost happens at the end of season two, during which Michael Dawson (played by the always amazing Harold Perrineau) guns down two crash survivors and frees Ben in exchange for his who was captured in the previous season.
The scene is nuts and feels almost out of left field. And while the relationship between Michael and his son, Walt, was tumultuous at best in the previous season, the audience understood Michael’s desperation to get his son back. We just wish his methods were less…um, bloody. Michael would, however, pay for his transgressions. After getting his son back and escaping The Island things somehow got worse for him. Karma sucks, man.
14 SLIM DOWN
One of the laziest and most obvious jokes people made about Lost was the fact that there was heavy-set man on the island who didn’t lose a single pound despite there being a limited food supply and that this character was forced to walk around everywhere. Fans of the show know that Hurley actually addressed this.
In a episodes from season one, Charlie approaches/kind of accuses Hurley about hoarding food. Hurley snaps back and tells Charlie: "I'm down a notch in my belt. I'm a big guy. It's gonna be awhile before you want to give me a piggyback ride" In later seasons, Hurley’s lack of weight loss would be explained by the massive DHARMA Initiative food drops the survivors found all around the island.
13 THE HATCH
Arguably the most complex and fascinating character in Lost is John Locke, the former paraplegic man who regained the ability to walk after landing on The Island. John became a man of faith and he found this renewed sense of belief through the miracles of his surroundings, be them malicious, mysterious, or something different all together.
When Locke found The Hatch during the first season, his determination and faith never waned. He obsessed of what was in The Hatch and knew in his heart of hearts that whatever was in it was special and meant to be found. Even when it seemed all hope was lost and that maybe there were no answers, a light came on from within The Hatch. This was enough to convince Locke to blow it open. So, you know, faith in explosives.
12 UGLY CRY
If you were to play Lost Bingo, the free space should simply read “Jack Cries.” Matthew Fox must either have a bottle of Visine at the ready or is just amazing at squirting tears on command. Either way, Jack is a character who isn’t afraid to express his emotions in red-faced, snotty, sob sessions.
And while Matthew Fox is somewhat of a heartthrob, Jack sure has an ugly crying face. Couple that with the fact that he hasn’t bathed in weeks and probably smells about as good as one could expect, Jack probably gets knocked down a peg or two on the attractiveness scale. Maybe that’s why Kate got with Sawyer. Sure, he was greasy and probably just as smelly (more so, actually), his tears were not accompanied by the above face.
11 LOVE HURTS
Sayid Jarrah was instantly a fan favorite when he appeared in the pilot episode of Lost. His cool demeanor and tortured helped create a certain mystique around him. But when the latter aspect came to light more and more, Sayid’s cool as a cucumber charm cracked and the damaged man hiding behind a mask of steely calm showed his scars.
It’s this sort of vulnerability that makes characters relatable. When we see past trauma haunt a hero, it takes them down to our level. It makes us say, “hey, that could be me.” But when we see our heroes go through new trauma, we say, “hey, I’m glad that isn’t me.” This is especially relevant when a character loses their significant other, a trauma no one should have to endure. Sadly, Sayid suffers this on more than one occasion.
10 THE SMOKE GOT MR. EKO
While this is a mashup between the fate of Mr. Eko and the Sweet Brown “No Time for Bronchitis” news report meme, this scene is somewhat iconic for Losties. We first meet Mr. Eko in season two, during which he is revealed to be a survivor of Oceanic Flight 815 who survived in the tail of the plane. Mr. Eko would later have some of the most fascinating character-centric episodes and become one of the most interesting characters on the show.
Sadly, actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who portrayed Eko, asked to be written out of the show after the second season. And while his final confrontation with the Smoke Monster is absolutely thrilling and is quite cathartic, we wish he could have stuck around a little longer.
9 BRIGHT EYES
Boy, is Ben Linus’ dead-eyed stare creepy as all get-out. We’re pretty sure the character is part gecko or something. No one should be able to hold an unblinking gaze for as long as he does. It’s just…unnatural. We can’t imagine the strain this character tic must have put on actor Michael Emerson’s eyes. That’s dedication.
Despite this being such an unsettling character trait, it really is intrinsic to Ben. The fact that his eyes are wide open all the time gives him an owl-like quality. And while some think of owls as wise creatures, they are also seen as harbingers of death. Both characteristic sort of sum up Ben Linus. He knows quite a bit about The Island and the working of DHARMA, but he’s also volatile and will kill if it means protecting himself and the ones he loves.
8 YOU ALL EVERYBODY
For most of season three, Lost was running on fumes. There were massive breaks and episodes focusing on character we just didn’t care about. But in the final few episodes, things kicked into high gear. We got our first “flash forward,” which was mind-blowing at the time; we got a sense of a larger world; and most of all, we got our heart broken for the first time.
Charlie Pace, played by Dominic Monaghan (The Lord of The Rings), was loved by pretty much everyone. If you’ve never seen Lost, think of him on the same level as Glen from The Walking Dead. He was the guy we all rooted for despite the fact he made some bad decisions. Charlie’s final sacrifice in the season three finale was both gut-wrenching and poetic. Charlie did the right thing. And we loved him even more for it.
7 ROMANCING THE CAGE
Season three of Lost started pretty strong and ended strong, but that doesn’t mean it has some bizarre character arcs. One of these has been often referred to as “Romancing the Cage,” which is also the name of the musical piece that accompanies many scenes in the arc we’re about to talk about.
Kate and Sawyer are kidnapped by The Others and find themselves locked up in bear cages. While most people would think of ways to escape such a dire situation, these two have other ideas. Now, it’s easy to chalk Kate and Sawyer’s stinky cage romance up to animalistic impulses coupled with a “love in the fox hole” mentality. Again, Lost was soapy as could be when it wanted to be. Luckily, by the end of the season, a lot of the day-time soap opera tropes were expunged. Not all, but most.
6 DEAD AND GONE
Ah, poor Nikki and Paulo. You know, we’d almost feel bad for what happens to these two in season three if they weren’t so horribly annoying. The characters were so terrible that co-creator and showrunner, Damon Lindelof acknowledged the couple were “universally despised” by fans in an issue of Entertainment Weekly.
These two popped up in the third episode of season three and were swiftly killed in a bottle episode later in the season when they are both bitten by spiders with magic paralyzing venom, and are accidentally buried alive by Hurley. That last bit is really the icing on the dog turd for these characters. They, by accident, turn Hurley, one of the kindest characters in the series, into a killer even if it’s not at his own volition.
5 EVERYTHING ENDS
All good things come to an end. And while Lost ran over one hundred episodes that featured dozens of characters with unique story arcs and tons of twists and turns and a deep mythology, sometimes it feels like it’s just not enough. The mysteries of Lost were so much fun to try to unravel. And even if they didn’t have a concrete answer a lot of the time, their interpretations were just as fascinating and enjoyable to debate over.
Very few shows since Lost have been able to craft such a unique blend of drama, horror, mystery, and mythology quite the same. Perhaps HBO’s The Leftovers (also co-created by Damon Lindelof) is the closest thing we have gotten since the Lost finale aired back in 2010.
4 PUNCHING BAG
There are a few super cuts of Ben Linus getting punched on YouTube. These clips run between a minute and a half to three minutes. And while that may not sound like a lot of screen time over the course of the five seasons Ben was on Lost, it’s an eternity when it’s spent getting clocked in the face.
Maybe it’s his wide eyes or his monotone voice, but Ben Linus is a fist magnet. The number of characters who have punched him since he first appeared in season two might be larger than the number of characters who haven’t. Even Hurley, sweet lovable Hurley, attempts to harm Ben (if throwing a burrito at someone is an attempt to harm, that is). Perhaps Ben just brings out the worst in people.
Remember how we said the whole “Romancing the Cage” arc was kind of silly and soapy? Well, we didn’t tell you the best part. In the bear cages that Kate and Sawyer find themselves trapped in, there is a puzzle that when solved, dispenses a fish biscuit. And no, not like a crab cake. This thing is basically a giant dog biscuit.
Look, we get that the fish biscuits were utilized for comedic effect, but all we could think about is how bad those stale things must have made your breath stink. Watching Kate and Sawyer make out after chomping on those things was upsetting. Maybe they work like those dog biscuits that double as a dental hygiene product for your pooch. Probably not. But maybe, right?
2 HE'S OUR YOU
Before crash-landing on The Island, Sayid was a Communications Officer in the Iraqi Republican Guard. This sounds like a pretty innocuous job title until you realize that most of the communication Sayid was getting was from the people he was torturing information out of. What’s even more disturbing is that Sayid was good at his job. Like, really good.
After his commanding officers forced him to interrogate the woman he loved, Nadia, Sayid swore to never torture another human being again. This promise lasted all of eight episodes when Sayid tortures Sawyer by sticking bamboo chutes under his fingernails. Honestly, there was very little arm-twisting to get Sayid to adopt his old interrogation tactics again. Maybe is Sawyer wasn’t such a jerk to him, there might have been more reservation.
1 NEVER LOST
Stories are often not about the destination; they’re about the adventure. And adventure is one thing Lost never lacked, even if it was a little light in the answers department. Some fans have argued that the finale of Lost was disappointing and didn’t give them the send off they were expecting. But we think that’s what so great about it.
The ending to Lost is open for interpretation. Depending on your personal background, you can see the finale as something firmly built upon faith and spirituality. You can also interpret what happened on a more metaphysical level by considering all the rules and parameters six seasons have been building, that the ending we got had its feet firmly planted in fringe science, which, let’s be honest, it did. So take that, condescending meme!