Lost’s 5 Greatest Season Openings and 5 Wildest Ending Cliffhangers (So Far)

Lost Season 6 Poster.jpg

The final season of Lost begins tonight. Will all the mysteries raised during the hit ABC show’s run be answered? Probably not. Will we even like the answers we get? That’s even less likely. But we’ll be watching every minute of every episode, because Lost‘s wonderful, frustrating storytelling has had us hooked from the first polar bear.

A big part of that storytelling is that Lost ends every season with a cliffhanger so maddeningly suspenseful that fans both love the writers and want to slay them. But just as importantly, after leaving viewers hanging for the better part of a year, the writers of Lost know how to top themselves, and create opening scenes for each new season with twists no one sees coming, and which set up Lost‘s story in a whole new way.

Every season opening and closing of Lost has been top notch, but some have been more effective than others. As we prepare for the last season to begin tonight, we’re going to flashback and rank all of Lost‘s season cliffhangers and intros… so far. We have a hunch tonight’s beginning — not to mention this final season’s finale — will be pretty darned good too.


5) “The Beginning of the End,” Season 4

Season 4’s opening scene was action-packed, but lacked the big reveal or sense of newness contained in the other season openers. We had already learned in the Season 3 finale that the show would be flashing forward to a future time in which some of the Flight 815 survivors had escaped the Island. Season 4 just continued that idea, showing Jack having spiked orange juice for breakfast as he watched TV news coverage of police chasing a red and white 1970s Camaro down an L.A. highway. The exciting car chase ends with a crash, and the driver is surprisingly revealed to be Hurley, who isn’t exactly known for being on the LAPD’s Most Wanted list. As they arrest him, he starts yelling like a madman that he’s one of the “Oceanic 6.” An intriguing beginning and good start to Season 4’s Oceanic 6 storyline, but it felt more  like the beginning of a mid-season episode.

4) “Because You Left,” Season 5

Season 4 ended with the spectacle of the Island moving as the Oceanic 6 (plus some) escaped and the warning that bad things would happen to those left behind. Viewers, however, were left with no indication about what exactly was going to happen on the Island once it moved. The answer proved to be pretty surprising, at least to people who don’t read all the latest spoilers online. Like Seasons 2 and 3, it began with a person we don’t know (although we really did in this case; his face just wasn’t shown immediately) waking up in the morning and going about his daily routine. In this case, the alarm clock goes off at 8:15 (the number of our main characters’ perilous flight) and we see a man feed his infant son while playing a record of “Shotgun Willie” by Willie Nelson, which begins to skip. As the season went on, we would learn the identity of the baby and the significance of a record skipping. The man heads off to work, which turns out to be among the bright yellow houses that we recognize as the homes of the Dharma Initiative and later the Others. The man is revealed to be scientist Pierre Chang, aka Marvin Candle and many other names, who we’ve seen throughout the years on many old educational Dharma film reels. As he begins to record one of his famous videos, a workman bursts in and says there’ a problem down at the Orchid, which has been shown in the past to be the site of time travel experiments and hides the Island-moving Frozen Donkey Wheel. Dr. Chang rushes to the Orchid and, in a really corny and forced speech, warns the construction workers there to stop drilling there or they might unleash energy that could manipulate time and “God help us all” if it gets released! While this clearly takes place in the 1970s, our current day quirky Island physicist Daniel Faraday anachronistically strolls down into the Orchid and glares like the Dramatic Prairie Dog at the wall that’s being drilled into. At this point, it was official — Lost had fully displayed its sci-fi trappings, something that had been suppressed in early years lest they scare away the general viewing public.

3) “Pilot,” Season 1

The writers of Lost have proven during the course of the last five years that they know how to drive their audience crazy with non-stop mysteries. For every question that is answered, eight more pop up. It’s hard to believe everything will be resolved in the final 18 episodes (and it probably won’t, aside from the major mysteries). Right from its very first scene in the pilot episode, Lost ensnared the audience’s attention with non-stop questions and suspense. Who was this man waking up in a disheveled suit in the middle of the jungle? How did he get there? What’s with the dog? Okay, he’s got one of those small liquor bottles that they serve on airline flights… He’s running madly through the jungle. Whose tennis shoe is that ominously hanging from a branch? Hmm, he’s at the beach. Why is it so quiet (aside from the creepy music)? Oh wait, there’s a plane crash! Jack, our new hero, had come to in a grove of bamboo and then ran into the fray to help the crash victims in what may be the most intense first eight minutes of a TV show ever. Thanks to masterful directing by J.J. Abrams, the viewing public was hooked.

2) “A Tale of Two Cities,” Season 3

Like Season 2, Season 3 of Lost began effectively in the cozy home of a character we had never seen before as they went about their chores and played a catchy tune on their stereo. In this case, it was Juliet playing a CD of “Downtown” by Petula Clark (which almost made her burst into tears before forcing a smile in front of a mirror) while she burned muffins in the oven and prepared her living room for a monthly meeting of the local book club. Just when you were about to change the channel because you thought you had accidentally put on Desperate Housewives, the house is shaken to its foundations. Juliet and the rest of the book club run outside and witness a certain airplane we’re very familiar with breaking up in the sky. Ben, who was known to the audience at this point as Henry Gale, the leader of the mysterious Others, appears and order two more familiar faces– Ethan and Goodwin — to infiltrate the communities of survivors. What was shocking as this point wasn’t just seeing the day of the crash from the perspective of the Others; it was the revelation that the Others were actually suburban folk living in well-manicured houses stuck incongruously in the middle of the Island’s jungle. Up until this moment, the show had mostly presented them as grungy, almost supernatural forest people. It can be argued that the premise actually changed from the original intent, but it was a cool reveal, nonetheless.

1) “Man of Science, Man of Faith,” Season 2

Season 1 of Lost ended with a maddening finale. After the Flight 815 survivors finally dynamited the lid off the mysterious hatch they’d found on the jungle floor, Locke and Jack had gazed down to see… a long, long tunnel and a broken ladder — CUT TO THE LOST LOGO. After a grueling four month wait, viewers turned into the premiere of Season 2, desperately needing to know what was down that god-damned hatch! And in the first scene, it didn’t look like they were going to get it. Instead, they bore witness to a puzzling sequence in which an unknown character woke up in what appeared to be his New York City loft apartment, put on a record, made his breakfast, washed his clothes, worked out, showered and injected what looked like insulin, all set perfectly and surreally to “Make Your Own Kind of Music” by Mama Cass. Then suddenly, an explosion from above jostled the record player and sent a plume of dust down from the ceiling. Instantly, the viewer’s mind connected with the last explosion they had heard on the show — and then had that very same mind blown when the man threw on a jumpsuit, grabbed a rifle and peered into a spyglass that used a series of mirrors to look up a familiar long tunnel and reveal none other than Jack and Locke looking down! Although we didn’t know it for the first couple of minutes, the answer to Season 1’s biggest mystery had been given to us immediately in Season 2.

Lost’s most mind-blowing season-ending cliffhangers are ranked on the next page.



5) “Live Together, Die Alone,” Season 2

Compared to the major cliffhanger of Season 1, the end of Season 2 was somewhat anti-climatic, and maybe that was intentional after so many viewers had been tempted to throw a chair through their televisions the previous year. Locke, having a crisis of faith, finally let the ominous timer in the Hatch count all the way down, resulting in an explosion/implosion that filled the sky with a purple glow. Locke, Mr. Eko, Desmond and Charlie all survive this despite being at ground zero, although how they did has never been explained. Meanwhile, Jack, Kate and Sawyer were captured by the suddenly not very threatening Others, whose leader Henry Gale (Ben) explained to Michael were the “good guys.” Michael, his character sabotaged beyond repair by having murdered two innocent women for weak reasons, left the Island with his son Walt, who the Others decided anticlimactically that they no longer wanted, despite going out of their way to kidnap him at the end of Season 1. The destruction of the Hatch created an electromagnetic wave that alerted Desmond’s girlfriend Penny somehow that Desmond was still alive, which at least proved that the Island was on Planet Earth and not Hell or an alien world, or something. We did get a glimpse of the four-toed foot statue, which went unmentioned again and tantalized viewers until finally coming back in a big way in Season 5.

4) “There’s No Place Like Home,” Season 4

The Oceanic 6 finally escaped from the Island, flying away on a helicopter just in time to witness the craziest moment of the whole series. Ben turned the Frozen Donkey Wheel and moved the Island, literally, as it just blipped out of existence. Reaction to this idea was mixed. On one hand, it was a cool as hell surprise that no one ever imagined could happen, and where the Island went and what that meant was anybody’s guess. On the other hand, Lost has jumped headlong into full-on fantasy, threatening to overwhelm its often excellent characterization with sci-fi deus ex machina. Thankfully, the spectacle was soon followed by a great human moment, when Sawyer whispered a request to Kate and leapt out of the helicopter in a (mostly) selfless act so the fuel-deprived helicopter could get further with less weight.

The last scene of the Season 4 finale returned to the misguided adventures of Bearded Jack, who went back to the funeral parlor he first visited in the previous season’s finale and was confronted unexpectedly by Ben, who encouraged the plan of returning to the Island. Jack explained that the person in the coffin had told him all kinds of bad things had happened on the Island and would happen to others, and it was all Jack’s fault. The now deceased person had also told him that Ben was off the Island. In the dramatic, long-awaited reveal, the body in the coffin was shown to be Locke, who had apparently been dead since Season 3. The only problem with this storyline, in retrospect after the Season 5 episode “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham,” is that Locke never told Jack anything of the sort. He told Jack they had to go back and suggested there was some danger, but mentioned nothing about it being Jack’s fault, or there being danger to Kate and Aaron, or of Ben being off the Island, or of any horrible events that transpired after Jack left. In short, little of what Locke did say seemed enough to drive Jack to suicide, except maybe mentioning that his father was still alive. Maybe Locke visited Jack again, but it doesn’t seem like it, and at this point it’s a gaping plot hole, or perhaps just an example of the compressed storytelling that has been needed to resolve Lost in six seasons.

3) “The Incident,” Season 5

The Season 5 finale as a whole changed the landscape of Lost. It began by introducing us formally to the infamous Jacob and his nemesis, who seemed to have been playing games with specimen groups of humanity that Jacob has brought to the Island throughout the centuries; Jacob expressed his hope in people, while his nemesis was a cynic and vowed to find a way to kill Jacob. Jacob then appeared on the mainland throughout the years, touching some of Lost‘s key players and nudging them down a path that would take them straight to Craphole Island. The real shocker came near the end of the episode when the recently revived Locke turned out to Jacob’s nemesis in disguise, who finally found his loophole and convinced Ben to kill Jacob. The real Locke, who had pathetically been manipulated the whole time into thinking he was something great, was still the corpse he had been since the end of Season 3.

Meanwhile, our intrepid band of heroes — Jack, Kate, Juliet, Sawyer, etc. — who were stuck in the 1970s decided the best thing to do would be to throw a bomb into the Island’s electromagnetic anomaly, blowing everything sky-high and resetting the timeline to avoid all the misery they had experienced. They only succeeded in this after poor Juliet, sucked down into the pit containing the anomaly, set off the failed bomb with a rock, causing everything to go white and leaving us with perhaps the biggest cliffhanger of the whole series. Just about anything could happen next. The only thing that marred this ending was the contrived way in which the characters decided to set off the bomb. They flipped back and forth adamantly on what to do in the course of minutes, and the deciding factor came down to who was in love with whom and wanted another chance or wanted to forget failed romance, like this was the cast of Saved By the Bell deciding whether to wipe out the past by blowing up Bayside High. Very poorly done, and it distanced us from the excitement of the finale a bit, reminding us for one of the few times that Lost is just a TV show and not an all-encompassing religious experience. Hopefully we won’t see character sacrificed to plot like this again in Season 6. No doubt, though, that the creators of Lost saved the most explosive cliffhanger for the end.

2) “Exodus,” Season 1

While the Season 1 finale is one of the best, it is also one of the most frustrating. The survivors’ life raft gets destroyed by the Others, who leave Michael, Sawyer and Jin adrift in the water and kidnap Walt. While this was the lesser of the two cliffhangers in the Season 1 finale, it’s frustrating because the subplot has never really been resolved. We know the Others wanted Walt because he was “special,” but we never discovered exactly what that meant or why Walt was special. Seemingly due to actor Malcolm David Kelley growing up noticeably between seasons on a show that took four years to depict 100 days, Walt and his father Michael were mostly written out of the show. It’s really unfortunate that Walt didn’t get to play a bigger part in the show. Showrunner Damon Lindelof recently suggested in a USA Today interview that we may not even see Walt in Season 6, although we may get an answer regarding his specialness.

On the other hand, we certainly got an answer to what was down in the uber-mysterious Hatch, and right in the first scene of Season 2, as a matter of fact. However, this cliffhanger really left fans guessing about what could be down that dark shaft, all of which we saw (from the viewpoint of a bewildered Jack and Locke) was a broken ladder. It was the simplest of mysteries (What’s in the box?), yet almost cruel because after such a long build-up during the season, viewers were given no pay-off and had to wait a long four months for an answer.

1) “Through the Looking Glass,” Season 3

Before we even got to end of the Season 3 finale, the story had us reeling with the heroic drowning death of almost-rock god Charlie Pace as he struggled to cut off the jamming signal maintained by the Others at their SMERSH-like underwater base and get a message out to the outside world. In doing so, he was able to provide the ominous warning that the boat on its way did not belong to Desmond’s star-crossed love Penny, and believed he was helping to fulfill Desmond’s vision of Charlie’s Island love Claire and her baby Aaron escaping to safety on a helicopter. Okay, so the boat turned out to be Charles Widmore’s freighter, containing a mercenary crew that killed a lot of people on the Island in spite of Charlie’s warning. And while Aaron did indeed escape on a helicopter, Claire did not, but hey, there’s still Season 6. And yea, nitpickers have pointed out the room Charlie drowned in would not have actually filled up with water due to the air pressure, but let’s just ignore all that and appreciate the nobility of his apparently pointless sacrifice, okay?

But it was this episode’s flashback that was the real shocker, what the writers would dub “the Snake in the Mailbox.” We got to see Jack having a rough time, drinking like a fish, having his career fall apart to a prescription drug addiction and growing a really unfashionable beard. The death of someone he knows affects him so much that he almost commits suicide. At the episode’s end he makes a phone call and convinces someone to meet him at night outside an airport. A car pulls up and out walks… Kate? WTF?! Everything we knew about the show was immediately upended, for it turned out that this was not a flashback but a new storytelling device called a FLASHFORWARD. It showed quite early in the series that some of the Flight 815 survivors made it off the Island, which most viewers assumed might happen at the end of the series, not the middle. And Jack, who had victoriously gotten a call through to a boat a little earlier during the present time narrative, now considered this a mistake, turning into a human mess and pleading with Kate to go back. There have been some great season finales on Lost, but this ending came completely out of left field and changed the course of the series, ensuring the audience would tune it at the start of the next season to see how in the world Jack and Kate got to that point. Things obviously hadn’t gone as planned, but do they ever on Lost?