Given that we have no ability to change the fact that we’re in the middle of a lengthy hiatus from Lost due to the effects of the writers’ strike, maybe it’s best we embrace it. You know, take lemons and make Dharma lemonade. Take the ill effects from traveling through an electromagnetic anomaly and find one’s constant. That sorta thing.
I’ve already taken this break to establish a longer-term project here on the blog: week-long looks at important topics raised within the season so far. Make sure to read up on my endeavor and vote for the topics you’d like to see discussed during this informed interim. I’ll tally up the votes at the end of the week and start dropping those the way unseen forces drop pallets of food on the Island.
In the meantime, I have a short-term project, one that spans two days to be exact. We’ve seen eight of the thirteen episodes that compose Season 4, and I thought it would be an interesting exercise to try and rank these episodes from worst to best. After all, it’s not like we have a whole lot else to do, correct?
Today I’ll list my least four favorite episodes, from "worst" to "bleh" to "meh." Now, these rankings all come with a curve, and that curve is the quality of show that Lost has consistently put out over every episode. That’s an important thing to remember, especially in terms of the final score I’ve assigned each episode below. I’m not judging the quality of any particular episode against any other form of popular entertainment outside those already-aired episodes of television.
Anywho, I just wanted to lay that all out before someone yells at me for ranking an episode of Lost in the same way I might rank an episode of The Big Bang Theory. It’s just not my intent. And in terms of my personal Top 8…obviously, that’s insanely subjective as well. But that’s why they pay me the big bucks here, and by big bucks I mean "not big bucks": to put my neck out on the line with insanely subjective responses that inflame the masses.
With that all said, on to today’s list. My recap to each episode is handily provided at the beginning of each for historical reference. What follows are my thoughts having seen the eight as a whole, with time to dwell on each, seen their ramifications downstream, and rearrange their worth as parts of the incomplete puzzle that is Season 4.
The good. Miles’ grenade sandwich. Jack’s mythologically rich testimony. The unknown whereabouts of Claire. The large figure of money Miles requests.
The bad. The worst criminal proceedings ever seen on television. Kate’s continuing schizophrenia when it comes to Sawyer’s affections. The complete inertia of beach activities. Did I mention the ridiculous trial?
The ranking. Not only the worst episode of this season, but up there with one of the worst episodes in Lost history. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the same people who wrote this episode also wrote "Stranger in a Strange Land," my all-time least favorite episode of Lost. The very fact that the episode’s primary twist (Aaron is Kate’s son as well as one of the Oceanic 6) was also only half-successful shows how ineffective this episode truly was. I think Miles’ blackmail will reap huge narrative rewards down the stretch, and Claire’s future absence is a compelling mystery, but these do not save the episode from the bottom of the barrel.
Final Score: 3.5/10.
#7) The Economist
The good. Faraday’s rocket. Ben’s secret room. Murder on the back nine. Sayid’s future boss.
The bad. Every future element leading up to the twist. The awfully convenient way in which Sayid retrieves Charlotte.
The ranking. This is an episode that is largely saved by the truly shocking ending and Faraday’s experiment. Sayid’s flash forward largely just sits there after the excellent golf-course sequence, with Ben’s appearance having the initial effect of making everything beforehand seem more important than in truly was. This, coupled with the season premiere, established major, deadly stakes for the show post-Island, but could have achieved that with a much better episode.
Final Score: 5.5/10
The good. The return of Jacob (and Christian!). Jack pulling the trigger. Abaddon. "I think it wants us to go back!" The establishment of the Oceanic 6.
The bad. The way-too-rapid split between Team Locke and Team Shephard. Naomi’s hamfisted death scene.
The ranking. Given how gang-busters I went over this episode initially, you might be surprised to see how low this is ranked. But honestly, that’s much more to do with the overall quality of episodes since it initially aired. The character of Matthew Abaddon gave a face to the danger the Oceanic 6, forced to lie for reasons still unknown about how they left the Island. And Papa Shephard’s appearance sent mythology freaks like me into a tailspin from which we’ve only now started to recover. But as with most season premieres in the Lost universe, it answered nearly no questions while opening up a few hundred. Look back and see how many of the questions in this episode have since been answered. Exactly. That’s my point.
Final score: 6.5/10.
The good. The logical explanation for Michael’s existence on the boat. Mama Exposition. Mr. Friendly returns! The other possible reason for the faked wreck. The Island’s power keeps Michael alive. The scene between Ben, Danielle, Alex, and Karl, palpably brimming with subtext. No new "WAAAAAAAALT!" screams.
The bad. Sayid’s betrayal of Michael is understandable but out of character. The creepy way in which Lost decided to CGI Season 1 Walt’s face onto that kid in the window.
The ranking. I’m choosing to look at this episode not as the last episode in this particular block so much as merely the midpoint of Season 4, as originally intended. As such, the cliffhanger’s lack of oomph doesn’t bother me so much. Overall, a strong episode that wisely chose to ignore more fantastical explanations for Michael’s appearance on the boat in favor of one that rings emotionally true. The notion that the Island can keep people alive who still have "work to do" completely fascinates me and I can’t wait to see where it goes. And even though I can’t understand why Sayid was so quick to sell Michael out to Gault (cold, Sayid, cold), the show’s never truly figured out how to make the majority of us emotionally invest in Michael. A few might pity him, but most of us keep an emotional arm’s distance from this character, which makes his flashback compelling from a narrative perspective, but only from that perspective. Michael’s character may yet be redeemed, but not just yet.
Final score: 7.0/10.
With that all said, leave your personal rankings below, ranging from #8 to #5. Feel free to simply list the episodes, or provide backup if you want. Come back tomorrow for my own Final Four. And make sure to email me questions/comments for this week’s Letters from The Flame, or leave your thoughts below with a big ol’ WAAAAAAAALT! at the top.
Ryan also posts every 108 minutes over at Boob Tube Dude.