Top 5 Best Episode Endings

For the purposes of this Top 5 I am deliberately omitting Season Finale episode endings. From the Listening Station to Jack and Kate at the Flashforward airport, there have been some killer endings to seasons. But here I’m concerned with those knockout kiss-offs Lost has delivered during regular episodes. Those endings that prompt a jaw-to-floor interface. The ones that, when that Lost title pops up on the screen, your brain does a somersault whilst you howl in shock or disbelief. These are my Top 5, in chronological order, and I can tell you getting this list down to just 5 was not easy. . .

Episode 1.10 – Raised By Another

There was always something a bit shifty about Ethan when he cropped up early during Season One. A few little scenes with him here and there, hunting with Locke or talking with Hurley, gave him an air of not-quite-right. But it was only at the end of this episode did that suspicion explode into full-blown OH MY GOD revelation.

The set-up was so sweet. Claire had gone into labour and Ethan had been sent to go off and get Jack. Charlie was with her but, really, at that time, we as an audience wanted Jack there. The hero. He’ll make sure she’s all right. He’ll deliver this baby safely. And then we go to a scene with Jack, where a breathless Hurley comes running in with urgent news. There’s a problem, he is saying. There’s a problem with the manifest. . .


Someone was in their group that was not on the plane. That's a massive revelation right there. For the first time confirmation that this strange Island has people on it already! Holy FUCK! And, sure, we know who it is before anyone else does, of course. It’s that sneaky Ethan guy! And we can bet that he hasn’t gone to Jack at all. And that means Claire and Charlie are alone, and vulnerable, but they’re making their way to camp now. . . Maybe they’ll make it. . . Maybe they’ll be all right. . .

And then Ethan stands before them. “Hello there,” he says. And he’s got a total sinister vibe going on. A creepy ogling gaze fixated on Claire. And it’s as he’s standing there do you realise how big and intimidating he looks, and how small and pathetic Charlie and Claire look against him. And yeah, OH MY GOD, things are definitely not good. And pow! That’s where the episode ends. Anyone fancy tuning in next week to see what happens? You bet your fucking ass we do!

Episode 1.19 – Deus Ex Machina

You have to transport yourself back to the time when you didn't know what was in 'the hatch'. You can remember those days. We used to guess and speculate and wonder about what could be contained within. The need to know was palpable. The possibilities limitless. Back then, we were thankful that good old Locke was on the case, trying to work out how to open the hatch so he could see what it was all about.

Locke had a vision. The vision lead him to a drug plane. Boone got in the plane and was fatally injured. Locke delivered Boone to Jack at the caves and then, desperate, despairing, returned to his obsession: the hatch he cannot open. He pounded against the metal (really it's more a bit of a dull thump and should no way have sounded as loud as it did for Desmond later on. . . But hey, I'm moving away from that glorious time when we didn't know what was in 'the hatch'!). And then something amazing happened.

Locke is stopped, transfixed. He sees it as a sign, an affirmation of his faith being tested which renews his will to continue despite all obstacles. Me, I didn't see it like that. What I saw was a ‘HOLY SHIT WHAT IS IN THERE?' moment. If the definition of a good end to an episode is one that leaves you desperate beyond shame to need to know what happens next then this moment - just a simple light appearing from within 'the hatch' - is a stormer.

And yeah, sure, later on down the line when we know what created the light and the circumstances that surround it a lot of the magic of this moment gets washed down the plughole. This is why you have to cast your mind back to the days before you knew, see? Those happy, innocent times. . .

Episode 2.20 – Two For The Road

This ending manages to pack in three successive surprises that are good enough bombshells to have been delivered individually - packing them all in one after the other made for one hell of a climax. What you probably didn't notice, watching first time, was how well executed this scene was to deliver maximum impact. The whole thing plays out uninterrupted. There's no music. Anything that can distract you or remind you that, hey, this is just a television programme is stripped away to concentrate on character and drama. As stated, you probably didn't notice all this when you were watching, but trust me: it's what made the scene work so well.

The first of the of the surprises, then, is a slow build, as Ana Lucia's character reaches a moral maturity; she finds she is no longer capable of revenge-killing and thus has found a form of 'salvation’. Unfortunately, her mercy is her weakness and it costs. She hands Michael the gun to do her will for her, only it is turned against her. The moment Michael apologises, we know what's coming about a second before Ana Lucia finds out. Bang! Ana Lucia is shot in the gut and is dead almost immediately.

A gasp reveals Libby has witnessed the whole event and if it's a shock to the audience it's a bigger shock to Michael who, startled, accidentally pumps a couple of bullets into her. She drops down (leaving us with the sneaking suspicion she might survive - a surprise left over for the next episode). Two main cast members down, Michael then opens the door and confronts the man we know at this stage only as Henry Gale. No words are exchanged. They look at one another. Then Michael points the gun at himself and pulls the trigger, and before our eyes can react to what we saw the screen is black and the episode is over. . .

It's perhaps only at this moment do you notice you haven't taken a breath during the whole sequence. Until you know better, it's unclear if Michael killed himself, if Libby is dead, and what a now-freed Henry will do. This ending is, seriously, just about as dramatic as Lost gets. Like a smash and grab, it hits hard and leaves you wanting more.

Episode 3.18 – D.O.C.

Pardon the pun, but the notion that the survivors' existence on the Island since the crash of Oceanic 815 was actually a form of purgatory was long dead by the third series. There may have been the odd few viewers still convinced that the characters on the Island had really all died and just didn't know it yet, but everyone else had decided that such an idea was way too obvious and lazy for a show like Lost. Yeah, we smart bastards all knew the purgatory idea was crap. Thing is, the writers knew that we knew it, too.

And then the parachutist - Naomi - drops in. Literally. And she doesn't say much at first – and most of it isn't even in English. But when she does finally open her mouth to speak words that we can understand. . . Whoa! Recovering from her punctured lung she manages to hold a conversation with Hurley as he tells her he is a survivor of Oceanic 815. The parachutist - Naomi (though we don't even know her NAME yet!) - is confused by this idea. He can't be, she tells Hurley. The wreck of Oceanic 815 was FOUND, she adds. All the passengers were DEAD, she then caps it all off with.

A beat of time is allowed to exist, like the last mote of sense in a senseless world, whilst we as an audience struggle to wrap our minds around this information and desperately will this woman to explain herself. Instead, Hurley just manages to drop out a dumbstruck "What?" at just about the same time the same question occurs to anyone watching. And, yes, naturally, this is where the episode ends and a million Lost fans all over the planet clap their hands over their ears as if to block out the madness that has already been implanted in their minds.

The concept of purgatory gets flung right back in your face, screaming at you to deny its existence, and there's going to be at least another WEEK before you get to find out if there's going to be any kind of clarification on the subject! What did that bitch say? Oceanic was FOUND? They’re all DEAD? WHAT. THE. FUCK!?

Episode 4.07 – Ji Yeon

It’s really the ending that makes this episode; one of those rare conclusions that don’t just chuck a cliffhanger surprise in but actually add a new angle and depth to the proceedings. Because what we had seen was what we thought was another flashforward episode, this time featuring Jin and Sun (who we assumed were therefore the last of our Oceanic 6).

Sun was heavily-pregnant and going into labour, and meanwhile Jin was dashing around trying to get a hold of a panda as a birth present. Will Jin make it to the birth on time? Will something terrible happen to the child? Or to Jin? Or to Sun? Those are the pressing concerns.

Trouble is, we don’t realise the trick that’s being played until the end. We see Jin deliver a panda to someone that’s not Sun, and he makes that weird remark about how he’s not been married very long, and slowly we begin to realise something’s up. And then Hurley arrives, and joins Sun as they journey to the graveyard, and then the penny drops.

We’ve been had! But in a good way! Sun’s story was in flashforward, Jin’s story was in flashback! The tragic irony that Jin was NEVER going to make it to the birth of his child is compounded by the stark reality that he is for all the world dead. For me, this is an ending with real resonance and sophistication – one that can send you re-watching the episode with an entirely new appreciation about what transpired. Shocks and surprises and cliffhangers are fairly easy to drop in, but endings like THIS don’t come along very often. Treasure it.


emzi said...

Those are all great episode endings. One I liked as well was the ending of Kate's flashforward where she goes to see her son and then she calls him Aaron... I did not see that coming! :)

Anonymous said...

Ji Yeon was a terrible ending! It was all done to manipulate the audience just to get that shocking ending...i thought it was one of the worst endings.

Anonymous said...

end of S03E12, Jack playing catch with the "others". It left me laughing out loud, and I couldn't wait for the next show.