When Lost ends Sunday and reveals all (or at least most), a true obsessive is going to want to go back and rewatch all six seasons with a new retroactive understanding of what it all means. But that means dedicating more than a hundred hours to the task: Surely there are some episodes you can skip over, right? Right. As the finale has grown closer and the show’s endgame has clarified, it has become clear which of the bygone episodes have no rerun value when it comes to studying the roots of the biggest Lost epiphanies. Herewith, the top twenty episodes you can safely ignore, as they lack character information, mythology, action, plot development, supernatural activity, or any combination of the above. Maybe you can use the time saved to watch some old X Files DVDs.
What Happens: After leaving the island, Walt and Michael grow apart because of the murder of Libby and Ana Lucia. Michael tries to commit suicide but the island prevents it, and he is later manipulated into becoming Ben’s spy aboard the freighter to atone for his sins.
What It Tries to Accomplish: Closure for viewers still curious about Really Tall Walt, and an emotional context in which it would make sense for Michael to work for Ben.
Why You Can Skip It: Nothing in this episode is as remarkable as the first reveal of Michael aboard the freighter.
How It Could Have Been Fixed: Skip the redundant backstory and give us more freighter action with Captain Galt, Keamy, and Minkowski.
What Happens: Michael and Sawyer fight off the DHARMA shark while floating on a piece of wreckage toward land. We see what happened to Locke and Kate inside the Hatch. Through flashbacks, we see Michael’s failed bid for custody of Walt.
What It Tries to Accomplish: An early justification for the zeal Michael shows in trying to get Walt back from the Others, as well as the sense of helplessness the castaways face on all parts of the island.
Why You Can Skip It: After the thrilling season-two opener that introduces Desmond, the story grinds to a halt as Michael and Sawyer take the entire episode to reach land. The flashback narrative is plodding, too, making a redundant case for parental concern that the audience would have accepted as normal behavior without explanation.
How It Could Have Been Fixed: Get the boys to the beach a lot faster, and have them wash up alongside the shark, which would have raised all sorts of creepy questions once they saw the logo on its fin.
What Happens: Sideways Sun and Jin get in trouble with Keamy, Mikhail pops in for some translation work, and we find out that Widmore’s been hiding Desmond in a locked room on the submarine.
What It Tries to Accomplish: The Sideways World is maybe not so great for some characters. Widmore needs Desmond to do something special for him.
Why You Can Skip It: Because it’s yet another episode where Sun and Jin are not together in the real timeline, which is infuriating given their late reunion and subsequent demise. Also, Desmond being “the package” was the least surprising reveal in a long time. Finally, Sun loses her ability to speak English but can write on note cards? Save it for Oliver Sacks.
How It Could Have Been Fixed: Somehow, some way, Sun should have waltzed into Jin’s arms just as he was crying over pictures of Ji Yeon.
What Happens: Ben tries to corral the Oceanic Six to get them back to the island while Kate suspects that Claire’s mom knows about Aaron. On the island, the time-traveling set are getting sick of all their history travels.
What It Tries to Accomplish: Chaos abounds on the island and off of it.
Why You Can Skip It: Because it does nothing more than move the plot along, and not in a particularly graceful way. The O6 will eventually get on the Ajira flight and the island will stop moving through time; this is just vamping. Nothing to see here, folks.
How It Could Have Been Fixed: Ben the negotiator isn’t nearly as fun as Ben the mastermind, so we wish he would have just drugged them all and flown them back to the island himself on a commercial jet he would magically procure.
What Happens: In the present, Miles is Locke’s hostage, Kate’s in bed with Sawyer, and Jack’s trying to call the freighter. In the future, Jack gives a winning testimony on Kate’s behalf in court, and we see an older Aaron.
What It Tries to Accomplish: A believable explanation for why Kate didn’t have to go to jail once she left the island.
Why You Can Skip It: We already know Jack would do anything for Kate, so it’s no revelation that he would perjure himself to protect her. But the depiction of Kate in court and how she got away with no jail time is entirely too convenient and would have been best described in a two-minute conversation in another episode.
How It Could Have Been Fixed: Forget the court case and give us other scintillating details about Kate’s life as one of the Oceanic Six living in the spotlight.
What Happens: At the temple, Dogen wants Jack to poison the resurrected, possibly evil Sayid. Sideways Kate flees the airport but ends up running into sideways pregnant Claire and taking her to the hospital.
What It Tries to Accomplish: Strangely, there are many similarities between this timeline and the original one, more than the season premiere let on.
Why You Can Skip It: Pretty much everything and everyone at the temple turned out to be a huge, gaping waste of time in this final season, and the sideways narrative felt more ponderous than plot driven.
How It Could Have Been Fixed: Ditch the Temple crew (a suggestion that expands beyond this episode). And Kate should have had to deliver Aaron again. In the back of the stolen car.
What Happens: Desmond’s catchphrase “brother” is ruined for us when we learn that he picked up it during his past stint as a monk. In present time, Naomi parachutes onto the island.
What It Tries to Accomplish: Desmond has a really diverse résumé, and his flashes really come in handy when he predicts Naomi’s arrival.
Why You Can Skip It: The flashes were already established by this point, and to better effect. And if there’s something worthwhile about Desmond having a little too much wine at the monastery, we don’t know what it is.
How It Could Have Been Fixed: A couple as great as Desmond and Penny deserve an epic how-we-met story, something a lot better than bumping into each other outside the monastery Desmond was dismissed from.
What Happens: In the past, Locke joins a marijuana-growing commune; in the present, he builds a sweat lodge to get in touch with the island and has trippy visions.
What It Tries to Accomplish: With the Hatch now blown up, Locke has lost his voice, literally and figuratively, so he needs to embark on a spiritual experience to regain it.
Why You Can Skip It: Locke’s commune days make for some of the series’ most nonsensical flashbacks, and there’s nothing of importance to be gleaned from his hallucinations.
How It Could Have Been Fixed: The writers were clearly out of ideas when they came up with the commune, but they should have reached for another one. Even Locke in a wheelchair reading about sweat lodges in a public library would have made more sense than this randomness.
What Happens: In the past, Kate holds up a New Mexico bank so she can retrieve a toy airplane with sentimental value. In the present, Sawyer tries to open the case that belonged to the U.S. Marshal while Sayid and Shannon’s romance ignites.
What It Tries to Accomplish: Kate’s not a criminal because she has feelings, too! Also, Jack and Sawyer like to fight over her.
Why You Can Skip It: Kate’s already a lawbreaker; this episode just makes her look nuts. Plus there’s a lot of tiresome hand-wringing over guns, which seemed to be the biggest issue in every episode in the first season.
How It Could Have Been Fixed: The writers could have put almost anything — jewelry, cash, sex tapes, a yummy sandwich — in that safety-deposit box and it would have seemed like a less ludicrous justification for robbing a bank.
What Happens: Charlie’s heroin addiction is explained through flashbacks. On the island, he goes through withdrawal and then gets stuck with Jack in a cave-in.
What It Tries to Accomplish: Audience sympathy for Charlie, who went from confessing church boy to hard-core junkie in no time at all, as he finally rejected heroin with the help of Locke.
Why You Can Skip It: British rock stars and heroin aren’t exactly strangers, so it’s not like you need to know how he got started on the stuff. Plus, there’s no plot development on the island, and the visual metaphor equating Charlie’s decision with a moth emerging from its cocoon is laughable.
How It Could Have Been Fixed: A less cliché addiction story for starters, maybe one involving Charlie’s priest.
What Happens: A look at Ana Lucia’s days as a trigger-happy cop with a bit of a vigilante streak. Meanwhile, there’s fallout from Shannon’s death as the Tailies join up with the remaining Oceanic survivors.
What It Tries to Accomplish: Ana Lucia’s repeating her past mistakes; the consolidation of the survivors will not be a smooth process.
Why You Can Skip It: What upon first viewing was an interesting first look into the life of a troubled woman feels in retrospect like a waste of our time since she won’t make it to the end of the season and turns out to be little more than a one-note character.
How It Could Have Been Fixed: Ana Lucia was a remarkably hard-edged character, but it would have been nice if there had been something to make us care about her even a smidgen rather than wanting her to shut up and sit in the corner every time she opened her mouth.
What Happens: DHARMA Initiative–era Miles is asked to deliver a package to his father. In flashbacks, we see Miles searching for answers about his dad, working as a medium, and joining the freighter crew.
What It Tries to Accomplish: That being on the same island with the father who never raised you is tough.
Why You Can Skip It: At this point you can apply some of Lost’s trademark daddy issues to any character and hit the nail on the head. And Miles had already become little more than a reliable source of one-liners, so this not particularly revealing look into his past gummed up the progress of the fifth season as it approached its end.
How It Could Have Been Fixed: Instead of seeing him working as a medium again, it would have added to the character if Miles had taken on some more unusual jobs where his talents were useful.
What Happens: Off island, Shannon goes after a dance internship in New York but gets cut off financially. On island, she sees a vision of Walt again and chases after him, only to get shot in the stomach by Ana Lucia.
What It Tries to Accomplish: A new side of Shannon that’s creative — she just wants to dance! — and moderately more likable than her post-crash persona.
Why You Can Skip It: No matter what her past is, Shannon remains one of the show’s most annoying characters, her romance with Sayid just feels off, and she’s irrelevant to the overall story since she’ll be dead soon after this.
How It Could Have Been Fixed: Less Shannon, more Boone and wet, whispering Walt.
What Happens: Claire can’t remember anything from her abduction and Charlie kills the evil Other, Ethan. Off island, Charlie courts a wealthy woman but ruins the relationship when he steals from her to get his fix.
What It Tries to Accomplish: Showing that Charlie has dome some really selfish, despicable things, in contrast to the way he now wants to take care of Claire and Aaron.
Why You Can Skip It: Ethan’s short-lived threat to kill the castaways one by one is the only source of tension, and Charlie’s flashback takes the junkie thing too far when he vomits on a copy machine he’s supposed to be selling. Other examples of him doing bad things for drugs abound.
How It Could Have Been Fixed: How about a flashback that makes us like Charlie so he seems less annoying? And what a missed opportunity to not have Claire shoot Ethan as foreshadowing of her crazy, gun-toting ways to come.
What Happens: Hurley starts seeing an imaginary friend from his mental-institution days on the island and wonders if he is going crazy. In flashbacks, we see the nature of their friendship.
What It Tries to Accomplish: That this whole story is not something happening in Hurley’s imagination while he’s at Santa Rosa.
Why You Can Skip It: Because you already know that this whole story is not something happening in Hurley’s imagination while he’s at Santa Rosa.
How It Could Have Been Fixed: Using an episode to disprove a theory that wasn’t so prevalent was a waste of time. Instead, they should have explored Libby and Hurley’s intersecting path in a much deeper way as their island romance blossomed.
What Happens: Sideways Jack is a divorced dad struggling to connect with his teenage son, while island Jack is still an ex-surgeon with a savior complex struggling to come to terms with his destiny. Plus, Jacob’s magical lighthouse appears from thin air and Jack smashes its mirrors.
What It Tries to Accomplish: The sideways world is possibly a happier place for some of these characters, but realizing that Jacob has been watching you throughout your lifetime is a mindfuck that makes you want to break a magical lighthouse.
Why You Can Skip It: It’s no surprise that Jack isn’t following in the fatherhood footsteps of Christian, so this heartwarming off-island tale, featuring Dogen for no apparent reason, is neither here nor there. And as for the lighthouse, did we really need to see how Jacob monitored his candidates? We liked using our imagination better.
How It Could Have Been Fixed: Most likely by not insulting viewers by asking them to believe that no one at any point had never seen this ancient lighthouse before.
What Happens: In flashback time, Charlie’s trying to save his brother Liam from heroin; on the island, he’s trying to save baby Aaron with a shotgun baptism.
What It Tries to Accomplish: Another act to add to Charlie’s growing collection of annoying-insane behavior, and an issue to drive him and Claire apart.
Why You Can Skip It: The episode traffics in too many of the vague religious ideas that characterize the early episodes without importing any significance. Aaron is ultimately baptized by Eko, but it doesn’t seem to matter one way or the other.
How It Could Have Been Fixed: Maybe dreams can compel ex-junkies to drastic religious actions on the island, but it would have been more credible if Charlie didn’t suddenly wake up one day with a mission to save Aaron’s soul.
What Happens: Off the island, Hurley’s got some problems connecting with his father, but on the island he and the boys fix up a DHARMA van and ride it down a big hill to lift their spirits.
What It Tries to Accomplish: Hurley has daddy issues, too! But sometimes he knows how to make the best of a bad situation by fixing up vans.
Why You Can Skip It: Because with all his other problems, daddy issues don’t feel like something that needs to be thrown at Hurley, and aside from that, all you’ve got is a van holding the corpse of Roger Linus.
How It Could Have Been Fixed: Hurley’s dad is played by Cheech Marin, so they really should have made him the most awesome guy ever just to add some variation to the bad-dad overkill on this show.
What Happens: Juliet faces a death sentence for betraying Ben, but Jack saves her by agreeing to remove Ben’s tumor. In flashbacks, Jack flies a kite in pretty Thailand and gets a tattoo from Bai Ling.
What It Tries to Accomplish: Aside from explaining his arm ink, this episode drives home that Jack is “a great man,” one willing to act against his own interests to save Juliet.
Why You Can Skip It: No one cares how Jack got his tattoo! We thought he had just gone on a bender during med-school exams. And for examples of Jack’s savior complex, see just about every other episode from season one through six.
How It Could Have Been Fixed: Scrap Jack’s useless flashback and give us some background on the episode’s most compelling character: Isabel, “sheriff” of the Others.
What Happens: We get better acquainted with the scheming lowlifes Nikki and Paulo, who murdered a rich guy for his diamonds. Thanks to their backstabbing ways, they both become paralyzed by spider bites and end up buried alive by the other castaways.
What It Tries to Accomplish: Was it a diversion from a season that had lost its direction? Were the writers trying to prove to themselves they could produce a solid, eerie, Twilight Zone–esque stand-alone hour of television? We’ll never know.
Why You Can Skip It: It has nothing to do with what’s going on in the series at this point, and the hack job of inserting these two punks into past scenes reflects lazy writing at its worst. Plus, why waste an hour with characters who won’t be around in the next one?
How It Could Have Been Fixed: It should have never left the editing room in the first place, but we’d have accepted it as a DVD extra.