While it begins with a less-good version of the Season 2 opening, LOST Season 3 probably has the best ending of all its series; a positive outlier on the show's otherwise-inexorable spiral down. It provides us with lots of excitement, emotions, heroism from character we expect it from and those we don’t. NOT PENNY'S BOAT is one of last real Iconic LOST Moments from the series. Despite the artificiality of the construction, the plot threads converging—the Looking Glass, the beach ambush, the trek to the radio tower and Ben's loss of control really is quite effective. Charlie's sacrifice was genuinely affecting.
It really is the series' high point, though. The rest of it feels very aimless and meandering, especially early on when they've just got the gang in cages doing next to nothing while back at the beach it's table-tennis tournaments and bird-rescuing. The flashbacks start to feel like major water-treading—we get the infamously-terrible Strange In A Strange Land, but also the Locke weed farm commune and Kate reverse-spycopping Nathan Fillion. This is also the season that introduces, then swiftly dispatches Nikki and Paolo, and then more sadly kills off Mr Eko, one of the few characters who could credibly serve as an alternative to the Locke "believe anything" school of mysticism.
Speaking of Locke: if the last season was the slow bowdlerisation of Sawyer (partially redeemed in this one), this was the relatively swifter anti-bowdlerisation of John. He was previously someone who, though he could be tough on people, was usually quite fair. In Season One, he beats up Charlie because he thinks he’s relapsing into addiction and it looks as though he’s stolen a baby. In this season he kicks the absolute stuffing out of several people for no real reason. What did poor Mikhail do?
This season also has the introduction of Juliet, one of my favourite characters from the bad later series, but here somewhat more annoying and suffering from a terrible case of resting smug face. Her backstory episodes suffer terribly from "LOST dialogue irresolution syndrome"; Alpert is trying to get her to take the job after the death of her ex-husband and he says "it's not exactly in Portland", then says nothing while the leaving-flashback musical sting plays. What happens after that? Does he say "it's actually on a magic island near Guam"?
The other biggest saving grace of this series is that we get way more of Ben being screwy. He lies to his daughter, he lies to John, he lies to literally everyone. It's great. The Others move into "Others Phase 2": from being weird sackcloth island-hippies to some sort of weird Jonestown-ish cult, which is an interesting mode that would have been cool had they stuck with it, which they absolute do not. What was that Viking funeral? Why did Juliet get branded? Who cares. We get our first mentions of Jacob, and boy am I not looking forward to seeing him again. But crucially, right at the end, Ben tells Richard to take the rest of the Others to the Temple, and you know what that means: Dogen time babyyyyyy, only two more seasons to go.