In September of 2004, ABC presented a bold new television show to the world. LOST, the J. J. Abrams-created drama about a diverse group of people stranded on an Island in the middle of the Pacific, went in with a bang thanks to one of the most cinematic pilots ever produced. This first episode beautifully sets the tone for the entire series, introducing us to characters who would remain significant for seasons to come and getting the gears turning on some of the crucial questions the show is meant to inspire.

"Two players. Two sides. One is light; one is dark." This is how Island mystic John Locke, magnificently portrayed by Terry O'Quinn, describes the game of backgammon to Walt (Malcolm David Kelley), the ten-year-old boy whose estranged father Michael (Harold Perrineau) was bringing him and his dog Vincent to Los Angeles following the death of his mother in Sydney. This conversation helps establish John and Walt as kindred spirits with an intriguing sense of connection to the Island's mysteries. Even more importantly, it frames the series as a moral drama, suggesting grand conflicts to come.

While John is the most fascinating character to come out of this double-length episode, Jack Shephard, played by Matthew Fox, comes across as the main character. The show begins with his eye opening, and we soon see him dashing around the beach in a heroic frenzy, delegating responsibilities and allowing his adrenaline to push him to the limits as he attempts to put his surgical skills to good use amongst the crash victims. Later, he leads a small expedition into the wilderness to investigate the state of the cockpit, and he pours the rest of his energy into tending to one particular patient badly wounded by shrapnel. He scarcely has a moment in which to stop and take a breather.

Within minutes of the crash, the castaways begin to connect with each other. Jack's first profound connection is with Kate Austen, a young woman who initially seems vulnerable and traumatized but quickly proves herself capable of handling herself well in a crisis. The show quickly establishes her need to dive in wherever the action is, whether it's joining Jack on his trek or tagging along with communications expert Sayid as he tries to find the source of a transmission preventing him from radioing for help. Each of these excursions introduces a couple of important mysteries. Why was the plane so far off course when it crashed? Who recorded the French message that has been running in a loop for 16 years? Why are there polar bears on a tropical Island? And what in the world is the grotesque black monster rampaging its way through the jungle?

Still, as puzzling as these mysteries are, they take a backseat to the sheer beauty of the pristine Hawaiian landscape and the castaways whose secrets have barely begun to come to light. The show flashes back to particular moments on the plane, dropping bombshells about various characters in the process. Hence, the audience tends to know intimate details about each castaway's life long before those with whom they are stranded. This process of delving deeper into personal history continues throughout the series, with most episodes focusing on just one character's past, though it's not uncommon for other castaways to turn up unexpectedly. The tidbits on the plane in the pilot episode are only the tip of the iceberg.

One character who is fleshed out fairly well in this first episode is Charlie Pace, played by Dom Monaghan, who had just come off of his role as Merry the hobbit in the phenomenally popular Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. By the end of the first hour, we know two things about him: that he is a member of a rock band that is past its prime and that he has a drug problem. These remain two of the core elements of his character arc. Another involves his budding relationship with Claire (Emilie de Ravin), a hugely pregnant young Australian woman, but there's no hint of that here; instead, we see him hitting on both Kate and Shannon (Maggie Grace), a pampered teen who can't seem to stop bickering with her brother Boone (Ian Somerhalder), who is as eager to please as she is apathetic.

We also have Sun (Yun-jin Kim) and Jin Kwon (Daniel Dae Kim), a married couple who don't seem to be getting along very well. Because they speak only Korean and Jin eschews brotherhood with the rest of the survivors, aside from catching some unpalatable seafood and offering to share, it's harder to feel connected to these characters, but they will eventually become more integrated. While they are distant, Sawyer (Josh Holloway) is downright hostile, kicking off his run on the Island by picking a fight and laying claim to most of the luggage in the fuselage. While his "every man for himself" attitude sets him up to be an antagonist, the show has already prepared us not to make snap judgments. After all, he scuffles with Sayid because of his Middle Eastern ethnicity. To a world just three years removed from 9-11, LOST made a statement early on about the pitfalls of lumping whole groups of people into "us" vs "them" categories.

Throughout the series, LOST is very preoccupied with the idea of faith, and few people exemplify this notion as well as Rose (L. Scott Caldwell), the quiet woman who calmly waits for the return of her husband, who was in the tail section of the plane, despite Jack's pragmatic conviction that he is dead. Rose is barely involved in the pilot episode, but her few appearance make a strong impression, preparing us for the fact that we'll have to expect this wonderful character to be doled out in very small doses. Meanwhile, we get a pretty hefty helping of Hurley (Jorge Garcia), the burly fellow who has a knack for putting people at ease, despite his own squeamishness. Throughout the series, he is the only major character never to sustain an injury or illness. Instead, he must watch as tragedy befalls those around him, trying his best to help them get through it.

Adding to the impact of each of these characters is the brilliant score by award-winning composer Michael Giacchino. Heightening the emotion and action of so many of the show's greatest scenes, he makes the music absolutely integral to the series, and there's no doubt that the show would lose some of its power without his orchestral masterpieces in place.

In short, all of the elements that made LOST such an exceptional series are present in the epic two-hour-long pilot, and once you've watched this first episode, I have a hunch you'll have a hard time not going on to the next one.