Lost said it better than I ever could: "All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues." Since the beginning of the series, we’ve seen enough troubled parent-child relationships to make Freud’s head spin. Sure, there have been a few reconciliations, but those pale in comparison to the series' neglect, resentment, and interfamily murder attempts. Here are 12 of Lost’s most flawed parents, graded on their child-rearing skills.
Children: Jack Shephard, Claire Littleton
Major Transgressions: Christian’s rampant alcoholism put Jack in an awkward position; there's nothing like ending your dad’s surgical career to spoil a relationship. Christian was almost entirely absent from Claire’s life—not to mention the fact that having a secret Aussie family on the side is a big no-no.
Redeeming Acts: He helped Jack become a better surgeon, even if his tactics weren’t always the kindest. When Claire’s mother was injured in a car accident, he paid the medical bills. And he did eventually reunite with both his children on the island. Unless, of course, that’s more Man in Black trickery.
Son: Aaron Littleton
Major Transgressions: She left her baby alone in the jungle. Just because some manifestation of your dad is leading you away doesn’t mean you can drop Aaron in the middle of nowhere. Did she expect Smokey to babysit?
Redeeming Acts: Up until she abandoned him, Claire was fiercely protective of the son she never even wanted to keep. Without pacifiers or parenting books, she managed to be a pretty decent mom for a while. And hey, there’s a decent chance she was possessed into wandering away—if she's not actually dead—so let’s not judge her too harshly.
Children: John Locke, likely others
Major Transgressions: Where to begin? Leaving aside the fact that he’s directly responsible for Sawyer’s parents’ murder-suicide (see below), Cooper made Locke’s life hell. He conned him into giving up a kidney, then told him to get over it. Of course, nothing tops sending his own son flying through a window—and into a wheelchair.
Redeeming Acts: He died.
Daughter: Alexandra Rousseau
Major Transgressions: Hey, Ben, when the big scary mercenary has a gun to your daughter’s head, maybe don’t call his bluff. That the last thing Alex heard before dying was Ben denying that he cared about her is just the icing on this “bad dad” cake. Ben also imprisoned Alex’s boyfriend Karl, whose only crime was being kind of dumb.
Redeeming Acts: Let’s not forget that Ben was under orders from Charles Widmore to kill baby Alex; taking her in was a surprisingly compassionate move. And like so many other flawed parents, he had his reasons for everything he did—letting Alex and Karl date might have led to her pregnancy and death. Too bad she died, anyway.
Roger Linus (Jon Gries)
Son: Benjamin Linus
Major Transgressions: Ben learned from the best when it came to bad parenting. Sorry your wife died after childbirth, Roger, but blaming it on the innocent baby is more than a little unfair. Roger was, at best, neglectful; at worst, abusive. I can’t really blame Ben for killing him.
Redeeming Acts: For a guy who didn’t like his son much, Roger sure tried to get justice after Ben was shot. I suppose shooting Sayid in revenge was, in his mind, a noble act; but for us Sayid fans, it was a death wish.
Charles Widmore (Alan Dale)
Children: Penelope Hume (nee Widmore), Daniel Faraday, Desmond Hume (son-in-law)
Major Transgressions: To be fair, Desmond wasn’t yet family when Charles maneuvered him into a monotonous button-pushing stint on the island. But he wasn’t exactly there for his beloved Penny either. Is it any wonder that the two halves of this father-daughter pair have never had a scene together on the show? Lastly, where’s the love for Dan?
Redeeming Acts: Although he seems more concerned with the island than anything else, Charles did plead for Penelope’s life when Ben was about to shoot her. And maybe he was only looking out for her best interests when he thwarted her attempts at marital bliss.
Mr. Ford (unknown)
Son: James Ford, AKA Sawyer
Major Transgressions: We don't know much about Sawyer’s dad—we’ve only ever seen his feet—but what we do know ain’t so pretty. After Anthony Cooper conned Sawyer’s mom, Mr. Ford shot his wife and then himself, making little James an orphan. You think that’s bad? His kid was in the room at the time.
Redeeming Acts: None. Yet.
Son: Daniel Faraday
Major Transgressions: The only thing worse than accidentally shooting and killing your son is sending him back in time with the knowledge that you’re going to do just that. Eloise was also really snotty to Dan’s girlfriend, which is just plain uncool.
Redeeming Acts: She has her reasons, even if she’s not willing to share them with the rest of the class. It seems as though Eloise did always want what was best for her son, but it’s hard to understand how killing him could possibly be a good thing. At least 1977 Ellie felt somewhat torn up about it.
Wayne Janssen (James Horan)
Daughter: Kate Austen
Major Transgressions: Look, it’s another alcoholic. He beat his wife (see below) and apparently hit on Kate—a lot. The fact that he didn’t know he was Kate’s biological father doesn’t make it much less creepy. Is anyone else bothered that she’s on the run for killing this jerk?
Redeeming Acts: Like Anthony Cooper and Mr. Ford, the best thing Wayne did was die. So, thanks for getting blown up!
Diane Janssen (Beth Broderick)
Daughter: Kate Austen
Major Transgressions: I’m not going to fault Diane too much for staying with Wayne, because that’s a tricky moral area. But I can definitely hate on her for turning Kate and planning to testify against her. Yeah, she killed your man, but she had some pretty compelling reasons.
Redeeming Acts: Diane ultimately decided not to testify. But that was only after she bribed Kate into letting her see Aaron, so it doesn’t exactly reflect a mother’s love. Maybe a grandmother’s?
Son: Miles Straume
Major Transgressions: Yet another absent father, Dr. Chang didn’t have any relationship with his son until Miles joined the DHARMA Initiative in 1977. He was also really grumpy, but that may be what happens when you time travel.
Redeeming Acts: He only sent his wife and son away to save them from “the incident,” not because he wanted to. And before that, he was seen reading to baby Miles and—get this—smiling. Dr. Chang may be the best deadbeat dad on this list.
Mr. Paik (Byron Chung)
Children: Sun-Hwa Kwon (nee Paik), Jin-Soo Kwon (son-in-law)
Major Transgressions: Mr. Paik rules his company with an iron fist. Turns out he parents that way, too. Aside from being overbearing and restrictive to Sun, he forced her husband into a crooked career that turned Jin into, well, a tool. Oh, and he had Sun’s lover killed.
Redeeming Acts: While both of Sun’s parents claim to want a good life for her, Mr. Paik seems a lot more concerned with his own reputation. As with many others on this list, the best thing he ever did was entirely out of his hands—when he was forced to relinquish control of his company to Sun after she bought him out.
Did we leave out your favorite deadbeat dad or murderous mom? Who do you think is the worst parent on Lost?