Lost's squandered opportunity
by Megan Basham
Posted on Tuesday, May 25, 2010, at 12:53 pm
After six years and 114 episodes it's all over. More than 13 million people watched the two-and-a-half-hour series finale of Lost Sunday night, and scores of them are still online or hovering around watercoolers debating what they saw. Some feel they received sufficient answers to the many (read that: many, many) mysteries the show presented and that the emotional conclusion was a worthy sendoff. Others are saying, "Hang all the joyous reunions and tearful goodbyes, what was up with Dharma initiative?!"
From the standpoint of a fan, I enjoyed the closing chapter of television's biggest roller coaster, but I can't say I was completely satisfied. (Am I the only one who still wanted Sawyer and Kate to end up together?) However, unlike more naïve viewers, I resigned myself long ago to the idea that every little frayed thread couldn't possibly be tied up. I was most interested in the fates of the characters I had come to love. On that front, we certainly got answers, and those answers led, in true Lost fashion, to . . . more questions. (Warning: There are, of course, spoilers ahead)
Most intriguing was the nature of the sideways reality. A sort of purgatory, it gave each of the castaways the opportunity to abolish the qualities they most despised about themselves. Instead of a lonely, selfish con man, Sawyer/James (Josh Holloway) became a kind-hearted cop with true friends. Instead of being a murderer, Kate (Evangeline Lilly) was innocent. Instead of a marriage marred by lies and betrayal, Jin (Daniel Dae Kim) and Sun (Yunjin Kim) shared an unblemished love.
In a way, the fake reality offered them the same thing the island did: a chance to become new creations, but without any of the struggle, anguish, or scarring. Yet the reaction of almost every character at being shaken out of this pleasant dream world was exultation. Even Sun and Jin, who were already together and thus had no reunion to celebrate, positively shone with gratitude the minute they realized what their lives had really been like. So the obvious question: Why? Why, when memories of all the pain they had experienced on the island, when memories of their worst selves came flooding back, were they happy? My guess: Because without a true knowledge of their sin they couldn't really appreciate their redemption and move on to the final gathering place: the church.
Only Ben Linus (Michael Emerson), who in purgatory lived up to the demands of fatherhood in a way he never did on the island, rejects the real world. He is offered forgiveness, but leaving the fantasy means confronting who he really was: a lying, scheming, betraying murderer. Such were some of the others (Kate, Sayid, and Sawyer, to name a few), but only Ben refuses to "let go" and join the celebration.
However, as WORLD has noted before, Lost is not scripted or produced by believers (at least not that I'm aware of), so I didn't expect a biblically consistent ending. Nor was I surprised that some aspects weren't as fulfilling as they could have been. Like most supernatural figures created by the minds of men, the more we got to know the island's protector, Jacob (Mark Pellegrino), the less impressive he became. When he, in a scene reminiscent of communion, shared blessed water with Jack (Matthew Fox) and declared, "Now you are like me," I thought, "What, unnecessarily vague and a bit of a mama's boy?"
There is nothing like biblical symbolism for creating epic scale. And it is strange that storytellers of all stripes---screenwriters, novelists, TV show producers---recognize that bastardized Scripture references add a sense of emotional heft and unfathomable mystery to a tale but don't ask themselves why that is. Lost was certainly awash in them---from character's names to quoting specific verses---and to the extent that the finale painted a picture of the great Finale, it succeeded.
Disappointing as the scene with the stained-glass window featuring the cross, yin yang, and Star of David (amongst others) was, the dominant symbology of Lost remained Christian to the end. There was no Buddha, no Mohammed in front of that church where our protagonists gathered for their final journey; there was only Christ standing with arms wide open, and for Jack, only a "Christian Shepherd" to guide him.
But the producer's foolishness in deciding to mix sprinklings of false faiths in with the true not only undercut the spiritual value of the show, it undercut the entertainment value of it as well. The most gratifying supernatural tales (for me that would be Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Harry Potter) don't stop with borrowing biblical symbols and themes; they also borrow story arcs and resolutions. They please all and always, to quote Longinus, because the greatest story resonates within them. Though superior on the television landscape, when Lost made concessions to an "every path leads to God" ideology, it squandered its opportunity to reach that level of transcendence.
Megan is a senior writer for WORLD Magazine based in Charlotte, N.C. She is the author of Beside Every Successful Man: A Woman's Guide to Having It All.