Last week, I professed my undying love for Lost and then I wrote a column suggesting the lead up to the show's finale could help us understand what faith is like. I stand behind what I wrote, but honestly, I was a little underwhelmed by last night's finale. Lost has always captured me with its back stories, frightened me with its suspense (remember "The Others?") and drawn me to tears in parts. Nothing in last night's finale did that for me. Call me cruel, but I wanted Ben to turn into Smokey or something else that would give it a compelling Lost-like twist. Enough of me; let's look at some of the media coverage.
If you're a fan of the show, you've likely read recap upon recap today ranging from "lame" to "best show ever!" The polarizing ending in a chapel failed to satisfy many. Perhaps fans can agree on one thing: Sayid and Shannon, really?
The Associated Press filed a pretty basic recap of the finale without attempting to do much interpretation of heaven, purgatory, redemption, sacrifice, or forgiveness.
To a church where the former castaways are gathered for what seems a beatific funeral reception for themselves. At this reunion, everyone is smiling and embracing. The room floods with light.
And Jack reconciles with his dead father, whose body he had been bringing back from Sydney when Oceanic flight 815 crashed on the lost island at the start of the series.
Jack has a tender conversation with the man he had clashed with so often before. "I don't understand," says Jack. "You died." "Yes, I did." "Then how are you here right now?" "How are YOU here?" his father (John Terry) replies. "I died, too," says Jack, beginning to weep. "That's OK, son." And yet it's all real, his father assures him. "Everything that's ever happened to you is real. All those people in the church, they're all real, too." "They're all dead?" Jack asks. "Everyone dies sometime, kiddo," his father replies gently.
In that back room of the chapel, did anyone else notice the interfaith icons that looked like Mary, Buddha, and Krisha (with a huge white Jesus outside)? Mike Hale of The New York Times points this out in his analysis.
So that was the answer: the island was college, or home, or Outward Bound. The sideways reality was the former passengers of Oceanic 815, plus selected guests like Desmond and Penny, gathering for a self-affirming reunion before heading off into whatever sort of afterlife the swelling white light symbolized. (The producers hedged their bets by placing symbols of various religions inside the church.)
Rendered insignificant, in this scenario, were the particulars of what they had done on the island. Pushing buttons, building rafts, blowing up hatches, living, dying--all the churning action and melodrama that made "Lost" so addictive in its early seasons--none of it was directly connected to this final outcome, beyond the fact that it constituted "the most important part" of all their lives.
Fans who were interested in the faith elements of the show like Locke probably enjoyed last night's finale. But fans who were like pre-converted Jack and wanted to know the science behind the show (time travel what?), it was probably more frustrating.
Leave it to Slate's Jack Shafer to rain on anyone's parade, but his C.S. Lewis comparison is interesting.
Finally, did not Lost's creators promise again and again that the survivors of Oceanic 815 were not in purgatory? They did. So where do they get off making the whole sideways world of Season Six a purgatory in which the inhabitants must come to grips with their lives and deaths before they move on? I call this cheating!
It's time to call crap crap--and for the estate of C.S. Lewis to protest the shameless lifting by Lost's creators from his Chronicles of Narnia. Before I surrender the floor, allow me to quote from Book 7, The Last Battle, where Lewis writes:
[Aslan] went to the Door and they all followed him. He raised his head and roared 'Now it is time!' then louder 'Time!'; then so loud that it could have shaken the stars, 'TIME.' The Door flew open. ...
It's hard to ignore those continuous spiritual themes throughout the show, like when Jacob and then Jack says "take this cup, and you'll be like me." Last week, tmatt looked at the religious themes and symbols in his Scripps Howard column.
The men who have been running the program for most of its life--Damon Lindelof, who is Jewish, and Carlton Cuse, a Catholic--have called themselves "men of faith," while confessing that "Lost" has become a "mash-up" of their favorite Bible stories, college philosophy textbooks, fantasy novels and movies. Thus, it will be impossible to understand Sunday's finale without wrestling with its final, indeed ultimate, spiritual questions.
"If there's one word that we keep coming back to, it's redemption," said Lindelof, in a New York Times interview that has caused waves of online fan discussions.
"It is that idea of everybody has something to be redeemed for and the idea that that redemption doesn't necessarily come from anywhere else other than internally. But in order to redeem yourself, you can only do it through a community."
Michael Sheridan of the Daily News spoke with Carlton Cuse, one of the executive producers, about the role that faith played in the show.
"The faith axis seems like it's a big part of the show this year and faith is really important to both of us," said Carlton Cuse, one half of the show's producing team, which also included Damon Lindeloff. "The show is a reflection of our beliefs."
From Communion-like rituals to multiple debates over faith versus science, the series has continually wrestled with these two concepts, which are often at odds in our society.
"First of all, I wouldn't say that either [Damon or I] was a man of science or a man of faith," Cuse told The News. "I think that Damon and I trade those roles back and forth. I think that's the beauty of the creative process, [and] I think that we try to put our own discussions and our questionings as humans about the nature of our existences into the show."
So the show has come to an end. Did you find any particularly good or bad news reports that explored religion? Is anyone else waiting for the sequel show: "The Adventures of Hurley and Ben"?