Every Tuesday and Thursday for the next five weeks we’ll be counting down the most read posts of last year. This week, a meditation on (and an inevitable defense of) the series finale of Lost.
Obviously, you’re going to find some spoilers down there. Don’t read if you haven’t watched.
Lost has a knack for making us hate it. I don’t mean that we “love to hate it,” but that fans of Lost often want so badly to unabashedly love the show, to embrace it, to let it wash over us, but find it throwing wrenches into that plan every step of the way. Paradoxically, this is why I love Lost, and it’s why, after a good night’s sleep and a little bit of processing, I think I loved Lost’s finale.
Does this all sound familiar? Because it should – it’s how we often feel about life. How many times have we simply wanted to accept this life – to let go? And yet we find that even this is a chore. At the end of one of our days is a seemingly pointless death or a maddening cliff-hanger, followed only by a black screen. We want answers, but they never arrive. We strive and struggle, day in and day out, to figure it all out. Who are the good guys? Who are the bad guys? What is the point of all of this? Did I just see my dead father?
And so, we watch television, we watch movies, we read books, and we enjoy getting answers from them. They give us life lessons, resolution, and in a sense, they give us a little bit of peace.
And then there was Lost, the show with so much promise. We were drawn in for the mystery, but we stayed for the characters. We thought sawyer was probably a bad guy, until we grew to love him. We thought Jack was a jerk, until we got to know him. Kate we pretty much disliked until the very end. I guess you could say they were our friends, but more accurately, they were like our friends. Or at least, they were like those around us. And they were like us.
After last night, it’s clear that Lost is a show about community, and how redemption is impossible without it. Though we often wanted it to be about something else, it was always a show about the characters, and their relationships to one another. Even more, it’s about what happens when those relationships are forced to grapple together with the implications of incomprehensible mystery, pain, and loss.
And so that’s what we did. We watched the show with the people around us, we discussed it with them, and we shared our own insight into the show. One of us may have been familiar with one of the books on the show and one of us may have been familiar with one of the philosopher’s that a character was named after. One of us may have had a crazy dream that explained it all. Oh, and there’s always one guy who has the HDTV. He’s important too.
The experience of Lost can be summed up in one phrase: Live together, or watch alone.
The finale beautifully brought all of these themes to the forefront. As each character remembered one another, we remembered the series ourselves, and how much it meant to us. These sequences were shameless, self-indulgent, and absolutely earned.
If there is any complaint that can be had about the finale it is this: that the final scene undermines everything else that happened throughout the series. On the contrary, just as Desmond says (and these words are the key to the entire show), “There are no shortcuts, no do-overs – what happened, happened. All of this matters.” Though they may find themselves in another place now, that other place was shaped by their life then. Their moments of resolution in their first life may have seemed to come too late for them to matter, but that just stands to give even more importance to their existence after death.
It’s a brave story to tell in a culture that oscillates between declaring that the here and now as all there is, and insisting that the spiritual is all that matters.
For the Christian – and it appears, for Lost and its viewers – the spiritual and the physical, the life now and the life after life, our own struggles and the struggles of others – they all matter. All of this matters. And the mysteries throughout? We’ll find out the answers if and when we need to know them.