Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Theology and LOST

I admit, I have been hooked on LOST for the past 4 or 5 years. Brooke and I usually wait until the DVDs come out and watch an entire season in a few weeks, but now that we have a computer that runs HULU well, we have been keeping up with the show as it unfolds.

I have to say, season 6 is fantastic. I lost interest in the show during season 4. I don't know if it was the writers' strike or what, but season 4 was awful. (Yet, for some reason, I couldn't stop watching.) Season 5 was an improvement over season 4, but the show had lost the "must-see" excitement of the first three seasons.

That has all changed.

The sixth season of LOST changed the theme of the show from time travel and pseudo-science to serious questions about evil, justice, and redemption. Here are some of the more compelling questions on my mind as the final season of LOST unfolds:

1. What will happen to Benjamin Linus? As soon as Ben was introduced on the show he became the most interesting character. It's tough to think of a character in any book, movie, or television show as evil as Ben. He is a master manipulator. Every word he says is a lie, and yet you can't stop believing him.

But in the last two seasons, Ben has been cast in a more human light. We have seen why he is as evil as he is (traumatic home life, perceived betrayal by Jacob). He has even shown signs of remorse for his crimes (especially the acts that led to the death of his daughter), and the flash sideways episode about him suggested he might not be so bad of a guy were it not for Jacob and the island.

What do we do with Ben? Do we believe that he is truly repentant? Can he be redeemed? Can we forget all of the atrocities he committed (let's not forget he killed everyone in the Dharma Initiative)? Can we help but empathize with him when he was asked about why he was joining the man in black, and he answered, "Because he'll have me"?

2. What is the point of the "flash sideways"? (For that matter, what is the plural of "flash sideways," "flash sidewayses"?)

Are they setting us up to show that life would have been worse were it not for the crash? If so, is this an attempt at theodicy? Jacob, representing the good "god," brought innocent people to the island against their will to prove to the man in black that not all people are evil. I see echoes of Job here--God and Satan having a wager over whether or not Job would curse God if Satan plagued him. But if Jacob is so good, why kill all of those people in the plane crash? Why wreck the lives of the survivors? Perhaps the flash sideways will show us that life would have been worse were it not for the crash.

Also, in the first episode of season 6, Sawyer saw that Juliet was still down in mine shaft, dying, and he said, "It didn't work." Juliet corrected him, "It did work." What did she mean by that? If it worked, then life would have gone on as in the flash sideways scenes. What do we do with the island scenes, then?

3. What is Jacob's plan for defeating the man in black? The writers have set us up for a "good god" (Jacob) versus "bad god" (the man in black) battle. When Ben killed Jacob, I thought, Huh. I guess Jacob wasn't as powerful as everyone thought he was. But, in last week's episode, Richard tried to kill Jacob (using the same knife that Ben would later use to kill him), and Jacob showed remarkable reflexes and fighting ability. This makes me think that Jacob allowed Ben to kill him. Why would he do that? If I were writing the show, it would to show that the only way sin (the man in black) could be defeated was for a good God (Jacob) to be murdered at the hands of evil men (Ben). But I'm not writing the show, so the symbolism is probably a stretch.

4. Why did actor Matthew Fox stop trying? Just kidding about that one, but Jack has become the least interesting character in the show.


John said...

hmmm, you raise some good points about the plurality of sideways.

Bradford Lindenmeyer and I were discussing what Lost means as well and how it will all end. Bradford thinks that everyone on the island will die and all we will have left is the sideways life of everyone living their life as normal.

Lame huh?

Whatever happened to Jacks' Dad? And why is he never shown again after hanging out with Claire? Did the man in black take Jack's dad's body in order to seduce Claire?

You mentioned that everything is better on the island...I disagree. I see the sideways lives better. Locke is happily engaged, Sawyer a detective, Jack a great surgeon, Ben a great teacher.

After Richard's past was shown and how he now thinks that everyone is in hell, I saw how that could make sense, espesially after all of the catholic overtones in the earlier seasons...I thought they might be in purgatory.

But as for the final season, I am hooked and helpless. I wish I never started watching in the first place...

Matt said...

Yeah, I wonder about Jack's dad. In fact, when Hurley and Jack first saw the name "Shepherd" writen in the lighthouse, I said to Brooke--"That stands for Jack's Dad, Christian Shepherd."

But, didn't they make the point that the man in black could manifest himself as anyone who had died? So, all of the appearances of dead people, including Christian Shepherd, Mr. Echo's brother Remi, Boone, Ben's daughter, John Locke's dad, etc. were just the man in black appearing to people in that form. That might mean that Christian Shepherd is really dead.

I wonder about Walt. They made such a big deal about him in season 1, and he has since all but disappeared from the show. On the other hand, they had to get rid of Walt because he's a kid and he was going to age faster than the other actors. So, was all the Walt hype just a justification to get him off of the show, or will he come back as important?

In last week's show they brought Desmond back to the island. What about Walt and Aaron?

I think things are going to get worse in the flash sideways. In the last episode, Sun was shot. I'm thinking things are going to go downhill.

Matt said...

Okay, I am changing my position based on the last three episodes. The flash sidewayses are real life, but they are a new real life based on the experience of the island. (This is what they were going for in season 5, and in the first episode of season 6, Juliet said "it worked.") By crashing on the island and going through six seasons of the show, they "changed" things.

Here is my reason for changing positions--Locke can walk on the island, and it was never explained why. I think he needed to be healed in real life, but he refused to "let go." The island allowed him to "let go," so that in the flash sideways Jack can do the surgery on him and heal him.

Both in the island sequence and in the flash sideways, Locke's dad put him in the wheelchair. But in the flash sideways, we see that the accident was Locke's fault, not his dad's. In the flash sideways, Locke's dad has "put" him in a wheel chair because Locke refuses to forgive himself. The island taught him to get over his daddy issues, so he can walk.

Jacob said that Kate's name got crossed off the list because she became a mother as a result of the island. When the island "heals" you, your name gets crossed off. The submarine scene represented the "healing" of Jin and Sun's marriage, so I bet they were crossed off of the list, too. All of the other characters (except Jack, Hurley, and Sawyer) have undergone some kind of healing experience on the island so that they are okay in the flash sideways.