You LOST me
SPOILER ALERT: I am about to address the series finale of LOST. If you haven't seen it and you'd like to, I suggest not reading any further.
I admit it. I like watching television. While I spend far less time in front of the TV than the reported average American (153 hours a month! Who has that kind of time?), I watch with an enthusiasm that should probably embarrass me. Many in my circle of friends have been known to declare coolly, "I don't even have a TV." (As if I don't know they catch up on The Office and Friday Night Lights on their fancy laptops.) I, on the other hand, get cable and have a print subscription to Entertainment Weekly because, in addition to watching TV, I enjoy reading about it as well.
So, it shouldn't be all that strange that I had a hard time sleeping last night after watching the long-awaited, much-talked-about series finale of LOST. With every toss and turn, I thought about why I had come to not hate, but feel so disappointed and annoyed by what I had once thought was a superior example of excellent TV. What I had eventually settled on before getting to work this morning was how willing (and unable) it was to explore religious and spiritual themes.
You'd think that that would be exactly what I liked about it, given my profession. Unfortunately, LOST's writers may have been willing but were unable to meditate on topics such as good and evil, free will, and redemption with anything more than broad strokes of beige, beige, and more beige, the final 15 minutes being the blandest of them all.
Many different religious symbols, statues, and icons adorn the church-like building where all of the "awakened" characters are assembled, preparing to leave. Where they are going, we're not sure until Jack, who has finally had his own awakening after encountering his dead father and realizing that he, too, is no longer alive. As that moment was unfolding, I was cringing and pleading silently and futilely to a narrative that had already been imagined, written, shot and produced: "Please don't do that. No no no no no no."
My worries were confirmed: All of the characters were actually dead and ready to "move on," according to Jack's father, Christian Shepherd (a character who never, over the course of six seasons, didn't actually live up to his name), although we couldn't know when or how they died. (We're are, however, led to believe that Jack died on the island, lying in the same spot we found him in the opening scenes of the pilot episode.)
Some have interpreted the island as Purgatory. I've heard some say that the flash sideways is Purgatory. I say, those interpretations are all fine and well, it's just too bad that we were presented with a final scene that rendered the entire series meaningless. Because we couldn't know how or when anyone died, just that they died at some point and were about to embark into a great white light together, we really don't know anything about any of the characters.
So, having completed six seasons of this show (five of which I own on DVD), my takeaway is that the producers think that if we do good, have loving relationships, and self-actualize, we'll be OK. Frankly, they didn't need to tease us with all the potentially interesting religious symbolism that was used increasingly as the series wore on to tell us that. I really didn't even need to watch the show if I wanted to get that message.
My husband often jokes that I should be a religious consultant in Hollywood, to help writers and producers ensure more accuracy with how they present especially the Catholic faith. If I'd been such a consultant on LOST, I would have suggested steering clear of the religious topics they totally botched and encouraged a narrative that focused on time travel and the mysterious Darma Initiative.
[For more (and better) analysis of LOST, I suggest reading EW writer Doc Jensen's multi-page musings on each episode. His ideas in his finale preview were way cooler and more interesting than the actual finale.]