The Themes and Theology of Redemption and Interdependence in the End of LOST


Of the contest between good and evil Carleton Cuse said that he and Damon Lindelof wanted to “make if feel different than in other big mythological tales…there is that sort of fundamental conflict between good and evil. And what we feel is really interesting about Lost is that the central way that plays out is… within each character their own struggle to find – win the battle good versus evil is the thing that fascinates us most as storytellers.”  So after all the complicated plot lines, the science, the references and clues, ultimately Lost was about relationships and redemption.  I sort of understood the idea of the sideways as a kind of Purgatory, but for some characters that redemption arc came through experiences on the Island itself, while for others it came in one of the flashes (back or sideways).  Beyond the redemption theme, what strikes me is that nobody does it alone.

What I found most interesting about LOST is the interdependence that is part of the mythology. In the final episode, the reunions between the couples were intense and sweet. I’m glad Cuse and Lindelof were brave enough to chick-flick it. It was a bold move.

Throughout the series there has been a science vs. faith tension and the last episode clearly took a more philosophical bent. I’m still sort of hung up on the quantum theory aspects of LOST, specifically symmetry, pairs, and the concept of interdependence.  We are used to the idea of independent, individual redemption.  In the Lost universe moving through the process seems to need to occur in groups. Even when one character seems to have a specific quest or purpose it often takes more than one to accomplish it.  In some cases everyone needs to be together; and within the group each person seems to have a specific person who is his or her constant.

We make choices or meet destinies in the company of other people. We work through our personal issues and experience redemptive moments because other people motivate and encourage us. Left to our own devices we tend to lean in to our flaws and take the path of least resistance. Christianity provides a model for connected community. Jesus had 12 disciples. He had them travel in pairs.  Paul always had a second.  In Corinthians Paul says the church is as interconnected as a human body and says that everyone together as a corporate entity comprises the temple of God.

The survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 made choices to connect with one another. Each season offered opportunities for them to choose to split up or unite, and presented circumstances that forced separation or brought them back together. Free will and destiny played a part in these separations and reunions. Many episodes are devoted to their efforts to reconnect with one another. As they interact in pairs and small groups it is often their relationships rather than their circumstances that affected the most profound change.  So often the choice to put aside a character flaw and behave sacrificially or heroically comes out of love for one another. (I discussed LOST characters and the 7 deadly sins in a previous post.)

Maybe Ben didn’t go into the church because he not only had some”things to work out,” but because his constant may be Danielle or Alex, or both, and their story isn’t complete.  Perhaps Ben’s story converges with the lives of those on the plane but his redemptive journey is with a different group of people that may include Charles, Ellie, or others who are at the party in the sideways universe but not in the church.

The focus throughout the series has been on Jack and the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815, so it makes sense that the gathering in the church consists of these survivors and their constants. Desmond brought them to the Island and his quest is  connected with theirs. Christian is there because he is Jack’s father.

Christian clears up a few issues for us when he tells Jack that everything that took place on the island is real and that the sideways universe is a result of the collective need of the Losties to stay together. He also tells Jack there is no “now. “ I’m still really curious about the passage of time on and off the Island and in the various backward and sideways flashes.

I loved Kate’s comment “Christian Shephard? Seriously?” It may have been the best line of the night. We never really see Christian’s redemptive arc. He’s an alcoholic philanderer who isn’t the most supportive father and has been dead the entire series, yet he gets to lead them all into the light. Now there’s a nod to grace.

There are laws of science, like symmetry & interconnectedness that translate into the theme of relationships in LOST.  There are also theological ideas that show up in almost every religion because they are true. I also found it compelling that they chose to tell a redemption story that includes selfless sacrifice and the defeat of evil. Perhaps this theme shows up in so many mythologies and religions because it is a necessary element in redemption. I picked up on some more uniquely Christian ideas as well.

Forgiveness is a small redemption each time we give or receive it. The scene outside the church between Ben and Locke was beautiful. The choice to partake in eternity is as simple as drinking from a cup that someone else offers.  “Is that all?” Hurley asks after Jack has him drink and says “now you are like me.”

There are also apparent differences in how redemption happens. In the LOST Universe there is a need for a redemptive quest or an earned redemption, but in the Christian universe redemption really is just as simple as receiving an offered cup.  In Christianity eternal life is a by-product of redemption rather than a separate experience, and transformation is a result of redemption rather than its cause.

Tolkien created an entire history, language, and theology for Middle Earth that a reader or viewer of Lord of the Rings isn’t necessarily going know, but it’s that background that makes the story so cohesive. Cuse and Lindelof have crafted a story that includes mythological, philosophical, scientific, and theological elements that work with their plot and theme but they haven’t revealed a complete back story for the LOST universe. I’m not going to fault them for that, but, being the geek that I am I hope they’ll offer some sort of a “Silmarillion” for curious fans. The final episode is growing on me but I still want some more answers.

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