The “Lost” finale was pure genius. I say this with no hyperbole. It was the best ending to the best show in the history of television. In my last post, I had two predictions about the final act: (1) good and evil will be sorted out, and (2) someone important will have to die. Both of those predictions were born-out in the finale. Good and evil were embodied in Jacob and his nameless brother, and their epic conflict finally came to an end in the battle between Jack and “Locke.” When Jack killed “Locke,” the good finally prevailed. Someone important did have to die in order to save the island. And that someone was Jack. Did you notice that his side was pierced? The Christ-allusion was not accidental.
The finale did leave us, however, with some questions. What was the meaning of the “flash sideways” world? What was the final meeting in the church about? What was the point of the apparent resurrection of Jack’s father, Christian Shepherd? These questions were not answered definitively, and I think the writers intended for there to be more than one possible interpretation. It’s like the end of the college football season. The championship game doesn’t really settle the big question for some people. Often times there’s an argument to be made for more than one team, and a part of the fun of college football is arguing about it. For Lost fans, arguing about the meaning of it all will be part of the fun. That was by design.
My best shot at explaining the sideways world is this. The sideways world is a sort of purgatory (without the purging) for all of the characters. Some of them died on the island, some of them died much later. Nevertheless, all of them eventually died. This sideways world was the place where they came to terms with their real-life deaths before moving on to the afterlife. It was the place where they learned that what they did in their real lives on the island really mattered. It’s why all of them went on to “glory” while Benjamin Linus had to stay behind and was not able to join them just yet. Christian Shepherd was so named (remember that Kate made a big deal of his name) because he was a Christian leader of sorts. He blazed the trail for all of them, having preceded them in death. The show ends with the redeemed going on to their reward.
“Lost” captivated millions because it drew upon a variety of universal themes. It was self-consciously theological and philosophicalâ€”an approach that really sticks-out among the mind-numbing pabulum offered daily on television. Characters were named after famous philosophers (e.g., John Locke, Desmond David Hume), storylines were mistaken for religious narratives (e.g., the theory that the island is purgatory), and classic metaphysical dilemmas appeared throughout (e.g., fate vs. free-will, good vs. evil).
As I’ve said before, the Lost story was not your run-of-the-mill postmodern critique of metanarratives. Good and evil were in a pitched battle, and the good won in the end. Viewers saw in this story what they already perceive to be true about their own story. The world that they live in is broken, something has gone wrong, there is evil afoot, and something needs to be done about it. Everyone living in this broken-down world is broken-down themselves and in desperate need of redemption.
I think it’s easy to see why viewers have been attracted to Lost’s mythology. They feel a yearning that what was true in Lost’s story might be true in their own. They hope to find that what they did here did have meaning and a purpose and that good will win-out in the end. The Christian gospel teaches that this universal human yearning does have an answer. It teaches that good does in fact win-out in the end, that there is a purpose to it all, and that redemption is possibleâ€”even for the vilest characters in this drama (1 Timothy 1:15). There was really a man who was pierced for our transgressions to make a new world and new life possible (John 19:34; cf. Isaiah 53:5; Zechariah 12:10). Only this man didn’t live in a mythological TV-world. He lived here, was one of us, and has gone on to prepare a place for those who know Him by faith (John 1:14; 14:2-3).
“Lost” highlighted the itch that only the gospel can scratch. This was the unwitting genius of the show, and it is why people will be talking about it for years to come.
Here are some worthwhile reads on the “Lost” finale. Many of them offer a decidedly more negative evaluation than my own.