This may seem a strange time to review ABC's mega-hit series Lost. After all, the show did just begin its final season, and Christian TV watchers are, much like the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 and the Others, already settled into two clearly drawn camps: those who harbor a fierce, dedicated affection for the show and those who never watched it and don't get what all the fuss is about.
To the first group-I know you. Heck, I am you. And I know that you enjoy poring over every bit of theory, conjecture, and analysis related to your beloved drama. To the second, it's time to learn what you've been missing and be cheered that it's not too late for you. Thanks to Netflix and others, you can enjoy past seasons of Lost, and thanks to the internet, you can even catch up on the first couple of episodes from this final season.
Without spoiling anything for those who have yet to experience the secrets of the island, it is safe to say that from the outset Lost has been a rare show that allows those able to pick up on its Christian symbolism to appreciate it on a deeper level than the average viewer. Some of those symbols are writ in neon and some in postscripts (ask Christian fans about the thrill they experienced when the character Charlotte Staples Lewis-ahem, C.S. Lewis-arrived on the scene), but they are an ever-present, ever-developing feature of the story.
Perhaps no other character represents these layers of significance better than John Locke (Terry O'Quinn), the abandoned foster child who was once lame but begins to walk and later experiences other miracles of New Testament proportions. Locke stands as the voice of faith, often against Dr. Jack Shepherd (Matthew Fox), the voice of science.
Jack is a natural born leader, and he frequently deceives himself into believing he can control events on the island, that he can subvert the will of whatever force brought them there. John pushes Jack to look at events in a new light, convincing him that everything is happening as some greater power willed it. Jack may have been the obvious choice to lead the survivors, but the island, or whatever power rules it, selected Locke, arguably the least of them, instead.
Other characters present their own set of sins, guilt, and prejudices to overcome, especially Sayid (Naveen Andrews), an Iraqi Republican Guardsman who once tortured on behalf of Saddam Hussein, and Ben (Michael Emerson), murderous leader of a group that dwelt on the island long before the crash survivors arrived. The development of each cast member and the supernatural forces they encounter has opened a way to larger questions of good versus evil, free will versus destiny, and redemption versus corruption.
Now poised to answer all the mysteries it spent five seasons setting up, the show has taken on more starkly biblical features (we now have not only a Christ-figure but also a Satan-figure, a Judas-figure, a Moses-figure, and an Aaron-figure). And plot lines that once seemed as if they were wandering off into the jungle are beginning to lead back to the same path, demonstrating how nothing on the island is random, and every seemingly unrelated event works together toward some larger purpose. Indeed, the biblical connections are so strong that even mainstream publications like The Washington Post, Time, and Entertainment Weekly have commented on them.
None of this is to suggest that Lost is perfect in its theology or right for every viewer. The violence sometimes depicted certainly makes it inappropriate for kids. But it is a show that asks life's biggest questions and isn't afraid to search for spiritual answers to them. In a sea of programming that pushes boundaries by celebrating every sort of selfishness, stupidity, and perversion, Lost pushes boundaries with its reflective, philosophical questing. It may be a long time before we see its like on network television again.