The great thing about Lost was its ensemble. Even conceding the mythology was complex for a television show- if you’ve spent your life steeped in spec-fic, well, *shrug*. The science was wonky, the fantasy clunky. The only reason I followed the show (in fits and starts- I watched all of season five and six in three nights) was that you had your pick of hero: Doctor Jack, Hunter Locke, Brooding Sayid, Cowboy Sawyer, Happy Hurley, Complex Linus, Genius Faraday, Romantic Desmond. However you like your eggs, you could be sure Lost had the recipe. When it came to the the women, sadly, the pickings were ever slim and the stereotype thickly laid on. Primal Kate, Civilised Juliette, Happy-Married Sun, Willowy Shannon, Crazy Claire. The cryptic ones- Eloise Hawking, Ilana, Ana Lucia- disappeared almost as soon as they arrived. Lost was not, for all the gun-toting damsels, a woman’s show.
Lost consistently thrust its protagonists into the heat of battle. Its heroes are the ones who’ve stuck out all the fights, either by wit or by gun or by compromise. Its god, by contrast, hides and shirks human contact, and its devil is scary smoke-monster, the big bad who can be any dead person it wants. On the whole, one feels compelled to come out for smoke-man, who is defeated by the first clause of evil: embodiment is death. Any Buffy fan knows the best way to overcome something is to define it, and the minute smoke-man appropriated a corporeal body his game was up. Insofar as his point is that Jacob cruelly uses his candidates to no discernible end, smokey is right- Richard being the best example. After declaring to the man that all he wants is for humanity to tell good from evil for itself, Jacob then turns around and appoints Richard as his ageless intermediary. Yeah, that’s not controlling at all.
A capricious god is not itself an argument against any human enterprise. Everyone knows human beings can worship anything. There is a cult to suit every taste, and thank god for them, right? The test of intelligence is usually to find many different things to worship, and gamble gods against one another. Very few gods, it will be noticed, do well by their flock: it is in the nature of the affliction to betray, neglect, and impose. The act of faith is expected to be its own reward, and any true believer will tell you it is. It motivates good, soulful action etc. Each god has their frailties and flaws (even God does), but one accepts that as part of the incomprehensible. The god of a world, in fiction as in reality, sets the tone for the world. In the older stories, one separates the human from the divine, an excellent way to set up the metaphor. Now we look for the divinity within. Perhaps it exists. The answer doesn’t interest me, to be human is the balance between the divine and the demon. All stories (and reason) can do is calibrate the difference: draw lines within the Whole, whether of the self or of the cosmos. Gods are generally the grandest of these efforts. I have plenty of faith in stories and very little in any individual story, so perhaps my agnosticism is a personality quirk.
It is not that I object to gods persae. Hardly. I have myself a wide collection and it grows everyday. Most of them are fictional in the sense that the stories people tell about make no claim to be revealed truth. I am rereading Sandman, so Terminus is in current attendance when I demand solace. Anomander Rake surely knows I would never deny him. Whedon’s Glorificus is ever hilarious. I could go on, but when I claim that Lost’s Janus stands in an eclectic pantheon, I would have you believe it. I like my gods diffuse and plentiful, and what I lack in belief I make up in variety.
Churches, that said, I could do without. When Ben Linus referenced Doubting Thomas early on in Season 6, I began, finally, to lose my faith in Lost. The Shepherd hath taken over. And it isn’t even the one called Book.
A huge chunk of Lost’s arc was the debate between faith and reason: the only way one could possibly disagree with the man in black is if one is willing to trust in mystery and miracle. (Hullo: good white light vs evil red light?) Taweret, whom the Black Rock crushed upon arrival, is perhaps a more interesting Janus (wiki makes her out to be an egyptian Persephone) than Jacob/Boy in Black or Locke/Jack, but her cult is little explored. The arrival of Illana reveals its existence, but only as controlled by Jacob. Lost’s heroes wind up mostly martyrs, the religious strain running through the series amplified thousand-fold in the final season. There has always been a streak of providentialism in Lost, and the burden of belief shifts early in season 5 from Locke to Jack. Season 5 also sees another switch between reason and faith, when Juliette falls in love with Sawyer. The show persistently inverted the dichotomies it set up, whether in romance or in philosophy, only to succumb to the evasion of the happy ending.
Lost had a drawn-out run and I was thrilled to be along for the most part, but the last season bored me half to death. The flash-sideways device is a sound one, but not when the alternate reality is tied down by such a soppy rendition of Redemption. The island compensates, so do reserve seats on the next plane crash. Everyone goes to shiny happy land? Like, seriously? What about all the other people who wound up on the island (and usually died): do Desmond and Jack find a way out only for their own flock, the extended cast of Lost? Ben Linus and Juliette get their chance at salvation, but their fellow Others don’t get an invitation to Mass. The freighter crew, Dharma’s sundry scientists, the tail section survivors, the dozens of people we’ve had fleeting contact with aren’t awarded their do-over. Heaven must be a Hollywood party.
They should have stopped back at the Hatch, with the cool map and earth-shattering Button.