Posted by: Brian Andrew Davis | May 26, 2010

LOST: A Postmodern Parable

While the LOST series finale certainly did beautifully and emotively wrap up the plotlines of our characters lives on ‘the Island’ and finish telling a fantastic story of good versus evil and good guy beating the bad guy, I fear that many frustrated fans may be more concerned on not getting answers to the mysteries of the numbers, the outrigger canoe shooting, the whereabouts of the stewardess and the children—and all the while missing out on the bigger picture (and the message/messages that the show wound up sharing).

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen the LOST finale, it might not be a good idea to read this blogpost. Just sayin’.

The End as a two-and-a-half hour finale event really was beautifully written and executed on screen. From such awesome scenes as lowering Desmond into the heart of the Island, the gripping battle between Jack and Locke on the cliff, and Jack’s sacrifice and so perfect return to where he crashed on the island, I really enjoyed the main timeline and the story our friends Carlton and Damon told. And the ‘sideways-timeline’ as we’ve been referring to it—what amazing awakenings and realizations of life and what had happened to our characters. We felt a joy that they knew who they were and especially that they realized what a beautiful thing it was to be who they had become. And I loved what was happening…until the very end.

I’m not saying I wish things had wound up a different way or that I don’t appreciate the beauty and especially the message behind what we had been shown, I suppose I just felt (and even moreso after processing it) that the wool had been pulled over our eyes. Did things such as David (Jack’s non-existent pianist son) or that the Island was at the bottom of the ocean even matter if this ‘existence’ was some type of afterlife purgatory or self-created holding tank? Why include such details except to shock us at the end?

But enough.  I’m willing to pass over such qualms I have with the way the truth was revealed at the end and look at the message of LOST as a whole. In retrospect, I can see that the show was much less about how our castaways or ‘Other’ characters were lost on the earth (or how lost the fans felt as the mythology unfolded)—but rather the show was about how our characters were spiritually lost. The plane wreck was a picture of their current lives. They were a group of wrecked and ‘jacked up’ people who wound up ‘wrecking’ on an island. And, living in a community (Live Together, Die Alone) the group sought to help each other and uncover their ‘purpose’ and wound up finding redemption. It was less about being lost and more about becoming unlost—about being found—about becoming something else. Becoming a different type of person. And I think the message that the creators of LOST sent at the end was shockingly one that was very faith centric: to become something else and find redemption it must be through faith.

In the final scene where Jack dares to open his father’s coffin, Christian Shepherd appears in front of a stained-glass window that shows six different symbols, one representing each of the six major faiths in our world—a cross for Christianity, a star of David for Judaism, a star and crescent moon for Islam, a ying-yang for taoism, an aum to represent Hinduism, and (perhaps most interestingly) a wheel of dharma to represent Hinduism. I found this window to be an interesting choice. Of course I immediately recognized it to be one of two things—either a blanket recognition of all religions with the undertone of “We’re broadcasting this to a large audience and of course can’t pick which religion we believe” (Cuse is a Catholic, by the way), or an acceptance of all religions as equal, ie. Universalism. However, I must argue that if the producers only wanted the window to be a ‘blanket idea of faith’, they could have chosen something neutral, something mystical, or maybe just a plain stained glass window. (Maybe a stained glass window with an island on it would have worked?) But instead they chose those symbols and put them on a window in a crucial final scene where our main protagonist finished his course of redemption by reconciling with his father—a man who had been miraculously redeemed from a work-a-alcoholic to a loving parent. By putting those symbols on that window, they tied real world religion to the idea of the story and the message it was telling. It was as if they wanted us to know that these routes really were the way to get where our characters were. An informed worldview and an understanding of worldviews in general is important when interpreting and taking away a message from anything, but especially something so emotionally packed and so ‘addictive’ to so many millions of fans.

All along the way I think LOST has been an embodiment of postmodernism. From the themes it has chosen to focus on to the way fans have rallied around it, the show has been about drawing your own meaning and coming to your own conclusions about what has happened. Social media, of course, has been a huge part of how this happened.  Perhaps our technology is a tool that has been released without thought for where it is leading us, and thus has created a little more postmodernism for each of us.  But that’s a post for another time…back to LOST.  Even now that the show is over there is much debate about exactly what we saw and even more interpretations of what it all means. Much of the show’s hype and following included ‘theories’ or interpretations of what was happening along the way. Postmodern thinking allows for each person to create his or her own truth, or ‘theory’ about life. And that window had different approaches to ideas of God (many very different from others). The danger in walking away from a beautiful show like this is that we would allow some of the subtle messages (whether intended or not) or some ‘allowance’ of postmodern thinking into our own approach.

And while I believe that in the end faith does triumph over reason, I don’t believe the two must stand in opposition to one another as the “Man of Science, Man of Faith” theme presents. Rather, we should strive to see the evidence of our reason and the results of science through the lens of faith.

Overall I am grateful for my time watching LOST and the work the producers, cast, crew, etc. have put into making such a wonderful show. I feel like the show did a wonderful job of showing the arc of redemption in many characters’ lives, as well as the importance of love and faith to that process.

But when it comes to looking toward “The End” for myself, I am glad my hope is in Christ and not in a blanket ‘faith’. I am glad my redemption is found in his work and not in my own efforts. And I am glad that we have a picture of sacrifice that is much more complete and hopeful.



  1. […] You should check out the rest of Brian’s post. […]

  2. Derek Webb tweeted this link. Described it as the best summary/explanation he’s found yet. I agree. Really articulate and to the point. 🙂

  3. Brian/Bethany:
    Hadn’t checked your blog out until today, and I’m so glad you wrote what you did about the LOST finale. Gotta say, it was pretty disappointing, and I definitely got the Hindu symbolism, esp the blue god that is the close up before Jack’s interaction with Christian.
    Excellent post.


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