TV Club

Season 6: I Once Was Lost, But Now Am Found

Scene from Lost. Click image to expand.

Seth and Chad: As luck would have it, I received an e-mail message this afternoon from a publicist flacking a book titled The Gospel According to Lost from the religious publisher Thomas Nelson. I got a good laugh out of the e-mail—reproduced here —which advances the claims of author Chris Seay. A pastor, naturally, Seay believes that Lost points to “the existence of a truly good higher power … the existence of evil” and “a struggle between these two interfaces.” Seay is a sort of TV pastor. He previously authored The Gospel According to Tony Soprano.

But after watching tonight’s episode, “Ab Aeterno,” I guess the joke is on me. The show’s creators decant enough murderous mayhem, love, ghosts, miracles, glimpses of hell, tempests, men in chains, temptation, resurrection, baptism, imprisonment, eternal life, slave-selling, devil-spotting, scripture-reading, sibling rivalry, discussions of free will, pure love, and hand-to-hand combat to fill the King James Bible. Of course I can’t say I was caught completely unawares by the episode’s Christian streak. Like, a work of fiction can’t feature a character called Jacob without attracting some suspicion. But all the incessant talk about hell in tonight’s episode—Richard Alpert tells Dr. Jack without flinching that the island is Satan’s crib—trades the allegoric for the literal.

The episode belongs to Alpert. It turns out he was a slave—this had been hinted at before— and was shipwrecked on the island in 1867 by a massive storm. The Man in Black tells Richard that he’s trapped in hell and can be reunited with his dead wife only if he kills the Devil (Jacob) down on the beach with a dagger. 

But Jacob re-educates Richard with a vigorous ocean baptism worthy of John Yoo. * A ream of exposition follows. You’re not dead, the island isn’t hell, Jacob summons people to the island as part of his long-running contest with the Man in Black to prove that men are good and not bad. Your job, he tells Richard, should you decide to accept it, is to join men in the holy struggle to keep Old Scratch—the Man in Black—in his bottle (the island). Richard accepts and Jacob grants Richard’s wish to live forever. Major Lost mysteries solved! Among them: The island is a religious battlefield.

But did the episode really have to go six minutes beyond the normal running time to tell its story? Our TV Club editor, Juliet Lapidos, complained to me that there was too much Spanish. “They just do it to waste time, don’t you think?” she wrote, offering the theory that had they done away with subtitles and let the characters speak English, it would have clocked out on the hour.

Random notes: Hurley is getting mighty good at talking to dead people, isn’t he? Then there’s Miles who telepathically connects to the dead’s last thoughts, and then there’s Dr. Jack, who saw his dead dad. Who else am I missing? Doesn’t Ben see his dead mother? I don’t have time to look up others as my copy must go live before midnight and it’s already 11:16 p.m. Chad’s previous disquisition (and video) on the meaning of the white and black rocks came in handy tonight when Richard tells the Man in Black that he has something from Jacob for him: a white stone. That’s a good way to keep score in an eternal game, doncha think?

Random questions: Why must all Lost couples be torn apart? When the modern-era Richard screams at the top of his lungs under the big tree for the Man in Black to come claim him, are Lost’s creators trying to parallel the Buddha’s pursuit of wisdom under the Bodhi tree? (Or is that just my comparative religion class in college coming back to haunt me?) We know from tonight’s episode that Jacob has decided not to intercede among the castaways he’s summonsed to the island, which makes Christian sense that even Pastor Chris would endorse. But why does the Man in Black need intermediaries? To make it sporting?

Random ghoulishness: The most frightening moment in the episode was when Richard awoke in his chains to hear and then see a hog eating one of his deceased fellow slaves. Later, after the Man in Black “rescues” Richard, he feeds him an ample meal of what we can assume is human-fed pork. The island’s motto must be “Either the pig eats you or you eat the pig.”

Slate V: Previously on Lost

* Correction, March 27:In the original version of this article, Jack Shafer misspelled John Yoo’s last name. (Return to the corrected sentence.)

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