Archive for The End

Communion, Community and Redemption in “The End”

Posted in Sacred Narratives and Lost with tags , , , , on May 26, 2010 by SCS

“Let no one build walls to divide us
Walls of hatred nor walls of stone
Come greet the dawn and stand beside us
We’ll live together or we’ll die alone”

Billy Bragg,“The Internationale”


The last 15 minutes of the finale left me speechless. Mostly, I was surprised by my own reaction. Typically, I’m turned off by anything so blatantly sentimental, but I was sincerely moved, awed by the emotional power of those last few scenes, which were intensified even more by the subtle tenderness of Vincent’s entrance. I realize that, despite my recent criticism of everything Lost, from hokey dialogue to implausible motives, I still feel a deep connection to these characters. Much has already been said about how the finale, and the series in general, is fundamentally a character-driven story. But it wasn’t just the individual personal dramas that moved me; it was the return of a few very fundamental themes, most notably, redemption through community. Emotional interdependency and salvation through a communion with others drives this episode and, arguably, the entire narrative.

“No one does it alone, Jack”

Christian Shephard

Jack’s transformation from doubting Thomas to savior was compelling by itself. He journeyed from being a reluctant leader to a prodigal son and, finally, a man of faith. From there, he was able to see that he had a purpose, that there was an order to the universe and that he was chosen to protect it from chaos. As Damon Lindelof said in an interview and I will paraphrase here, the metaphysical conflict has shifted from faith versus reason to order versus chaos. The Smoke Monster threatened to destroy everything and send them “all to hell,” as Isabella (Richard’s wife) told Hurley. Granted, we did not get an explicit answer about what exactly would happen, but we can assume that by destroying the monster, Kate and Jack  might have very well saved the world, and that whatever Jack did with the giant cork, he preserved the island. Jack did all of this selflessly; he served as the sacrificial lamb for all of humanity.

Jack’s Redemption

Jack became a willing participant of an extraordinary community, a kind of microcosm of the world, and worked with this group to shift the paradigm of the island. He had to accept, not only his role as a leader, but his function as savior. Quite literally, he did all of this “in communion” with others. So it was not only Jack that was redeemed, but everyone who cooperated in the greater cause. And they all achieved a sort of salvation, or at least authorization to “move on,” by re-assembling the group in the afterlife and by remembering the significance of their lives together. This theme—redemption through community—has arisen throughout the series, most notably in Jack’s “live together, die alone” speech, so it is no surprise that it plays such a crucial role in the resolution of the plot.

It makes sense too, within this context, that Hurley has been appointed as the next Jacob. He understands the value of community and how, if done right, a collaborative effort can elevate human beings. Recall his very first job on the island—to distribute food to the “masses”—and remember the golf course he made to ease the tension within the group and bring them all together.  He is clearly in communion with others. What many of us didn’t realize before, including me, is that being in communion with the island is not as important as emotionally connecting to others.

Hurley Organizes a Golf Day

The episode’s inherent message is that social collaboration and emotional engagement are the keys to redemption and a “life after death.” Christian tells Jack that all of his friends have come together “to remember;” they have constructed a shared space together because “No one does it alone.” Like Jesus and the disciples gathered at the last supper for communion, in anticipation of renewal and transcendence, the Lostaways gather to create a place for  their own salvation, even if being saved is simply “letting go.” (Remember the “Lost Supper” image?)

Hurley Distributes Food to the Castaways

“When I’m tired and weary

and a long way from home
I reach for Mother Mary
and I shall not walk alone”

—–Blind Boys of Alabama, “I Shall Not Walk Alone”

An Apocalyptic “Heart of Darkness”

Posted in Season 6 Lit with tags , , , , , , on May 10, 2010 by SCS

This is an entry that I posted a couple of days ago but, in light of the new promo, I have something to add.  The promo’s music, Jim Morrison’s “The End,” is another nod to Apocalypse Now in which the song serves as a compelling backdrop for the film’s most significant scene (no spoilers here but if you want to view the scene, a very graphic one containing explicit language, mind you,  click to see a youtube clip)

Here are a couple of stanzas that are interesting when interpreted through a “Lost lens” and the lyrics in their entirety are provided at the bottom of this posting.

“This is the end, beautiful friend/This is the end, my only friend/The end of our elaborate plans/The end of everything that stands/The end

The killer awoke before dawn/He put his boots on/He took a face from the ancient gallery/And he walked on down the hall

He went into the room where his sister lived/And then he paid a visit to his brother/And then he walked on down the hall/And he came to a door/And he looked inside/Father?/Yes son/I want to kill you/Mother, I want to………….”

–Jim Morrison

And now begins my original “Apocalyptic Heart of Darkness” bit:

“The wilderness had found him out early, and had taken on him a terrible vengeance for the fantastic

invasion. I think it had whispered to him things about himself which he did not know, things of which he had no conception till he took counsel with this great solitude–and the whisper had proved irresistibly fascinating. It echoed loudly within him because he was hollow at the core” –Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

Young Locke's prophetic rendering of the Smoke Monster

The corruptibility of the human soul is a central theme of both Heart of Darkness and Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 movie, Apocalypse Now. The latter is a loose interpretation of Conrad’s novella but set in a very different time and place. Both stories prefigure Lost’s concern with the nature of evil and the tension between wilderness and civilization, isolation and community.

So is Lost an updated interpretation of Heart of Darkness emerging from yet another medium and genre, the television drama? Probably not. If we’ve learned anything about Lost’s vast array of literary and pop culture references it’s that, taken individually, they act like red herrings, leading us down narrow, winding trails to nowhere; yet they always provide a deeper understanding of the show’s themes and characters. Taken together they help to expand the meaning of the show, which is sometimes a great relief when meaning within the text seems a little thin.

But I find it particularly interesting that a recent promotional trailer featured the famous lines of Conrad’s novel, probably even more familiar to modern viewers as the dialogue from Apocalypse Now: “The horror, the horror.” In fact, the entire promo was centered around this and another line from Heart of Darkness. The short clip shows John Locke, the smoke monster, marching towards some of Widmore’s men with a menacing expression on his face while the words on the bottom of the screen read “His soul had gone mad. Being alone in the wilderness.” Here is the full passage from the novel: “But his soul was mad. Being alone in the wilderness, it had looked within itself, and, by heavens! I tell you, it had gone mad. I had–for my sins, I suppose–to go through the ordeal of looking into it myself. No eloquence would have been so withering to one’s belief in mankind as his final burst of sincerity. He struggled with himself, too. I saw it,–I heard it. I saw the inconceivable mystery of a soul that knew no restraint, no faith, and no fear, yet struggling blindly with itself.”

Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now

An excerpt of dialogue from the film Apocalypse Now shows an even more explicit study of the struggle between good and evil. Before General Corman sends Willard on his mission to find Colonel Kurtz, a man engaging in horrendous acts of violence against the native people, he warns him of the limits of the human spirit: ” There’s conflict in every human heart between the rational and the irrational, between good and evil. The good does not always triumph. Sometimes the dark side overcomes what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature. Every man has got a breaking point….Walter Kurtz has reached his. And very obviously he has gone insane.”

This is one way to look at evil—as insanity, beyond the pale of anything rational. Is this what the Smoke Monster embodies? Pure madness? For certain, we know Claire has been left in the wilderness and reached her breaking point. Sayid was pushed over the edge by his own actions and the inability to forgive himself. And Ben, the original bad guy, has always exhibited signs of mental instability. Perhaps the Smoke Monster’s plan works this way: the more “mad souls” that he recruits, the stronger he becomes. The apocalypse will come to pass one “infected” spirit at a time.

“The End” by Jim Morrison

(Featured in the 1979 film Apocalypse Now)

This is the end, beautiful friend
This is the end, my only friend
The end of our elaborate plans
The end of ev’rything that stands
The end

No safety or surprise
The end
I’ll never look into your eyes again

Can you picture what will be
So limitless and free
Desperately in need of
some strangers hand
In a desperate land

Lost in a Roman wilderness of pain
And all the children are insane
All the children are insane
Waiting for the summer rain
There’s danger on the edge of town
Ride the king’s highway
Weird scenes inside the goldmine
Ride the highway West baby

Ride the snake
Ride the snake
To the lake
To the lake

The ancient lake baby
The snake is long
Seven miles
Ride the snake

He’s old
And his skin is cold
The west is the best
The west is the best
Get here and we’ll do the rest

The blue bus is calling us
The blue bus is calling us
Driver, where you taking us?

The killer awoke before dawn
He put his boots on
He took a face from the ancient gallery
And he walked on down the hall

He went into the room where his sister lived
And then he paid a visit to his brother
And then he walked on down the hall
And he came to a door
And he looked inside
Father?
Yes son
I want to kill you
Mother, I want to………….

Come on, baby, take a chance with us
Come on, baby, take a chance with us
Come on, baby, take a chance with us
And meet me at the back of the blue bus

This is the end, beautiful friend
This is the end, my only friend
The end

It hurts to set you free
But you’ll never follow me

The end of laughter and soft lies
The end of nights we tried to die

This is the end