Virgin Mary statues, Jesus sticks, and characters named after C.S. Lewis. Not exactly your typical ingredients in prime-time television. But all par for the course on ABC’s “Lost.”
Thanks in part to its Catholic co-creator, Carlton Cuse, “Lost” went where few television shows have gone before, tackling questions of salvation, damnation and faith. Ostensibly about a group of plane crash survivors stranded on an island, “Lost” gave a cool and compelling story to post-modern man’s quest for redemption and meaning.
On May 23, after six mind-bending seasons, the final episode will air. To mourn the occasion, Our Sunday Visitor looks back on seven best Catholic moments on “Lost.”
1. Season 1, ‘Pilot’
Sometimes hindsight is everything. When the healed paralytic John Locke explained the rules of backgammon, few people thought much of it. As the series unfolded, however, Locke’s words (“It’s the oldest game in the world. …Two players. Two sides. One is light. The other dark.”) proved more than a simple explanation of the game. They were an introduction to one of the show’s — and the Catholic worldview’s — primary concerns: the battle between good and evil.
2. Season 2, ‘The 23rd Psalm’
A spot-on catechesis on confession (“for confession to mean something you must have a penitent heart”), a holy priest who sacrifices his life to save the lives of thugs, and a conclusion that included a former Nigerian gangster and a former heroin addict reciting the 23rd Psalm.
It was a pretty good episode.
3. Season 2, ‘Fire and Water’
OK, Mr. Eko’s lack of theological training showed when he gave new mom Claire some flawed catechesis on baptism. But how many shows ever devoted an entire episode to one character’s quest to get another character baptized? And when Claire asked the pseudo-priest Eko if she and her soon-to-be baptized son would be separated eternally because she wasn’t baptized, the response wasn’t a PC “Of course not.” It was, “Not if I baptize you both.”
4. Season 3, ‘I Do’
“I Do” featured an unfortunate incident in a polar bear cage. It also featured a surprising question from the U.S. marshal pursuing Kate Austen.
“I realized this morning it was the feast of the Ascension, and I was feeling a little bad. How many holy days have come and gone since you last called?”
It wasn’t the most earth-shattering Catholic moment, but when was the last time you heard “feast of the Ascension” mentioned on a show not produced in Irondale, Ala., or Steubenville, Ohio?
5. Season 3, ‘Through the Looking Glass’
The characters’ simple acts of faith often said more about the Catholic sensibilities of “Lost” than its philosophical formulations. Consider the closing moments of Season 3. Charlie not only sacrificed himself so that others might live, but he also offered that sacrifice to God, making the Sign of the Cross over his own body as the ocean waters flooded the room where he was trapped. It was his final prayer. And it was beautiful.
6. Season 5, ‘316’
The episode’s name refers to the verse in John’s Gospel, but the real Catholic moment in this episode was a conversation between the show’s matinee hero, Dr. Jack Shepherd, and archvillain Ben Linus. Standing underneath Caravaggio’s “The Incredulity of a Saint,” Linus told Jack, ever the skeptic, the story of Thomas’ doubt.
“He refused to acknowledge the Resurrection. He just couldn’t wrap his mind around it,” Ben began. “The story goes that he needed to touch Jesus’ wounds to be convinced.”
“So was he?” Jack replied.
“Of course he was. We’re all convinced sooner or later, Jack.”
7. Season 6, ‘Dr. Linus’
It might as well have been called “The Great Divorce.” Taking its cue from Lewis’ book, which argued that the souls in hell are there because they choose to be, “Dr. Linus” showed a guilt-wracked Ben ready to give himself over to the Man in Black because he believed that “he’s the only one who’ll have me.” But Ilana set him straight.
“I’ll have you,” she said, giving Ben the grace, mercy and forgiveness he so desperately needed.
He accepted her offer. And surely, somewhere in TV Land, angels rejoiced.
Emily Stimpson is an OSV contributing editor.