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Goodbye, Mr. Eko

The Cost of Living,” last week’s Lost episode, has raised a flurry of talk online among television critics and fans. Why? I waited over a week to post, so this shouldn’t be a spoiler to y’all: if you haven’t heard by now, our beloved thug-turned-priest Mr. Eko was killed by the black smoke thingy (which, interestingly, many think is actually only one form in a shape-shifting repertoire of a single entity that’s haunting the islanders).

Now, Eko isn’t the first of the main crash-survivor characters on Lost to die (in fact, he’s the fifth). Up until now, I’ve been, well, pretty darn impressed by the chutzpa as well as the creativity of the writers in every case. But Eko’s death has me heaving a heavy sigh. (Read the episode synopsis here.) Now, I admit Eko was one of my favorite characters (if not the favorite), a big reason being his presence deepened and advanced the spiritual and faith themes in the series. But somehow his death doesn’t quite sit right—and I’m not the only one who thinks so

Since the episode aired, a variety of reasons have surfaced offering possible explanations outside the storyline itself as to why Eko left us so abruptly for the great beyond. Whether it’s rumors that actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje was disruptive on the set or that he actually asked to be let out of his contract for personal reasons related to his parents’ deaths or other film projects he was working on, fans and critics are not taking this death so easily—for reasons as various as it makes the show “less colorful” to objections related to the writers’ creative (or should we say, lack of creative) choices.

For me, the issues center around the lack of continuity when it comes to how death and its relationship to redemption and repentance have been explored and portrayed on Lost. This relationship is a hot topic online and among fans and critics of the show (see here for example). For the previous characters, their deaths seem related to rebirth or redemption, a coming to terms with their pasts and being ready to move forward—Shannon and Ana Lucia being two prime examples. Boone comes to terms with his troubled past before dying (and his death poignantly coincides with the birth of Claire’s baby). While we don’t get any coming-to-terms-with-the-past with Libby, she pointedly dies after saving Hurley from jumping off a cliff.

What about Eko? He’s a mixed bag. Some think his declaration to a form that appeared to be his dead brother (who was most likely the smoke-monster) that the violence in his past was only making the best of a bad situation (i.e., “I played the hand I was dealt the best I could”) was a pseudo-redemptive moment; others think perhaps his death was a judgment of his past life (one full of violence that began heart-wrenchingly with a violent act to save his brother in African village as a child). But neither explanation, at least in my opinion, quite fits.

Granted, Eko is the first of the main characters to be directly killed by “the Island” or an inhabitant of it. The other four were either killed accidentally (Boone) or shot to death by another crash survivor (Shannon, Ana Lucia, and Libby). So perhaps the writers are starting a new thread? However, if that’s the case, the context or set-up for this type of shift wasn’t laid out or crafted very well.

So, I’m pretty much throwing my hat in with the fans and critics who found Eko’s death forced. Sadly, it made much more sense when I read reports in the days after the episode aired that he asked to be released from his contract. Like other critics in this ring, I’m disappointed that the writers couldn’t have handled it better. I wish they’d been more creative and given this incredibly rich, haunting and deep character a death at which we could have raged but at the same time respected.

My .02 worth anyway.

(Images: copyrighted by ABC) lostctgy


Ken Brown said…
Hmmm, I guess I see what you meant about this episode, though the only thing I really didn't like was Eko' claim that he didn't need forgiveness. It basically invalidated everything we've seen of his apparent redemption, as his "brother's" reaction attested (when he pulled his hand back from the cross he was about to take from him). It's almost as though this episode was the mirror image of "The 23rd Psalm," and quite disappointing; Eko was probably my favorite character as well...

Not enough to make me give up on the show though.

P.S. Don't ask how many episodes I had to watch today to get this far! Good thing my semester is over, eh?
Carmen Andres said…
holy smokes, ken! i'm thinking at least 8-10 episodes. sheesh!!

i like your observation that this epi seems the mirror of "psalms 23." that lends some more articulation to the gut reaction i had to this episode.

heh, did you notice i don't post on the series again after this episode until this season? i was really mad, heh.
Ken Brown said…
I don't think it was that many (but I'm not gonna count, in case I'm wrong!), but watching them on a portable laptop with minimal commercials makes them go much faster than normal.

I think your warning made it not seem as bad to me. I was expecting something truly dreadful, and all I got was something disappointing. Actually, as much as I liked Eko and hate the manner in which they killed him off, I'm rather impressed with how they handled it. Contrasting the two episodes, we see that in the first one when he was repentent, he found himself able to face evil (the cloud) without fear, while here when he has rejected repentence, not only does he find that he cannot escape death, but even his attempt to invoke the same scripture (Psalm 23) proves fruitless. His abortive attempt to build a church (to replace the one he desecrated) is also symbolic of his failure to repent.
Carmen Andres said…
yeah, some good friends of mine (who are bigger fans than me) thought i over-reacted, heh. but that episode still sits ill with me. doesn't it seem a bit out of eko's character, with all the steps he'd taken down the road of repentance and redemption and transformation, to end like that? anyway, i'm used to being in the minority on this :)