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TV Snapshot: The whole story makes a difference

During a rushed and hushed pow-wow while Fake Locke/Smoke Monster/Man in Black is off talking with Jack, Sawyer fills Hurley in on his plans to escape Fake Locke and get off the island. Hurley asks if they’re going to tell Sun about those plans, and Sawyer indicates Kate is already taking care of that.

Hurley: What about Sayid?

Sawyer looks over at Sayid, who’s sitting by himself, his eyes blank and, well, souless.

Sawyer: Sayid ain’t invited. He’s gone over the Dark Side.

Hurley: Yeah, but you can always bring people back from the Dark Side. I mean, Anakin—

Sawyer looks at Hurley likes he’s crazy.

Sawyer: Who the hell’s Anakin?
This scene is from “The Last Recruit,” one of the final episodes left in the story that is Lost. It was a rapidly paced episode that reminded me of a chessboard approaching endgame, when after eons of strategic preparation pieces are now flying around and off the board in preparation for the inevitable showdown. Among other things, we continue to watch battle lines being drawn and sides being taken at a heart-racing pace. What I love about this scene, however, is the challenge to consider how we choose those lines in our own lives and how those lines affect the way we approach the people around us—and the role of stories in all of that.

I find Sawyer’s use of the Star Wars' “Dark Side” as a metaphor in referencing Sayid an interesting choice by the writers—and one that fits with many of the other images and metaphors used in the series (black and white stones, scales, backgammon pieces, the colors Jacob and Man in Black chose to wear, etc.). This isn’t the first time Star Wars has been mentioned by a character, and its intentional use by the writers invites us to consider how the Star Wars narrative comments on and potentially deepens our understanding of the Lost story. Indeed, the two stories share similarities. In particular, I am struck by similar themes of good versus evil on cosmic as well as personal scales and the power of and relationship between redemption and sacrifice. And Lost, like Star Wars, thought-provokingly posits that redemption is available even for the most lost of people; consider Ben Linus, for example.

The interjection of the Star Wars narrative into Lost also invites us to consider the characters who reference it. In the above scene, Sawyer and Hurley’s use and knowledge of the narrative is very different—and that may tell us something about who they are and why they do what they do.

Sawyer, for instance, doesn’t know the whole story. His knowledge of the Star Wars narrative is obviously limited: he knows there’s a Dark Side and no doubt he’s familiar enough with the story to know that Darth Vader is the champion of it. However, he doesn’t know that Darth Vader once was (and becomes again) Anakin, and that warps his understanding of both Anakin/Darth Vader’s personal story as well as the Star Wars narrative as a whole. But those of us who know the whole story know that Vader wasn’t always evil (and not always named Vader)—and that he doesn’t end evil, either. And we know Anakin’s path towards the Dark Side had to do with the fear of and the actual loss of those he loves. We understand (albeit while we also lament) Anikan’s descent and that gives us some measure of compassion for him; and knowing how the story ends challenges us to consider others who have “gone over to the Dark Side” as redeemable. For Sawyer, however, Vader is forever the raspy breathing villain and the vulnerable young man who lost so much and eventually is redeemed from the Dark Side is not known to him. For Sawyer, there is no way back from the Dark Side. And that gives us some insight into Sawyer’s choice to write off Sayid the way he does. As Doc Jensen puts it, Sawyer's ignornace of the whole Star Wars narrative makes us realize that he "lacks reference points for the kind of redemption that the fallen souls of Lost need."

There is also an irony in Sawyer’s ignorance of the entire Star Wars narrative because Sawyer bears almost as much similarity to Anakin as Sayid. Anikan’s descent into darkness and his choices to ultimately turn against those whom he’s loved and walked beside is heavily wrapped up in his fear of losing and being unable to prevent the death of the women he loves—the very thing realized by both Sawyer and Sayid as they watched the women they love die. And, like Anakin and Sayid, that kind of pain and fear affects the way Sawyer approaches the people around him. (And I, like Doc Jensen, have to wonder if the similarity between Sawyer and Anakin will bear out later in the story.)

Huley is a different case, however. Hurley’s reference to Anakin reveals that he does know the whole story—and his commentary on the metaphor fits with his own personal approach to people. Sayid and Sawyer aren’t the only ones who've lost the ones they love; Hurley lost Libby. And interestingly, in a previous episode—only hours before his conversation with Sawyer—Hurley has a conversation with the ghost (for lack of a better word) of Michael, the person who killed her. While we know Michael suffered greatly for his act, we also know Hurley still deeply mourns for Libby. Understandably, Hurley’s first conversation with Michael is strained, if not angry. Yet, by the time their second conversation is over, Hurley is actually looking past his own pain and loss. Amazingly, he even asks Michael if there is anything he can do for him. While he may not have the warm fuzzies for Michael, Hurley sees room for change and redemption, even for people who have deeply hurt him and those he loves. For Hurley, there is a line between darkness and light, but there is also a way back from the dark side for those who have crossed over that line—and that affects how he approaches the people around him. Sayid may have gone over to the Dark Side, but Hurley believes there’s still a chance to help him back.

And all of this makes me think about how important it is that we live our lives and approach others in light of the entire Story within which we live because our knowledge of that Story determines what lines we draw and how we approach the people around us. The Story we find in Scripture reveals a God who sees everyone with the potential for redemption and relentlessly works to save us all from darkness, death, and a broken world and into an overflowing, amazing life in the wide open spaces of his love, grace and glory—where we were designed to live from the beginning. Do we see the people around us in terms of the whole Story, or do we draw lines according to our own judgment and perspective? Do we, like Hurley, see the people around us—even those that have done things to hurt us—as redeemable? Or do we, like Sawyer, draw our own lines and define those on our side as worthy and reject those on the other side of that line as unworthy or lost causes? One perspective incorporates an understanding of the whole Story, which even includes the capacity to forgive our enemies because we see redemption as abundantly available. The other, in one way or another, involves fear, anger, isolation and rejection and reveals that we believe redemption is not available for everyone. Ultimately, I think it reveals we don’t really know or believe the whole Story.

All of this is nothing new. Indeed, it weaves through those two thousand year old letters from Peter, Paul and others. And it’s not surprising to find this struggle playing out in Lost as well—for it is a story that consistently brings God-talk into open spaces.

(Image: ABC)


Joseph said…
Great post even though I am no fan of LOST.

Can I just say though that I am truly wounded (not really but just pretend) that my blog is no longer on your blogroll? After all we've been through together?

I'm gonna need a moment...
Carmen Andres said…
dude, totally spaced on that! after you changed your blog, i deleted the old one but forgot to add the new one. fixed now :)