"Lost" in Translation: Reason to believe in the ridiculous

Ben and Sun: Some people really weren’t meant to be together

My kid has been watching “Lost” with me this year, and so when we got off one plane at LAX last week, and made our way into the international arrivals terminal enroute to another flight, he took a look around and said: “I guess this is when our flash-sideways lives begin.” Made me laugh out loud. And it also reminded me of one my favorite aspects of the series: Its ability to both acknowledge, and make light of how absurd some of its central premises are.

Perhaps the best in these moments came in this episode, “The Package,” when Sawyer confronted NotLocke/Smoke Monster in the midst of NL/SM’s preparations to rustle up a boat for his and Sayid’s trip to the Hydra island.

Sawyer: ” “Why don’t you just turn  your ass into black smoke and fly over there?”

NotLocke: “I can’t do that, James. If I could do you think I’d still be here?”

Sawyer: “Of course not.” (pause) “‘Cause That’d be ridiculous.”

Just because you can turn yourself into black smoke, among other things, and fly hither and yon and destroy everything in sight….well, obviously that doesn’t mean you can cross bodies of water to do it. I mean, duh.

But then again, what isn’t absurd in the realm of faith and hope and philosophy? It’s one thing to have dueling light/dark characters who clearly standi in for God and Satan. But to invest them with similar supernatural abilities — and the same fundamental questions on the very essence of good and evil – is the sort of highwire act you should never see in popular media. That’s Salman Rushdie territory, and last time I checked a significant percentage of the world’s population was still intent on killing him.

Maybe the consistent (and consistently angrifying) notion is that life itself is ridiculous. That grace itself — e.g., the living tomato Jack pulls out of Sun’s dead garden — is a non-sequitur, just as tragedy — e.g., alterna-Sun catching a stray bullet in the restaurant kitchen shootout, just after sinister-but-doomed Keamy told Jin ” that “some people aren’t meant to be together.”

Looked like a serious gutshot, in fact, and so the last we saw was Jin carrying her off to get help, which he may or may not find in time. Just as Island Sun has to resist Not-Locke’s invitation to take her to her still-long-lost Island husband because she just doesn’t trust the Smoke Monster inside of him.

What this all adding up to, Jin-and-Sun-wise, is an-fixable destiny of being kept apart. Just as Widmore – scheming away on the Hydra, with Tina Fey at the head of his recon group – must live tragically without his daughter…..who we now assume is tragically without Desmond, the poor Scots bastard, who has been dragged back to the island for reasons unknown.

So maybe this is the final answer at the heart of “Lost”‘s mythology: Shit happens. And then, if you’ve been touched by Jacob, you don’t die.

Another ridiculous notion: Smokey’s sense of moral righteousness, even after slaughtering the innocents in the temple: They had their chance to come with him and they didn’t take it, he tells Sun. “Those people were confused. They had been lied to.” Even the devil has God on his side.

Ridiculous notion #2: The truth, and how to tell it. Ben Linus lied about everything virtually all of the time, but once he made a promise to someone, he prided himself on keeping his word. Smokey seems to roll exactly the same way, and we heard echoes of the same my-word-is-bond business from Jacob and Widmore. Does this mean that the moral poles of humanity maintain their honor even when their acolytes don’t?

The world is devolving. War is afoot. The purest rivers are running dark, the cork may pop and darkness may poison the world. But even a dead garden can cough up a sweet, cherry-red tomato. The spark of life goes on. And like faith, life and (to a lesser extent) “Lost,” that’s either beautiful or ridiculous. Or both.

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