Finales, Finishes and Theology

Finales, Finishes and Theology

In the last week, two of the most intriguing, innovative and darn-right confusing series have drawn to an end. On Friday night Ashes to Ashes came to a close and on Tuesday morning, after 121 episodes of time-hopping, alternative universes, polar bears and a hydrogen bomb, Lost came to its conclusion. Despite being very different shows, one a British copper retro-fest and the other a U.S. network Goliath their endings shared the common theme of death and the afterlife.

Ashes to Ashes is the 1980s set successor to the 2006 series Life on Mars. In both series a modern-day Detective-Inspector is involved in a trauma (hit by a car or shot respectively) and wakes up in the past, working in the department of the brutal and politically incorrect DCI Gene Hunt. The final episode tried to explain that the world of Gene Hunt was a sort of Limbo or Purgatory for Police officers who had not accepted their death, giving the Bowie-inspired title a greater meaning. Hunt’s role in this world has been described as that of ‘an Archangel’, who has to help the inhabitants of his department to accept their death in the real world and take them ‘to the pub’ – an implied ‘heaven’ beyond.

The most interesting aspect of this finale was the role of DCI Jim Keats. In the final episode it becomes apparent that he is some sort of Devil. Like the snake in the garden he tempts the officers. He tells them that the truth is being hidden from them and that they have every right to form their own afterlives in his department, based on the basement floor of Scotland Yard. This final episode gives the characters a choice: either they have faith, which will lead them to the truth and happiness, or they construct their own ‘truth’ which will always be false, which will be a lie, and can only lead to suffering.

I found the Lost finale slightly annoying. Many of the questions were left unanswered and many of the most interesting nuggets were conveniently forgotten. However it was a beautiful and enjoyable episode. From the start people have speculated that this mystical thriller about plane-crash survivors living on a very strange island was in fact about a sort of purgatory. It would seem this was not the case. The island and every thing that happened on it happened in our world. In the final series viewers were offered a glimpse of an alternative time-line, a dimension where the plane did not crash. It seems that this world actually is the the after-life, a timeless world where is there is no ‘now’ or ‘then’. Whilst the castaways died at different times, once they passed they ended up in this world, due to their link to the island. Eventually reuniting in an LA church we see them embraced in light. This obviously has elements of the idea of the Church as the mystical body of Christ. Through Christ, our island, we are all united.

I was slightly annoyed by the slightly Pelagian undertones but this is only a geeky TV show so I will not get my tunic in a twist. Another point of interest was Jack Shepherd. In Lost, characters’ names have much symbolism. Many share names with philosophers, religious figures and scientists. Jack dies on the island to save his friends. He lays down his life and the ‘good shepherd’ connotations, whilst unimaginative, are apparent. Likewise a figure who looks like Jack’s dead father Christian, opens the doors of the Church to let in the all-absorbing light on the reunited castaways.

Whilst neither of these series was aiming to create a Christian analogy or parable, the fact that they address such central questions shows that such questions are not being answered by the nihilistic society and ideology that dominates the 21st century. Saying that, I would be surprised if the final episode of 24 shares their themes …

Mark Davoren

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