I honestly think that the closest I am ever going to come to experiencing what the disciples experienced after the crucifixion and burial of Jesus Christ is the summer hiatus of Fringe.
It is absolutely crazy that I have not yet posted on my favorite television obsession, Fringe. It is a visual feast, has some of the best acting on the small screen – nay, anywhere, and never ceases to gross me out and string me along and blow my mind every single week. Two of the main characters have played at least five versions of themselves in various universes and times… its out there, and it is fantastic.
In May, season 3 ended with one huge, gigantic cliffhanger. Seeing the result of the course of action their world was currently on, one of the main characters, Peter Bishop, made a sacrifice… to bridge the worlds, he somehow wiped himself from existence.
As fans, we sat there with our mouths hanging wide open, screaming: WHAT?! That doesn’t make sense! How can that be?! Did he die? Did he never exist? What does this mean? Is he coming back? Why would the writers do that? But we loved Peter Bishop! Joshua Jackson is awesome, how could you do this?! What on earth is going to happen now?
Theories started flying around the internet. It didn’t help that the people who were actually employed by the show as cast had no clue what was coming next either. Confusion, chaos, despair, curiousity, set in.
Some thought maybe he would reappear as an observer, but then that theory was blown out of the water when Mr. Jackson appeared at Comic-Con in observer gear, making fun of us all.
Somehow he will be back… we know the question has changed from “Who is Peter Bishop?” (as in, what are you talking about, that guy never existed) to “Where is Peter Bishop?” But that doesn’t necessarily set our minds at ease until we actually see the character reintegrated into the show. He is part of the trinity of the core cast and the relationships he has formed with the other characters, especially his father, MAKE the show what it is.
Those final two minutes of the season finale were, in a miniscule way, comparable to the final days of the disciples with Jesus. Things were going well, but were difficult. Uncertainty was in the air, but you knew you were in good hands.
And then all of a sudden, wham-bam, the whole universe falls apart.
I know that this is a stretch. But in our lifetime it is always going to be a stretch to imagine what it would have been like to be a disciple at that time. Nothing we experience can compare to the confusion and despair they must have felt to watch their teacher – their messiah – brought up on charges, beaten, and killed. Those agonizing days would have been utterly heartbreaking. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. They didn’t know what was going to happen next. And every possibility seemed impossible.
The world of entertainment tries to capitalize on those moments of uncertainty. Every single narrative arc relies upon those natural breaks in the story that leave you wanting more, that have you hanging on by the seat of your pants because you need to know what happens next. Every 23 minute comedic episode uses the commercial breaks to leave you guessing as to the punchline that inevitably awaits at the end. We all want our loose-ends tied up… but the ride is so much more fun when we have some moment of sheer panic in between.
That particular season finale: “The Day We Died” was superb. Narratively speaking, it pulled all of the right strings… or all of the wrong ones, if you want to think about it that way. It left you simply aghast and what this could possibly mean in the context of a story you wanted to immerse yourself in.
Yes, it’s television.
Yes, it is only a story.
But for someone as far removed from the crucifixion of Christ as we are today, sometimes that too, feels like little more than a story.
And as I wait in anxious anticipation for the season to start again in September… I realize that I do so with much more hope than the frightened disciples huddled together in a room.
In Fringe, the worlds will never be the same again after that ending.
For the disciples and for us, the world would never be the same, either.
I find myself at times incredibly jealous of the gifts of writers on some of these shows. They capture, week in and week out an intensity of emotion and pathos that truly brings the words and the narratives to life.
My only hope is that as a pastor, as someone who tries to live these scriptures and teach these scriptures, I might help bring to the words the same kind of intensity and longing and doubt and confusion as some of my favorite television shows do every episode.