The last episode of season one of the popular TV series “Heroes” aired over cable here in Singapore a couple of weeks ago. I liked the episode for obvious reasons. I liked its emphasis on unconditional love as the mightiest force of all. And the fact that the main bad guy, Sylar, gets defeated and killed. This gave me a sense of catharsis and a feeling of closure, something I don’t get in any season finale in a series like “Lost.”
But my feeling of well being lasted only for a few days. When I gave my spiel about how and why I liked the last episode of “Heroes,” my sons were quick to correct me, at least about my joy at Sylar’s demise. In a “oh dad how can you be so blur” tone, they pointed out that Sylar’s body disappeared and there was this blood trail leading to a manhole cover.
I only remembered the cockroach on the manhole cover which apparently was an allusion to episode one in the season. For some reason, it didn’t hit me that Sylar’s body had disappeared and that he might still be alive. Hey, maybe he staggered into the sewers, to finally expire in the darkness and his body gets consumed by teenage mutant cockroaches. Hence the cockroach in the scene. Well, it’s possible.
Still, I suspect that my sons are correct. Sylar died but doesn’t stay dead. Which leads me to one of my problems with one aspect of popular culture — the seeming immortality of evil. The bad guys may get defeated. But they always come back.
Take for example the once popular TV cartoon series, “Thundercats.” The main bad guy is a mummy looking figure called Mumm-ra. Mumm-ra gets defeated at the end of every episode. But he always comes back the next episode. And his name is “the ever living.”
If evil is ever living and cannot be completely defeated, then we live in a world where good and evil are coeternal. It is a world where God, though good, is not truly all-powerful. And if this is true, why follow this god?
If good and evil are somehow coeternal, why should I be on the side of the angels? More often than not, evil seems more powerful. Why shouldn’t I choose the side of the devils? They are going to be around forever too anyway. Or maybe I can switch sides, choosing one side or the other depending on which side is more convenient or brings me more benefits at any given time.
If evil will always be around, when will I get tired of fighting for justice and for the gospel? There are days when we seem to make no headway. There are days you ask yourself if the tide will ever turn. If I am not convinced of the ultimate triumph of good, will a day come when I just won’t care?
Hence when God gives us a glimpse of the end of time, He takes pain to show us that, in the end, the bad guys get defeated, and they don’t come back. (See Revelation 20:10-14.)
“Then the devil, who had deceived them, was thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulphur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
(Revelation 20:10 NLTse)
Passages like these sound strange and even offensive to modern ears. Of course they are couched in metaphorical language. And a careful reading of Revelation will reveal that people are given choices, and that we finally end up where we want to be.
But what we shouldn’t miss from this passage is that a day does come when evil is finally defeated and doesn’t come back. Therefore, all victories by evil in our world are only temporary. Indeed apparent victories of evil are allowed by a sovereign God for His ultimate purposes.
The definitive demonstration of this is Jesus’ death on the cross. On the Cross, the forces of evil triumph, but in fact lose. God and good wins in the end. Easter ensures and demonstrates that.
So Sylar may come back next season. And Mumm-ra goes on and on and on. But we remind our children, and ourselves, that in the real world, evil does get defeated decisively and finally, in the end. And hence we have every reason to press on with lives given to God and to His good.
Here worship and Christian community is critical. Every day, in the popular media, we see evil glamorized, portrayed as sexy, powerful, fun — and immortal. It’s none of those things. As we gather around the Word, we remind each other of what is true about good and evil. We remind each other so that we can structure our lives accordingly, and find the strength to press on until the day of His appearing.