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Dark forces finally claim Mr. Eko on ‘Lost’

Loss of Nigerian instantly makes “Lost” a little less interesting, since the pretend priest was one of the most creatively complex characters on the island. By Craig Berman
/ Source: msnbc.com contributor

The “Lost” character most conflicted between the forces of good and evil died succumbing to dark forces.

On an island filled with ciphers, Mr. Eko (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) has always been among the most difficult to figure. The natural leader was the single biggest force that united his tail-enders with the rest of the crew after that fateful plane crash. As a proficient killer, his body count both on the island and back home in Nigeria was a testament to his physical prowess. As what passed for a holy man among the castaways, he baptized Claire and Aaron and began to build a church.

But Eko was always fighting a battle, an internal struggle as to whether the life he led was worthy of pride or shame. Ultimately, he decided on pride. As he lived his last moments on “Lost,” he declined the opportunity to confess before an image of his priestly brother, Yemi, saying “I ask no forgiveness, Father, for I have not sinned. I have only done what I needed to survive.”

But then the image revealed itself to be something other than his dead brother, and the dark cloud that had been following him throughout the episode grabbed the Nigerian, slammed him to the ground and killed him.

Strange plot twists have happened in the “Lost” universe — sometimes it seems as if they happen several times a week. But unless resurrection is among the island’s many mysterious gifts, Wednesday night’s episode marks the end of Eko’s role on the show outside of flashbacks and random visions. That instantly makes “Lost” a little less interesting, since the pretend priest was one of the most creatively complex characters on the island.

If the Others really do have an influence in who washes up on their shore, as some suspect, maybe next time they should focus on capturing a doctor from “ E.R.”, or another show where gunshot wounds and bear maulings would constitute an uneventful evening. (Spinal surgeon Jack isn't proving that effective lately.)

Sadly, the island appears not to offer anyone with those skills. That has helped make its death rates soar beyond that of even Nigeria, where Eko once contributed to the carnage as a ruthless warlord.

He wasn’t just any warlord, however. Eko was the villain with a heart — if not of gold, than at least of bronze or polished quartz. That’s fitting, because he didn’t wind up on just any island either.

It’s a universe that’s unafraid to bring a bit of carnage to Wednesday nights. Such recurring characters as Boone, Shannon, Ana Lucia, and Libby were killed off in earlier seasons; with Michael and Walt apparently granted passage off the island.

While the other departed characters left some fans disappointed, Eko’s departure may have a greater impact because of the role he played. He was the literal manifestation of the island's battle between good and evil, the one most concerned with the question of whether doing bad things for good reasons was justified.

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Only Locke can match that dichotomy and the awareness of this island’s mysterious powers, a character linkage brought home again Wednesday.

“Don’t mistake coincidence for fate,” Locke tells Desmond when it's revealed that Eko’s plan to find his brother’s body integrates with their own plans to revisit Dharma's Pearl station. The line mirrors what Eko said to Locke in a scene during an earlier episode at the Swan station: “Don’t confuse coincidence for fate.”

For much of his tenure on the show, Eko seemed to be a man looking for redemption.  He carved biblical references onto a stick, and started building a church.  But he’s also followed by the darkness, that swirling black smoke that revealed images from his violent past.

That point was hammered home again in his final flashbacks, beginning with young Eko breaking a lock on a food-storage area to feed hungry Yemi. Ordered to confess by the nun who caught them, he protests that he was justified. “That is not an excuse. You have sinned, Eko. Hunger does not matter,” he hears in response.

Eko ultimately rejects those teachings — circumstances do matter — and he dies without regret as to the path his life has taken. But he also dies aware of what lies ahead.

While trying to comfort Eko earlier in the episode, Locke mentioned that he saw a bright light when facing his own death. “It was beautiful…” he begins, only to be interrupted Eko, who says in disgust “That is not what I saw.”

With Eko gone, it’s now only Locke who has that kind of mystery behind him.

Craig Berman is a writer in Washington, D.C.