‘Lost’ recap: It’s about the journey
John Locke went tilting at windmills last night, and paid the price. The maybe-delusional/maybe-not/probably-both knight errant of Lost screwed on his Don Quixote and went on his greatest quest yet: convincing the world-weary, spiritually-defeated Oceanic 6 that they were special; that they were meant for greater adventures and grander purposes; that they belonged back on the Island. Alas, just as ”the knight of the sad countenance” of Cervantes’ mock-heroic epic was met wherever he went with derision and much physical punishment, Locke, too, was greeted with heaps of scorn and physical battery. Still, it was Locke who laughed last. In the wake of a journey that tested his faith and left him for dead, the Holy Fool found himself born again on the sandy shores of his heavenly home — or at least, just across the water from it, over on Hydra Island, the Maui-esque Purgatory which orbits the Paradise-or-Inferno(?) riddle of the (Big) Island. Continuing the season’s time loop theme (figurative and literal), Locke celebrated by doing what he did the first time around — biting into a juicy mango and telling a complete stranger his big secret, which this time around was this: I used to be dead. Now I am alive. Fancy that.
We had been prepped for an episode about what happened to John Locke during his apocryphal Jeremy Bentham digression — about what happened after he left the Island and how he became coffinized. We got all that — plus a surprising amount more, beginning with the resolution of last week’s Ajira Airlines cliffhanger. Good ol’ Frank Lapidus managed to land Flight 316 intact on Hydra Island. (Didn’t spot my runway, though. Oh, well.) And with that, Lost has a new group of castaways, and with a few exceptions, like conspicuous newcomers Caesar and Ilana (admit it: you were thinking about punching the Nikki/Paulo panic button, weren’t you?), they can all look forward to glorious futures as background dressing, canon fodder, and Smokey food. To be honest, I was surprised to see Locke resurrected so quickly. Whenever I envisioned his reanimation, I always saw it at the end of an episode — a big reveal, a swell of Michael Giacchino score, and then BONG!…title card. Nope. We got the Risen Locke right away, in a moment that belongs on a clip reel of Quasi-Mystical Pop Culture Characters Who Introduce Themselves With A Dramatic Removal Of An Oversized Hoody. (See: Obi Wan Kenobi; Gandalf; Spock in the original Star Trek movies.)
”The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham” was largely a flashback saga, bracketed by the Hydra Island stuff. Locke’s globetrotting, let’s-put-the-band-back-together journey began with a scene of massive mythological importance, and ended with an all-time awesome scene. The whole episode evoked and synthesized a number of literary, religious and pop culture references, and if you will allow me to just let me list some of the titles here, I promise not to bore you with the details as we move along: Homer’s The Odyssey, James Joyce’s Ulysses, Alan Moore’s Watchmen, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, Esau and Jacob, the passion of Christ, Acts of Thomas (specifically, ”The Hymn of the Pearl”), and…Ocean’s 11, 12 and 13, plus the platforming narrative structure of Rock Band: World Tour! (Just kidding.) And now let’s get on with it by following ”the wandering rock” (see: Odyssey/Ulysses) that was Locke through his not-so heroic journey….
NEXT: Widmore’s a friend?
DESTINATION NO. 1: TUNISIA/CHARLES WIDMORE
Like Ben before him, Locke landed in the desert after turning the frozen donkey wheel. The wormhole magic churned his tummy and made him puke milk…and yes, now that you mention it, the moment did remind me of that sequence in Watchmen when Dr. Manhattan teleports Silk Specter to the arid wastes of Mars and she tosses up her lunch. (Please. You didn’t think I was serious about that aforementioned ”deal,” did you? I. WILL. NOT. BE. DENIED!) And speaking of men who watch, surveillance cameras stood sentry around the Island’s boom tube exit — a new addition to the scenery since Ben’s beaching three years earlier. The man behind the lenses? Charles Widmore. Clearly, the mystery man had been anticipating Locke’s arrival. Fuzzy on the ETA, but expecting it, nonetheless.
Locke was taken to some Bedouin urgent care center — dime a dozen over there — and got his fractured leg snapped back into place. ”ARRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!! DTRTED! AYY — TSTSLKKRICKT!” (Translation from unwashed bite-stick muffle: ”Ouch. That hurt! And hey — this tastes like Sanskrit!”) Then, Widmore showed up, and intriguing disclosures followed. But how many of them were true?
Megabucks Chuck identified himself as the hotheaded, Latin-spouting, neck-breaking 17-year-old (!) proto-Other jerk whom Locke encountered and grinned at during L’Affaire de Jughead in September of 1954. He claimed that he went on to become the leader of Richard Alpert’s band of arrow-shooting, clothes-swiping merry men and women. He said that their sacred trust was to protect the Island, like some super-squadron of Grail-guarding knights templar. And he alleged that his 30-plus years on the lsland came to an end when Young Turk Ben pulled a Jacob on his Esau and tricked him into leaving his peeps and his promised land, thus swiping his birthright. If all these statements are true, we now know something of the meaning behind Widmore’s cryptic comment to Ben back in ”The Shape of Things To Come:” ”Everything you have you took from me.” BURNING QUESTION: What motivated Ben’s coup?
Widmore wanted to bankroll Locke’s bid to reunite the castaway band. He said he was ”deeply invested in the future of the Island,” and he insinuated that such a future required all the castaways to be back on it. Especially Locke. ”There’s a war coming, John,” he said ominously, ”and if you’re not back on the Island when that happens, the wrong side is going to win.” Widmore didn’t elaborate, and I wanted to punch Locke for not pressing the issue. Like:
JOHN: What kind of war? A world war? A territorial skirmish? An End Times war, like in The Stand, or The Last Battle, or Supernatural? And who would I be in this scenario? Jesus? Aslan? Jensen Ackles? Oo! Oo! Can I be Jensen Ackles?! Please?!
You get what I mean. Then again, Locke has always been a sucker for father figures who bat their eyes at him and call him ”special.” ”The Island needs you, John. It has needed you for a long time,” said Widmore, adding that the reason he sent the freighter mercs to the Island was to subtract Ben so that Locke could assume his rightful position as King Other. BURNING QUESTION: Do you believe this? Yes, we know Locke has had opportunities in the past to go to the Island — but a destiny that’s been long neglected or deferred? I’m game for the possibility, but we do have to wonder if Locke is being suckered as part of very long and very weird con.
NEXT: Locke vs Bentham
Locke accepted Widmore’s financing, plus his suggestion for an off-Island alias: Jeremy Bentham, another philosopher name, just like John Locke. Widmore: ”Your parents had a sense of humor when they named you. Why can’t I?” Why does ”Jeremy Bentham” amuse Widmore so?: And might the name hold a clue to Widmore’s sincerity? Consider:
A. The real Bentham and Locke were ideological opposites. Bentham considered Locke’s belief in natural law ”nonsense on stilts.” Is that how Widmore views Locke? As silly nonsense? A fool? If so, then Widmore is a jerk.
B. Bentham pioneered a school of thought call Utilitarianism, which evaluates the morality of an action based on the amount of good that said action generates for the most amount of people. Ergo, Widmore is using Locke — but to facilitate a greater good. If so, then Widmore is a good guy.
C. After he died, Bentham’s corpse — per his instructions — was (get this) entombed inside a cabinet called an Auto Icon. Whenever his followers gathered, they were supposed to wheel him out so he could hang with them. Creepy? Oh, yeah. Application to Locke? Widmore was lying when he told Locke he didn’t want him to die. He wanted Locke to wind up in a box. Meaning: The Coffin. Or maybe… Jacob’s cabin! After all, isn’t that ghost shack basically a rustic extrapolation of Bentham’s Auto-Icon, a vehicle that allows this ”Jacob” — i.e., Locke — haunt the Island? Maybe this is the ”destiny” Locke is being set up for: An eternity of ”Help me” flickering. If so, then…Huh?
One last thing Widmore gave Locke for his journey: A chauffeur. The ominous Matthew Abaddon, the orderly from Locke’s physical therapy days, the one who encouraged him to the do the walkabout, and also spooked Hurley at the mental hospital during Season 4. Abaddon’s job? ”I help people get to where they need to go.” Which, as articulated by actor Lance Reddick, made Abaddon sound like a mythic figure. I’m tempted to forge connection to similar characters from mythology (Hermes!), American Gods and the ”Brief Lives” storyline of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, but I’ll stay on point. BURNING QUESTION: Never mind the hell/demon/guardian angel connotations of his name — what’s your Abaddon theory as it pertains to Lost? And do you think by episode’s end, Locke got to the place where Widmore wanted him — or do you Ben effectively undermined Widmore’s intention…whatever it may be? As always, it’s impossible to know the good guys from the bad guys — the angels form the demons — on this show. Even harder for Locke, who’s so desperate for connection to higher purpose that he’ll drink anyone’s Kool Aid.
PS: Did you see the way Locke looked at that wheelchair when Abaddon snapped it open? The prospect of being back in that thing looked as appealing to him as…well, a coffin.
NEXT: Where’s Walt-o?
DESTINATION NO. 2: Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic/Sayid
Locke found the former Iraqi torturer trying to put his more recent sins behind him — i.e., serving as Ben’s private assassin — by building houses for a Habitat for Humanity-like organization, Build Our World. (Shades of: Jack Bauer in 24: Redemption.) My paraphrase summary of their conversation:
SAYID: John, you’re being manipulated. By Widmore. By Ben. By both. Let this go.
LOCKE: I don’t care! Just come with me back to the Island. It’ll be fun!
SAYID: No. Stay with me and do some good work for some needy people here in the real world.
LOCKE: HELP PEOPLE? IN THE REAL WORLD? WHEN WE CAN BE LIVING LIKE KINGS IN OUR OWN PRIVATE NARNIA? WHAT ARE YOU — CRAZY?!
SAYID: John, your misplaced priorities disturb me. You’ve been infected with the ‘American Idol’ virus — that corrupt cultural value that equates self-worth with ”being special,” self-realization with overstated achievement. Seriously, John: You have more to offer the world than hunting boar, pushing buttons, and blowing subs. Instead, you should consider emulating the kind of everyday heroism that I now sweatily embody: selfless, humble, global minded yet locally invested, building communities with my bare yet well-manicured hands —
LOCKE: Oh, go wash your hair or something.
DESTINATION NO. 3: New York/Walt
For all y’all who were like, ”How come Walt wasn’t on the plane last week if they had to replicate exactly the conditions and personnel of Oceanic 815?” — well, now you know. Locke simply couldn’t bring himself to ask the boy to come along. He didn’t articulate his reasoning, but in his proud, beaming smile, I heard the following:
”You know this is pretty damn trippy for me. Just 100 days ago or so, you were, like, 10, and I was teaching you how to throw knives and play Backgammon and telling you all my secrets. You were like the Robin to my Batman, and oh how that made your Dad so mad! He’s dead, by the way, but let’s not talk about that. Hey — remember when you torched the raft, you little firebug you? I was a little worried that was a sign that you were going to grow up all anti-Christy, just like that creepy kid in ‘The Omen’. But now look at you! Fours months for me is three years for you, and you’re tall, strapping young man, and while I am often a horrific judge of character, it seems to me that you’ve turned out pretty well, all things considered. And so, time-space continuum catastrophes be damned, I am NOT going to bring you back to Wormhole Island. I just can’t bear the thought of screwing up your life anymore than it already is!”
How many of you feel Lost needs to revisit Walt again? Would you be cool with letting this stand as his goodbye? Yes, there are unanswered questions: The nature of his psychic abilities; what happened at The Hydra during his Others’ captivity; how he appeared to Locke in ghost form in Season 3. But I think all these things could be explained without him around. And maybe the cryptic business about his possibly prophetic dream — Locke wearing a suit (his coffin suit?), surrounded by people who want to hurt him (the Ajira castaways?) — suggested a solution. The kid’s got The Shining times 10, and he can use his scary=psychic powers to astral project himself to the Island — most likely unknowingly, perhaps only in his dreams. Call it Roy Orbison theory: In dreams/I walk/with you/In dreams/I talk/with you…”
BTW: Loved Abaddon’s line: ”Boy’s gotten big.”
NEXT: Kate and John’s love talk
DESTINATION NO. 4: Santa Rosa, CA/HURLEY
LOCKE: Come with me back to the Island.
HURLEY: You’re crazy, dude!
About Hurley’s watercolor painting of The Sphinx. Some theory-math for you:
1. A Sphinx was the threshold guardian/protector — you know, like The Others, charged with protecting the Island.
2. Second, the word ”sphinx” means ”to strangle.”
More on this in a minute.
DESTINATION NO. 5: LOS ANGELES/KATE AND JACK
Kate said no, of course, and she was cruel about it. Exuding palpable disdain for Locke, she cut him deep, first with her smug assumptions that he had never loved or been loved; and then, after Locke opened up so vulnerably about how he chased away Helen Norwood with his father fixation (Terry O’Quinn’s stuttering, anguished line reading of the word ”obsessed” was wrenching), Kate swung at him again, insinuating that he was still the scary-obsessed man he’s always been. ”Look how far you’ve come.” Oh, snap! Kate seemed to have a certain someone on her mind throughout her charged encounter with Locke — ”Have you ever been in love, John?…I think about how desperate you were to stay on that island, and then I realized it was because you didn’t love anyone?” — but who? I continue to believe she will ultimately wind up with Sawyer. But yes, she could have been pining for Jack. Or was she really meditating on her maternal feelings for Aaron?
INTERLUDE: Locke was told that Helen had died. Brain aneurism. Or so Abaddon said. Do you believe him? Consider: What if Team Widmore faked that grave and fabricated that story to keep Locke on task and make sure he had no possible motivation for wanting to back out and not go back to the Island? Regardless, like some time traveling Scrooge confronted with an awful future, Locke grieved and owned his stuff: ”She loved me. If I had just…” Locke left the thought hand, then finished: ”We could have been together.” I’d like to think they could still be.
Then, Abaddon got gunned down. (Blood splatter on the windshield! Boys say YEAH!) And then Locke gunned it — and got caught in a violent accident. He wound up in Jack’s hospital, and he awoke under Jack’s woozy-boozy-hateful gaze. For the 1 billionth time, Jack the Skeptic/Cynic/Man of Science and Locke the Believer/Tool/Man of Faith debated their competing worldviews — but I must say, the emotional intensity and the articulation of their respective positions made this debate one of their better ones, no matter how old hat. Jack’s probability logic seemed to carry the day — as well as his own brutal takedown of Locke: ”Have you ever stopped to consider that these delusions that you’re ‘special’ aren’t real? That you’re a lonely old man who crashed on an Island?” He played the age card! DOUBLE snap!
But Locke did get the last word. ”Your father says ‘Hello.”’ It was part last-ditch attempt to sway Jack, part I’m gonna hurt you, too, you big meany! Jack reacted as Jack usually does when slapped with a big shocker — with one of those eye flutter/step back/’Say whaaaa?” combos that he tends to do. (Matthew Fox might consider a new approach to acting stunned.) Jack’s encounter with Locke may have filled in some of the missing pieces in his motivation for going back to the Island: Once again, he’s being tugged by a responsibility to save his father. Just like the first time….
Jack’s parting shot was interesting, because it underscored an important theme of the episode: questioning, if not subverting, the whole yearning to be ”special.” ”We were never important!” he shouted. Yet Jack was/is no Sayid; he doesn’t believe in anything, while Sayid at least believes in something — like his own redemption. At least, not at this point in the story yet.
NEXT: Ben steals the show…again
DESTINATION NO. 6: THIS PLACE IS DEATH/BEN The episode’s best scene — and one of the best scenes the series has ever given us. It began with Locke in his skuzzy hotel room writing his Jack-addressed suicide note/bitter parting shot. Locke had been totally destroyed by going 0 for 6 on his back-to-the-Island recruitment drive. Each encounter had chipped away at his faith and self-esteem, so much so that by the end, you got the sense that Locke saw himself the way everyone else saw him. Which is exactly what happens in Don Quixote, too…oh, but another time.
And so, Locke made himself a noose out of an extension cord and was on the verge of killing himself when Ben barged in. Presented with the greatest challenge in his career as cajoler, manipulator, and seducer, the great snake of Lost rose to the occasion as he coaxed Locke off the ledge. ”You have no idea how important you are,” he said. ”You’ve got too much work to do.” Of course, our rooting interest here was pretty complicated, in a marvelously ironic way. After all, we knew that Locke actually needed to die to fulfill his Island-saving destiny. But Ben succeeded, and managed to talk Locke off his cross…and then he went and made good on Hurley’s subliminal foreshadowing and sphinxed him to death with the extension cord. But why? Why save him, then brutally kill him? Does the Island’s resurrection power not work on suicides? Was Ben actually doing Locke a favor by murdering him, i.e., helping him fulfill the requirement of dying in such a way that wouldn’t deny him a shot at living again in paradise? Hard to say. Ben’s decision seemed to be tied to two bits of news, which seemed to come as complete surprises: (1) The revelation that Jin was alive; and even more so (2) That Locke needed to seek out Eloise Hawking for help in getting back to the Island. The words ”Eloise Hawking” seemed to function almost like a psychotic trigger, and Ben seemed to snap, either out of reflex or some quick realization that he had no choice: He had to kill Locke; he could not allow him to meet Ms. Hawking. I was struck by Ben’s melancholy goodbye: ”I’ll miss you, John. I really will.” Are we really to believe that Ben had no idea Locke would live again once he was back on the Island? Or might there have been more nuance in Ben’s salutation. Maybe the Resurrected Locke is profoundly different than the Old Locke; perhaps Ben was grieving the loss of the latter.
One last thought about Ben: Very Tony Soprano, didn’t you think?
What did you think of Ben’s bait-and-switch? How do you think he feels about Ms. Hawking? Who’s the bigger rogue: Widmore or Ben? Do you think Born Again Locke is any different from Old Island Locke? Heck: Do you even think he’s born again? Could be some Christian Shephard-esque poltergeist? And what of Caesar and Ilana? What are your first impressions? I look forward to hearing your thoughts and theories below.
Finally, I’d like to thank all of you who took the time to search the message boards for our Easter egg/bonus content. We learned a lot from the experience, including 1. You guys really like that kind of stuff; and 2. You guys deserve to be rewarded with truly COOL stuff when you do take the time to do it. We intend to do more things like that in the future — not this week, for certain, but in the future — and when we do, we promise: the payoff will be worth your effort.
Until next week: The floor is yours.