I told you everything would be alright.
If we’re willing to agree that Kate episodes are Lost’s Achilles’ Heel, then I think you’d have to strongly consider the possibility that Locke episodes are, well, every other part of Achilles, I guess. Okay, how about an SAT-esque analogy?
Locke episode : Lost :: spinach : Popeye.
Even if Locke is not you’re favorite character, you have to admit that his episodes more often than not particularly accentuate those things that make the show so fantastic. They’re always heavy on geeked-out mythology bits, but are also always delivered in tender, heartfelt dollops.
Never was this truer than in last night’s rock-solid outing “The Substitute.” In way, we sort of got cheated out the notion of conventional “centric” episode, but it’s becoming very evident that season 6 will be anything but conventional. The flash-sideways tale focused on the parallel existence of John Locke, while the story on The Island was not really focusing on Locke, but rather the Monster’s exploits in Locke’s form.
A Monster Development
First off, let me say that I can do with a lot more Monster P.O.V. shots. The main thrust of The Island’s action focused on the Locke-ness Monster guiding a distraught Sawyer (who nearly stole the show for the second straight week) across The Island to discover an all-important truth about his purpose on The Island, as well as that of his fellow castaways.
This dichotomy led to some great exchanges, starting with Sawyer’s assertion that this profound journey toward the meaning of his existence would probably require some pants. Also, we got several callbacks to the show’s earlier moments. Watching those two trudge through the Jungle, I couldn’t help but be reminded of season 3’s “The Brig”, wherein Sawyer followed Locke all the way to the Black Rock, where he was manipulated into killing Locke’s father/the man who conned his parents. Sawyer’s attempted re-enactment of “Of Mice and Men” evoked “Every Man For Himself”, also from season 3, which saw Ben and Sawyer discussing Steinbeck’s classic tome while atop a cliff on Hydra Island.
Following these events, and one somewhat-gimmicky action sequence with suspect rope ladders, the pair arrived at the mythological nexus of the hour. A cavern in the cliffs where Jacob and the Man who now assumes the form of Locke have clearly spent an exorbitant amount of time, as evidenced by the old-timey scale equipped with light and dark stones. Sawyer learned that he, and certain other members of his party are “candidates” to replace Jacob as the Island’s protector. The fact that they were each assigned to one of the numbers was a great shout-out to the legions of rabid internet fans that they explain those damn things. Personally, I’ve always found them to be a great sort of creepy recurring motif, and was pleasantly satisfied with Monster’s explanation that Jacobs “had a thing for numbers.”
But of course, with the answers came…some more questions. Kate was explicitly touched by Jacob the season 5 finale, but her name was not among those scrawled on the cave’s wall. The Impostor Locke’s position that Jacob’s quest for a protector was completely futile strikes me as disingenuous. If that was the case, why go out of your way to kill him and anyone else who may have assumed his post?
Bottom line: this was all perfectly executed for where the show is at now. I can’t tell what all the moving parts are quite yet, nor do I particularly care to surmise what they are, but it seems pretty evident that there is an elaborate scheme being put into motion. The Monster/Sawyer’s trek did a stellar job pulling the curtain back enough to give you hint of what is afoot, while also setting up an epic conflict that is no doubt looming.
The more things change…
While it’s still not entirely clear to me what the utility of the flash-sideways device is, there is no denying that it’s a boatload of fun. At least, when it pertains to characters we give a crap about. I’ve maintained that if the John Locke we know is indeed dead (and his funeral last night would seem to indicate as much), then Locke has secured a place in the pantheon of the most tragic figures in the history of fiction. With that being said, the quasi-reboot seemed to give us die-hard Locke fans a tremendous bit of closure on the man. Another thing that’s fun about these is trying to be able to spot what is the same and what is different from the timeline we knew before this insane season began. Think of it like way more awesome memory puzzle in a “Highlights” magazine.
Locke, the alpha dog hunterer gather of The Island was nowhere to be found last night, as we were given a glimpse of a Locke who couldn’t even manage to get out of his car without tumbling out of his car onto the lawn, only to have the sprinklers kick on. Given his hairless dome, I might have sworn we were watching a live-action Charlie Brown short last night. But, it was largely a happy ending for Locke last night, thanks to the tender support of Helen (so glad they managed to wrangle Katey Sagal back to the show for an episode), the new and improved optimistic Hurley, and the sympathetic Rose. This nice little jaunt through Locke’s rebooted nirvana culminated with an at once silly/exciting/head-snapping cameo from the one and only Benjamin Linus. Oh, and he was a Euro History teacher. An uppity, ego-maniacal Euro History teacher. Of course he was.
That said, I think this timeline is still more than just fun and games. There definitely have been subtle hints that the characters seem to sense that things aren’t quite right, from Jack’s weird demeanor on the plane To Kate’s lingering staredown of Jack while she was in the cab. Last night, there didn’t seem to be much of that, apart from one odd moment when Locke was trying to explain his absence from his work-related conference to Randy (who is still a dick, even in a parallel universe). Locke begins to say that where he was was…personal. But before he gets to “personal” he stammers a bit and looks off for a brief second, with an odd expression on his face that played like something much more complex than “trying to keep the volume down in a crowded office.” To me, anyway.
Funerals and Other pressing matters
We also got a bit more of the Sun/Ben/Lapidus/Ilana quartet. The highlight of this was of course Ben’s eulogy at the real Locke’s funeral. Given everything that these two have been through all the lying, manipulating and well…killing…it seems fitting that Ben would be the one to commemorate the late Locke:
“John Locke was a…believer. He was a man of faith. He was a much better man than I will ever be. And I’m very sorry I murdered him.”
Even though the eulogy was spouted by a character known for lying with every breath that he can muster, I believe every single word of that.
- I love Richard Alpert. I always have. And, this season, I really love seeing him confused/rattled/scared out of his mind.
- As for that odd, all-knowing kid who seemed to stalk and taunt Sawyer and the Monster (yet was unseen by Richard, curious), you’re guess is as good as mine. Initially, I thought that little scamp Zack had abandoned his Temple drink-serving duties for some Island shenanigans, but his second appearance made it clear that we’re dealing with a while different little monster. My immediate guesses: A younger ghost Jacob, or Claire’s demon spawn Aaron.
- Did I mention more Monster P.O.V. shots?
So, that’s about it. Overall, a completely stellar bounce-back from a very shaky stumble. What did you all think? Were you satisfied with the glimpse of greater Island mythology? Did John Locke’s alterna-fate satiate your need for closure? I’m always intrigued by everyone’s opinions, so please don’t be shy.