‘Lost’ Finale: Lockeless
(Yes, we’re making this a “Lost”-themed week, because if not now, when?)
Sure, Terry O’Quinn got plenty to do this year, and that’s always a good thing, particularly since he managed to bring a lot of previous character traits to an essentially new character (which, given his comments in the retrospective episode and on Jimmy Kimmel – DAMN YOU FOR KEEPING ME AWAKE UNTIL 2AM! – he was unaware of until the finale of season 5) and made it work.
But the actual character of John Locke was gone. And I’m not sure enough fanfare went into that, possibly because a lot of fans were assuming the show would rectify the somewhat undignified ending he was given.That it would stop screwing with them and bring Locke back, because his story hadn’t ended to their satisfaction.
Looking back, though, Locke’s death should have been a big clue to viewers that their expectations were pretty much screwed.
Because so were Locke’s.
Let’s work through the timeline and figure out what happened:
- Locke wakes up and is no longer paralyzed, immediately instilling in him the idea that the Island is something special, and because it healed him, it must think he is somehow special, too.
- Locke’s first boar-hunting adventure wraps with him coming face to face with what he believes to be the “heart of the Island,” what we now know to be the smoke-monster.
- Locke, displaying an innate understanding of the Island attempts to bring this enlightenment to other castaways like Boone and Waaaaaalt.
- While he’s kind of successful, Boone is killed and Walt is taken, and beyond that, Locke’s paralysis threatens to kick back in (ooh, sorry for that turn of phrase). So he screams at the light in the Hatch, his paralysis ceases, and taking that as a sign, he links his belief system into the Hatch.
- He thinks his beliefs have been verified when he learns of the world-saving computer; has a crisis of faith when he learns the Hatch was part of a larger behavioral experiment; reaffirms his faith when Desmond realizes that typing at that computer actually WAS important, but oh well EXPLODEY KABOOOOOOOM
- Locke, getting cozy with the Others, is led to believe by Richard (we’ll get to him in a second) that HE should be the leader of the pack, and works to take on that role.
- But before he can do anything with his title, Locke”s bounced around in time. First he ends up in the near-future, where he’s given trinkets by Richard that he can use to tip past-Richard off to his Importance – a compass that, as we’ll soon learn, a “future version” of Locke gave Richard.
- In his next bounce around time, into the early 50′s, Locke explains to then-Richard who he is, and suggests Richard seek out the Baby-Locke who’d just been born. Richard – presumably looking for a replacement for Jacob – does this. (Thus beginning Richard’s interest in Locke, which we can assume is the reason he put a bug in Locke’s ear in the third season…right?)
- Richard, through the Island-subsidiary Mittelos Bioscience (sidebar: What was up with Mittelos Bioscience?), attempts to reach out to Locke years later as a teenager; Locke’s stubbornness to be a man of adventure, rather than a man of science, scuttles this, too.
- But Richard isn’t the only one interested in Locke’s destiny – Charles Widmore, through his intermediary, Matthew Abaddon, suggests that the now-crippled Locke attempt a walkabout in Australia – a trip that ultimately plants him on the Island.
- MEANWHILE! Still time-traveling, our present-day Locke figures that fixing Ben’s “move the island” plan might stop the time-skips, and heads on into the cave with the donkey-wheel, encouraged to bring the Oceanic Six back, by a guy who looks like Jack’s dad but is in fact the Smoke-Monster.
- This sends Locke into the present-day (off-island), where he’s promptly crippled again and his attempts to bring the O6 back are (quite harshly) rebuffed. Which depresses Locke to the point that he decides to kill himself (because he was told, by Richard – who was told by “Future Locke,” who we now know to be the Smoke Monster – who, for whatever reason, seemed to be looking for a more recognizable avatar-body).
- But it’s Ben who finds him and finishes the job. Nevertheless, the sight of a dead Locke is enough to spur Jack (and the rest of the O6) to return to the Island like he wanted – because Locke had been told (by Christian/Smoke Monster) this would fix the Island.
- They bring Locke’s body back to the Island, and then it appears that Locke has miraculously returned to life. He commands Richard to give the previous, time-skipping Locke the aforementioned compass to give Locke more sense that what he was doing had been somehow predestined.
- But it turns out this new version of Locke was, in fact, the Smoke Monster, having used the dead body of Locke to assume his form and manipulate people.
In other words: Locke was NEVER special.
Just as Jacob and the Man in Black weren’t anything more than normal people the Island had bestowed strange powers upon, John Locke was never much more than he’d seemed: a guy searching for meaning in a strange occurrence, who’d had a lucky Island break.
This is actually a pretty amazing “Gotcha” from the show. FIVE YEARS, the audience had been led to assume Locke was some kind of Island-buddha in waiting. But by the end of season 5, it became clear: John Locke had been nothing but a patsy the whole time.
And yet the audience was still waiting for that decision to be reversed. Right up to the end.
Had the Island “chosen” him for something? Possibly. But he was there for like three days before he saw “the most beautiful thing [he'd] ever seen” – the Smoke Monster, masquerading as the Heart of the Island. And from that moment on, he was just a tool the Smoke Monster could use in his quest to get off the Island – a guy Richard had been led to believe was Special, and so treated him as a potential Candidate.
Because the Smoke Monster had manipulated that to be the case.
“From that moment on,” for those keeping track, was four episodes into the series. They’ve been dicking this guy around – and, by extension, the audience – since episode four.
I’m not sure how much the show really had planned from beginning to end. But if you follow Locke’s timeline, and you accept that they had some idea of what the Smoke Monster was supposed to be, it looks like they expected to paint him as a false prophet pretty early on.
(At least since season 4, where they started pushing Locke around on the game board quite a bit.)
So for those of you still angry that the show screwed with your expectations with that finale? Ignore the dropped plotlines. Ignore the continuity gaffes. Focus on the characters. Because as the producers have been saying, this was a show about the characters.
And they’ve clearly been fucking with the characters for this whole time. It’s only now you can definitively track it.