Wednesday, June 04, 2008
Now that John Locke seems to be dead, at least for the moment, I've been thinking about what a great character he is, and what a great actor Terry O'Quinn is too.
Way back in S1 when we saw Locke hanging around the fuselage of flight 815, most viewers (me included) assumed that he somehow knew more about the island and what had happened to the crash victims than anyone else. I mean, he seemed so forceful and wise: teaching Walt about backgammon, hunting for boar, predicting the weather, being all philosophical with Jack, playing shaman to Boone and so on. I'd seen and enjoyed TOQ's work on other shows (Millennium and The X-Files particularly), where he usually did play that kind of character. Someone who knew more than others and was often slightly sinister to boot. That's the kind of character I expected Locke to be back then, and I know some people still wish they had.
But Lost's writers didn't make Locke that guy. They made him much more interesting. Just as they did in the case of Jack (who they could have easily painted as the uncomplicated, flawless, noble hero of the show), they chose not to go that obvious route. Just like Jack (the man of science to Locke's man of faith), Locke turned out to be very flawed and very human and also very often wrong.
In his flashbacks we saw a man who got conned again and again and who always seemed to be searching for something: something to give his life meaning, some greater purpose. Always willing to believe even after he'd been bitterly let down many, many times. The whole button-pushing thing was another mistake too: he put all his faith in the computer, doing what it told him for almost a whole season. Then lost his faith and was wrong again: when he stopped pushing that damn button, the sky turned purple and the hatch exploded. At the same time of course, he revealed the island's location to the outside world and thus helped bring about Penny's rescue mission. So it wasn't a total mistake after all.
But the main thing about Locke, the main reveal in his FBs was of course the fact that he used to sit in a wheelchair (after his dad tried to kill him... yeah, Locke just can't catch a break man). And in retrospect that was why Locke was the way he was after the plane crash: the crash had set him free. It had healed him, miraculously, and he could be the man he had dreamed of being. He could use all the skills he'd gathered over the years: knives, hunting, swaddling babies, and was treated as an important person by everyone around him. For Locke, it must have been a very sweet time. And after something like that, I guess it's easier to understand why he's so eager to believe that the island is a good place. What puzzles me though is why he's never told anyone, say Jack for instance, about his miracle. Wouldn't that be a good way to try to explain his position to Jack when they talked at The Orchid for example? You'd think so. But that would mean sharing information and we all know the Losties are not good at that.
Is Locke really really dead? I hope not. I want him to stick around until the end, and not just as a corpse (please don't make me think about the logistics of how Jack and Ben are going to get him back to the island!). Next season I absolutely hope to see him in FBs and I especially hope to see "Bentham's" meeting with Walt. That was a relationship that was extremely important in S1, and was ended far too soon imo.
Was Locke conned again? Is that why things are apparently not going well on the island in the O6's absence. Who conned him this time? Ben? The island? Jacob? Christian? (Assuming, as I do, that Jacob and Christian are actually not one and the same.) Could it be that the man of science and the man of faith have to finally, finally work together somehow for things to be set right on the island? Locke and Jack are two of the most obnoxious and original characters on Lost. I'm hoping the writers blow me away with their character development next season.
Picture of Locke from S1, thanks to lost-media.