”Lost”: The making of John Locke
Requiem for my Sub
(To the tune of ”Yellow Submarine,” by the Beatles)
In the land
Where I was born,
Lived a man
Whose name was Locke
He got pissed
When I grabbed his friends,
So now he’s come
To get revenge (and exorcise his funky father issues, but I digress….)
We all lived in an Others submarine!
It was a Dharma submarine,
But now’s it our submarine!
We all lived in an Others submarine!
But now it’s no one’s submarine,
‘Cause Locke blew it to smithereens
…all according to my fiendishly insidious plan!
Poor John Locke. Damaged by Daddy, desperate for meaning, doomed to forever play the sucker. Last night, in an essential, mythology-shaking outing of Lost titled ”The Man From Tallahassee,” the focus was on beaten, bitter Locke, and at long last, we saw the event that put him in a wheelchair prior to being marooned on Mystery Island. Not surprising, that event involved his father, con man Anthony Cooper, the man who scammed Locke out of a kidney in season 1 and manipulated him into ripping off the mob in season 2. It seems that four years ago, Cooper was pulling an old-school swindle — marrying a rich old lady for her fortune. (It’s the kind of con that Sawyer could appreciate — which is why many fans are wondering if Cooper is the ”Proto Sawyer” from whom James ”Sawyer” Ford swiped his professional handle.)
Anyway, Locke got pulled into the affair via Ms. Moneybags’ concerned son, who was investigating his future pop’s background and discovered that Locke had given Cooper a kidney. At this time in his life, Locke was suffering from profound depression — possibly in the wake of that ill-fated commune adventure; the episode didn’t explain the context — and had been denied disability because of his unwillingness to stay in therapy. Which is good, because if Locke was, like, a watt or two more introspective, Lost would be considerably short on Big Picture plot. Clearly, the character’s painful process of enlightenment is the heart and soul of this show.
Like a moth to the flame, Locke succumbed to the temptation of seeking out his father, all in the name of wanting to save someone else from being victimized by him. Soon after their heated conversation, the son was found dead, and when Locke accused his dad of killing him, Cooper pushed Locke out a window! Miraculously, Locke survived the eight-story fall with just a broken back — and paralyzed legs. Hence, wheelchair.
The most interesting thing about the revelation for me was how visceral it was. There was no super-twisty caper gone wrong, no act-of-God calamity — just a long-simmering pot, finally boiling over to tragedy. No doubt there will be those among you who feel that the whole business about surviving an eight-story fall is a little hard to swallow. But this is where sensational acting comes on. Terry O’Quinn has been asked to sell the audience on many far-fetched things on this show, from his kooky communion with the Island to his baffling button-pushing digression in the Hatch. Once again, O’Quinn made me believe in the mundane-meets-heightened reality of Locke’s life.
One thing about the moment when Cooper attacked Locke: With his pale skin and silver hair, and the way he just lunged at Locke, didn’t Cooper strike you as vaguely…polar bearish in that moment? For all of you who think Lost is about Locke, and would even go so far as to theorize that the wildly eclectic, wildly dangerous environment on the Island is actually a materialization of Locke’s sick, clouded psyche, then that scene could be further proof. (Or I could be projecting my own father issues upon the scene at the moment. As I type these words at 12:30 a.m. on Thursday morning, my own father, visiting from Seattle, is loudly snoring in the next room…exactly like a polar bear! Because, of course, I know all about how polar bears snore.)
The flashbacks about Locke’s lower lumbar region played out against the efforts by the ”Live Together, Die Alone” Hostage Extraction Team — Sayid, Kate, and Locke — to bust Jack out of Othersville, a.k.a. the old Dharma barracks, which looked exactly like a YMCA summer camp I once attended during a miserable week separated from my comic books and Commodore 64 Zork games. Kate made contact with the good doctor and learned, much to her dismay, that he had cut a deal to join Juliet on the next submarine ride off the Island. Because their interactions were conducted under the Others’ watchful eye, it was hard to know if Jack was drugged, brainwashed, or just pretending in order to get what he wanted. But he did make some interesting statements. He told Kate that the kids abducted by the Others were ”safe.” He also told her that he no longer thought of the Others as a demonized ”them,” or even as Others. And then he swore, ”I will come back for you,” which seemed to do little to assuage her sense of betrayal. Time will tell what exactly Jack’s plan was (go home and get help? hijack the sub and take the castaways with him?), and how genuine his conversion was.
Doc Jensen Prediction: At some point in the near future, Jack will return to the beach, and just when we least expect it, something will click in his brain, and he’ll start repeating the creepy mantra from the room 23 brainwashing video: ”God loves you as he loved Jacob.” Then he’ll pull out his gun and start blowing people away. (Man, my imagination can take some dark turns late at night. It’s 1:10 a.m. now. Dad is still making the polar bear sounds.)
Meanwhile, as Kate’s heart was breaking over her potential Manchurian candidate, Locke was holding Ben at gunpoint, demanding to be taken to the submarine so he could blow it up. During their prolonged exchange, Ben, himself now restricted to a wheelchair in the wake of Jack’s tumor-removal surgery, imparted a bunch of useful info. The lowdown: Ben knows all about John’s past; Ben was one of the few Others born on the Island (most of the rest, it seems, were recruited, although they are laboring under the false impression that they could leave at any time); and Ben knows all about Locke’s special ”communion” with the Island, but he wants to help him learn how to strengthen that link and better understand it. Ben’s self-serving motive: to learn how to acquire a ”special relationship” with the Island and reap the rewards of feel-good privileges. In short, both of these overgrown boys really need to get some girlfriends.
Of course, all of what Ben told Locke could be completely bogus. But the two men do agree on one thing: neither of them wants anyone to leave the Island. Ben’s reasons remain inscrutable at this point, while Locke’s motives are a matter of record. Or are they? Locke has stated that he firmly believes that the Oceanic 815ers have been brought to the Island for a reason, and until that reason is satisfied, he isn’t about to let anyone sneak off. But is there truly a holy (or demonic?) force projecting its powers over space and time to suck these souls to this land, or is the unruly spirit in question here the one that belongs to Locke, trapped inside a personal hell of father issues, and bent on sucking everyone else into it as well?
It’s possible Ben revealed quite a bit more to Locke, but I was distracted by all the Easter eggs in Ben’s bedroom. And by Easter eggs, I mean conspicuous curiosities to be cracked open for new theories by fanatics such as myself in the days and weeks to come. Was that a map of the Island on the wall? And what was up with all the tribal masks in Ben’s house? Could it be that the Others are some kind of ancient tribe of actors who are using the castaways in a neo-pagan ritual designed to purge self-destruction from the soul of humanity? Is John Locke destined to become, like, The Wicker Man or something?
The masks also reminded me of something else: Joseph Campbell’s classic book on timeless mythic archetypes, The Hero With a Thousand Faces. And remember — Ben did say that the Others were ”the good guys.” Maybe Ben is the Hercules of his people; his recent adventures (infiltrating the Hatch; manipulating Jack to operate on him to save his life at the Hydra Station) were certainly death-defying labors worthy of Herc’s most famous exploits. Or maybe this is just the elaborate con of a malevolent trickster. Could Ben, with his Big Brain, be moving the castaways around like pieces on a chessboard, all in an attempt to score the biggest con of all: separating Hurley from his mammoth Lotto fortune?
Perhaps the best evidence of a slow-moving conspiracy in ”The Man From Tallahassee” was Ben’s revelation to Locke that the Others were holding a most mysterious prisoner in the bowels of their facility: none other than Locke’s deadly, deadbeat dad himself, Anthony Cooper. Of course, when Locke saw his father tied to a chair and gagged and he muttered, ”Dad?” I couldn’t help thinking of the famous ”Mom?” moment in another J.J. Abrams show, Alias. So…what did it all mean? Do the Others really possess some kind of magic black box, out of which your brightest hope (or darkest fear) can materialize — or was Ben merely waxing poetic with an analogy there? Either way: How the hell did Locke’s dad get on the Island?
These are the questions and mysteries I’ll be pondering in the week to come — that is, if I’m not too busy turning Beatles songs into Lost songs. If you think about it, ”Yellow Submarine” totally works as a Lost theory — or at least the animated movie does. The Island = Pepperville; the castaways = the Beatles; the Others = the native Pepperlanders; and the scientists of the Dharma Initiative = the Blue Meanies. In the end, Dharma’s art-killing, soul-stagnating tyranny will be overthrown, and Jack and Locke will lead the world in a rousing sing-along of ”All You Need Is Love.”
Hey — it worked for The Prisoner.
Weigh in with your comments, questions, and theories below. Until next week, namaste!