Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Passion of the Locke

I know it sounds like a broken record, but...another Wednesday, another great Lost, with "The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham."

The Locke-centric eps tend to be fan favorites, and this one should be no exception. We got details, conspiracies, surprises and knockout acting from all involved. Plot-wise, a lot happened, though we as viewers knew most of it already. Locke would try to play Jake and Elwood, and get the band back together. However, instead of finding the trumpet player as a maitre'd and the the guitar player cooking for Aretha Franklin, Locke got soundly rejected everywhere he went. All that was missing was Dikembe Mutumbo wagging his finger. Sayid had been playing Jimmy Carter in the DR, and told Locke to give it up. Hurley thought John was a ghost, until he saw Abaddon with him, and then freaked the fuck out. Per Jin's request (and ring), he didn't ask Sun. Kate cut him to shreds emotionally. He checked up on a much taller Walt, who seemed to be doing well despite not knowing what's shaking with his dad (he got blowed up, as we know, but Locke spared him that detail). Abaddon found Helen, the only love of his live. Except that Helen appeared to have died of a brain aneurysm, and is now buried. Abaddon got shot and killed, Locke tried to drive off, got in a car wreck and wound up in the same hospital where Jack worked, while Jack is in his sketchy bearded phase. He too emotionally bitch slapped Locke, leading John to the lowest point he could imagine.

So we knew all that, right? That Locke would get rejected at every turn in his attempts to get the O6 back to the island, become disconsolate, and eventually hang himself. But even though we knew the basic points of the journey, we did learn a few more things, and get to see the devastating Passion Play of John Locke and its emotional toll.

What else we learned while John went recruitin'
  • John got off the island the same way Ben did previously, and presumably, the same way a Dharma polar bear did. (Do we know if the skip in time was the same for everyone using this portal? I don't think so). Wake up in Tunisia and vomit. Sounds like something from a Led Zep tour back in the 70s. Ben still had his gruesome leg break, but apparently, sometime between when Ben did the wake up in the desert trick and when Locke did it, Widmore has added monitoring cameras to the exact spot that acts as a portal. John is dragged to a third world hospital, and his leg is set in a fashion that makes Civil War medicine seem refined. (And also echoes what Boone went through during his "plane trip" with Locke).
  • Widmore says that he wants to help Locke, and offers Abaddon as a driver. Or, as Abaddon himself puts it, a man who "helps people get to where they need to get to."
  • Widmore claims that he was on the island for three decades, before Ben exiled him. He also states that it's been 53 years since their encounter in 1954. Let's do some math. That would make Widmore 70 at the time of this conversation. So assuming that the three decades started from the time Widmore was 17, would that make him 47 when he left the island, sometime around 1984. I think we can safely assume that Penny is older than 25 now (or 23 in 2007), so does that mean that she was born on the island? Or that perhaps she was adopted, just like Ben's "daughter," Alex? Hmmmm.
  • Sayid worked for Ben as an assassin for two years.
  • Walt, who we've known has some form of psychic powers, tells Locke that he had a dream where John was in a suit, surrounded by people who want to do him harm.
  • Abaddon was killed by an unknown gunman, who turns out to be (of course) Ben. Abaddon is now free to go glower and help Olivia and the Bishop clan over on Fringe.
  • Locke also told Jack that "dad said hi." Was this the start of Jack's Christian "hallucinations" on his beardy, pill-popping downward spiral?

Charging Extra for all the Emotional Baggage Checked
  • Wow. We've seen Locke get beaten down before, but this was a Locke-hater's wet dream. He was rebuffed in his efforts at every single turn. Most of the rejections weren't simply "hey, thanks for asking, John, but I'm busy. Good luck!" Instead, they took a cumulative toll, with Kate and Jack especially twisting the psychological knives, insisting that Locke was a broken down old man, with nothing else in his life, deluded and "nothing special" at all. He found out that his only previous chance at a happy, normal life, Helen, was now dead. He had failed at his mission to get everyone back to the island, failed at his chance to get back to the island and his own destiny, and was left with nothing more than a crushed spirit, wobbly table and a long extension cord.
  • It's funny, when I'm asked who my favorite characters on Lost are, Locke is almost always in the first few I mention (along with Sawyer, Ben, Faraday, Juliet and Des and Penny). But when I think deeply about it, I'm not sure why. After all, Locke has long been positioned as the "man of faith" to Jack's "man of science." And as we all know, I have very little faith. In anything. Locke has made some bewildering decisions, rarely achieves his goals and is often an unwitting pawn in everyone else's games. So what exactly is it about Locke? Yes, he's central to the island mysteries, but last night, it dawned on me exactly what the appeal is. TERRY O'QUINN IS A FUCKING FANTASTIC ACTOR. No matter what Locke is doing or going through, and no matter whether I agree with it or not, TOQ completely sells me on it. There's not a false moment in any of his performances, and we never see him "acting." He played that anguish beautifully, and even for a character that I disagree with on a rational level, my heart ached for him. If he and Michael Emerson aren't recognized (again) come Emmy time, then something is seriously wrong.

Okay, so John didn't get the band back together. What else did we learn? Other thoughts, comments, quotes and questions from "The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham:"

First, a biggie. The DEAD GUY IS ALIVE AGAIN. HE IS RISEN! So all the mumbo jumbo about reincarnation and the corpse in the plane leads us to the fact that John Locke is now "alive again," walking and talking and corporeal on the island again. He's eating fruit with our two newbies Caesar and Ilana, and definitely "tangible," and not a "ghost" or "manifestation" like Christian Shephard. There were several cool moments involved in this. The first reveal of John, where he took off his robe, played in a distinct geek archetype. It's funny, as I was watching, I noted the same three characters EW's Jeff Jensen did: "Quasi-Mystical Pop Culture Characters Who Introduce Themselves With A Dramatic Removal Of An Oversized Hoody. (See: Obi Won Kenobi; Gandalf; Spock in the original Star Trek movies.)" Hee! We also saw the shoes -- Christian's shoes -- that Jack put on him in "316." And just like Jack's awakening in the jungle last week was a nice callback to the first ep, so too were John's actions. Enjoying standing without pain. Wondering what the hell has happened to him. Looking out at the ocean. Eating a piece of fruit.

John also knows that he died. That he was killed. By Ben. "He's the man who killed me." Can't wait to see this one play out.

“I help people get to where they need to get to."

The scene with John and Ben couldn't have been more beautifully shot and designed. You had the Christ subtext, with the big "x" beams on the ceiling, and Ben dropping to his knees. The dialogue was spot on and the lighting and staging was extraordinary. And of course, you had the show's best two actors going head to head.

I know Matthew Fox gets some crap online, but I thought he played the hell out of that scene with Locke. He does weepy, bitter desperation like nobody's business.

"Your father says 'hello.'" (surprisingly, not followed up by "and word to ya mutha.")

So did Lapidus pull a Sullenberger, and actually land the plane? Impressive. (The US Air guy wasn't dealing with an unstable time bubble and people actually disappearing off the plane. Of course, he was in reality).

And the plane appears to be down on the Hydra, the "second island." I couldn't tell from the shot on TV, but was it on the makeshift runway that The Others were building?

And this appears to be the "present," with Lapidus and a woman (Sun?) there also. So in this timeline, we have Lapidus, Sun (we think), newbies Caesar and Ilana, resurrected Locke and Ben. Back in the 70s, with those left behind on the island originally, are Kate, Hurley and Jack. Aaron and Walt are off the island, as are (we think) Des and Penny. That everyone accounted for?

Why did Lapidus and "the woman" run off with the manifest? And they took a canoe, right? But weren't the canoes that Sawyer and gang found on the main island, instead of the Hydra island?

"Am I talking to a guy in a wheelchair?"

Who the hell does Locke believe? (my guess, is he's going to be more trusting of the dude that helped him heal, and gave him a car and driver and passport, and didn't strangle him to death with an extension cord). But Widmore says he sent the freighter to the island to wipe out Ben so that Locke could be the "leader." On the other hand, Ben says he moved the island and left so that Locke could "lead."

“...there’s a war coming, John. And if you’re not back on the island when that happens, the wrong side is going to win.”

The most heartbreaking thing about Locke's suicide is that I don't think, there at the end, he was doing it because of what Alpert told him. I think he was doing it because he was truly broken, and bereft of hope and a reason to live.

Ben said Jack had already booked a ticket to Australia. Was this more Ben lying, or was this part of Jack's aimless airline trips, drunkenly hoping for a crash?

"Well, he didn't look dead to me!"

Who is really working with Alpert? If Widmore wanted Locke back on the island alive, why did Richard tell John that he had to die?

The documents Caesar and Ilana found in the Hydra office looked similar to Faraday's journal, and maybe to Rousseau's map. There was also an old Life Magazine there, with the cover story "Color Pictures of the Hydrogen Test!"

Perhaps Locke is special after all. He was playing the "Christian" role (in a coffin) on the "duplicate" flight, yet everything we've seen of Jack's dad is that he is some type of apparition or ghost, rather than a fully resurrected, flesh and blood "person."

''Boy's gotten big.''

Back to the scene with Ben and Locke. Did Ben come there intending to kill him? The way it looked, Ben reacted to two things Locke said: first, that Jin was alive. And second, that Locke thought he should go see Mrs. Hawking. Did Ben realize that he could now manipulate Sun through the knowledge of Jin's fate and the ring? But the one that really stunned him, and seemed to spur the extension cord necktie was the comment about Hawking. Was Ben still undecided on who would play the role of "dead guy" on the flight back until that moment? What was it that made this all play out the way it did?

And will Ben know -- and expect -- Locke is going to be alive on the island? We know that he was insistent that the coffin be on the plane, but his final words to John's corpse as he's leaving to the room seemed to be a heartfelt goodbye, rather than a "see ya later." (or, as Desmond might say, "see ya in another life, brotha.")

Wow. Another great one. Seems like we're heading back to the 70s next week. Until then, Namaste.


  1. Well, we weren't QUITE as creppily identical in our thoughts this week, but still had a lot of the same thoughts.

    Even though I loved this episode, as I do all of Locke's episodes, I gotta admit I'm as confused as ever right now. Ben's actions have completely thrown me, as I don't seem to be able to follow the thread. What I think I have settled on is that he was going to use Locke to get back, and then he snapped and killed him and had to adjust his plans and use Jack instead. Maybe he got angry because he knows that the only way Locke could know about Hawking is if Christian/Jacob told him, similar to when he shot him after finding out that he could hear Jacob?

  2. I like your theory about Ben having "Jacob Envy," which would manifest itself as he could think that Locke heard about Hawking from Jacob/Christian, and snapped in anger.He did shoot John for this kind of "connection" before, as you point out.

    Or, perhaps, he could have realized at that moment that Locke knew about Hawking because of Widmore (even though Widmore didn't directly tell Locke about it, but that's a logical assumption for Ben to make), and that provoked him.

  3. And, I agree...that was a GOODBYE that Ben gave to Locke. Which confuses me even more...