This week’s episode unraveled the mysteries surrounding John Locke’s departure from the island, his visits to the Oceanic Six, and the circumstances of his death. Viewers didn’t have as much time travel and Island mythology to sort through as the last couple of episodes. Instead, we were given a mostly chronological narrative that took us from the Island time wheel, to Tunisia, to Los Angeles, with a few other stops along the way.
The Tragic Tale of John Locke, a.k.a. Jeremy Bentham
- By filling in more missing pieces in the puzzle of Locke’s life, the writers reminded us how tragic and lonely that life has been. In earlier seasons we saw the horrible way his mother and father treated him, how he was bamboozled out of a kidney, how he was always searching for his place in the world and never finding it.
- Over the years, he has built up a lot of bitterness and anger, and only when he crash landed on the Island for the first time did he start to feel at home. Finally, he felt special. Not only could he walk again, but people were telling him that he was important. We’re left to wonder, especially after his off-island encounters with the Oceanic Six (who mostly think he has delusions of grandeur), how much of his “specialness” is wishful thinking, and how much is truth.
- His confidence and greater purpose on the Island are a stark contrast to his off-Island hopelessness and powerlessness – he was unable to convince a single person to return to the Island with him. In addition to his emotional despondency off the Island, he also returned to physical limitations. Once again, he found himself confined in a wheelchair – an all too real reminder of the man he was before he found his purpose on the Island.
- The pivotal scene in the dilapidated hotel room was difficult to watch. Locke had been reduced to a mere shell of a man, he didn’t know who to trust, and he was ready to kill himself, more to end his suffering (“there is no helping me… I’m a failure”) than because he believed this would lead him back to the Island. I am sure in the back of his mind he was holding on to a shred of hope that Richard knew what he was talking about when he said Locke would have to die, but since he hadn’t convinced anyone to return to the Island, he probably didn’t think his death would have much affect on the situation. (As it turns out, his message from Christian Shepard to Jack did convince Jack that they should go back, since this is when Jack started flying again in a blind attempt to return. Ironically, then, his wish that Jack had believed him, written on his suicide note, did come true.)
- I’d like to think that Locke is special, and that he will play an important role in the fate of the Island. Obviously the fact that he’s come back to life on the Island suggests that he is destined for greatness and a pivotal role in the Island’s future. His whole-hearted embrace of his role has, however, set him up to be manipulated. We saw plenty of that in this episode.
Charles Widmore and Locke
- When Locke turned the Island wheel, he landed in the middle of the desert in Tunisia, just as Ben did after he turned the wheel. According to Widmore, that’s because this is the Island “exit.” It must be another electromagnetic hotspot. Widmore had a camera set up on this very spot, anticipating that Ben would trick Locke into leaving the Island, as Ben tricked him into doing years before.
- Widmore claims that he wants to help Locke get back to the Island, because he will play an important role in the coming war. (If Locke doesn’t go back, the wrong side will win.) He also defends himself, since Locke has only ever heard Ben’s “lies” about him. Widmore claims that he was the rightful leader of the Others (“his people”), and they peacefully protected the Island for three decades, until Ben manipulated him into leaving. (Who hasn’t been manipulated by Ben?) It’s interesting that Widmore has been waiting to talk to Locke again since he was 17 years old, but for Locke it’s only been four days since they met.
- It is Widmore who gave Locke the pseudonym Jeremy Bentham, and explained to him the difficulty of convincing the others to return to the Island – since they had moved on with their lives and kept the truth of their experience a secret. He’s been watching the Oceanic Six, because he’s “deeply invested in the future of the Island.” Conveniently, he doesn’t want Locke to mention that he’s involved in the quest to return them to the Island, since everyone has been listening to Ben’s lies about him.
- So who can be trusted? Widmore? Ben? Neither? My guess is that they both have motives that they aren’t sharing. Widmore’s justification for sending his private army to the Island was that he needed to have Ben removed, so it could be Locke’s time. “The Island needs you, John. It has for a long time.” So is Widmore just telling Locke what he wants to hear (Ben’s usual manipulative technique), or does he really believe that Locke is the rightful new leader of the Others? Up until now, we’ve only seen Widmore as a power-hungry, ruthless entrepreneur, and could only assume that he wanted to find the Island to exploit its unique properties. But, now that we know he once lived on the Island, and had a stake in its future, we must question what is true and what his intentions are. One of Widmore’s statements was certainly true – that he hasn’t tried to kill Locke yet. Ben tried to kill Locke once on the Island (remember when he shot him in the gut and added him to the pile of bodies in an open grave?), and shortly after Locke’s Tunisian encounter with Widmore, Ben succeeds in killing him, making Widmore’s words prophetic.
- Locke told Widmore about Richard’s statement that Locke must die to convince the others to come back. Widmore’s reply to this was that he wasn’t going to let that happen. Again, is he just telling Locke what he wants to hear, or is he really interested in protecting Locke from Ben? (We can assume that Ben and Richard are on the same side of this conflict.)
- Once this new relationship, built on a shaky foundation of trust, was established, Locke set off with Mr. Abaddon to meet with the Oceanic Six.
Locke and the Wise Orderly
- Mr. Abaddon
- We saw Mr. Abaddon several times in the past, standing in the shadows, sending cryptic messages to the Losties, and otherwise being creepy. Locke remembered him as the orderly who first suggested that he go on the walkabout in Australia, which is what led him to the Island.
- Is Mr. Abaddon trustworthy? Hurley doesn’t think so. He was visited by Mr. Abaddon under false pretenses, and thinks he’s “evil.”
- Mr. Abaddon described his job as “helping people get to where they need to get to.” If we can interpret all of his words and actions through that filter, then we can’t really trust that he’s ever telling the truth, only telling people what they need to hear.
- Is Helen Norwood really dead? Mr. Abaddon claims she died of a brain aneurism, but perhaps this is just what Locke needed to hear to go back to the Island. If the one person he really cared about is dead, then there’s nothing to keep him from returning to the Island.
- I certainly wasn’t expecting Abaddon to be shot and killed – or for Locke to be involved in a subsequent car crash. Once those events had unfolded, though, I figured Ben was responsible. He couldn’t safely get to Locke until Mr. Abaddon was out of the way.
The Return of Evil Ben
- Just when we had gotten semi-comfortable with Ben as a weasly but good-intentioned sidekick to Jack, we see his evil side again. While Locke was meeting with Walt, and we can assume, the other Island survivors, Ben was looking on to see what was brewing. Always watching, always collecting ammunition for his arsenal of manipulation.
- The next thing we know, he is eliminating a threat, Mr. Abaddon – just who Abaddon was a threat to remains a mystery. It makes the most sense that Ben simply killed Abaddon so he would be free to manipulate Locke without Widmore finding out about it.
- When Ben bursts into Locke’s hotel room, interrupting his suicide attempt, he claims that he wants to protect Locke, and that Widmore and Abaddon were dangerous (the same thing that Widmore said about Ben.) He reminds Locke that Widmore is the reason he moved the Island, “to keep him away so that you could lead”) and suggests that Widmore is only using Locke in an attempt to get back to the Island.
- Based on Ben’s murderous actions against Locke, it seems clear that he is using Locke to get back to the Island. He told Locke, “You’ve got too much work to do. We’ve got to get you back to the Island so that you can do it.” Maybe Ben believes that; maybe that’s why he killed Locke – because Richard said he would have to die for the plan to work. But, rather than let Locke kill himself, he wanted to find out what he knew first. And Locke was very helpful with the details. Ben quickly learned that Jin was alive (which would come in handy for convincing Sun to return), and that Eloise Hawking was the key to getting back to the Island. Once he was sure Locke had told him everything he knew, he strangled Locke without flinching one time.
- At this point, I’m starting to trust Widmore more than Ben. Both men seem to think that Locke is important to the Island, but Ben seems more concerned with reestablishing his purpose and authority there, whatever the cost for others involved. Widmore, on the other hand, hasn’t killed anyone yet that we know of, although he didn’t prevent his men from killing innocent people on the Island. There’s definitely a power struggle going on between Widmore and Ben, and we have no reason to completely trust either one of them. For now, I stand by my belief that Ben is manipulating those around him for the selfish purpose of returning to the Island, and his leadership role, that he begrudgingly left. I also wonder now if Widmore could be the one who beat up Ben when Ben went to the docks to, we assume, find and kill Penny. If Widmore found out that Abaddon had been killed, he would assume that Ben was responsible, so maybe he went to L.A. to investigate. Now that we trust Widmore a little more, it would be satisfying to see him protect his daughter and win a round against his most formidable opponent.
A New Beginning
- The end of this chapter of Locke’s life came at the beginning of the episode, when the newest castaways found him standing in the water, wearing a suit. It seems that the Island’s healing properties have done the impossible and brought him back to life. No wonder that mango tasted so good to him! Too bad that everyone thinks he is crazy, and it doesn’t sound good that Walt had dreams about people not trusting him. (Speaking of Walt, they conveniently closed out his storyline, since “the poor boy has been through enough.”)
- Caesar and Ilana are our newest castaways. So far I find them tolerable, and much more logically worked into the story than Paolo and Nikki. Ilana is the agent who was escorting Sayid in handcuffs on Flight 316, and Caesar seems to be quite an observant (he noticed Hurley disappearing when the plane lost control) self-preservationist (he kept a gun that he found to himself – reminiscent of Sawyer in his early days on the Island). Meanwhile, we can assume that it was Frank and Sun that snuck off in a boat in the middle of the night, most likely to locate Jin.
- The question remains whether or not Jack, Kate, and Hurley – and therefore Jin, Daniel, Sawyer, etc. – are in the same time period as the new beach-front gang. Things would be much more complicated if they are separated by time. The only reason I have to think that they ended up in different places is that the plane itself landed on the Island, with most of its passengers still on board, while the three of them flashed away into the jungle before the plane landed.
- The episode ended with Locke’s discovery that Ben was one of the survivors of Flight 316, and as he gazed down at an injured and sleeping Ben, he said matter-of-factly to Caesar, “He’s the man who killed me.” !!! What will Locke do next? Beat Ben up? Or thank him for helping him get back to the Island? I can’t wait to find out!