Wednesday, March 04, 2009

LOST: Locke

I'm so glad this show is back on the air. My wife and I have never watched an episode twice, and after season 5 is over it's going to be our great pleasure to spend the hiatus working our way through the whole series in anticipation of the last season.

These images of John Locke (Terry O'Quinn) are all drawn from the latest episode, "The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham". (I won't be spoiling any plot points, btw.)

Everybody who watches "Lost" has their own theory on what it's all about, right? Well here's mine: I think that the idea of good guys and bad guys is a cover for a deeper theme. Locke in particular is someone who's always being pulled in two directions at once, trying to decide what side to take, who to listen to, what to believe. (It was Locke himself who cryptically introduced the good vs. evil theme with a pair of chess pieces in the pilot episode.)

As the series approaches its conclusion, the sides in the larger conflict are coming into sharper focus. But this episode contains some strong hints that no one is completely good, neither side worthy of trust. Perhaps the two sides in the war are offering Locke a false choice. Perhaps the real struggle is within himself.

One thing that struck me early on in the stories is the way that most of the castaways were people at war with their own nature, caught between what psychoanalysis calls the "true self" and the "false self". People who often say "no" to their better instincts because they're trapped in a neurotic idea of themselves. Locke's dichotomy, I would think, is that for all his babble about being a "man of faith", he's terribly lacking in faith in himself. He wants to be saved by taking on the external role of a leader, but that makes him vulnerable to being manipulated. When he can get his answers from inside and stop being pulled this way and that, then he will have made progress.

As I was cycling through the episode looking for scenes to draw, I was really struck by Terry O'Quinn's work in the following scene. I think it demonstrates what I'm saying nicely:

In this scene Locke is trying to convince Kate of something, but she ends up putting the spotlight on him, and he's not happy with what's on display there. The first shot is earlier in the exchange, where he's trying to project the image of the wise, serene leader that he'd like to be seen as. As the camera tracks in and she grills him about his own life, the mask crumbles and O'Quinn makes his wonderfully expressive face cycle through pain, regret, heartbreak and flashes of rage. He's still very much in the grip of his demons. Poor Locke, so desperate to escape into a larger persona, but the small scared man is always right below the surface.

I'll try to expand upon this theory in future posts, looking at different characters in the series.


daveed said...

Looking forward to it.

One quick observation: it seems as if once a major character resolves whatever fundamental conflict they have (internal or external), they get killed off.

- Michael
- Charlie
- Boone
- Shannon
- Claire (? -- not sure if she's dead)
- Danielle
- Alex

Kevie said...

I never noticed that! That's interesting. And there's also the late great Mr. Eko to add to that list.

I get the impression that, now that we've had a season focused on time travel, the last season will open up the strange issue of life and death on the island.