It’s been a long weekend for yours truly. Just got back from a weekend with the Misfits of Sci-Fi, during which we not only caroused but also planned an entire summer’s worth of content for that particular arm of Zap2It. I tried to uphold my position as Lost resident-expert, mostly by answering their repeated claims that I shouldn’t have anything more to drink by screaming, "Don’t tell me what I can’t do!!!"
After all, how could I not have John Locke on the brain after last week’s episode? Pretty much impossible to forget the center of "Cabin Fever" after such a mind-blowing episode. While it didn’t top "The Constant" or "The Shape of Things to Come," it’s still in my personal top three in terms of Season 4 episodes. Had the freighter stuff not felt so forced, it might have ranked higher, since the Locke-centric stuff was so uniformly incredible.
In honor of Mr. Locke, and in honor of the fact that I’ve been on the road all day, I want to look at four Locke-centric topics over the course of the next two days. Makes sense to me to look at four aspects, in that we got four looks at our favorite survivalist in this week’s episode. I’m a fan of lists of five, and three’s the magic number, but four feels right for this particular endeavor. We’ll look at one topic per flashback, two topics per day. We good? Good.
1) Baby Locke
Personally, I’m intrigued by the birth date of John Locke: near the end of the second trimester. Why? Well, because that’s when all babies die on the Island, making Locke’s birth potentially related to the fertility issues on the Island. How? Glad you asked. Actually, not so much, since I don’t have a good answer. Darn you to heck, inquisitive readers!
I used the word "survivalist" above on purpose, since John’s earliest days are marked with great interest by the hospital staff due to his ability to fight off the various maladies that had felled earlier premies. Such interest traveled all the way to Portland, Oregon, apparently, what with the appearance of Richard Alpert. Then again: notice how Emily was struck by a car on her way to her date with super slimeball Anthony Cooper? Did it remind anyone else of another accident involving someone struck by a vehicle?
I can’t help but wonder if someone struck Emily on this particular day, at that particular time, for the sole purpose of inducing labor that night. Given Richard’s presence in and around car accidents, and given his compunction towards performing/affecting immoral acts in the name of the Island. But, as we saw, this wasn’t the only time Richard directly inserted himself into Locke’s life.
2) Five Year Old Locke
A lot will, and should, be made of what I’ve dubbed the "Drawing of the Three" scene. I dealt with in both my recap and podcast, so I won’t rehash all that here. But I do want to flesh out with greater detail just how "fate" and "destiny" are in fact intensely malleable things in the Lost universe.
Ben Linus, in particular, spends the majority of the episode bemoaning his fate, believing that everything happened to him according to an architecture he couldn’t possibly alter. (Jeff Jensen has some great stuff this week about the architecture of history.) The attempted murder of Locke near the mass grave only confirmed that his time had "passed on." But are either Ben or Locke mere instruments of fate or puppets to very human players with long-reaching agendas?
One can look at Richard’s actions in this episode as a way to steer Locke towards his eventual role as Island Protector. Note well that Locke more than likely could not have reached this role as a series of random events, but rather as the culmination of a scripted series of occurrences engineered to put Locke into the position to affect an outcome that an outside party cannot affect themselves.
Now, saying all this doesn’t imply that just anyone could be Island Protector. Clearly, there has to be an inner something only people like the Island, Jacob, Richard Alpert, or, I dunno, Oprah Winfrey, has the power to intuit. The problem is that this special something isn’t entirely unique, which is why there seems to be some confusion as to the identity of the Island Savior.
This confusion to me signifies just how fluid "fate" can be in the Lost universe: while there may be a number of parties with unique insight into events to come, these events are neither etched in stone nor remotely confirmed as ever always occurring. Ben’s shock at Alex’s death speaks directly to the lack of stability of future events; even those who have peeked into the future only see a potential future, not a definitive one. If the future were set in stone, there could be no Widmore/Linus War: these two men would always ever enact the actions and dialogue prescribed for them by Fate. Alex’s death alone signifies this isn’t the case, but it doesn’t mean that these men stop seeking to massage people and events along the future timeline they envision as the "happy" ending.
One more thing worth mentioning here, something I touched on in the podcast: there are two ways to look at Alpert’s testing of Locke and Linus. One is to assume that Alpert watched over Locke in "real time," meaning that in 1956 Alpert already knew about Locke’s potential, tried to foster it fully, gave up, and then latched onto Benjamin as maybe the real deal. The OTHER way to look at this? Richard traveled from Island present, after reaching the Temple, and sent himself back at various points in the past in order to test if Locke truly is the Island Savior he believes him to be in Season 3.
There’s precedent in people on the Island going back in time and slightly altering the past. Desmond, in "The Constant," does just this. But Desmond’s trip didn’t fundamentally alter the universe; it just created a universe in which events as we knew them still happened, just in a slightly different way. The course correction in terms of "Cabin Fever" are ensured due to Richard visiting Locke directly only up until the point in which Locke would have recognized him on the Island years later. This is why Alpert does not visit Locke in high school; he merely sends a brochure through a third party. Locke’s still a knife-obsessed man, but he might not have been without Alpert showing him the knife at age five and derailing his supposed "fate."
But we’ll get to teenage Locke tomorrow. All good things in time, y’all.
Leave your thoughts and comments on these two particular flashbacks below!
Ryan also posts every 108 minutes over at Boob Tube Dude.