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Lost

Lost is a drama about a group of plane crash survivors. They land on an unknown Pacific island and have to learn to live together. ABC 2004-2010

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Episode 19 - Deux Ex Machina

17 January 2017

Present: Sawyer’s headaches have gotten much worse. Reluctantly he seeks Jack’s diagnosis. It turns out he is far sighted and needs glasses. Locke and Boone can’t open the hatch but the Locke has a dream. The dream leads him to another crashed plane even as his legs seem to be giving out on him. Boone climbs up a cliff to get in the plane and they discover it was apparently a Nigerian drug smugglers plane. Boone makes contact with someone on the plane’s radio before it falls off the cliff and he crashes to the ground. Locke drops Boone off at the caves and heads back to the hatch. There he cries and angrily asks why the island did this just as a light comes on from the window of the hatch.

Flashback: Locke is approached by his birth mother, who he has never met before. Through a private investigator he tracks down his father Anthony Cooper. They begin to bond until Locke discovers Cooper needs a kidney. He gives him his but after the surgery Cooper disappears and Locke’s mother admits that it was all a plan to get his kidney.

The Good: Again a Locke flashback has a drastic effect on how we view Lost. Though rather than the shock of Walkabout (104), this is more a confirmation and extension of what we expected. Through Claire, Walt and Hurley we know that the island has brought people here for a reason. But Locke is the one who takes this faith a step further. He has faith that he is meant to be here and literally take instructions from the island about what to do next.

It’s a fascinating and brave move from the producers of Lost. In an age when much of the Western world has turned away from religion, certainly in popular culture, they have chosen to make faith one of the central pillars of the show. Locke does sound insane when he admits to Boone “the island will tell us what to do.” This is the first time we have really seen Locke show signs of frustration, anger and doubt about what he is doing. He sees everything as a sign from the island, in his dream he claims “all that’s happening now is our faith is being tested.” When his legs begin to stop working, he is convinced that “Jack wouldn’t know the first thing about what’s wrong with me.” In fact when he sees the plane he laughs. It is the same laughter of relief which Jack let out when Locke pulled him back from the edge of a cliff (105). Clearly John’s belief in the island is so deep that to discover it wasn’t true would almost be like dying. In the final climactic scene, John shows us that his faith is overriding all normal social behaviour and morality. Rather than see what happened to Boone as his fault or a tragedy for Boone, he has become obsessed with his own destiny. He screams at the island “I did everything you asked me to do, so why did you do this!? Why!?” Is he really upset about Boone or more angry that what he did wasn’t right?

Just as interesting as the Locke character is that the island appears to be genuinely guiding him. The dream he has leads him to the plane. And the island takes away his ability to walk, almost as if the island is testing his faith or even protecting him from the fate which awaits Boone. The falling plane leads Locke back to the hatch where the light shines on him, a reward for his faith in the island. Lost is firmly casting itself as a science fiction show of the first order. The mysteries of the island are clearly meant to be supernatural and not merely scientific.

As for the episode itself, it builds dramatically to a wonderful emotional finale. The flashback mirrors Locke’s island quest. Like his dream, his birth mother comes with the promise of what Locke has been looking for. Like the island, Anthony Cooper seems to be leading Locke toward what he desires. In the end Locke suffers tragic consequences from his faith in both his father and the island. But the final shot of light streaming up from the window of the hatch is Locke’s redemption. Unlike his father, the island is not conning Locke, it shows him that what he did was, in some way, the right thing to do.

In retrospect Anthony Cooper’s con seems so obvious. At each step of the way he is manipulating John’s emotions. He asks him to come hunting within minutes of meeting him, “accidentally” lets Locke see him on the dialysis machine and then says it’s so great they got to meet “while we still have time.”  But it is not so obvious that it spoils the story and when we discover the trick, one cannot help but feel so sorry for Locke. He plays wounded and betrayed so well and his disbelief is almost the saddest part to see. He had believed so strongly that “this was meant to be.”

On the island the discovery of a creepy skeleton and a crashed plane also add hugely to the drama. It would seem that the survivors are not the first people to crash land here. The heroin is an obviously bad sign (for Charlie), while the fact that the smugglers seem to have been Nigerian raises many questions (see The Unknown). But Boone’s radio conversation and tumble in the plane is very dramatic and well filmed. It all leads up to the final minute or two though (see Best Moment).

The choice of actors to play Locke’s parents is very good as well. The Sawyer subplot is fine for a little comedy. It even shows how the island is humbling all the survivors.

The Bad: I suppose the private investigator warning Locke that meeting his father wouldn’t have a happy ending was a bit too much of a signpost for what was about to happen.

Why do I rank this episode slightly lower than Hurley (119) and Sawyer’s (108) flashbacks? Especially when this seems so much more significant to the main story than Sawyer’s. The answer is more about the individual fourty two minutes of television than a comment on their contribution to the overall story. I felt that Sawyer’s refusal to cooperate was hugely intriguing and kept you gripped to the screen in a way which Locke’s story couldn’t quite match. Sawyer’s story also had more significant background developments than Deus Ex Machina does. I can understand people disagreeing about Hurley’s episode being better, because the comedy in it seems to make it less important. But again, I felt that the intrigue of Hurley’s story built stronger throughout the whole episode than Locke’s did. I feel that the tension over what was going to happen to Boone and Locke only really kicked in about half way through the episode. And there is nothing wrong with that, I simply felt the other two episodes did a marginally better job of building that tension.

The Unknown: How does Locke know how to build a trebuchet? Did the island send Locke that dream? If so what were they trying to show him? Boone was injured in it, so did the island want that to happen? Why did Locke’s legs stop working temporarily? Where did that plane come from? How did it get to the island? It shouldn’t be possible for a plane to reach the South Pacific from Nigeria. Is the island really in the South Pacific or was the plane really from Nigeria? What is in the hatch? Is the island a “thing” which can, like a God, give instructions and heal wounds? Who did Boone get through to on the radio?

Best Moment: Boone is crushed with the crashing plane and Locke throws him over his back and hobbles all the way back to the caves. There he interrupts an intimate moment between Jack and Kate. He drops off Boone and says he fell off a cliff. Then he disappears. We cut back to his flashback where he wakes up to find his father gone. Slowly we realise what has happened and Locke’s misery really hits you. He drives up to Cooper’s house with blood leaking from his wound and begs to be let in. “You can’t do this” he says. As he drives away he screams in anger and cries. The music is beautiful and builds up as we cut back to Locke now crying on top of the hatch. At his lowest ebb the light comes on from the hatch, giving him hope. The religious overtones of that shot really add a punch to the whole story.

The Bottom Line: Yet another wonderful episode from Lost. It’s difficult to remember another show which changed your perception of it so many times in one season. Though Locke’s story only confirms all the points which had hinted at the supernatural nature of the island, it still feels very significant. Here on the island, Locke won’t be screwed over; his faith will be rewarded by his new God, the island itself. The mystery of what is really going on just keeps growing and changing in intriguing and intelligent ways. And we have Locke, a character who is far from perfect. His obsession with the island may have cost Boone his life and Locke’s selfishness in that regard makes him a very interesting character.

The episode is excellent and builds slow but important tension which climaxes in the wonderful final scene.

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Comments

  • This was a fantastic episode which paved the way for Lost's future.

    As you mentioned above, this episode confirms the island's potential through Locke's on island story, which was great. I'm glad that Lost took the time to introduce every character before finally starting to kick the story into gear the episode after every major character had an episode focussed on them. The biggest character reveal was Hurley and the numbers and so with that fuelling the story, the writers dove forwards with this huge episode.

    There is a lot to love here, so I will start with the flashback story. The story is pretty heartbreaking and culminates with a very emotional moment when Anthony abandons an emotional Locke after stealing his kidney. It's very cold and tragic, allowing us to bond with Locke even more than we have already. This flashback was very effective in my eyes and I loved being able to spot the little details of Anthony's con on rewatch.

    The on-island story is just as good as it parallels Locke's flashback story as you stated above. I thought the tension was added from the get-go when Locke began to lose feeling in his legs. It's a great hook and it gave me the sense that something big was going to happen in this episode. Add in the dream sequence and I was on the edge of my seat for the rest of the hour.

    My point above is why I disagree that there was less tension or intrigue in this episode compared to "Confidence Man" and "Numbers". I thought the intrigue of Locke losing feeling in his legs and the hook of the plane were more than effective at building up the story in an exciting way. Additionally, this episode moved the story forwards much more to build towards the finale.

    Boone's fall at the end was a big surprise and his conversation in the plane with who I now know is Bernard was excellent. It brought in a lot of mystery while providing a real consequence to this episode's events.

    Sawyer's side story with the glasses is excellent as well. It provides some great humour throughout and also shows that Sawyer's relationship with others isn't the same as it was and that he is now accepted by everyone. Jack telling Sawyer that his insurance joke was "a good one" demonstrated this excellently.

    Lastly, I love the contrast between the flashback and the on-island story. It is constructed so well and tells a complete emotional story.

    This is an amazing episode of Lost. Coming off of a weaker middle portion of the season, Lost pulls out all of the stops. This builds to an exciting final stretch to the season.

    Viewer score: 86 / 100

    Posted by Aaronic, 13/01/2017 10:01pm (7 months ago)

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