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February 17, 2010

John Locke: Man of Science, Man of Faith?

This week's episode of Lost asks us to consider the truths of competing narratives.

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After last week’s fairly quiet episode, this week’s Locke-centric entry, “The Substitute” (watch it here), moved us closer to answers on some of the biggest questions of the series: why are these people on this crazy island? Do they have any choice in what happens to them, or is fate in control? What forces are driving the story, and who falls on the sides of good and evil?

WARNING: SPOILERS AFTER THE JUMP. IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE LATEST EPISODE, DO NOT CONTINUE READING.

Of course, in typical Lost fashion, the answers raise even more questions as we attempt to understand what it means, exactly, that Jacob identified six of our castaways as candidates to succeed him as island protector, or that his intervention in their lives, according to Fake Locke, has created the illusion of free will while drawing them to the island. When Sawyer mentions that he’s never met Jacob, Fake Locke responds, “At some point in your life he came to you when you were vulnerable or miserable, he came to you, manipulated you, pulled your strings like you were a puppet and as a result the choices you thought you made were never really choices, he was pushing you, pushing you to the island.” But is he even telling the truth, or is he conning the con man?

In his conversation with Richard Alpert, Fake Locke began to sow seeds of doubt into Richard’s mind when he asked why he followed Jacob’s orders without understanding his purposes, assuring him that he never would have kept him in the dark. He played the serpent to Richard’s Eve in this dystopian Garden. While that comparison may not hold up particularly well for either Richard or Fake Locke, it does seem to suggest that we should trust whatever plans Jacob has put into motion, no matter how meddling or power-hungry Fake Locke may try to paint them.

As we considered competing definitions of good, as put forth by Jacob and Fake Locke, we also considered contrasting versions of the same man. The man of faith received a fitting eulogy from Ben: “John Locke was a believer … he was a man of faith. He was a much better man than I will ever be — and I’m very sorry that I murdered him.” The sideways timeline showed us the same man’s life devoid of the hope that characterized his island self. In this non-crash life, Locke dismisses the fortuitous offer of a spinal surgeon’s free consult while his fiancée, Helen, encourages him to consider that it might be something more. We are left to wonder which Locke is better off — the man who resigns himself to his limitations, or the man who dies thinking “I don’t understand”?

What did you think of this episode? Is Fake Locke telling the truth about Jacob’s plans, and is it a bad thing if he is? What are we to think of the two John Lockes?

Related Tags: Lost, tv

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