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Room To Think

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Spoiler alert: This article contains plot points from recent episodes.


In the two most recent episodes of "Lost," John Locke told a few lies, killed an "Other," blew up a hatch full of communication devices and then set off more explosives in the Others' submarine to prevent anyone from leaving or arriving on the island. It's a far cry from the weeks he spent in a hole in the ground last season, punching computer buttons, only to emerge feeling like he wasted his time.

"Lost" mythology has cast Locke, played by Emmy-nominated Terry O'Quinn, as the show's most enigmatic character. When Locke has his mojo, it seems, so does "Lost." In fact, the arc of Locke, and even O'Quinn's own story, closely parallel the highs and lows of the ABC serialized ensemble drama that changed television three years ago. Now, 80 days into the journey of the plane-crash survivors, what most viewers intuited from the beginning seems to hold true: Locke is one important dude.

But is he the most significant castaway? The creators of "Lost" would never say anything that definitively, but they were willing to offer a glimpse of the way they've embedded some of the series' most telling elements in his story from the beginning. Co-creator Damon Lindelof confirms that in the end, Locke will be among the ones who matter most. Executive producer Carlton Cuse added this, with all the finality he could muster: "The character of John Locke is just the very heart of the show."


When Locke boarded Oceanic Flight 815, he was in a wheelchair. But when the plane crashed, he could mysteriously walk, and that seemed to bond him to the island forever. Wednesday's episode finally revealed to viewers how he became paralyzed: His con artist of a father, who years ago manipulated Locke into giving him a kidney, pushed him out a high-rise window, hoping to kill him. Then it did what "Lost" does. It delivered another whopper: Locke's father is tied up and gagged on "Other" territory.

"That was a big 'What?!' " O'Quinn said, describing how he felt when he read the script. "It leaves you with a big question mark, but there was plenty revealed in this episode, too."

Mysteries, loads of them, are the hallmark of this ABC series, sometimes frustratingly so. Since "Lost" returned in a new time slot in February after a three-month hiatus, it has shed nearly 2 million viewers, although it continues to rank as a top-10 show among the advertiser-coveted 18- to 49-year-olds.

As a fan of his own show, O'Quinn says he understands the audience's frustrations with schedule changes and the questions that outnumber the answers in the series -- brought on mostly by the flashback device that focuses on one character per week and the large number of characters.

"If I take Locke's story individually and just follow it from its beginning point to now, to me it's cohesive and it's understandable and it's interesting," O'Quinn said. "But because there are so many people, it's very patchy. It comes in fits and starts, and that's tough for the fans of the show to have to work to tie everything together."

After the castaways went down the hatch in the second season, Locke was more than happy to save the world by pushing a button every 108 minutes. But when he learned that the hatch is supposedly a psychological experiment, he assumed the task he had been performing was meaningless, and that's when his faith began to unravel. Slowly, Locke regressed into the man he had been before the crash: a depressed office worker with no direction. And O'Quinn's discontent mounted.

"It's interesting because the actor took a parallel journey to the character," Cuse said. "Terry's frustration was really a good thing. And his growing disillusionment with his role was also a really good thing, because that's exactly what we wanted the character to do."

As the creators dreamed up Locke, Lindelof couldn't help but think of the Charles Atlas comic book ads he used to see when he was a child: the scrawny kid on the beach who gets sand kicked in his face by a bully, then starts weightlifting and whacks the bully in the face when he returns.

"I think that's basically who John Locke is," Lindelof said. "We keep showing you stories about him making bad decisions and being abused and conned and suckered, all because he wants to be loved. Now, he's on the island, he's not preoccupied with needing to be loved anymore. He just wants to know his place in the world."

O'Quinn acknowledges that his fans' concerns that Locke was being emasculated troubled him because he felt he had never before had the chance to play a "person of strength and clarity, but with a lot of dimension."

"Maybe that's because I wasn't good enough to do it before," O'Quinn said. "Or maybe nothing suited me quite as well before, but it was a character that evolved, that had a lot of doubt and angles and strength and clarity. I guess what was unique to me was that I was playing a character to whom people responded really strongly and positively."

"Lost's" Locke lived a life marked by pain and disappointment until he regained his ability to walk on the island, which he interprets as a sign that destiny brought him there to give him a second chance. In this way, Cuse said, the character is a springboard to explore the issue of faith versus empiricism.

"The very original idea for Locke was that we needed a character who was going to have some sort of mystical quotient going on with him," Lindelof said. "He was going to be very mysterious and quiet. This plane crash is the best thing that's ever happened to this guy."

Whether Locke holds the key to the deepest mysteries of the island, O'Quinn has no idea.

"I don't know how central he is," he said, "but ... it usually means something when he's around. I think it's because of the deeper quality in him."

O'Quinn, fit the role, Cuse said, because, like Locke, he "marches to the tune of his own drummer." The actor often walks two hours barefoot on the beach from his home on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, to the set.

"While all of the other actors are gathered on Kailua or Lanikai, the populated side of the island, Terry has set up camp away from civilization," Cuse said. "In many ways, he has the qualities of a kind of powerful and intuitive loner ... in close parallel to Locke as a character."

Although O'Quinn is not fond of the weaker and unstable version of Locke inhabiting the island, he understands the journey the writers have outlined.

"I think what they're suggesting is that Locke hasn't dealt with his past," O'Quinn said. "That maybe it's impossible for the past to be simply wiped away. And maybe that's what they're saying about the island or the people or the story -- that everyone has something to deal with."

Source: Post Star

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