Belatedly Blogging Lost: The Substitute.

Sorry for the delay.

So this episode finally had us spend time with John Locke’s two lives; one in which he’s happily getting married to Peg Bundy in LA and the other in which his dead body is overtaken by Smokey the Monster and he’s trying to pull Sawyer over to the dark side. We met Locke in the first season at about this time, week 4’s “Walkabout,” and that timing is important. Jack and Kate are the main characters, with whom we can identify, who ground us in the story with their relative normalcy. In journalistic terms, Locke is the nut graph. He’s always embodied the central point and conflict of the show, to the extent that there is one. They’re not just on a tropical island, they were brought there, and the island means something.

In this episode, Locke’s fresh off his walkabout rejection, and comes back to have the boss we all learned to hate in season one fire him for the admittedly fireable offense of not going to the conference the company paid for him to go to in Australia. It’s ok though, because Locke meets Lucky Hurley, who’s set to hook him up with a job through Rose, who somehow works for Hurley. Rose has cancer, so she shows Locke she understands his problems. Rose was always the character who knew Locke’s not-walking secret, so now, of course, we see how their lives are always magically connected. It’s like, deep. Locke, through Peg Bundy’s love, also finally accepts his wheelchair-bound circumstances and tears up surgeon Jack’s card.

Meanwhile, Locke’s-body is on the island trying to turn Sawyer’s grief against the it. Sawyer wants to get off, since the island has destroyed everything he loves. He’s going to totally fall into the trap, despite Richard Alpert’s advice! Oh, Lost! The tired tropes you fall into.

What Locke’s-body shows Sawyer is a weird cavern with a bunch of names written on the ceiling. Of course, they include all the Losties who came back, along with The Numbers. That there s a big list to explain on the little lists isn’t much of a surprise. But it’s really hard to conjure the same feeling of weird dread we felt at the end of the second season, when the weird clothes-wearing others, few of whom are still alive, dragged our heroes through the forest with bags over their heads because they’re on some unexplained list.

In all, this episode was much better paced than last week’s, which might have been one of the most embarrassing hours of television ever. I care much more about what happened to Locke than I can even buy what happens to Kate. But I’ve been trying to figure out why I dislike the show so much, and it partly hinges on how what it used to do so well it now does so badly. Locke’s first episode, “Walkabout” demonstrates what the show did so well at first: manipulate the unseen. A throbbing, roaring island with a menace you couldn’t see was much more interesting than Smokey the Monster is. Since the show had to balance revealing too much and revealing too little from the start, it introduced too many questions and inevitably slid into a sophomoric parsing of what life means. Now it’s a mass of lose ends that it’s rushing to tie.