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Deus ex Machina

January 26, 2010

The title of this episode is a nice little subversion of its meaning, as well as a poke at the creators when taken with the episode itself. In ancient Greek theatre, a deus ex machina amounted to the fact that the playwright had written himself into a corner, and pulled one of the Greek gods out of nowhere and planted him (or her) into the plot to offer up a nice, tidy resolution. As the poke at the creators themselves, they gave Locke a slightly clichéd dream sequence in order to pull the plot along. However, it’s already been a given that Locke has some communion with the island. And it’s been hinted at more than once that Locke awaits the island to give him instructions on how to proceed. Therefore, pulling the “the island led me here” card is really not all that unreasonable.

Island mythology: 6.75 out of 10. The only thing touched upon here is the island’s ability to plant visions (or dreams) in one’s head, and this has already been hinted at before. In addition, psychic abilities are also referenced when a part of Boone’s past is planted in Locke’s dream. And finally, the episode ends with a light coming from the hatch. This is a huge revelation in the short term, but once Season 2 begins, it ends up being relatively minor.

Philosophical concepts/ongoing themes: 8.25 out of 10. Locke’s continued reliance on fate or destiny, and the way in which it sometimes blinds him, figures in heavily in this episode, both on-island and in his flashback. In fact, this might be the penultimate “Locke’s faith is tested” episode, though possibly tied with the episode next season dealing with his faith in entering the numbers. This, though, is a prime example of blind faith. As this is one of the core tenants of Locke’s character and the show as a whole, the score is justified.

Character development: 9.25 out of 10. Not only does the flashback give a lot more insight into Locke’s past, it ties in perfectly with the ongoing on-island storyline. And as mentioned above, Locke’s (sometimes blind) faith is revealed to have been with him for some time. Locke seems quick to believe almost out of some desperation. He is continually told he is special, and until he arrives on the island, has never done anything to bear this out. He wants to believe he is destined for great things, and when any sign appears leading him in that direction, he latches onto it with a full-on obsession. And this is another very early example of all the disappointment and frustration Locke has faced in life. Rarely has Locke shown any extreme emotion thus far on island, and instead seems to come across as a benevolent sage with an undercurrent of mystery. But when his faith is tested, both on island and off, his anger and frustration come to a head.

Importance of episode to series: 10 out of 10. Along with the last Jack centric episode, this is arguably the most important episode in the first season. It introduces things that have a direct bearing on so many future events and so many characters. The chasm between Jack and Locke widens deeply after Boone dies, the plane itself has a major impact on Eko’s storyline, and the heroin within obviously affects Charlie’s storyline as well. As a direct result of this episode, Boone is the first regular character to die. It can be argued that this indirectly leads to Shannon’s death as well (when she no longer has family on the island, she turns to Sayid for support, and when he does not believe her about Walt in the next season, she runs off into the jungle and is shot by Ana Lucia).

As well, this episode introduces Anthony Cooper, who has a defining influence on both Locke and Sawyer’s storylines. And the setup for the Tailies next season (when Boone hears Bernard on the radio) is well-done also. It’s episodes like this that make the show extraordinary. All the details and occurences, big and small, that happen here have a payoff down the line, sometimes not until two or three seasons later. It’s episodes like this that garner LOST its enthusiastic fanbase.

Personal enjoyment of episode: 10 out of 10. I am a part of that enthusiastic fanbase.

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