Lockdown (S2, ep. 17)
Locke: “Thank you, Henry. Thank you for not leaving me.
As Season 2 begins winding its way to the finale things are picking up in a major way. Secrets, uncovered! Castaway and Other, working together! Big scary metal blast doors! Dharma poker! Blacklights! Title puns!
And of course, crushing despair. It wouldn’t be a Season 2 episode without it. And no one brings the despair like John Locke. As this episode illustrates, Locke is just as responsible for his misery as anyone else, but even given that fact it’s hard not to feel for him and the way that the universe appears to love kicking his ass up and down the road.
• Does any other actor have a handle on exposed-nerve anguish the way that Terry O’Quinn does in episodes like this one?
• Helen and Locke are still cohabitating as the episode’s flashback begins. It’s good to see Katey Sagal again, doing nicely grounded work here. Kevin Tighe as Anthony Cooper, Locke’s horrible father, makes his second reptilian appearance on the show as well.
• It’s interesting to note that Cooper shares his name with two different Sir Anthony Cooper’s, the 1st and 3rd Earls of Shaftesbury. The 1st Earl was a friend and benefactor to the philosopher John Locke. The 3rd Earl of Shaftsbury, grandson to the 1st, was delivered as a baby by Locke, acting as a medical attendant. The Anthony Cooper of Lost doesn’t appear to share either of his namesakes’ qualities.
• Sayid, Ana and Charlie find Henry Gale’s balloon right where Ben said it would be. There’s a grave as well, seemingly confirming Henry’s story. Another easter egg pops up in this scene – one I wouldn’t have spotted on my own. Widmore’s name is imprinted on the yellow metal of the balloon. Here’s a screencap:
It’s possible that, like the Widmore pregnancy test from “The Whole Truth,” the balloon was manufactured by a Widmore company and by chance ended up on the Island. But I like a second possibility better: Was Henry Gale a kind of advance scout for Widmore in his attempts to find the Island? We now know that Ben’s old enemy has been searching for a long time. Was the real Henry Gale flying a literal ‘test balloon’ to try and locate this place?
JACK: There is no loop, Hurley.
HURLEY: Loop, dude, loop.
• In the ‘I’m absolutely stretching things’ department, all this talk about being ‘in the loop’ recalls the literal loop that Hurley and Jack will get caught up in. In the ‘apropos of nothing’ department, “Loop, dude, loop” is weirdly fun to say.
LOUDSPEAKER VOICE: “20 minutes to lockdown.”
LOUDSPEAKER VOICE: “… please proceed… protocol… please proceed…”
• It’s not clear to me how or why the lockdown of the Swan begins in this episode. It simply happens, apparently unprovoked. But on a thematic level, the lockdown can represent the way in which Locke has systematically shut himself off from potential community, both on and off the Island; it’s ‘his’ hatch, after all, as Locke claimed a little earlier (and Ben will explicitly reinforce this later in the episode, referring to it as ‘your hatch’). I’ve brought up the idea of the Swan being, in part, a metaphorical manifestation of the subconscious, and that metaphor is stronger here, with Locke ending up trapped inside of the subterranean space, immobilized and nearly alone. That Ben is the only one capable of helping him, and that Ben is, in some ways, a mirror twin of Locke’s father, seems apt.
Great Kate Line: “Should I go and get a ruler?”
• Jack is an unexpected poker badass. The scenes between him, Sawyer, Kate and Hurley are a lot of fun – playful and interesting and illuminating of character. It’s during the game that Jack reveals he’s been to Phuket, Thailand and Sawyer explicitly comments on Jack’s tats, setting up the Universally-Beloved 3rd season episode “Stranger in a Strange Land.” And when I say “Universally-Beloved” I am in no way sarcastically implying that almost no one enjoys that episode’s Bai Ling-centric flashbacks. Nor is the previous sentence composed entirely of sarcasm (unlike this sentence).
I love Jack in these poker scenes. The way he effortlessly trumps Sawyer and takes what he needs without seeming to break a sweat is terrific to watch, and I’m hoping that the final season of the show will give us this Shepard back again. Jack’s been lost in the figurative woods for the entirety of Season 4 and, arguably, for the entirety of Season 5. I’m very ready to see him get some confidence back.
• The elusive Nadia pops up in Locke’s flashback!
• There’s a whole subplot devoted to how Locke helps his conman father in removing $700 grand from a safe deposit box (that deposit box’s number being, of course, ‘1516’), but I’m not compelled to write anything about it except to note that, given Locke’s history of menial jobs I’d imagine that the money he gets from Cooper may have helped to fund his trip to Australia.
• Locke makes a deal with Ben to protect him from the castaway’s hunger for vengeance in exchange for help in lifting the blast doors. It’s a canny move on Ben’s part, which is no real surprise. What’s interesting about their interactions here is how relatively respectful and cordial Ben is toward Locke. You expect him to use the opportunity to escape, but he doesn’t. Unlike every other person in this episode, Ben doesn’t leave him when Locke’s in need.
• Ben’s lack of knowledge about the Swan seems genuine, but with this character it’s near-impossible to tell whether that’s a front. In Season 3 we discover that Ben has been spying on the castaways by using The Pearl, a station designed to monitor the crew in The Swan, so some of his naiveté is false. But that leads to the larger question: why aren’t the Others monitoring the Swan itself, instead allowing the castaways to ramble around inside of it? One possibility, as I’ve mentioned, is that the Others don’t care if the Button is pushed or not. They may even want it to go un-pushed. Given that the failsafe device we’ll see at the end of the season seems to unleash enough energy to make the Island ‘visible’ and thus vulnerable to Widmore again I’m not quite sure why Ben wouldn’t be more concerned about it. Perhaps it’s because, as I’ve speculated, the construction of the Swan functioned to effectively shackle the Island in some way, and the Others would prefer that the Island be free?
• Locke’s desperate attempt to keep Helen from leaving him is heartbreaking. I’ve commented before that I wouldn’t mind it if John’s story ended where we see it end in Season 5, but as I rewatch his journey I’m starting to hope that maybe, just maybe, there’s some redemption left on or off that Island for John Locke.
• Locke gets his leg caught under the blast door, making this the second major leg injury he’s had since landing on the Island. Both of those injuries were sustained in close proximity to the Swan.
• There’s a small pun in the title of the episode. Lockdown refers to the event at the Swan station, but it also refers to the way in which the blast door brings Locke down, and the way in which his father lets Locke down (as well as the way in which Locke lets himself down, by lying to Helen and ruining their relationship).
LIBBY: What’s going on?
HURLEY: Jack and Sawyer are finally going to beat each other up.
Not yet, big guy.
• Locke, still trapped under that door, sends Ben through an air vent to enter the code and push The Button. It again appears as though the timer runs out, and when it does the room that John is trapped in becomes flooded with spooky blacklights, and we get our first glimpse of the map:
When this episode first aired, the map drove Lost’s fans into a frenzy. Efforts were made to blow up the image and decode all of the information included on it. It’s because of this map that we know about ‘Cerberus vents,’ ‘The Flame,’ and ‘The Incident.’ We’ll look at the map more closely when the show presents it again, in greater, more-readable detail.
• On rewatch I’m wondering why Ben stays with Locke following the entering of the code. He could have taken off immediately – Locke’s injury would have prevented him from following. But Ben doesn’t leave. Is this because he prefers the devil he knows to the devil he doesn’t? Is it because he’s studying them as they’re holding him, making the list that Ethan never handed in? Is it because Ben has heard of this John Locke from Richard Alpert, and wants to size him up and determine whether Locke can or should oust Ben from leadership?
I’ve got no idea. But I enjoyed the apparent kindness of Ben in this episode, whether false or true.
• Jack lies to Kate about the Swan. He’s not telling her about Ben just as Locke didn’t tell Helen about Cooper. I’d completely forgotten that this little conversation leads directly to a mystery that the show hasn’t addressed at all as of yet – one of the biggest WTF moments yet. Someone has airdropped a pallet stacked high with food, all of it marked with the Dharma brand, using a parachute and a flashing light to allow people to locate the pallet in the dark.
What can we deduce from this? Whoever or whatever is supplying the Dharma rations still knows how to find the Island, for one. If the group funding Dharma was aware that their operations had been terminated via The Purge they would assumedly stop sending the pallets. Either the pallet drops are automated somehow, that group (The Hanso Foundation perhaps) is not aware of The Purge, or they are aware of The Purge and have put the needs of those that occupy The Swan ahead of either revenge or justice.
• While Kate inspects a box of macaroni (mysTERious macaroni!) Sayid, Charlie and Ana reappear, and we end the episode in truly gripping fashion as Jack and Kate return with them to the Swan and Sayid reveals the truth about the man they’re holding – he’s not Henry Gale. Henry Gale was buried under the Widmore balloon. This is obviously no shock on rewatch, but it’s still plenty exciting. And it brings to mind a final question for the episode: why bury the real Henry Gale the way he was buried? Why leave an obvious grave, construct a crude cross, and pile stones on in a cairn on top of it all? All of the above would seem to be evidence of someone caring about the real Henry’s fate. Who among the Others would give him such a burial, and why?
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You can also visit the Lost: Rewatch thread here at Chud, where a phenomenal group of people dissects and expands upon these rambling thoughts in a fun and enlightening way.
Missed a column? Catch up here:
• The Whole Truth (S2 ep. 16)
• Maternity Leave (S2 ep. 15)
• One of Them (S2 ep. 14)
• The Long Con (S2 ep. 13)
• Fire + Water (S2 ep. 12)
• The Hunting Party (S2 ep 11)
• The 23rd Psalm (S2, ep. 10)
• What Kate Did (S2, ep. 9)
• Collision (S2, ep. 8)
• The Other 48 Days (S2, ep. 7)