6.4 The Substitute
Everyone knows that the Lost rule of thumb means that a really bad episode is always followed by a really good one, and given that the reaction to last week’s Kate episode was largely cries of ‘filler’ (though I thought it was alright!), this episode was bound to be something special. And little did we know how special.
From the moment the preview signposted this episode as being Locke-centric, it was clear this was going to be a good week. Locke might not be everyone’s favourite character, but his episodes are among the most consistent and entertaining. This episode gave us multiple stranges to enjoy, including the fate of the real Locke, the fate of sideways-Locke, and an insight into the plans of Smoke-Locke. And for the first time ever, an episode actually felt like it included more answers than questions, but in true Lost style, it couldn’t help but introduce a few more mysteries at the same time.
The big point, then, assuming that Smoke-Locke is telling the truth, is we finally know why the people on Oceanic flight 815 were brought to the island. Jacob wants someone to take over his job. In revealing this, Lost also made the, frankly, shocking choice to give us quick plot-reminder flashbacks to illustrate the events it referred to. It’s perhaps a little late to be worrying about viewer accessibility, but I can’t deny that I enjoy it, almost as much as I enjoy discovering that the seemingly irrelevant Jacob-flashbacks from last season’s finale, The Incident, actually did have a point.
Meanwhile, real Locke finally got himself a burial after spending nine months lying on his side on the beach. Ben’s eulogy was amusing enough, but Lapidas’ comment was classic Lost dialogue. In fact, this episode was peppered with the kind of humour that Lost has lacked a little recently – everything from Sideways-Locke’s cascade of mishaps, to Ben’s appearance in the sideways-verse and, indeed, this wouldn’t be a geek site if we didn’t at least smirk at Locke’s Patrick Stewart double-reference, asking for Captain Picard’s favourite drink while performing Professor Xavier’s role of a wheelchair-bound teacher. That, friends, is how you do a reference.
Although not the most interesting aspect of the episode, Locke’s life in the sideways-verse was very well-realised, and it was hard not to feel some semblance of satisfaction that, even though he’s still wheelchair-bound, the Sideways-Locke did, in many ways, end up freer than the ‘real’ Locke, having accepted his condition and freed himself from the rather obsessive and self-destructive cycle he ended up in as a result of crashing on the island.
If theories about the sideways-verse actually representing the final fate of the characters are true, then it seems there might be a happy ending in store for him after all.
Oh, and this review wouldn’t be complete without a little praise for the Evil Dead-style sequence, where we got to ride shotgun with ol’ smokey as he traversed the island. It didn’t tell us a lot, but man, was it fun. And Smokey himself even got a taste of his own medicine, in the form of apparitions of a young boy. At this point, it’s hard to see where that’s leading, but the plot was worth seeing just for yet another appearance of the “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!” catchphrase. If Lost had a drinking game (and to be fair, it probably does), we’d all be downing our drinks right then.
So, great plot, mysteries explained, tonnes of John Locke and Terry O’Quinn doing a fantastic job of playing three versions of the same character (well, two if you don’t count the corpse). There was almost nothing about this episode that could attract complaints. If I had to pick something? It’s the fact that there’s another week until the next one.
Check out our review of episode 3 here.