The timing of “Walkabout” feels a little unexpected. The first two episodes actually featured very little of Locke. He’s seen interacting a little bit with Walt and Michael, but beyond that, he’s viewed silently. In some ways, he even seems somewhat threatening. So I was a little surprised to discover that John Locke was kind of a pathetic character. “Walkabout” explains everything you need to know about John Locke for the rest of the series. All of his motivations, all of the crazy stunts and wild obsessions he will have over six seasons will point back to the essential character traits pointed out in Lost’s third, and possibly best episode.
Overall, this episode feels very similar in structure to “Tabula Rasa,” and indeed it explores some of the same territory. The survivors of the crash are faced with a very real challenge (food is scarce, and it’s time to hunt), and we see the nature of John Locke’s second chance. The key difference is, Locke’s second chance is far more remarkable than what Kate was given: he was paralyzed when he was on the plane, and could walk again after it crashed. There are all sorts of religious overtones to this event, and that’s precisely the spirit in which Locke takes it. The madness he has about protecting the island, preventing anyone from leaving, points back to the fact that he has experienced something that cannot be explained away. How can the rest of the survivors want to leave such a wondrous place? As the series continues, Locke will emerge, along with Jack, as one half of Lost’s soul. “Walkabout” feels like the best possible introduction to the character.
And when you watch the episode, and see the reveal of Locke’s paralysis, it consistently blindsides you on the first watch. But on the second watch? It’s painfully obvious. At no point does director Jack Bender do anything to disguise the fact that Locke cannot walk. Rather, by not dwelling on it, our minds fill in the blank, and we assume that he’s perfectly fine. And what a twist it is! This is the first time that Lost got downright supernatural, and it’s a hint of things to come. It’s still one of the best twists that the show ever did, and indeed one of the best twists I’ve seen in any TV show ever.
There’s a subplot concerning what to do with the bodies that are still in the fuselage. It foreshadows some of the challenges that Jack will face in the early going. Everyone assumes he’s the leader, because, you know, he looks leader-y. Jack’s resistance to the idea is a very interesting character trait, but even more interesting is his resistance to any sort of mysticism that is present in the survivors. He’s uncomfortable in the spiritual realm, so much so that he doesn’t even attend the memorial at the end of the episode. By ceding the leadership of that aspect, he’s pretty clearly leaving a vacuum for someone like Locke to take that spot. It’s one more reason why “Walkabout” remains one of my very favorite episodes of Lost, and why it is a favorite of most other people too.
- Locke’s adding machine at his job sounds a lot like a certain monster, don’t you think?
- How did Randy advance so far in this organization when he’s such a jerk? I know her works for Hurley (spoiler alert!), but Hurley never liked him either did he?
- I like Sayid’s frustration that his jury-rigged contraption broke. Who’d have thought that a trek into the jungle to hunt boar might be kind of rough on popsicle-stick-and-duct-tape electronics?
- Another great character moment: Hurley and Charlie catching a fish for Shannon. It’s the first real interaction we see between the two of them, and it’s pretty clear that there’s some good chemistry there.
- Being something of a gamer myself, I’m not sure how Locke and his buddy fit in a game of Risk over lunch. Wait, is it Risk?
- Next up: “White Rabbit”