While Lost is a great mystery-driven story, it is widely praised for its brilliant character work. Every character is unique in their own special way, everyone is perfectly cast, and everyone is performed well. The “best” character is widely discussed and debated, and that always comes down to personal opinion. With that said, many people find John Locke fascinating, complex, and ultimately tragic.
Lost is quite unique in that it focuses on individual characters on an episode-by-episode basis. The Locke episodes proved some of Lost‘s best, as his backstory was the most interesting and tragic of them all.
10 Further Instructions – 8.1
By season three, Lost was beginning to flounder. It seemed aimless, answers weren’t being given on a fast enough timeline, and the once-great flashbacks were beginning to grow stale.
Such is what afflicted “Further Instructions.” This episode sits at just 8.1, making it one of the lowest-rated episodes of the entire show, let alone the lowest-rated Locke-centric episode. This one detailed Locke’s time living in a commune and picking up an undercover police officer, who proceeds to bust the commune for growing marijuana.
9 The Substitute – 8.4
If there’s one season more hated than season three, it’s season six. Rather than dealing with flashbacks, season six concerned flash-sideways, which depicted a purgatory-like afterlife in which the characters lived before “moving on.”
In this flash-sideways, Locke is engaged to Helen (who broke up with him in the real timeline), is on good terms with his father, and gets fired from his job. He then accepts work as a substitute teacher at the same school where Ben works (and teaches Alex).
8 Orientation – 8.7
“Orientation” serves as the third episode of season two and Locke’s third flashback episode. It’s also one of his saddest and most tragic. At this point, viewers knew that Anthony Cooper had conned Locke into giving him one of his kidneys.
“Orientation” sees Locke in a horrible place. He degrades other people’s problems in a support group, he stalks his father, and he is told in no uncertain terms that he is “not wanted.” The shot of Locke crying in his car may be one of the saddest in the entirety of Lost.
7 Cabin Fever – 8.7
Lost went full-tilt into its mythology throughout season four, and that included a trip to Jacob’s cabin. Most fans remember “Cabin Fever” for the haunting trip undertaken by Locke and Ben, which features the scariest sequence in the entire show.
The on-island Locke-Ben stuff is obviously great, but “Cabin Fever” also contains a great Locke flashback. It follows Locke throughout most of his life, from his premature birth and the leaving of his teenage mother to the visit of Richard Alpert to the odd meeting with Abaddon in the rehab center.
6 The Life And Death Of Jeremy Bentham – 8.9
Season five’s “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham” is perhaps Locke’s most tragic individual story. Most of the episode is centered around Locke’s off-island adventure as “Jeremy Bentham”.
He approaches the Oceanic Six and attempts to bring them back to the island. Obviously, nobody wants to return, and he is shunned by everyone he approaches. Locke then attempts suicide owing to feelings of frustration and worthlessness, only to be murdered by Ben. While Terry O’Quinn continued to star in the show, Locke died in “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham.”
5 Walkabout – 9.1
If viewers weren’t invested in Lost by “Walkabout,” they certainly were by the end of the episode. “Walkabout” is widely praised as one of the best episodes of Lost, and that is largely due to Locke’s stellar flashback.
In this episode, viewers watch in amazement as the tough, hardened, boar-hunting Locke is revealed to be a depressed and lonely office worker. But the best twist comes at the end, when it’s revealed that Locke is in a wheelchair. The island has healed Locke and allowed him to walk again, and he watches with satisfaction as his wheelchair burns with the plane.
4 Deus Ex Machina – 9.1
“Deus Ex Machina” is another fantastic Locke episode, and it helped establish him as a fan favorite character. Between this and “Walkabout,” Locke was host to what may be the best flashback story of season one.
This flashback begins with an able-bodied Locke, which immediately sets it further back in time and raises questions as to how Locke was paralyzed. It then follows Locke’s tragic relationship with Anthony Cooper. Locke breaking down in his car, edited together with the hatch light coming on, made for one of the best endings in Lost history.
3 Lockdown – 9.1
Like season one, Locke received two episodes throughout season two. Unlike season one, one episode was considered far superior to the other. According to IMDb, “Lockdown” is much better than “Orientation” – a rating that likely stems from the exciting subplot in which Locke and Ben are locked down in the Hatch.
The flashback is quite good as well, following Locke as he secures money for his presumed-dead father. Unfortunately, this leads to Helen calling it off with Locke, as she believes that he is too obsessed with Anthony.
2 The Man From Tallahassee – 9.1
Lost managed to turn season three around, and its back half is arguably the greatest string of episodes in the entire show. The turnaround began with “The Man from Tallahassee,” an exquisite episode that contained numerous surprises and answers. This is one of the episodes in which the on-island and flashback story proved equally compelling.
On-island, Ben managed to manipulate Locke into blowing up the submarine. In the flashback, fans were finally given the answer to Locke’s paralysis in one of the show’s most brutal sequences – he was pushed out of an eighth story window by his own father.
1 The Brig – 9.1
The string of great episodes continued with “The Brig,” which follows Locke’s time with The Others, including Ben’s directive that he murder his own father. “The Brig” is largely remembered for concluding both Locke’s and Sawyer’s tragic backstories in a beautiful marriage of storytelling.
Locke can’t bring himself to murder Cooper, so he brings in Sawyer, as Cooper is responsible for the murder-suicide of Sawyer’s parents. After degrading his parents and ripping up the letter, Sawyer strangles and kills Cooper in an act of frustration and pent-up anger.
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