Lost in Retrospect: Walkabout

Hands-down the best episode of season 1, “Walkabout” combines mythology with character and properly introduces one of Lost‘s most iconic and influential characters.

For a refresh on this episode, I suggest you check out Lostpedia’s excellent Wiki page.

The question of “what is the Island?” is one that the finale didn’t even attempt to answer, a fact that a lot of people interpret as a failure on the part of Team Darlton. Me? I don’t think it needed answering. I think we learned enough over the course of the series to make our own opinions, and I think that by leaving us with our own opinions on what the Island is rather than a definitive answer, the Island retains mystery and is stays interesting, even during rewatches like this one.

I think the most apt description of the Island was provided by Locke himself, when he claimed it was “a place where miracles happen,” and we got the first proper demonstration in this episode. A paraplegic crashes on a deserted island and suddenly has the ability to walk again. It blew my mind the first time I saw it, and years later, it’s still a masterpiece of television. A whole character arc is laid down in the space of a single episode, beautifully performed by Terry O’Quinn and written by David Fury. Behind John Locke’s facade of unflappable strength and wisdom is an incredibly immature man. In his pre-Island life, he’s just so damn frustrated with his lot and with his wheelchair (and more things we’ll learn later in the series) that I can’t help but sympathise, even while his stubbornness prevents him from growing and accepting and making the best. Once he reaches the Island, Locke gets a chance to put all his Wikipedia knowledge to the test, to live out his Great White Hunter fantasies, to be the man with the plan, the guru, the leader, but at the slightest opposition he crumbles and we see the real John Locke peeking through the mask. In five years time, Sawyer will speak the truth: Locke was always scared, even when he was pretending otherwise.

Good Frith, I’m sounding like the Man in Black, aren’t I?

But his incredibly pivotal place within the show is really cemented in this episode, not just with the revelation of his miraculous recovery but with his encounter with the Monster. For the first time but certainly not the last, Locke is privvy to some incredible Island experience, seeing the Monster up close (because yes, I do believe he saw the Monster and not some manifestation of Jacob or anything) and surviving. It’s here, I think, that Locke became the Man in Black’s focus, a major part of his plans. And what a brilliant pawn he makes, even at this early stage: so influential to the game, yet such a broken man, so easily corruptible, so easy to manipulate as Ben Linus will discover. Locke returns to camp a hero, having survived his encounter with the fearsome Monster and carrying a dead boar on his back, enough to feed the rest of the survivors. As Boone demonstrates, he’s become someone that people will follow to the ends of the Earth, but he’s got no idea where he’s going.

And this is just the main thrust of the episode. The smaller character moments are just as informative and entertaining. Shannon’s warped idea that flirting with Charlie until he comes back with a fresh fish counts as “taking care of herself” is so bizarrely fascinating; I happen to know people for whom that’s an entirely logical thought process. And the fishing presents the first of many great friendship moments between Hurley and Charlie, who are not just hilarious but have such a refreshing outlook, a willingness to try and make the best of this new situation (well, mostly–but we’ll get to Charlie’s heroin problem soon). And again, note Hurley’s selflessness: Charlie thinks he’s gonna get a little somethin’ somethin’ for his fishing efforts, but Hurley just helps… well, he just helps. Just for the sake of friendship. Just ’cause someone needs some help. Just ’cause he can. He really is the best human being of the lot.

“Walkabout” is one of the seminal episodes of Lost, one of the ones that makes every top 10 list, every big discussion, every geekout worth a damn. Between all these huge story beats and all these little ones, I feel bad for not mentioning how well put-together this episode is, the brilliant ways in which the flashbacks and the Island story inform and play into one another. The teasing of “Helen”, the end reveal of the wheelchair, the running theme of walkabouts and how they’re a primal, spiritual connection to the Earth. I can think of more synonyms for “damn good”, but I think you’re getting the picture.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: