The Man With the Squared Jaw
I have to be honest. In the grand scheme of the show Locke was my favourite character, his arc the most tragic, his fate the most shocking, but Locke is universally acclaimed and I want to use this space to rehabilitate a character that while at the forefront of the show, remains extremely divisive.
Positioned as the de facto hero of the show Jack Sheppard, due to his profession, is immediately thrust into heavy responsibility from the pilot episode. It soon becomes apparent that his solid nature is not quite as ironclad as we would believe, his flashbacks tell of a man always in the shadow of his father trying to live up to him and with a compulsive need to “fix everything”. This slightly arrogant trait leads to some very bad decisions over the course of the series and for a while I believed the writers just loved making Jack “be wrong”.
Rumours began to circulate that Matthew Fox was considering leaving the show, and while it was never confirmed, it was apparent that during the second and third seasons the character was definitely made more unsympathetic. The obsessive and self-righteous components of his personality were emphasised and this turned a lot of people off the character.
One cannot fault Fox’s performance, exemplified best in two key scenes which showcase the actor’s subtle emoting, rather than the histrionics occasionally on display. The first is the moment when, via Other surveillance technology, Jack is confronted with the image of Sawyer and Kate in a post coital embrace following their capture. Confronted with the woman he loves in the arms of another man, he gives this ‘look’ which conveys that he is heartbroken.
The second scene is during the discovery that Claire is Jack’s half sister. While people might debate the soap opera tendencies of this story, Fox nails the mixture of intense feelings at this stunning piece of information. It’s a wonderful moment. He also excelled in his role,the more disillusioned his character became, consistently delivering a nuanced portrayal, making his character much more than the square-jawed hero we originally thought he was.
That Damned Wise Guy
What started off as an archetypal Southern Grifter slowly gained momentum as Sawyer continued to show a particularly nasty streak. Sawyer consistently refused to listen to orders, hoarded the camp’s water, and stole the stash of weapons, all with a sarcastic sneer at the side of his mouth.
In spite of his biting wit and dark moods, we liked him. He’s quite the wit, with his off-the-cuff nicknames (see quotes from Sawyer here on YouTube). We found ourselves curious about what book he was reading – perhaps we’ve read it, too. When we found out about his past, we realized where Sawyer’s juvenile habits come from. He’s still that kid under the bed. In that regard, we can all relate.
A Big Burly Bundle of Love
While all of the characters on Lost have proven to be dynamic, perhaps the most compelling of them all is Hugo “Hurley” Reyes. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with most of the Losties, however, even at his worst, Hurley has always been a big, burly bundle of love. Throughout his life, Hurley made the best of every bad hand dealt to him. He possesses a sense of honor and dignity beneath the comic façade, often choking back the tears of a clown.
Overweight, frequently punctuating his sentences with “dude”, and having labored at an unsatisfying job with Mr. Cluck’s for years before winning the lottery, Hurley is the Lostie most people can easily find themselves relating to. He has loved and lost (love interest Libby, friend Charlie, members of his own family whom he believed to be victims of his “cursed” lottery ticket, etc.) and readily shows his emotions. (I still laugh, but understand Hurley’s terror after stepping on an urchin, desperately trying to break the language barrier with Jin, screaming “Pee on my foot!”)
Like most of the Lostaways, Hurley seeks redemption. Once he discovers his purpose, he fully accepts it, tempering his solemn duties (he sees dead people, dude) with a sense of compassion and good humor.
Hug Me, Hurley
Dude, clearly Lost’s best character is Hugo “Hurley” Reyes. Hurley is the heart of the series. He serves as an almost unofficial surrogate for the viewer. Part of Hurley’s appeal lies in his complete sincerity and his genuine loyalty to his friends. Despite his own tortured past (in a cast of characters filled with tortured pasts), Hurley still just wants to do the right thing. He’s funny, insecure, scared, and usually not that interested in finding all the answers, but he is interested in making sure his friends are okay.
As far as nice characters usually go, they often tend toward bland, one-dimensional, and boring. Hurley is the exception in that he has such a natural charm that you can’t help but root for him. In the recent episode “The Candidate”, as Hurley, Kate, Sawyer, and Jack all mourn Sun and Jin, it is Hurley’s emotional breakdown that has the most resonance and connects most viscerally with the audience. In the end, Hurley is the conscience of the show and Lost would be a very different, less fulfilling series without him.