About once a season, Lost does an episode that is more concerned with character than plot and mystery. When the character in question is Jack or Kate, the episode is usually a bummer. But take the acting skills of Terry O' Quinn and you have a classic on your hands.
The first time I saw this episode, I found Locke's meetings with Said, Hurley and Kate slightly dull. His attempts to convince them to return to the island seemed perfunctory. It was only after Jack told Locke that he may not be someone important, that I realized Locke wasn't convinced that he was doing the right thing. The Locke we see in this episode is a broken man, forced back temporarily into his wheelchair, unsure of who he can trust. Locke figures out that he is not a saviour, at best he is a pawn being played by both Widmore and Ben.
Terry O' Quinn's acting here is so spot-on that he even manages to elevate the performances of Matthew Fox and Evangeline Lilly. Kate has never been better than when she asks Locke if he has ever loved anyone.
And then there's Ben. O'Quinn doesn't need to elevate the always fantastic Michael Emerson; their scenes together are always mesmerising, perhaps none more so than in this episode. We all know Ben is a masterful manipulator, but has he ever faced a bigger challenge than restoring Locke's sense of self-worth and dissuading him from killing himself. That Ben turns around and kills Locke may have been inevitable but Emerson's performance was so perfect that I was nonetheless shocked.
The 18th century philosipher John Locke believed in natural law, that science and faith could coexist. The Objectivist Jeremy Bentham mocked that theory, having no time for mysticism. In one episode and one mesmerising peformance, Terry O' Quinn made that most improbable of transformations.
Note: I wanted this review to be all about the acting, so all the geeky stuff can be thrashed out in the comments. Feel free to theorize on what role Walt may play in the future, the true motivations of Widmore and Ben, who the two new characters are and how exactly Locke was reserrected. You all can also mourn the early demise of Abbaddon.