Why Locke Is the Most Tragic Character in 'Lost' History

Locke is the most tragic character in 'Lost' history, if not TV history in general. Here's every awful thing that befell his character, both before he came to the island and after.

Amber Garrett - Author

May 29 2019, Updated 12:34 p.m. ET

lost locke header
Source: ABC

Great heroes often come with tragic backstories, but few origin stories are quite as sad as that of Oceanic Airlines Flight 815 passenger John Locke. Unfortunately, the story didn't get much less tragic over six seasons of Lost. In case you've forgotten in the nine years since the show wrapped up, here's every horrible misfortune that befell Locke (in any timeline).

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Locke nearly died at birth.

baby locke lost
Source: ABC

John couldn't catch a break pretty much since he left the womb. His mom was a pregnant teen in a bad accident that caused her to go into labor prematurely on May 30, 1956. Against all odds, John pulled through, but his biological mother, Emily, decided she wasn't up to the responsibility and gave him up to the state. 

And he was often bullied in school and at home.

locke lost bullies
Source: ABC

Most of what we know about Locke's childhood comes in bits and pieces, but we do know he was no stranger to bullying, In one of his early foster homes, he was tormented by a foster sister named Melissa, and he was not well liked by his fellow Boy Scouts. Also, at one point he recalls being rescued from a locker by a teacher — presumably after fellow classmates trapped him there.

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His foster sister and mother died.

It sounds like John was in a good home at one point in time, but it ended in tragedy. As he told Sawyer and Kate in Season 1, Locke's foster sister Jeannie fell off the monkey bars when he was very young and broke her neck. Locke's foster mom blamed herself for Jeannie's death and fell into a deep depression. A mysterious dog his mentally ill guardian believed was her daughter reincarnated came to stay with the family until the foster mom passed away herself five years later. Sadly, things didn't get much better for John as he got older.

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Locke's biological parents were awful.

lost swoosie kurtz
Source: ABC

As a grown up, Locke meets his mother when he notices her watching him from afar at the toy store where he worked. Emily Locke is a schizophrenic and drug addict who tells her son he was conceived immaculately, but he eventually tracks down his father, Anthony Cooper, with the help of a private detective. 

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Father and son bond and Locke finally has the loving parental relationship he always wanted... only it's all one big long con. Cooper needs a kidney and orchestrates this family reunion just to manipulate Locke out of one of his kidneys, then disappears after he gets what he needs. And Emily helped in exchange for money.

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And his dad gets worse, if you can imagine.

lost anthony cooper
Source: ABC

Understandably, Locke has some anger about Cooper's betrayal and enrolls in some anger management courses, where he meets Helen and finally has a shot at happiness. That is, until Cooper fakes his death. Locke discovers his dad is still alive and hiding out from two mysterious men Locke saw at the funeral, from whom Cooper stole a large sum of money. Despite what a total jerk Cooper was to John, he agrees to help him retrieve the safe deposit money he stole from the men from the funeral.

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And that pretty much causes Locke to lose the love of his life.

locke lost helen

Helen finds out Locke lied to her when she asked if Cooper faked his death and in fact Locke helped his awful thief of a father get his money despite everything. So even though Locke was getting ready to propose and spend his life with her, Helen leaves him. Sure, he shouldn't have lied, but I still blame Cooper.

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And then he paralyzes him!

Plenty of tragic heroes have evil dads, but I honestly think Anthony Cooper takes the cake for most Psychopathic Dad in TV. He goes on to change his name and con a woman into agreeing to marry him. When Locke meets the unassuming bride's son, Peter, and realizes his dad was in no way reforming his ways, he demands Cooper leave this woman alone. 

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locke pushed out window
Source: ABC

Good ol' Coop responds by killing Peter and then paralyzing Locke when he confronts him about Peter's death. Cooper just pushes his son — who gave him his kidney and hundreds of thousands of dollars in stolen money — out an eight-story window, rendering him a paraplegic. That's cold.

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And that's all before Locke gets to the island.

locke lost death
Source: ABC

After Locke discovers the hatch, he encounters Henry Gale, AKA Ben Linus, who spends a couple seasons mentally tormenting Locke. A lot goes down — the island moves, time gets very weird, etc. — and then, cut to Season 5, and Ben Linus stops a very suicidal John from killing himself only to murder him after getting information from him. OK, sure, we later learn Ben did this knowing he could resurrect Locke later, but it didn't prevent him from experiencing yet another devastating betrayal during a very vulnerable moment.

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Not to mention, that resurrection was a lie.

locke lost

After every horrible fate that meets John Locke, we learn the Smoke Monster took his form and that he really was dead that whole time. I guess in a way that's a small mercy, since after his "resurrection," Locke did some very un-Locke things. 

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Surviving all that tragedy is what makes us love Locke.

For a character with such a sad backstory, John could have grown up to be evil and cold but instead he grew one of the biggest hearts. And though his life before the crash and his injuries made him meek and helpless, once he came to the island he became its best survivalist. 

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