According to the web site Lostpedia, this episode’s title, Deus Ex Machina “refers to a theatrical device which originated in ancient Greek theatre. This device consisted of a physical crane that lowered a character down onto the stage, the character representing a god. This god would help the characters with a sudden twist in plot. This term would come to mean any device within a plot that provided a sudden change, or solution, in plot” and that “Deus Ex Machina literally translates into “God from the machine” in Latin.”
In this John Locke specific episode, there are plenty of references to God in the Machine that you could look at literally, or you could look at the “sudden change” in plot that the phrase refers to as well.
Anthony Cooper is introduced and refers to himself as God when Locke told him that his mother had told him that he was immaculately conceived. Cooper was later hooked up to a dialysis machine. Cooper, John Locke’s father, is one of the most cruel and selfish characters introduced on LOST. He returns to torment poor John (among others) across the entire run of LOST. He is one of the worst of the worse when referencing the “Daddy issues” theme covered by the show. Imagine, your own father conning you into giving up your kidney and then just casting you aside as if you mean nothing to him.
Of course, this allowed Terry O’Quinn some brilliant material to act out. His scene breaking down in his car after trying to confront Cooper was heart breaking.
Of course, Locke was having a crisis of faith in the Island as well, stemming from his inability to find a way to open the Hatch. Because of the doubt, the Island showed him a way. Locke had a dream of an airplane that crashed on the Island. He also had a dream of a bloody Boone talking about a nanny who accidentally broke her neck while working for Boone’s family.
Locke uses that dream to hook Boone into helping him. Locke’s legs were also having trouble, as the paralysis seemed to be coming back. Locke conveniently forgets to tell Boone about him being covered in blood in the dream as well.
That plane contains several crates of heroin stashed inside Virgin Mary statues. We know there are connections to Mr. Eko with this plane from Nigeria that will be revealed in season 2.
Prior to the plane’s fall from the tree, Boone is on the radio on the plane and makes contact with someone. Boone said that he was one of the survivors of Oceanic 815. As the plane began falling, the response from the voice on the radio was “We’re survivors of Flight 815.”
When the plane falls from the trees with Boone inside, this certainly is a deus ex machina, changing the direction of the story. This is the inciting incident that ignites the real rivalry/feud/war between Locke and Jack that will run for most of the series.
We also get the great scene at the end where Locke is really losing his mind, pounding on the Hatch, and a light comes on from within, shining up into the darkness. This was so unexpected and surprising that it was a great way to end such a tragic episode.
“Deus Ex Machina” starts several storylines that will drive the remainder of the season and move into next season as well.