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Season 2 of Lost saw both the cast and the world grow significantly larger. After being assumed dead, the tail section survivors were introduced and made for some interesting additions to both the cast and story. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje—a 6-foot-2 intimidating presence of a man, best known for his role on HBO’s Oz as prison shot-caller Simon Adebisi—was cast as Mr. Eko on Lost and the character made an undeniable impact on the show in a very short amount of time. In this article, I look at Eko’s impact and speculate as to what the character could’ve done had Akinnuoye-Agbaje not requested to be written off the show after just one season.
Mr. Eko’s story was one of pure tragedy. As a child, he was forced by smugglers to execute an old man to save his brother, then taken in by the smugglers and groomed to be one of them. Eko didn’t stand a chance; he lived a life of crime, violence, and lies and had no compassion for anyone. Coming to The Island brought him to a place where he was forced to look at his life and the people, most notably his brother, impacted by his actions. Eko quickly became a favorite of Lost fans, not only because of his powerful backstory but also because his spiritual quest made him a perfect foil for the main characters. He was thrown right into the mix with the main characters and seemed poised to be a fixture on the show for years to come. That would not be the case, however.
In just a little over one season, most of the new arrivals from the tail section were gone. The backstory is well known. ABC was not pleased with actresses Michelle Rodriguez (Ana Lucia) and Cynthia Watros (Libby) being arrested for drunk driving. Other sources claim that Rodriguez was hard to work with, a claim that would also be made about Akinnuoye-Agbaje. Ana Lucia and Libby may have been killed off for those reasons or because that was always the plan (a claim other sources make), but the decision to kill off those two characters would make Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s request to be written off at the end of Season 2 one that couldn’t be granted. Writing out Eko early in Season 3 was considered by most a compromise so the show didn’t have to kill off most of the tail section survivors in the same season they were introduced.
Unlike with Ana Lucia, it was always made known that Lost showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse didn’t want to kill off the Mr. Eko character. Lindelof is on record saying they had a four-season arc planned for him and that many of their ideas had to be reassigned to John Locke and other characters (although what those ideas were remains unknown). As fans of Lost, we can’t help but wonder what those plans would have been. There are certain reasonable conclusions we can make just from what we know about the characters and how the story played out.
Timing-wise, the character of Desmond has to be looked at in this discussion. Originally intended to only be in the first three episodes of Season 2, Desmond won over the team behind the scenes (and later, the fans) enough to be brought back for the Season 2 finale AND be the central character of that episode. Practically speaking, it seems highly likely that, while the show was figuring out how to handle Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s request to leave the show, the decision to bring Desmond back was also being made.
While I can’t entirely picture Eko filling the role we would see Desmond in, I can’t shake the thought that perhaps Eko would’ve been the one to find the failsafe in the Swan Hatch after Locke refused to press the button. Then, in the aftermath of the Swan implosion, Eko would have had a spiritual vision or calling that told him about Charlie’s impending death. I’m picturing Eko on the journey with Charlie throughout Season 3, speaking to him about death and sacrifice and using his beliefs to prepare Charlie for his passing. I can even imagine the same wide-eyed expression he had when he first saw the Swan Hatch when he and Charlie went down to the Looking Glass station together and even a potential crisis of faith after Charlie passed. Had Akinnuoye-Agbaje wanted to stay on the show, things would’ve played out differently, in a manner more suited to his character, but as a potential story arc, this could be plausible.
Scenarios involving John Locke are certainly easier to envision. To revisit the behind-the-scenes happenings when Akinnuoye-Agbaje was trying to exit the show, another character besides Desmond was having their three-episode arc turned into something more substantial: Ben Linus. We all know how integral Ben would be to the final four seasons of the show but it wasn’t originally planned that way. I don’t see any potential for Ben to have taken any of Eko’s intended story with one very big exception, and that’s being the one to have killed Jacob. Eko and Locke had an established relationship that certainly would’ve continued with many trials and tribulations over the years. Also, given the Smoke Monster’s interest in Eko—scanning him and then Eko not backing down in fear—it makes a lot of sense that when the Smoke Monster took over Locke’s form, Eko would be his target. Being manipulated to kill Jacob could’ve given Eko the opportunity for a final season in search of redemption, which is largely what his character was about to begin with.
That is, of course, unless Eko was intended to be the one to have embodied Smokey in the final season and a half. Terry O’Quinn did an amazing job switching from John Locke to “the Man in Black” (aka Smokey), really selling the role with amazing facial expressions and mannerisms, but imagine how intimidating MIB (Man in Black) would have been if portrayed by Eko? All of the confrontations MIB had in the final season would’ve had such a different context to them, adding a whole new element of intimidation to the characters MIB was speaking to. Eko, like Locke, was a believer, making the payoff of either of them having their body used by MIB much the same. Both were targeted and scouted by MIB early in the series. While Mr. Eko was ultimately killed by MIB, it could’ve gone a different way, with repercussions that would’ve been felt throughout the cast.
Circling back to Desmond’s story, one final scenario occurred to me: the idea of Eko in the next life, being the one to gather everyone for the ultimate reunification at the church in the final scene. Out of everything I’ve discussed in this article, this feels the most right to me. Mr. Eko, a man fueled by a desire for redemption, gets it in the next life by completing his mission of bringing everyone together. Narratively speaking, Desmond made a fine choice for that role and it completely worked. But much like Ben sitting outside of the church saying he still had things to work out, I had this vision of Eko sitting outside the church, tears streaming down his face, his mission complete, when his brother Yemi approaches him and tells him that he had redeemed himself and could move on, the two walking into the unknown together.
We’ll never know what Mr. Eko was supposed to have done on Lost unless Lindelof or Cuse one day decide to break their silence. While Lost was on, so much of the fun was speculating what was going to happen next and sharing your thoughts and theories with friends both online and in real life. One of the biggest gifts Lost gave us is that we can still do that all these years later. I may be completely off with the scenarios I wrote about here, but it was fun to theorize about the show again. For old time’s sake, let me hear your theories and thoughts in the comments section. Until next time, Namaste and good luck.