Michael is a polarizing figure on the island, because he only cares about himself and his son, Walt. He excludes everyone else’s interests on a regular basis, in his protectiveness toward his son, and also finds it difficult to understand his boy, or connect to him, because his own personal feelings get in the way too much. He’s jealous and made insecure by Walt’s friendship with Locke, so he tells the boy to “stay away from him.” He is quick to react and do something, whether that’s to step up to stop Jin from yelling at his wife, or to punch the living daylights out of him. Michael decides waiting around on the island is not for him, so he starts building a raft. He blames the first available person when the raft burns, without any evidence to support his conclusion. He often does dangerous things, such as taking his son and the dog on the raft, trying to learn to hunt, etc. In his previous life, he was an impulsive, penniless artist who decided on a whim to fight for his son, because his wife started seeing someone else while abroad. Once he decides what to do, he becomes locked into it and has no other purpose in mind. Michael takes everything personally and is easily offended and reactive, but also becomes authoritative and commanding under stress—further alienating him from his son. Eventually, they learn to connect through something near and dear to Michael’s heart—comic books and art.

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Fear is an underlining motive in everything Michael does. He finds nothing safe, he wants Walt to be careful, he doesn’t allow Locke to teach the boy how to use a knife, he’s distrustful and suspicious of the other people in the group, and easily driven to anger – both on his behalf, and for others he thinks are being abused or manipulated. When Jin attacks him “as a matter of honor” to take back his father-in-law’s watch, Michael takes an axe with him, to make a point, and then frees him after telling him off and giving him back the watch. He trusts himself the most, and doesn’t see any reason to associate with or build inroads with many of the other survivors.