Alright, I admit it; this season is starting to wear a little thin for me. I was a staunch defender of Lost even in the dark days of season 3, but attempting to figure out what the hell is going on in the LA X storyline is really starting to impede my enjoyment of the show. This week was certainly the weakest outing for Ben’s character as what should’ve been some small (but meaningful) steps toward redemption were bogged down by an unaffecting flash sideways. The alta-verse story appears to be a second chance for Ben to be a good man, and it’s nice to see him take advantage of it, but without knowing what (if any) continuity there is between “our” Ben and Dr. Linus we can’t know what (if any) significance it has. Even if these two men are one and the same, this single good act doesn’t seem to amount to much in the face of all the evil he’s done. So, what, exactly, should we take away from all this? I don’t know, and that’s making it difficult for me to care.
Fortunately, the action on the island is much easier to engage with. Miles “reads” Jacobs ashes and reveals to everyone, most importantly Ilana, that Ben was the one that killed Jacob. Understandably pissed, she ties him up and compels him to dig his own grave. Smokie arrives and makes his usual offer of every you want in exchange for one evil act; in this case it’s being put back in charge for killing Ilana. Surprisingly, Ben doesn’t take the bait. As usual, Michael Emerson proves he’s the man and delivers a great performance as he tearfully confesses to killing Jacob because he’d sacrificed everything, including his daughter, for a man who simply didn’t care. Now he’s going to join Locke because “he’s the only one who’ll have me.” I absolutely love the character turn here as it’s not really a turn at all, just a new way of seeing everything Ben’s done so far. I assumed he was hungry for power for its own sake, but that power’s now revealed to be less important to Ben than the acceptance that accompanies it, a motivation that makes a fair amount of sense given his relationship with his father. Ben ultimately chooses the good side as Ilana also offers acceptance without any apparent strings.
Elsewhere on the Island, Richard confirms the suspicion that he came to the Island on the Black Rock (likely as a slave) and that Jacob is responsible for his immortality. He also surprises us with his desire to die now that Jacob’s left without ever explaining his plan. The eternal man that just wants it to end is nothing unique to Lost, but using it as a litmus test for fate was a nice twist. Jack quickly identifies with Richard’s feelings of helplessness and decides to play chicken with Jacob’s plan. His inability to kill himself seems to be ample proof for the man of science that he’s as trapped as Richard is. However, knowing Jack, recognizing the forces driving him will not be enough to make him simply accept them.
There are still ample thematic links between alta-verse and the island. Those links are just feeling less and less important as they’re not backed up by the plot each week. I’m trying to be patient, however…
I by no means think that Ben is now one of the “good guys,” but he’s no longer a force of pure evil. If he was really hungry for Jacob’s approval and not just the accompanying power then his motives feel far more human. This need for acceptance may also lead him to try to build honest relationships with the Losties in the coming weeks rather than dealing with others purely through manipulation.
Fate vs Free Will has emerged as the dominant theme in Lost. What then will it mean if the master manipulator repents?
Seeing Ben replacing his father’s oxygen was a nice visual for how different their relationship is, far more effective than Roger’s “I wonder what would’ve happened…”
Anyone else recognize the guy that played Walter Peck as the principal? Always the bureaucratic jerk.
“Are you a cyborg?”