Wednesday, March 10, 2010

'Lost's' 'Dr. Linus' Made Me Smile (Except for the End)

*Warning, spoilers ahead from the recent episode of Lost.*

For several weeks now, I’ve felt let down and disgruntled by the time I reached the end of each new installment of Lost. (If you've been following along here on the blog, you know why.) But I was thrilled that I did not feel that way after watching the “Dr. Linus” episode and witnessed the redemption of Ben Linus in BOTH of his realities, in his uncrashed life and in his post-crash/post-Jughead life. Such dualities haven’t occurred for the other characters whose sideways-flashes we’ve seen.

After Locke – who’s dead and whose body has been claimed by the Man in Black/Smoky -- my favorite character on Lost was Ben Linus because he was so deliciously evil and unpredictable, yet he also had a vulnerable, insecure underbelly which I found intriguing. So it was a shock to see him, in this final season, rendered largely impotent, a bug-eyed spectator as post-crashed/Man in Black/Smoky Locke assumed control over the island after conning Ben into killing Jacob. Even Lapidus seemed to have more authority than Ben and that was depressing.

The full depth of Ben’s feeling of betrayal hadn’t been explored until this latest episode where he confessed to Jacob’s “bodyguard” – a character about whom I could care less about -- that he’d sacrificed and given everything he had to the island because he had faith in Jacob and that he was doing what he had to do to protect the island. Ben had even allowed the evil Widmore freighter guy to shoot to death Ben’s daughter in front of him because he thought that’s what Jacob would have wanted, for Ben to remain alive to take care of the island even as he had to sacrifice his child to do so. (My guess is that, before he killed Jacob, Ben would’ve justified his actions by quoting scripture about sacrificing a child for God.)

But to see Ben, tearful, exposed and utterly defeated -- like the story he told his history class about Napoleon in exile on the island who might as well have been dead because he was powerless -- because he believed he’d dedicated his life and allowed his daughter to be killed for nothing, was a revelation. It humanized the little nut job, in a good way.

Ben’s sideways-flashing high school history teacher did what the post-crash/post-Jughead Ben could not: Do right by Alex and make sure that she got what she needed to succeed in life, or at least get into Yale. Though still deceptively manipulative in his sweater vest -- as evidenced by the way he persuaded the biology teacher to hack into the school nurse’s e-mail account – this version of Ben had a heart that superceded his ambitions.

The uncrashed Ben was even taking care of his father, making him meals and changing his oxygen tank; by contrast, the post-crash Ben killed his father and donned a gas mask to protect himself from the poison gas he had gotten someone else to release across the Dharma compound in order to stage a coup and put himself in charge. (Get the irony, killed by poison gas in one scenario, made more comfortable with oxygen in the other.) The uncrashed Ben was still Ben, but hadn’t been twisted by the island, hadn't been brought to the Temple when he was mortally wounded as a child after Sayid shot him in order to be "saved," something that likely darkened Ben's heart.

So does this mean that the island – and the presence of the Man in Black/Smoky – twists people, takes the darker parts of themselves that already exist and amplifies them by forcing people to choose between the common good and a selfish good? Do you have to have had contact with Smoky, like child Ben did, in order for this to happen? Who knows?

I haven’t yet read up on the other blogs to see other folks’ reactions to “Dr. Linus,” but I’ll venture to guess that the reactions to the redemption of Ben are mixed. In my own house, my spouse was unimpressed. “I don’t like Redeemed Ben and Bad Sayid,” he grumbled. I’m not a fan of Bad Sayid either – though I’m not totally convinced he’s bad, I HATED Dogen and his weasel sidekick – but I was a fan of last night’s Ben-centric episode.
 
Do you think Ben will remain redeemed for the rest of the series or will Evil Ben rear his scheming head again? Did you roll your eyes at the poorly executed scene with the sub rising out of the ocean and spying on our Losties with Charles Widmore inside of it like I did?

Image credit: Mario Perez/ABC.

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