The first scene of this week’s episode of Lost shows Benjamin Linus frantically running in the jungle, visibly shaken from his encounter with Sayid during last week’s episode, “Sundown.” This is quite a departure from the cold, manipulative, in-control Ben that we have been familiar with for the past five seasons. Like Richard, Ben’s confidence and courage have been completely eroded and he is now a shell of his former self due to the loss of Jacob. The fact that Jacob died by Ben’s hand is a double whammy for him. Not only is his entire belief system gone but he also has to deal with the fact that he murdered the man he believed in.
After meeting up with Ilana, Sun, Lapidus, and Miles, Ben suggests regrouping at the beach where they buried Locke to determine their next strategy. Ilana agrees, but her distrust of Ben hits an all-time high after Miles tells her that Ben killed Jacob. When they make it to the beach, Ilana pulls a gun on Ben and makes him dig his own grave, stating that Jacob was the closest thing she had to a father. This is quite literally the lowest point of Ben’s life, and the perfect time for “Locke Ness Monster” to try to recruit him, which he does. He tells Ben that if he can make a break for it, he can join his group. Ben, eager for acceptance, tries to escape, and when he’s chased down by Ilana, he admits that Jacob’s death was his fault and that his own selfish quest for power has caused nothing but sorrow and led to the death of his adopted daughter, Alex. Ilana unexpectedly takes pity on this broken man and tells him that he doesn’t have to go to Locke because he will be accepted in her group.
Meanwhile on the island, Jack and Hurley meet up with Richard, who takes them to the pirate ship from way back in Season One. When asked why he has taken them here, Richard tells them that he has never come back to this spot the whole time he has been on the island and that he has returned to die. He says that, when Jacob touched him, he gave him the gift of immortality – a gift that he now sees as a curse because, now that Jacob is dead, he has nothing to live for. He tells Jack and Hurley that he cannot die by his own hand, but that one of them can kill him. Jack takes a great risk in trying to convince Richard that death is not the answer, stating that Jacob still has a plan for them, even though he’s gone.
One of the most interesting things about this episode was how it shifted the two main players on the “Science vs. Faith” conflict that has been one of the main themes of the show. Jack, ever the man of Science, seems to have now embraced Jacob’s point of view, even if he has no idea what his mission is. On the other side of the coin, Locke – or rather, the man who has taken the form of Locke – has promised his recruits that everything that has happened to them will be explained if they just follow him. This “Faith vs. Fact” dichotomy also parallels the modus operandi of God and the Devil in the Bible, and the final conflict that is shaping up will no doubt contain references to the Book of Revelation.
Despite these factors, however, this episode was more than a little disappointing. The promos from last week, which are never to be believed, promised the demise of Ben Linus, which led many to believe he was going to die. Instead, the Ben we knew and loved/hated for so long is now seemingly on the side of good, and it remains to be seen whether he will still make it off the island alive. The “flash-sideways” shows Ben as a European History teacher in a Southern California high school who is given a chance to blackmail the principal (played by veteran asshole character actor William Atherton of Ghostbusters and Real Genius fame) and take his job. Instead of pursuing his own selfish grab for power, he backs off so the principal can write a much-needed letter of recommendation for Alex, who is now a student at the high school, so she can attend the college of her choice. This flash-sideways directly parallels Ben’s realization that his own thirst for power has caused nothing but misery on the island. The “Hunky-Dory Verse” gives him a chance to redeem himself by sacrificing his own ambition so that someone else may prosper. The parallel in the “flash-sideways” was a bit too obvious this time, which made this one of the weakest of these segments so far this season.
If this is truly the end of the double-crossing, shifty-eyed facet of Ben Linus’ character, I’m sure I’m not the only one to say that I’ll miss that side of him. He is truly one of the great TV villains of all time, and it’s almost sad to see him being taken in by what seem to be the heroes now. As expected, the final scene promises even more complications to come for these characters. This was definitely not my favorite episode of the season, and it certainly was not my favorite Ben-centric episode of the series, but Richard’s revelations at least made it somewhat worthwhile and earns it 3.5 out of 5 Long Dynamite Wicks.
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