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Lost

Lost is a drama about a group of plane crash survivors. They land on an unknown Pacific island and have to learn to live together. ABC 2004-2010

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Episode 12 - Dead is Dead

28 March 2012

Present: Ben kills Caesar and he and Locke head to the barracks. Ben claims he needs to be judged by the smoke monster for breaking the rules and returning to the island. Locke thinks he is seeking forgiveness for Alex’ death (409). At the barracks Sun and Frank are waiting for them. Ben heads into his secret chamber to “release” smokey but he won’t come. So Locke suggests they head to the temple to find it. There they head down under the Temple walls and Ben falls down into an inner sanctuary. The smoke monster shows him visions of Alex and then tells him to not harm Locke and follow his orders.

Flashback: We see a young Charles tell young Ben that he can be one of them even though he is living with the Dharma Initiative. An older Ben (with Ethan) steals Alex from Danielle and warns her not to come after him. Charles wants Ben to kill them both but Ben refuses, questioning whether Jacob would really want a baby killed. Eventually Charles is banished for breaking the rules (including fathering Penny off the island) and warns Ben that the same thing will happen to him. Finally Ben tries to kill Penny but can’t once he sees little Charlie. Desmond beats him up for good measure.

The Good: This seems less like a Ben flashback and more like the story of the island’s chosen leaders. First we see Widmore being harsh and perhaps unjust to the Rousseau’s. It is Ben who has the conscience to suggest that both Danielle and Alex deserve to live. Widmore is eventually banished for his extra-island activities. It would seem the “rules” are in place to keep Others on the island and dedicated to protecting it. Ben vowed to be better than Widmore and put the island’s interests above his own. Widmore argued that it was inevitable that Ben too would succumb to those temptations and be banished. We know that Ben ended up leaving the island at some point (403) if not many times.

However Ben claimed that everything he did was in the interests of the island. And he was apparently going to seek the judgement of the smoke monster in order to be forgiven for returning to the island. Ben’s own “selfish” desire was to bring up a daughter on the island. Like Charles, his human passion took over and he tried to exact revenge for her murder by killing Penny. He wasn’t able to because once again the sight of a child made him think again.

It would seem that for all his flaws the smoke monster forgives him because he had enough morality to want to spare the innocent unnecessary suffering. It was the sight of his dead mother which caused Ben to see the island as somewhere special (320) and perhaps that longing for a happy upbringing has saved Ben from becoming as cold as Charles.

But Ben is still a lying, conniving, murderous, selfish person. So the smoke monster tells him in no uncertain terms that he will only be allowed to live if he follows Locke and doesn’t harm him. So now the island is looking to its latest leader who so far has no children or loved ones to get in the way of his devotion to the island. Together with his devotion to the island which has done so much for him, Locke now has a newfound confidence in what he is doing. I suppose resurrection will give you that.

On this journey through the island’s leaders we get logical, expected and more surprising developments. When Ben takes Alex from Danielle it is technically still a few years before the purge takes place. Ben has apparently recruited young Ethan to work with him and presumably they both still return to the barracks to work every day. So we begin to see how Ben functioned as an Other while also working as a Dharma janitor. The revelations about Charles Widmore make sense. Penny is too old to have grown up on the island so the news that she was born off it fits the timeline. Ben’s attack on Penny and Desmond flows logically from what we knew already (409 he vowed to kill her, 506 he called Jack soaking and bloody). I suspect that Desmond wasn’t meant to die and hence one of his shopping items proved sturdy enough to deflect a bullet.

Meanwhile on the island we finally begin to understand Ben’s way of thinking. He is almost a pathological liar and is constantly searching for a way to gain an advantage over everyone around him. He lied the second his eyes are open because the man he murdered is leaning over him. So he claims he knew Locke would rise again, hoping Locke won’t beat him to death in retribution. Then he lies to Caesar instantly just in case he needs to turn on Locke once more. He murders Caesar so that no one can stop him from continuing his journey. It’s also possible that he lies to Sun (See The Unknown) to keep her from asking him some awkward questions. When finally he doesn’t have the upper hand he squirms because being out of control is deeply uncomfortable for him (see Best Moment). It will be fascinating to see if he really does believe in putting the island’s interests before his own. If he does then he will have to become Locke’s right hand man and stop looking for an angle that will benefit him.

We get some more revelations about the smoke monster which apparently doesn’t have a name. We see how Ben called it to come to the barracks (409). We also see inside the temple where it is confirmed that it “lives” and originates from. We learn that it’s “function” as far as the Others are concerned is to judge people (as it did to Eko in 305). We also see it once more assume the form of someone who died on the island.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the episode is Frank’s return to the smaller island. Ilana and another man have commandeered guns and are giving orders to everyone. They ask Frank “What lies in the shadow of the statue?” When he can’t answer they beat him and order him around (see The Unknown). It’s a good hook to give the new survivors story a sense of direction and of course ask yet another question.

Finally a little bit of fantasy psychology from me. We see here that Ben has issues with allowing children to come to harm. It could explain why he justified kidnapping children from flight 815 (207). It also might explain why the daughter he raised took exception to the plan to abduct Aaron from Claire (215). Similarly the cold Charles may not have had much to do with raising Penny because he was on the island while she grew up. Maybe that’s why she turned out so well.

I liked that Desmond named his boat “Our Mutual Friend.” It was the book which saved his life with a little help from Penny (224). It’s nice to see Charles using a horse to get around the island. It makes Kate’s strange encounter with one seem more plausible (209).

The Bad: Ben’s journey is pretty clear and the episode is interesting all the way through. But at each stage there are little problems which I think detract from this reaching the same heights that other episodes have.

One is just the general pace. It feels harsh to criticise but something about the pace felt slow and lacking in drama. Essentially the main story is just Locke and Ben travelling from the smaller island to the temple. In the flashbacks we mostly see conversations and Desmond’s attack on Ben is over very quickly. Having built up the smoke monsters judgement there is something very un-scary about pretty little Alex shoving Ben up against a wall and saying “Listen to me you bastard!” 

I also felt that Ben’s journey wasn’t as clear as it could have been. The story which came through strongest to me was the progression of the island’s leaders from selfless to selfish. The Alex side of the story isn’t apparent immediately and seems to become more important as the episode goes on. It didn’t help that it has been a long time for viewers since she was a part of the story and Ben hasn’t spent too much time talking about her since. I don’t think the question of whether she was fated to die is very intriguing. The story of Ben’s motivations is far more relevant considering he is on screen every week.

Ben himself is a part of the problem with this episode. He lies so much that it is difficult to know what to think of his behaviour at times. He is still lying to Caesar seconds before shooting him. Did he need to shoot him to get the boat? Apparently the smoke monster will forgive casual murder easily. Again what is the moral code which the smoke monster or the Others are living by? Is having a child off the island worse than offing a guy you didn’t need to? When Ben tells Sun the “truth” that he didn’t know Locke would come back to life I couldn’t help wonder why he would do that. It felt like we as an audience needed to know what he really felt. But I couldn’t see any reason why he would share that fact with a woman who was once a friend of Locke’s.

Some other odd choices grated with those of us who have watched the show many times. Ben asks Locke if he disapproves of the Others having moved in to the barracks instead of living in the jungle. But he knows that Locke disapproved, he already told him that at length (313).

The Unknown: Plenty of what’s going on here may get further developed and so become an important part of the story.

Ben claims not to know where he could find the smoke monster. But presumably he was lying out of the habit of keeping outsiders away from the Others temple. Speaking of which, did Locke know where to go because he was nearly dragged down there once (124)? Another potential lie from Ben was his claim that he had no idea that Hurley, Kate and company were in the Dharma Initiative. We see in flashback that he didn’t remember who shot him. But he clearly remembered his Dad and Dharma. So presumably he should at least remember Sawyer, Juliet, Miles and Jin. He looks pretty shocked to hear the name Christian, what does he know about him?

Are Ilana and her friend possessed as Danielle’s crew were (505)? Their question about the statue seems to indicate something like that rather than this being a plan hatched off the island. Could this be the conflict which Charles warned Locke about (507)? What’s in those crates which they are trying to move?

Did anyone else think the main hieroglyph which Ben sees in the temple looked at all like the drawing which child Locke did when Richard came to visit him (411)? Was the temple-like passage which Ben uses to summon smokey present before the barracks were built? Or did he build it? How does pulling the plug summon the monster? What are the specific rules which Charles broke and who arranged his banishment?

Danielle claimed she had never seen anyone on the island (109), yet she sees Ben here. The answer that she is crazy doesn’t wash with me. I don’t think she was crazy, all the evidence of her behaviour suggests she was sane, albeit traumatised, lonely and strange. Yet Ben thinks she is crazy too. Do the Others not realise why she killed her crew? Do they think she did it out of insane paranoia? Ben tells her to run away if she hears whispers because that will help keep Alex safe. Does that mean the whispers are connected to the Others? Hence if they find her sniffing around they would be mad?

Best Moment: Locke turns on Ben after a series of questions:
L: “You don’t like this do you?”
B: “What?”
L: “Having to ask questions that you don’t know the answers to. Blindly following someone in the hopes that they’ll lead you to whatever it is you’re looking for.”
B: “No John I don’t like it all.”
L: “Well now you know what it was like to be me.”
It sums up the changing of their roles and soon Locke will know what it is like to be Ben (in charge).

The Bottom Line: In a way this suffers because we could have guessed that Penny and Desmond were ok. We already knew that Alex was stolen and Charles was banished. And in the end Ben was forgiven. As entertaining as the episode was I’m not sure it gets us anywhere too exciting.

Ben’s web of lies and the focus on the long dead Alex also don’t resonate with me as clearly as some of the previous character episodes have done. This isn’t bad by any means, just not as exciting as it sounds on paper.

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