Tuesday, March 9, 2010

LOST: "Dr. Linus" Reflections

Well, we're back to our lovable, hatable Ben in this episode.

Ben meets back up with Ilana and the group, telling them that Sayid is gone to the dark side. I guess Ilana realizes he's no longer a candidate. As we will learn in a later scene, she was sent specifically to protect the remaining six. But then, she still tells Sun that it is six, that would include Sayid. Maybe she's on the fence about him?

I like that Ilana has brought the ashen remains of Jacob and has Miles do his little ghostbuster thing with him. What I don't understand is that Miles says he has to be in proximity to remains for it to work. While this has been implied it previous episodes, it is only now explicitly said. This is a major departure from the first time we saw Miles in "Confirmed Dead". In that episode, he spoke to the ghost of some dead black kid in his bedroom that was haunting his grandmother's house. There was no body in sight there; just some drugs in a closet. It would also seem that he was not faking. So was the body somewhere in the house (ew), were there different rules then?

I love it how Miles throws Ben's own words back in his face: "Well, he was holding a bloody knife over his body, so..."

We still do not know if the candidate is Jin or Sun or some combination of the two, but since no one mentioned Ji Yeon it seems unlikely it's her. Unfortunately, Ji Yeon is looking more and more like a plot casualty. I hate when TV shows use children to move stories along and then drop them. The poor kid is still in Los Angeles, right?

I like the callback to Nikki and Paolo. Though I don't think the graves that the camera cut to were theirs; they seemed to far up from the beach. It seems Miles had nothing better to do so he dug up the diamonds. That was a neat little way to tie up the 3.2 million dollars thing and pay off the fact that Nikki and Paolo had diamonds buried with them. I guess that the diamonds at least did not stay buried forever. But... we still do not know why Miles wants the money. Is it just because he's opportunistic? Is he planning to do something big with his millions of dollars?

Years of suspicion seem to have been confirmed tonight; it was heavily implied that Richard was indeed from the Black Rock.

Richard said that he was immortal because Jacob gave him a gift. He also said that when Jacob touches you, it is a gift. Are the two one and the same? Jack didn't die with the dynamite, and he reasoned it was because Jacob had a purpose for him. Does this go back to Jacob touching him with the candy bar? Does Jacob's touch really have healing powers? If so, does this mean that Locke is NOT dead? Thus Locke survived the fall from the building as well as being shot in the gut by Ben? Though I would point out that immortality and aging are not exactly the same thing. Maybe Richard as an ageless decrepit old man would have been of no use to Jacob.

This episode touches on an old stand-by of mythical storytelling: the curse of immortality. Richard has lived for hundreds of years on the island and all he wants is to die, the one thing he can't do.

Jack and the dynamite is essentially Jack's "we're not going to push the button anymore" moment. He's starting to become like Locke, but in his own Jackish way. Similarly, Richard is becoming like Locke in his despair that he thought there was a plan but now his whole life was a waste. But unlike the end of "Live Together, Die Alone", Jack is right and they do not die.

This is the first episode where Jacob and his nemesis seem to have real magical powers (beyond healing touches and the power to become killer smoke). Smokey Locke magically unfetters Ben, and some Jacob-force blows out the dynamite fuse. I wonder how much of the island's properties are island and how much are Jacob. Like when the Losties flashed back to 1977 from the plane, was that the island or Jacob or something else?

Smokey Locke appeals to Ben's need for power by offering him control of the whole island. I was glad it didn't exactly work. In fact, it seems the only main reason that Ben was still with Locke is that Locke pretended to be Alex and that Alex told Ben to do what Locke said. It was this guilt of Ben's that ultimately led him to pour his guts out to Ilana. He wanted to go with Locke only because "no one else will have me". Some might see this as the neutering of Ben, but I really liked that moment. I still don't exactly get the rules of the island though. Ben said whoever moved the island couldn't come back. Then he came back. He came back claiming he did so to be judged. And he was "judged" by the Black Smoke who essentially used him to kill Jacob. ...Okay. Let's analyze this. Smokey judged Ben to get Ben to kill Jacob. Why did Ben feel the need to go back to the island? Was it because Locke told him they had to go back? If so, this was only because Smokey told Locke (through Richard) that he had to get them back. So who told Ben to move the island in the first place?? The show implies it was Christian, and implies Christian is in cahoots with Smokey. But Christian wanted Locke, not Ben, to move the island. So let's recap: essentially Smokey tells Ben to leave the island just to get him to come back to the island and kill Jacob. I'm confused. Was Ben's initial moving of the island ordained by Jacob or by Smokey? The more things go on, the more I think the whole flash-forward-leaving-the-island-and-its-time-travel-aftermath was a complete waste of time.

I must still err on the side that Jacob is good. Note: Locke is black and white, killing those who get in his way. Ilana is forgiving of Ben. This tells me that Jacob is forgiving as well. If Jacob forgives, but the Man in Black does not forgive, score another one for Jacob being good.

And in the end... there's a submarine. And it's Widmore! How did he find the island? Is this the party Jacob was talking about? If so, why does Jacob want Widmore on the island? I also wonder about who Widmore works for. He was banished from the island long ago; was that Jacob's doing? Widmore had been leaving the island and it was because of that that he was banished. Jacob it seems has been trapping people on the island, in the same way Ben was. Was Widmore recruited by the Man in Black somewhere along the way? I hope we learn more about Widmore's end of things soon.

The flash-sideways centers on history teacher Ben. I like another "island" fake-out, this time being Elba where Napoleon died. It's actually a rather significant little lecture. Ben says Napoleon was stuck on Elba with the title of Emperor, but that title was meaningless since he had no real power. Ben is essentially Napoleon, trapped on the island with an illusion of power. Smokey-Locke's offer to let him run things is like offering him the title of Emperor; it's really meaningless.

We learn that he is a doctor of Modern European history and runs a history club, which has only five members. This reminds me of when I was in high school and we had a writers club of about four of us that didn't last very long. I'm just glad it's not geography club... (For those not in the know, there's a teen novel from about 7 years ago where gay students meet in their own after-school club, but disguise it by calling it "geography club".)

How interesting the scene where Locke manipulates Ben into seeking the principal's job! This scene mirrors the moment where Smokey Locke tries to recruit Ben, but in a much better way nicely reflects season two. In the hatch, Ben was always taunting Locke about why Jack's in charge and not him. Well, here it's a similar circumstance with the roles reversed. I love when Lost does that stuff!

They did a great make-up job on Roger Linus. At first, I couldn't tell it was the same guy. We also have it confirmed that they did indeed go to the island in this universe, which means they left at some point after the incident. I wonder why.

Alex is in the history club. Yes, it's nice to see her again, and yes the dynamic with Ben is interesting, but I find her presence here to be a monumental stretch. I can excuse most of the others being in Los Angeles. But I just do not see that this girl would have a normal life in LA knowing that her parents are FRENCH and scientists. Is she adopted in this universe? She mentioned her mother, but it was sort of oblique. Still, she uses the last name Rousseau. I just don't see what would bring her French parents to Los Angeles to settle and raise a daughter like this.

It's interesting Ben's little play for principal. The principal calls his plan "Machiavellian", but I have a hard time seeing it that way. Indeed, the principal is much more, um, unprincipled. He threatens to base Alex's recommendation on Ben's actions. He has no qualms about doing whatever. He doesn't mind ruining her life as a bargaining chip to save his own skin. In this scenario, the principal is Ben at the window saying "go ahead and do it". Also, Ben's little blackmail scheme does feed his ego, but it also is borne out of real concern that the principal's actions are unethical. He doesn't seek to oust him arbitrarily; the ethical violation is what gives him the in. I also do not understand what exactly happened in the end. The principal DOES give a rave recommendation for Alex. Ben no longer has to cover detention. It is implied that he extorted the principal into covering detention. So now I'm confused. Ben was going to blackmail the principal unless he gave up his job. The principal countered by saying if he did that, he would ruin Alex's college career. Ben doesn't reveal the affair, but still gets something of what he wants. Did he offer a compromise? Did he just ask for his club back and somehow get it? It seems to me that the principal had all the bargaining power at that point, so I don't get how the end result was arrived at. Nice of Ben to give Arzt his parking space, though.

And how fun is it that Ben works with Arzt!

One of the most curious conversations is when Roger tells Ben maybe they should have stayed on the island. Think what our lives would have been like. Funny thing is, Ben is much better off having left; he has a doctorate, he has people who care about him, he hasn't murdered anyone. Yes, it may seem a waste being among vapid teenagers. But isn't it better they have educated teachers? What else do you do with a degree in modern European history?

If this Ben Linus indeed is the future of the one on the island, and that timeline is the same up until the Incident, is this Ben "changed"? Remember Richard said when they healed him he would be different? We saw that statement as explanation for his evil nature. Is his nature the same here? Is he really "a killer" as Arzt says? In the end, he seems to avoid the temptation of power. Is that Ben still waiting beneath the surface?

Oh, and now that Alex has her recommendation, couldn't Ben still release the e-mails?

Favorite line: "If you change your mind, I'll be like a mile away."

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