I rated this episode Awesome at 10:02pm last Wednesday night, after just seeing the previews. People (including me) were hyping it up all week long, so much that it started making me a little nervous. Turns out there was no reason to be, as Dead is Dead more than lived up to itself. Ben, new Locke, the monster and tons of answers - not much more you can really ask for. Things I Noticed:
Jacob May I? Yes You May
Cool opening scene, and great job with youngish Widmore and his wild lion's mane. We quickly learn who's in charge of the pride here, the guy with the square jaw and infallible charisma. As he confronts Richard about bringing wounded Ben to the temple, the finger is once again quickly pointed toward a scapegoat that's becoming all too familiar in LOST: Jacob. In fact, I think someone could probably cash in on some "Jacob made me do it" T-shirts right about now.
As Richard pulls the "Jacob wanted it done" trump card, Charles' eyes betray extreme scrutiny. It's a lie, and I'm pretty sure Widmore knows it. He accepts it nevertheless, which places Ben squarely into the Other's camp. In retrospect, I think Richard's hand was forced. He was fairly certain Ben was going to be the island's next chosen leader, but he also knew the kid wasn't ready yet. Cue Sawyer and Kate showing up with a dying Benjamin Linus, and it was literally do or die. Years later I think Richard would regret this decision: not only did Jacob not choose him, but Benjamin Linus would go on to lead the Others astray from the island's true purpose in many different ways. Ben was never meant to be leader, he kinda of got stuck with it.
Also in this scene, we see how Ben becomes Richard's Alex. Just as Ben saves Alex from death, Richard does the same for Ben. Unfortunately later on, each of these little side projects doesn't work out for either of them. Apparently you just can't go against the will of the island. The scene where Ben opened his eyes to look upon Charles Widmore for the first time was very cool too. The shifty way the kid first glanced at him reminded me sharply of adult Ben.
When I first saw the wakeup scene in last week's preview, I was pretty sure Ben's words to Locke about expecting his resurrection were genuine. Ben's always been great at lying, but it seems he absolutely sucks at telling the truth. Even when he is telling the truth, he sounds so awkward and silly it's almost as if he IS lying. This makes figuring him out very complicated, which is why I think most people just take the safe route and assume he's always bullshitting. :)
But now go back and watch the scene where Ben rifles through his old desk for the photo of him and Alex. A voice calls out: "What's that?" The voice is deep and strong, kind of like the voice of the 'Previously on Lost' dude. Ben looks quickly up, and sees that it's John Locke. From that point on, all of Terry O'Quinn's dialogue sounds normal (if not a little extra self-assured)... but that first line was totally different and foreign to me, as if it were the island itself that was speaking. This happens again later on when John's talking to Ben just before the light in Alex's room goes on.
Their role reversal becomes complete here, as John casually puts his feet up on Ben's desk and starts demanding answers and apologies. As Ben stumbles over his reasoning for having to kill Locke, I'm pretty sure John doesn't believe him. Locke begins the episode-long judgment of Ben, right here, right now. For the rest of the episode John Locke becomes the Marshall of the island, escorting Ben to the smoke monster's courtroom for final judgment. At one point I got the impression that Locke might even be the smoke monster. There were some little hints toward this throughout the episode, such as him conveniently disappearing both times Ben expected the monster to show up. In the end though, I think Locke's just a Christian-like reincarnation of his former self, infused with oldskool island knowledge that Ben was never given privy to. This adds to Ben's bitterness at Locke knowing all this important stuff, leading to that sarcastic confrontation of him while they were walking in the jungle.
This Gentleman and I are Taking a Boat...
I have to say, I laughed my ass right off the couch. This line was one of the best things ever to come out of Ben's mouth, a close second to "Consider that my apology". I had the whole Ilana/Cesar thing backwards, too. I thought Cesar was going to be the badass bad guy, and Ilana would turn out to be fish food.
As the shotgun goes off, you realize just how slick Ben really is. At this point in the story he doesn't know what's coming next, but he still knows how to manipulate people enough to place himself into an advantageous position. He gains Cesar's trust long enough to steal the shotgun, then kills him with it to regain Locke's favor. Moreover he regains some favor with the island, showing that he's there to help Locke. It's a winning situation for everyone... except poor Cesar. He was in way over his head there and never even knew it.
A Little Lime and Club Soda will Get that Right Out
One thing I noticed that was pretty prominent: Ben's got a giant splooge of blood on the collar of his shirt. He wakes up with it, but suddenly on the beach his shirt is fully laundered. Maybe he cleaned himself up, I thought... but then when Ben and Locke reach the main island's dock, the bloodstain is back again. In the immortal words of Bridget Fonda, 'I never did mind the little things'. (Yes, I think this one is probably a continuity error).
Also on the dock, Ben's frustration toward the island slips out again. He speaks about not letting Locke be killed by Cesar: "Couldn't let that happen" - he says it very mockingly, knowing that at this point the island is favoring and protecting Locke. This leads into a very important conversation where Locke calls Ben for lying on exactly why he needs to be judged. I think Ben not only realizes he's been lying to Locke, but that all along he's been lying to himself. In a moment of clarity Ben suddenly sees that he's the one responsible for the death of Alex - not Charles Widmore. For the past three years his anger had been directed at his protagonist, instead of Ben inwardly admitting that Alex died because he choose the island over his own daughter. Ben needs to come to this realization in order to pass judgment, and I think Locke knows it. The new John Locke is bringing him to be judged, but he's also actually helping him here. As we saw with the death of Mr. Eko, passing judgment is all about repentance, and not so much about the sins committed.
And 1988's Mom of the Year Award Goes To...
... not Danielle Rousseau. You'd think she would've made a little more effort in keeping Alex. The big twist on the kidnapping scene was one I never really expected: Ben didn't really go there to take baby Alex at all. His orders and intentions were to kill a strange outsider, and if this woman didn't have a baby with her that's probably what he would've done. But here we see another facet of Ben's character: his soft spot for moms and children. Knowing the pain of not having a mother is what keeps him from shooting Danielle straight away, and later on it keeps him from offing Penny as well.
I'd always imagined Ben's raising of Alex was the one true thing he ever did for himself, and I always got the impression it was against the island's wishes. Turns out it was. But even Ben's kidnapping of Alex wasn't all that bad - he saved both her and her mother's lives in what he did, and considering the alternatives there wasn't much more that he could've done. Under the circumstances he improvised as best he could, even warning Danielle to keep away from the whispers in an effort to maybe keep her away from the Others and/or the Dark Territory. The one thing that bothered me though: wouldn't Danielle have remembered Ben (I know I would've) when she had him captured in that net? If so, wouldn't she have killed him outright? Instead she turns him over to the 815'ers and just mutters "He's one of them". That doesn't make much sense, even for a crazy jungle woman plagued by whispers.
Charles Widmore - Humanitarian, Island Purist, and Shirker of Dirty Work
How much of a role reversal is this? Ben pleading for the life of a child, Charles calling Alex an "it"? Seems Widmore knew exactly what he was doing when he sent Ben to murder Danielle and Alex. As an extreme purist he'd deemed it the island's will... yet it wasn't something he was willing to do himself. Ben calls him on this by handing Alex over and saying "You do it". Widmore balks, either because he can't bring himself to do it or because he's being shamed as a baby-killer in front of his people. It also occurred to me that he sent Ethan with Ben because he knew Ethan would definitely carry out the act. He seemed pretty damned bloodthirsty for an 11-yr old kid.
Many years later, Alex's death happens anyway... and this brings about a really important question that Charles would mention at his exile: was she supposed to die all along? Once Ben's chain of command had broken down, did the island use Keamy as a tool to course correct? Or was Alex's death on Widmore's orders, thinking that by correcting this mistake it would somehow help him back into the island's favor? We learn more at the sub dock.
Schools In, and Locke's Giving Out Double Homework
I'll be the first to admit it: the barracks looked the same as when everyone hastily abandoned them. Even Hurley, Locke, and Sawyer's game of Risk was still in its proper place. This still doesn't explain why clean, sparkling, beautiful Otherton had a boarded up processing center in the middle of it, complete with mega-dusty photos of Dharma induction ceremonies... but then again stranger things have happened in the world of LOST.
As they walk through the ruins, John Locke continues to school Ben as to the mistakes he made during his reign. He tells him how moving into Dharmatown pretty much went against the island's whole ideas of how things ought to be. Running water and electricity are a far cry from the days where Widmore had the others living in the dirt, washing themselves in water basins. I think Dharma's periwinkle vans might've been the last straw... it's enough to make any horse-riding purist want to purge everyone.
Ben addresses Locke the same way he always has, with a "You don't have the first idea what the island wants". Locke's eyes light up, and there's a fire behind them: "Are you sure of that?" The way he said it, man... I got chills. I think the sound guys might've done something evil with the word 'sure', too. Whatever they did, it was awesome. Terry O'Quinn was incredible. This is my new favorite line of any episode, any season, ever. Locke just scared the shit out of Ben, maybe even all of us.
In any case, Locke's not Locke. Somehow the island is speaking through him, even directly at times. Maybe in the past the island spoke through Jacob, and maybe that's why Ben shut him up by placing a ring of ash around his cabin. The island's making up for it now though, showing Ben all his shortcomings, calling him out on all his wrong moves. Ben slowly begins to understand he's not speaking to John Locke anymore... whatever's standing before him seems to have intimate knowledge of why the island is so angry with him. In bringing Locke back Ben may have created a monster, and he's just now realizing it.
Here's a New One:
Why is Frank's shirt unbuttoned all the way down to his naval, exposing his hairy man-chest like a 70's porn star? Let's add that to the list of mysteries.
Are You Telling me You Don't Know About This? Of Course Not!
Hmm. I could be balls-to-the-wall wrong about this, but I believed him. Ben's face registered the genuine shock and surprise we haven't seen since Alex was killed. He also seemed to be a little bewildered at the mention of Christian. I think Ben's in a place right now where he's learning things as he goes. Locke's in the driver's seat. And his wave from the window was awesome.
Thinking more about it, Ben wouldn't really have memory of Jack, Kate, and Hurley in Dharma anyway. He was shot right after they arrived, and he probably didn't leave the Others to be assimilated back into Dharma society for a long while. Not even sure when that happened, because he's rocking an 80's alternative haircut and hunting women with Ethan a few years later, then he's raising Alex until she's at least five or six (when Widmore left). So what does he do, just come walking through the sonic fence in the early 90's to say "Hi dad I'm back"? Would Horace and Dharma even accept him then? The timetable is hazy here, but if we're to believe that everything that happened happened, he has to at least make it back in time to execute the purge.
No, I think Ben was genuinely surprised to see that the rest of the O6 had flashed back to the 70's. The only thing he's hiding here is behind his Scooby Doo bookcase... some muddy plumbing he uses to call out to the smoke monster and an asskicking collection of fedoras hanging from the wall of his closet.
Hear That Mr. Anderson? That is the Sound of Inevitability...
It's Widmore exile day, and they take us back to the swingset again. They've shown this swingset in about 10 episodes now, almost like they're proud of it. I'm not sure what it means, but if they keep this up the swingset's gonna need a flashback episode.
Ben takes his sucky haircut out to the dock, where Widmore is being rather anticlimactically banished. No donkey wheel, nothing, just a one-way sub ticket and a few angry words. Their conversation is an extension of the first time Ben blatantly disobeyed Charles in front of his people, which might've been one of the things that eroded away his control. Ben's claiming Widmore busted up some of the island's rules, namely leaving the island far too often and shacking up with non-Other personnel. Widmore throws Alex in his face, once again reminding Ben that she was supposed to die according to the island's wishes. Ben's counter claim: Widmore wanted Alex dead, not the island. This is the crux of their battle: loyalty vs. disloyalty, their own little faith vs. science. One of them is right and one of them is wrong... and Charles points out that if Ben IS wrong, then Alex will die. "And then you'll be here where I am right now", he says.
This prophecy actually does come to pass. Alex is killed, and Ben self-exiles from the island. But the real question here is another double-edged dilemma: Did Widmore kill Alex (though exercising his secondary protocol) to make this point to Ben? Did he do this knowing it would get him to leave the island? Or did the island itself kill Alex, thus proving Ben was wrong all along. This is why Ben so adamantly asked Keamy if Widmore had instructed him to kill Alex. Ben had to know if it was truly Widmore, or if it were an extension of the island's will that just got delayed twenty-something years. As Widmore tells him "And then you'll realize... you can't fight the inevitable".
Has Ben been been fighting the inevitable all along? Yup. HIS WHOLE LIFE. His bringing on of Juliet to try and fix the fertility problem is only one example of it. Ben has been trying to forge his own destiny since the day his future was taken from him at the temple - he's never been successful, but he's kept on trying anyway. This is the episode where he begrudgingly admits that maybe Widmore was right. "I'll be seeing you, BOY." Totally creepy awesome.
What's Coming Out of That Jungle Is Something I Can't Control
For a week, we were all waiting for the monster. How symbolic that the thing to come out of the jungle turns out to be Locke. And the phrase fits perfectly: John Locke version 2.0 is something Ben can't control. He'd been pulling his strings for four seasons, but now it looks like the shoe's about to be jammed on the other foot (whether it fits or not).
Milk - It Does Your Body Good
Call it destiny or course correction or whatever you like, a gun has more than one bullet in it so you can make SURE of things. Ben dismissing Desmond as a threat after one quick shot was a mistake that cost him a pretty good beating and a really nice shirt. And as I learned on Mythbusters, a bullet can be stopped by only a few inches of water (or milk). Ben should've watched that episode.
Hello Penelope, my name is Benjamin Linus (you killed my father... prepare to die!)
We learn more about Ben's soft spot for kids and moms, and this saves Penny from certain death. Ben was even apologetic, knowing that his anger is directed solely at Widmore and not at his innocent daughter. Doesn't matter, he's gonna do it anyway. But then little Charlie shows up.
We can safely say Ben's memory was definitely not wiped, as he remembers enough about the pain and loss in his own childhood not to want to leave Charlie motherless (fatherless I guess, was a different matter entirely). Ben couldn't kill Penny when he saw her son, just as he couldn't kill Danielle when he saw her baby. And so the record comes around again - same song, different lyrics. He simply cannot bring a motherless existence down upon any child, having already been through it himself.
The Shadow Statue People and the Mystery of the Silver Trunk
Not sure what to make of these clowns, but it's a good bet they're Widmore's crew. It's unlikely Charles Widmore would've let Ajira fly off into the night without some kind of plan to get himself back to the island. And judging by their rifle-happy ways, it's a safe bet they're the ones who shot at Juliet and Sawyer in the canoe.
The possibility also exists that these people represent some sort of ominous third party in the dreaded "war" that's coming. Their cute little secret passphrase and the way they dressed the silver chest up to carry it around like the Lost Ark of the Covenant seemed to speak of ancient agendas. It's a good thing Frank ditched creepy gloomville to end up back here, so we can see this story progress through his eyes. I was kind of wondering why the writers had him leave Sun in the middle of nowhere. Go Frank! He's gonna be the monkey wrench in their machinery.
Benjamin Linus and the Laser Light Show
Luckily for Ben, by the end of their journey Locke has armed him with all the ammunition he'll need to survive his CGI judgment. There were certain things he needed to admit to himself, and he does so without prompting: "You know, you were right... I did kill Alex". This type of repentance is exactly what the smoke monster is looking for. Had he not gained this important insight, Ben would've been destroyed just like Eko.
And so finally, at long last, we see the origins and home of the smoke monster. As awesome as it was to finally get this answer, some of the magic and mysticism was stripped away by the overwhelming amount of Egyptian mythology. I'll admit that it doesn't have to necessarily be Egyptian - maybe the people who inhabited the island so many centuries ago found the monster and just incorporated it into their religion. Whatever the smoke monster is, Anubis appears to be kneeling before it. This makes their representation of it both ancient and powerful.
Cerebus swirls around Ben, showing him the major plot points of his relationship with Alex. This differed from the time it scanned Eko... here it seems to be showing Ben things rather than extracting from him. The monster shows Ben a good number of scenes here, from him saving Alex and raising her to an adult Alex decrying him as a father. It culminates in Ben denouncing Alex as his daughter - the very action that results in her death. This is what he did wrong. This is why she died. It's not Widmore's fault, or Keamy's fault - the monster would have Ben believe it was entirely his fault, and this is why he must be judged.
This is pretty similar to Mr. Eko's judgment in The Cost of Living. The monster, appearing as Yemi, reminds Eko of all the terrible things he's done. But Eko feels differently - he understands that these things were all forced upon him. He realizes that the course of his life was predetermined at childhood - his innocence stolen from him - this is why he refuses to repent. He denounces the monster's judgment, and it destroys him for it.
I think Ben could've made a similar argument here. Although he denounced Alex as his daughter, he did it because he wanted to stay on the island. And while this may seem selfish, understand that the island is all Ben's ever known. He's been married to it since the day Richard took him into the temple, and he's been serving it all his life. In trying to keep service to it, his daughter is killed. And THIS is why I'm pretty sure the island's will and the smoke monster's agenda are two totally different things.
Ben doesn't defy the monster, choosing instead to accept and embrace responsibility. He passes its judgment because of this. His penance, as he tells Locke: "It let me live..." - Ben must forever live with the guilt of having his daughter's death on his hands. As if he hasn't already had a pretty rough deal.
In the final scene of his judgment, the monster comes to him as Alex. The acting here was amazing. Ben knows in his heart that it's not her, but he still can't help but tell her he's sorry. Instead of accepting his apology, the monster tosses him against the nearest column and starts beating it into his skull: he's to follow and do whatever John Locke says. Is Locke now doing the island's bidding? Who knows. But we know for a fact that he's doing what the monster wants.