Lost Round Table: “Dr. Linus”

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Welcome back to another installment of our weekly round table discussion featuring bloggers Bridget McGovern, Theresa DeLucci, and Rajan Khanna. Be warned: spoilers AND Shakespeare references await you past the jump.  Let’s discuss…

Raj: Maybe it’s just me, but I wanted someone to hug Ben at the end. I was disappointed that up until now we didn’t get much of him in the show, apart from his great eulogy for Locke. The thing is, I understand why he stabbed Jacob. And I understand his remorse. What we had in this episode was two of the most ardent supporters of the island and Jacob, Richard and Ben, show how they lost their faith in Jacob and his plan. It’s hard not to think of Job and his test of faith. And in both cases, it took the examples of others, their faith, to help bring them back from the brink. I found myself missing the real Locke, the original man of Faith, though it’s also interesting to see how Jack has made his own journey to that side of the spectrum.

I have to admit, too, that I’m happy to see Jack finally embracing whatever “destiny” he’s supposed to have. I guess Jacob’s plan worked and the lighthouse did set him on the right path, presumably as the lead candidate. Richard is already willing to follow him, and now that he’s with Jacob’s people, I expect he’ll take on a leadership role. Though I’m eager to see how Ben muddies those waters.

Most fascinating for me, though, were the revelations, slim as they were, about Richard. So it appears he did come to the island on the Black Rock. And Jacob’s touch made him immortal. Does that mean that all the people we saw Jacob touch are as well? Does that mean that Jacob touched Michael? He wasn’t able to die until the island was done with him. Though it was Christian that appeared to him in the end. And he’s apparently on Smocke’s side. Hmmm…

The other revelation of note was that there was an island and a Dharma Initiative in Earth-2, but that Ben and his dad (and presumably others) left before the events that happened on Earth-1. Of course that means that Earth-2 is just awash with coincidences. Like Alex ending up in Ben’s class—does that mean that Rousseau the elder got off the island, too? Or did Ben still steal her? I’m wondering if and how that timeline will make sense.

One last note—I saw a performance of Shakespeare’s The Tempest tonight, about characters who are shipwrecked on an island, and a man, Prospero, who not only causes the shipwreck that brings new people to the island, but who also then manipulates those people with his magical powers. Of particular note to me was the character of Caliban, who is Prospero’s servant (or slave) and who plots to overthrow his master and escape his captivity. I see a strong parallel to Smocke. But does that make Jacob Prospero or Ariel? There’s certainly a reference in the show, since one of the Dharma stations was called The Tempest.

Theresa: So, is this really the redemption of Benjamin Linus? What a well-done episode. I disagree with some of the critics who say the sideways universe is a lot of wheel-spinning. The alternate reality is about realizing what the people on the Island are capable of. Ben seems to have an innate need for power and respect, if we’re to judge his jockeying for power at his high school. I think this episode used the alternate universe to highlight the character’s free will better than any other episode. It was so unexpected when Ilana had her change of heart. And Ben chose her camp over Locke’s. This close to the end, I hope Ben can become a true good guy. But what fun would that be?

And Richard. What a tease. I agree Raj. Ben and Richard were tested by Jacob. I’m worried about Richard. I think his role will be replaced too and he’ll be released from his mortality. But after so long on Craphole Island, I imagine any soul would be tired. But who will bear the burden of being the new force of Good’s messenger. If Jack is the new Jacob, then Hurley will be the new Richard. And Richard seems like a very unhappy man. But at least he’s not a cyborg.

Lastly, who else busted out laughing at the jarring shift in mood, from “Aw, someone hug Ben he looks so lon— James Bond music and periscope out of nowhere!!!” That was just ludicrous. But I can’t tell if it was ludicrous in an awesome way or a bad way. Mr. Van Peebles, why did you film it that way?

Bridget: This episode was Lost at its absolute best. Ben Linus has always been one of the show’s strongest, most versatile and intriguing characters, and I think the split-reality premise finally hit its stride this week, offering an alternate version of Ben’s life that was just as compelling as the heavy-hitting Island action, in spite of its mundane setting. The whole episode was so exquisitely structured, replete with entertaining callbacks and significant echoes, ironies piled high on every side. And as the whole virtuoso performance unfolded we actually got some solid answers along the way. At long last, I finally feel like I’m starting to smell what the Black Rock is cookin’. Besides dynamite.

As with most of the post-LAX reality storylines, the off-Island premise seemed slightly contrived, but the writers did a fantastic job of playing with our expectations and keeping things a little off-kilter. The scene with Roger Linus, for example, seemed so surreal; as Ben changes his father’s oxygen tanks, it was impossible not to recall the gas cartridges used to kill his Roger (and the rest of the Dharma Initiative) in a different version of the past, and the connection gave the whole scene a surprising amount of emotional impact. I agree with Theresa—the entire episode was just brilliantly crafted.

I expected a certain level of snark this week, so the characterization of Ben as would-be Machiavelli in a sweater vest was unsurprising, but I didn’t anticipate how easily he’d fit into the role of frustrated idealist and genuinely decent man, or how well that characterization would be reflected in the events unfolding on the Island. The fact that Ben, warped and regretful as he is, still can show restraint and still has the capacity to be humbled by a gracious gesture on the part of Ilana points toward the possibility of redemption, even at this late hour. Meanwhile, I’m also rather pleased that Jack has been (re)converted to Team Jacob, with all of the fervor of a Born Again—though Hurley’s suddenly stuck playing the Cowardly Lion again (even so, his Terminator/cyborg/vampire riff was pure awesome).

Miles continues to be my hero—he actually made the über-lame Paolo and Nikki episode pay off at long last, and gets triple bonus points for using the word “jabonies” (speaking of which, WHERE THE HELL IS SAWYER?). Smocke’s comment about there being six candidates left was intriguing—if we’re going by the cave, the only names uncrossed are Kwon, Shephard, Reyes, Ford, and Jarrah, right? Is Sayid still a candidate? Are both Kwons in the running? Is it weird that Charles Widmore reminds me of a Batman villain even more now that he’s got an evil submarine? Why is Arzt so freaking annoying? As for Danielle Rousseau, I’m guessing she’s alive and well in Dr. Ben’s reality, since Alex mentions her working two jobs—I didn’t get the sense that there was any prior connection there, but who knows?

And here are some more Lost links for your enjoyment. Don’t forget to sound off on this episode with your own thoughts and theories in the comments. 

• 365 Days of Lost Fan Art

• A Lost-meets-Baywatch credit sequence

• Lostpedia’s impressive, exhaustive-as-possible Candidate list, which seems like essential geek reference material

• The five best Lost-inspired parodies on YouTube (according to Gunaxin.com)

• Anthony Clark’s spoiler-free “Lost spoilers” (via ComicsAlliance)

Theresa DeLucci is a graduate of the 2008 Clarion West Writers Workshop. Her fiction has appeared in Chizine. She is fully supportive of a Miles/Hurley spinoff show.

Rajan Khanna is a graduate of the 2008 Clarion West Writers Workshop and his fiction has appeared in Shimmer Magazine. He lives in Brooklyn with his two cats, Chloe and Muppet.

Bridget McGovern is a lit nerd, a film geek, and a complete pop culture junkie. She enjoys David Bowie, roller coasters, and the term “jabonies” more than anyone probably should.


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