As ABC keeps reminding us, going into last night, there were only 10 more episodes left until the 2-hour LOST series finale. The finale is scheduled to air on May 23 (a Sunday), so based on my calendar math, that means there’s going to be a twelve-day gap between the penultimate episode (May 11) and the finale. Well, it wouldn’t be LOST if they didn’t make us squirm at the end, right?
So, in the preview for this week’s episode, they pretty much say that Ben dies, right? I was pretty preoccupied with that going into tonight’s episode, but there was plenty else to look forward to. For one thing, on the Island, Ben has been running with Sun, Lapidus, Ilana, and now Miles – the most under-represented characters on the show this season. Also, as skeptical as I am about the relevance of the flash-sideways sequences, I was intrigued by the possibility of finding out about alternate Ben’s life and what role (if any) the Island plays in it.
ABC’s description of last night’s episode reads: Ben deals with the consequences of an uncovered lie. Considering that Ben is commonly referred to among the other Island denizens as King Liar McLiepants of Lyonia, it’s not much of a clue. Still, it’s a Ben-centric episode – perhaps the last one – so it was reasonable to expect some revelations. Whatever happened to Annie? Why the obsession with kids? What are the rules that govern his conflict with Widmore?
I’ve really been trying to be open-minded about the flash-sideway scenes. It worked really well with Sayid last week, and the contrast between the sweet young Claire in What Kate Does and the crazy one in the present is pretty jarring. As I mentioned before, a flash-sideways featuring Ben has the potential to open whole new doors for the show.
This week used the flash-sideways to excellent effect. As with Sayid last week, the flash-sideways juxtaposed the decisions of the alternate Ben with the Ben from the normal timeline. In the alternate 2004, Ben is an over-qualified High School History teacher with designs on becoming the school principal. His prize pupil is Alexandra Rousseau – his adopted daughter in the normal timeline.
The opening flash-sideways dialog is filled with parallels between the two realities. The central themes are an island, the emptiness of a title without the power to back it, and the notion that whoever cares about an institution the most should rule it.
Ben’s machinations in pursuit of the principal’s chair mirror what we can piece together about his coup of Charles Widmore in taking over the island. Both involve Ben going up against an older, more powerful man and using his dalliance with a woman – the school nurse in the principal’s case, Penelope’s mother in Widmore’s as leverage.
Unlike Sayid, who made parallel choices in each reality, the alternate Ben sacrifices his own interests for the sake of Alex. Considering the emotional center of last night’s episode was Ben’s grief at sacrificing his daughter for the sake of the Island, and his acknowledgment of that grief proving to be his salvation, we may have seen a turning point for Ben.
Although Ben was the focal point of the episode, he really didn’t have much to do in the 2007 sequences with the flash-sideways doing most of the heavy lifting. It didn’t take long for the big lie – that he was the one who killed Jacob – to surface, and not much longer for Ilana to decide to kill him. The longer he dug his own grave, the more I figured that the line from the preview – that he would “face his own demise” – would be a matter of Ben being confronted with the possibility of his death, not its actuality.
The combination of Michael Emerson’s performance and the presence of Alex in the flash-sideways really sold his redemptive conversation with Ilana in the episode’s climax. Ben has always been such a slippery character that any redemption or change of heart is going to be a tough sell. We don’t know enough about Ilana yet to know if her decision to spare him is out of character, but dramatically it’s more satisfying to have Ben stay with the small group loyal to Jacob than to join faux-Locke.
Even though this was a Ben episode, the writers managed to smuggle in what may be THE KEY moment to Jack moving forward. Talking to Richard with a lit stick of dynamite inches away, Jack revealed himself to be a man of faith and purpose. Even though he doesn’t know exactly what he’s supposed to do, he seems poised to become the capable leader he showed he could be early in the show’s run.
The show ended lyrically, reprising the way nearly every episode used to end – slow piano music on the beach as the camera lingers on the cast as they make camp and contemplate their circumstances before turning to the slow motion return of Jack and Hurley with Richard in tow. It was a pleasant reminder of a time when the show was involved in smaller, quieter adventures, and an improvised golf course or a ban on nicknames could carry an episode. And then…
WTF – THERE’S CHARLES WIDMORE IN A SUBMARINE OFF THE COAST OF THE ISLAND!
- Going back to Dogen’s intentions when sending Sayid out to face faux-Locke in the jungle in last week’s episode – since it’s “against the rules” for Locke to kill a candidate, was Sayid ever in any real danger? Did Dogen think the “darkness” in Sayid would make him vulnerable to faux-Locke? Was this just a case of sloppy writing?
- I had this great bullet point written about how the candidates aren’t necessarily in line to succeed Jacob because we only have faux-Locke’s word to go on – then Ilana confirmed that this is the case, so that theory’s shot.
- For a minute I was all riled up about Miles knowing about Nikki, Paulo, and the diamonds and then I was all, “Duh, dude talks to dead people.” Also, he referred to them as “jabronies” which is the same term Sawyer used to describe the characters back in Season 3. And did anybody else realize Ken Leung played the spiky “Kid Omega” in X-Men United? Just realized that last night…
- In the flash-sideways, we see Ben taking care of his aged and much mellower father. The Island and the Dharma Initiative are explicitly mentioned, but how and when father and son left the Island is not.
- Great touch bringing back Arzt and dynamite on The Black Rock in the same episode. I really like the “greatest hits” vibe the show has been taking with old locations this season – Sawyer at the Barracks, Jack and Hurley at the Caves, Ilana’s crew at the beach camp.
- So we know for sure now that Richard came on The Black Rock, but everyone had kinda guessed that already, right? I know there are only nine episodes left until the finale, so I won’t gripe if there’s a two-for-the-price-of-one episode devoted to the back stories of Richard and Ilana.
- I swear that exact shot of Sun at the end – arms raised to tie down a tarp, glancing over her shoulder, face lighting up with delight – has been used at the end of an episode before.
- I’m trying not to get too caught up in the Who’s good?/Who’s evil debate. A conflict between two distinct sides is clearly developing, but I’m not convinced it’s going to be as simple as the Autobots versus the Decepticons.
- I’m still getting used to reconciling what we know about the Smoke Monster now with everything that happened before. Why’d he kill the pilot in the first episode, anyhow?
- My original draft of this review got hosed and I had to rewrite it without any of my notes – let me know what I missed in the comments section, but try to be gentle 😉
I thought it was kind of fun to see William Atherton and Jon Gries in an episode where Atherton plays a morally corrupt school administrator who threatens to stick it to a star pupil. The only thing missing is a laser that can vaporize human targets from space. 😛
Also, Jack succeeds in taking another opportunity to not do something at a critical moment, e.g. run away from unstable, lit dynamite.
THAT’S where I recognized the Principal from.