Posted by: cousinbrandon | February 25, 2009

LOST – Season 5, Episode 7: “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham”

Here lies the body of Jeremy/John Bentham/Locke.  He was a farmer and a hunter.  He was a man of faith and a man of uncertainty.  He was an empiricist and a utilitarian.  From this world he was born and returned back unto it.  Well, until he was born again (and again).  We’ll miss you, JJBL.  We’ll miss you but good.  Or will we, seeing as how…

1. Locke Lives.  We open with Cesar, introduced last week as one of the business class passengers with a speaking part who wasn’t one of the O6, searching the Hydra Station furiously for what we can only gather are clues to his current whereabouts.  He unearths a map of the island, as well as what look like time coordinates, before eventually finding and tucking away a sawed-off shotgun into his pouch.  He is joined by Elana, who informs Cesar that there’s an unknown man on the beach, and he’s “not one of the ones who disappeared.”  In trekking to the beach to meet this mystery man, Cesar and Elana walk past a plane (clearly Ajira 316) which is anything but wrecked, where they are introduced to one living, breathing old man who removes his hood and introduces himself as none other than John Locke.  Well, the whole reincarnation thing didn’t take long.  And from there it’s only moments before…

2. The Pilot Episode, Redux.  Where last week’s episode opened with a “re-shoot” of the pilot episode (a close up of Jack’s eye and him waking on a beach), here we have another “re-shoot” of the pilot episode, this time featuring Locke.  Only this time around, instead of munching on an orange and delivering a then unknown secret to Walt (“I can walk, my man”), here we have Locke chomping through a mango, and delivering a secret to Elana:  “I remember dying.”  Once again we see the tendency of the writers to repeat previous scenes, which they typically do with images, lines of dialogue, names, etc.  The more they do this, the more it makes sense that everything that has and continues to transpire is one big endless loop.  If we are going to allow for time travel, of course we should be allowing for things to reappear and re-happen, so to speak.  This is a case, then, of form following function.  That is, recurring motifs/dialogue are a literal/figurative manifestation of the essence of time travel.  And much like the pilot episode, Locke is calm and collected, despite realizing that he died and was clad in the clothing he was to be buried in.  Perhaps the most understated thing in this scene was right at the beginning, where we see Locke staring at the island from the other island, the one where Jack, Kate and Sawyer were held hostage.  The last time Locke was anywhere near the island he was at the bottom of a well, talking to Christian Shephard just before winding up in…

3. Tunisia.  Okay, so it appears that once the frozen donkey wheel is turned, the “turner” winds up in this exact spot in Tunisia, which Widmore later refers to as “the exit.”  If, however, this is the “known spot,” why was the camera set up in anticipation of Locke, yet not Ben?  Was it because Ben turned the wheel first, and Widmore, having learned this would then become the exit point, only then sent up the camera?  But if that’s the case, how would Widmore have come to learn said information?  And perhaps more importantly, why Tunisia?  Why not Switzerland?  Rome, Italy?  Ghana?  Newark, Delaware? But back to our old/young pal for a moment…

4. Charles Widmore.  “It’s nice to see you again, John,” says Widmore to Locke, who is still in bed recovering after his compound fracture of the leg was dressed and the bone was excruciatingly re-set.  Locke, of course, doesn’t recognize the stranger, until Widmore explains they last saw each other on the island, when Widmore was but a 17-year old boy.  He goes on to explain that he was the leader of “the Others/his people” until he was exiled/tricked by Ben into leaving, just as Locke was tricked into leaving by Ben.  Here, again, comes another classic Locke line:  “I chose to leave.”  Did he?  I mean, John Locke, since day 1 on the island, has wanted nothing more than to remain on the island, as it was a special place, a healing place that gave him the ability to walk.  Time and again he butted heads with Jack, insisting that that they were supposed to stay on the island.  Hell, he put a knife in Naomi’s back when she made the effort to contact the helicopter.  So why, then, would Locke ever choose to leave?  Because Alpert told him it was his destiny in order to save the others, yes?  So in other words, John really never chose anything.  His choice was made for him.  His ego convinced him that he was making a choice of his own accord in order to play the role of hero.  Again, though, we see the battle of fate vs. free will, and in this case it would appear fate has won out, despite John’s response to Widmore.  Locke “chose” nothing; rather, he was chosen, and continues to be chosen, as Widmore informs Locke that he must return to the island, as a war will be waged and without Locke “the wrong side is going to win.”  “Wrong” really is one of those subjective words in the LOST mythology, no? And with that we meet…

5. Jeremy Bentham.  First and foremost, according to “Bentham’s” passport, he was born February 15, 1948.  Secondly, Widmore tells “Bentham” to dial “2-3” to reach him.  So, 15 and 23 in a matter of seconds.  Nice.  Furthemore, Widmore explains to Locke that he chose the name Jeremy Bentham, the philosopher, as a joke, seeing as how Locke’s parents played a joke of their own when naming him.  Furthermore, the philosophers in question — Locke and Bentham — were diametrically opposed to one another in terms of philosophical theory, so should we then view John Locke the character and Jeremy Bentham the character as polar opposites of one another, yet both sides of the same coin (another common LOST motif)?  And to continue the repetition theme, we have Locke asking Widmore, “What makes you think I’m so special?”  But there are two other items of note that emerge from this scene.  The first one is…

6. The Wheelchair.  Poor John.  He just can’t seem to get away from that thing, can he?  No matter how many times he’s believed himself healed, he once again ends up in that damn chair.  But why?  Is it because he was crippled before coming to the island, and is therefore fated to be forever crippled?  Or is it because the power of the island exists only on the island?  Both seem to make a bit of sense, but it’s the latter I’m particularly interested in, namely because Locke, before being greeted with the wheelchair, is standing on his own accord off the island, yet he is doing so not without injury to his leg.  This leads me to believe that, off the island, he would somehow find his way to once again being crippled, one way or another (fate).  (Additionally, you might then be able to extrapolate that Rose’s cancer would return should she ever leave the island).  Throughout the episode, we not only see Locke in a wheelchair during his time off the island, but he is once again injured in a car accident, further ensuring injury to his body and a leg cast.  The second point of interest is…

7. Matthew Abbadon.  First, I must once again urge you to watch The Wire, on which the actor who plays Abbadon was a cast member.  Second, we learn that Abbadon (which translates to such heart-warming terms as “place of destruction,” “the destroyer,” and “depths of hell”) has been assigned by Widmore to be Locke’s driver, so that Locke might recruit the rest of his former flight-mates to return to the island so that Locke might lead them, despite the “lies” of Ben.  Abbadon later comes clean with Locke, and requests he drop the act, and quit pretending that they don’t know one another.  Abbadon reminds Locke that they met in the rehab clinic where Abbadon worked as an orderly, to which Locke admits to remembering.  But what, then, is Abbadon’s interest in all of this?  As he explains to Locke, “I help people get to where they need to go.”  So you’re like a chauffer.  Or a map.  Or an angel (of death and hell and destruction)?  Thanks, pal.  But Abbadon does, in fact, “get” John to several locations so that he might recruit the other passengers, in a little section I like to call…

8. Locke’s Stops and Perils.  Locke’s first visit is to 1) Sayid in the Dominican Republic, who is now working as a carpenter for some type of Habitat for Humanity project.  Locke asks Sayid to return, but he refuses, explaining about his murdered wife, Nadia, as well as the two years he spent in Ben’s employ.  2) Locke then makes his way to New York, where, in the car, he asks Abbadon to look up his old friend, Helen Norwood.  Locke gets out of the car as school is letting out, and we are met with the return of teenager Walt.  Locke points out that Walt doesn’t seem surprised to see him, to which Walt explains that he’s been dreaming of Locke back on the island, dressed in a suit and tie, surrounded by people who want to hurt him.  Locke inexplicably brushes this off, and then, despite his instructions, tells Walt nothing of his imminent return to the island, explaining that Walt’s been through enough.  Now, is this merely an escape for the writers, so as not to have to deal with writing older Walt into the script, or this yet another example of Locke’s “leading” and “following orders,” only doing both incorrectly, and essentially exercising free will?  After all, he just recently failed to move the island as instructed, and instead had Ben do it.  3) Locke then visits Hurley in the Santa Rosa hospital where Hurley is “recovering.”  This scene begins interestingly enough, with Hurley painting what appears to be a desert scene with pyramids and the Sphinx.  (While I noted the contents of the painting, I’ve got to give credit to my boy Doc Jensen, who pointed out that the word “sphinx” means “to strangle.”  Hmmmm, now why would that be of note?)  Hurley, too, refuses to return to the island, particularly once he sees Abbadon, who once visited Hurley in the hospital and claimed to be an Oceanic representative.  Abbadon, quite delicately, points out that John is “0 for 3” at this point, which leads to 4) Kate.  In perhaps the most gripping of these “recruitment” scenes, Terry O’Quinn is dynamite here, once again appearing as his shattered self when explaining to Kate that his anger and obsessions kept him from love.  (And in case you missed it, go back and watch Locke barely eke out the word “obsessions.”  It’s heart-wrenching.)  Fortunately, good ol’ Kate is there to pick him up, when she replies with, “Look how far you’ve come.”  Thanks for your help, woman.  The next stop is something of a detour, as Locke ends up at 5) The gravesite of Helen Norwood.  (Helen, by the way, is yet another famed name from The Odyssey, of course, which was referenced last episode in regards to Ulysses.)  Her date of death, incidentally, was April 8, 2006, which translates to 4/8/06 (two more of the numbers).  Abaddon explains that Helen “is where she is supposed to be.”  John, however, is sure that if he had done things differently, she might still be alive.  Again, fate vs. free will.  Abbadon then points out, in reference to Alpert, that John has a choice as to whether or not he will die.  More on that later.  The visit at Helen’s grave doesn’t end all too well, though, as Abbadon is gunned down, John hops behind the wheel, and is inevitably (re)injured in a car accident, only to end up, finally, with 6) Jack.  While this might not have been Jack’s shining moment in terms of the acting, it was still quite interesting, as it served (we’ll find out) as the catalyst for Jack’s strange flights in attempting to rediscover the island.  In this scene, Locke once again tries to convince Jack of the island’s powers, and insists that they return, going so far as to point out that Christian said hello.  In what ends up being the final straw, Jack tells Locke that maybe “there’s nothing important about you at all.  Maybe you’re just an lonely old man.”  Oof!  So Locke has gone 0 for 6 (O6?), which leads to…

9. Locke’s Suicide.  Not only was this scene incredibly well shot, but downright eerie.  The pacing and exactness of Locke’s attempt to hang himself, as we know he inevitably does, was chilling.  And just as a hobbled Locke was about to take that last step off the table and hang himself with some extension cord, who should burst into his hotel room but Benjamin Linus.  Ben pleads with John, begging him not to do this.  He tells Locke that he must return to the island, that he is of great importance, that he is special.  He rejuvenates the soul of this shattered man and convinces him that, yes, he has not only worth, but value of the utmost extreme.  So again, we have a dejected Locke, manipulated, taken advantage of, sure he’d been lied to now by both Widmore and Ben, unsure of who or what to believe.  So what does he end up doing?  He removes his head from the noose and, with Ben’s help, gets down off the table.  And why?  Because Jack bought a plane ticket from Los Angeles to Australia?  No.  Because of Locke’s need — his downright want — to have a purpose.  But again, what are we seeing here?  I mean, Locke was told he would have to die, so isn’t he once again “disobeying” Alpert (who is connected to Ben) and exercising free will?  But then again, by strangling Locke (“sphinx”), isn’t this fate’s way of course-correcting?  I mean, as far as Locke knew, he needed to die in order to bring the others back.  And sure enough, this is exactly what will happen:  Locke will die and the others will return to the island.  But what of the man who murdered Locke?

10. Ben.  While it was clearly going to happen, the bigger question revolves around what triggered Ben to do it.  Was it Locke’s insistence that they not include Sun, per Locke’s promise to Jin (“Jin is alive?”), or was it Locke’s mentioning of Eloise Hawking, which clearly stunned Ben?  Either way, there was no doubt a genuine sorrow on Ben’s part after he took Jin’s ring (so that’s how he got it) and pulled the door shut, explaining that he would truly miss Locke.  And finally…

11. Locke Reborn.  So here we are, back on the island, and Locke and Cesar are having a little sit-down in the Hydra Station, where Locke informs Cesar that the symbol on the island refers to something called the Dharma Initiative.  And while even though I do think that some of Locke’s news to Cesar — such as his being there before for 100 days — may have been news, there is NO way I think Cesar didn’t have some type of previous information regarding the DI.  Unless, of course, Cesar, Elana and the rest of Ajira 316 are the recycled version of Oceanic 815.  And perhaps Oceanic 815 was the recycled version of a group of people who came to the island before them.  And perhaps all of these previous versions will somehow get us back to one of the first versions:  the people on the Black Rock.  But I digress.  Cesar explains to Locke that some of the people on the plane outright disappeared, and everyone else, except for the pilot (Lapidus) and a woman who ran off, was back on the beach, save the injured people.  And among the injured survivors of 316?  Why, Ben Linus, of course, who obviously would not have disappeared with Jack and crew, as he was not meant to ever return to the island after turning the wheel.  Isn’t that right, Mr. Locke?  And, of course, I’d be remiss not to reprint the final line of the episode.  John, in staring at an injured, sleeping Ben, informs Cesar that “He’s the man who killed me.” 

Okay, I’ve got to call it a day.  I was a bit underwhelmed by this episode, in that I suppose my hopes for a Locke-centered episode about the events leading up to his death were unfairly high.  Still, a good job of “filling in the holes,” and demonstrating the broken spirit of a man yet again.

Until next time, have at it, you vultures!

BD

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