Posted by: cousinbrandon | April 8, 2009

LOST – Season 5, Episode 12: “Death is Death”

There are those Thursday mornings when I find myself chomping at the bit to get started on my LOST recap, armed with newfound tidbits of knowledge, information, theories, Easter Eggs, and mind-altering exposition.  And then, unfortunately, there are days like these, where my brain is so unbelievably overwhelmed by the daily minutia that I can’t even fathom where to begin.  Fortunately, I’m a nerd, and I simply cannot watch LOST without pen pressed to paper.  So thank you, former teachers, for instilling in me the notion of copious amounts of note-taking.  Granted, I did such little studying and referring back to those notes in my school days, but thank you nonetheless.  And with that, folks, I give you “Dead is Dead,” the latest Ben-centric episode, which kicked off with…

1. The Man On Horseback.  We open with (as I immediately and correctly assumed) Charles Widmore, gallantly riding a horse through the jungle and directly into the Others’ camp.  He enters one of the huts, where young Ben is recovering from a gunshot wound.  Widmore questions Richard Alpert, wanting to know why he brought the child here.  Alpert explains that Jacob wanted it done, saying, then, that “The Island chooses who The Island chooses.”  And, incredibly, this seems explanation enough for Widmore, clearly indicating that not only was Jacob present in 1977, but even Charles Widmore is his subservient.  Interesting, to, the association between Jacob and The Island, particularly in light of what takes place at the end of the episode, but I’ll get to that later.  We’ve got ways to go first, including the next scene…

2. Locke and Ben, 2007.  Ben wakes up from his unconscious state in the sick ward, where a grinning Locke is sitting over him.  Ben appears to be legitimately shocked to see that Locke’s alive, yet tells Locke, “I knew this would happen.”  Locke wants to know why Ben returned to the island, to which Ben responds, “I came back to be judged.”  Locke, of course, wants to know who will be responsible for the judging.  “We don’t have a name for it,” explains Ben, “but I believe your people call it ‘The Monster’.”  Clearly, Ben is referring to our pal, Smokey.  Locke doesn’t fully believe Ben, but that, too, we’ll get at later.  (And for the record, how does anyone believe anything out of Ben’s mouth at this point?  I mean, even his truths are intentional, in that manipulation is not always the result of lying.  The guy’s a stinkin’ genius.)  Staying in 2007, we cut to…

3. The Crate.  Locke is looking out into the ocean.  Ben, in the meantime, inquires as to what’s in the large, silver crate that’s washed up on the beach, yet doesn’t get a clear answer.  Instead, he introduces himself to Ceasar, who wants to know why Locke said Ben killed him.  Ben, of course, tries to manipulate Ceasar, and insists that Locke must be crazy.  What’s more, he points out that he doesn’t remember seeing him on the plane, and suggests, instead, that Locke was already on the island.  I believe this is referred to as “putting the wheels in motion.”  And speaking of Ben on the beach, we cut to…

4. Ben Linus, Adoptive Father.  A young Ben (not mini-Ben, but pre-purge Ben) is on the beach, cowering behind some bushes along with a teenaged Ethan.  (In Ethan’s case, the character is portrayed by an actor who is not the actual Ethan.  In Ben’s case, unfortunately, Michael Emerson merely sports a bad wig.)  Ben enters the tent of (young) Rousseau, yet is shocked to find a baby inside, as well.  (In the process of entering, incidentally, Ben knocks over the famed music box, which we’ve seen numerous times before.)  Ben picks up the baby and tells Rousseau that should she try to follow him, he will kill her.  Interestingly, he also tells Rousseau that “Every time you hear whispers, you run the other way.”  So, we not only see how Ben came to “obtain” Alex (it was just like he told Keamy; he stole her), but we’re informed that whispers, essentially, equal Others.  I mean, this isn’t necessarily new information, but I believe it’s the first time an Other ever acknowledged it as fact.  Meanwhile…

5. The Hydra.  Ben, circa 2007, is frantically looking through old files in his office before uncovering what he was looking for:  a photograph of him and Alex.  Locke enters, sits down at the desk, and asks about the elephant in the room.  “I’m assuming,” says Ben, “you’re referring to the fact that I killed you.”  We then learn that Ben did, in fact, kill Locke because it was the only way to bring him and the rest of the 06 back to the island, and that he simply didn’t have time to talk Locke into hanging himself again.  In other words, it’s pretty much what we all speculated:  Ben killed John once he got the information he needed, and knew that John would have to die in order to bring the rest of them back.  Right.  I think.  In any event, Ben explains that his actions were in the best interest of the island.  A smug John Locke, who is still sharply clad in a suit and exuding confidence, responds, “If everything was in the best interest of the island, I’m sure the monster will understand.”  Um, when did Locke get all self-assured, and where did he find that poop-eating grin?  I guess that’s what death (and subsequent reincarnation) does to a man.  Locke, of course, seeks to accompany Ben to be judged, which leads them to…

6. The Outrigger.  Back on the beach, Locke and Ben are uncovering one of the boats in order to take it over the main island.  Ceasar, seemingly heeding Ben’s warning that Locke isn’t to be trusted, insists he’s in charge.  He orders Locke to stop and tells him and Ben they’re not going anywhere.  Ceasar reaches for his gun, only to discover that Ben snatched it.  Ben clearly manipulated Ceasar, but not, perhaps, in the manner we thought, as his intention was to get Ceasar’s gun.  Ben shoots Ceasar and tells Locke, “Consider that my apology.”  Now, let me first point out that there’s no way Ceasar is dead.  Why?  Two reasons:  A) Ceasar’s on the island, a place where people miraculously heal, even from gunshot wounds; and B) There’s no way his character was introduced only to die a couple episodes later.  He’s not a Dr. Arzt or a frogurt in that way.  Ben and Locke then arrive at the dock on the main island, where they find another boat tied off.  Ben explains that it must be the boat Sun and Lapidus took. Meanwhile…

7. Ben’s Baby.  Pre-purge Ben returns to the Others’ camp with baby Alex.  Widmore, also sporting some weird hair to indicate that he’s much younger than the Charles Widmore we’ve all come to love/hate, is awaiting him.  Ben tells Widmore he didn’t kill Rousseau because she had a child, something Widmore didn’t tell Ben.  Widmore insists Ben should have killed both Rousseau and the baby, to which Ben replies, “Is killing this baby what Jacob wants?”  (Twice, now, in this episode we’ve seen it lorded over Widmore that Jacob calls the shots.)  Ben, demonstrating a strong paternal instinct, is clearly affected by the baby, and tells Widmore he should kill her.  Widmore, instead, walks away.  Based on Ben’s history with his own mother (and father), we start to not only understand where this instinct in Ben comes from, but suddenly view him as an almost sympathetic character, and perhaps not the monster we thought him to be.  Well, not totally, anyway.  And then we cut back to…

8. The Barracks.  Locke asks Ben if it was his idea to move his people into the barracks, yet, if memory serves, he doesn’t get an actual response.  Suddenly, a light goes on in Ben’s old house, and we can see a figure move across the window, a la Christian a couple episodes back.  Ben enters the house and we see Locke, Hurley and Sawyer’s game of Risk still sitting on the living room table.  Ben proceeds to the bedroom.  He opens the door to find Frank and Sun, fortunately not mid-coitus.  Sun wants Ben to explain the picture she’s holding of the Dharma Initiative circa 1977, which contains Kate, Hurley and company.  She tells Ben the picture came from Christian, and that they were told to wait for Locke.  Sun realizes, though, it’s impossible, since Locke’s dead, right?  Well, perhaps not.  Ben explains that Locke’s outside.  Sun looks out and spots Locke, who waves at her through the window.  Lapidus is insistent about returning to the plane, yet Sun contends that Locke can find Jin, and she can’t give up if it means giving up on finding Jin.  Meanwhile, Locke provokes Ben to summon Smokey.  Ben enters the “secret” room behind the closet, which appears to be quite old.  He reaches into a large puddle of water and removes a stopper, of sorts, allowing the water to spiral out and apparently set things in motion.  Ben exits the house, not sure as to when Smokey will appear.  Sun is understandably suspicious, and accuses Ben of knowing this would happen if they brought Locke back.  Ben, apparently still as in the dark as the rest of them, says, “Dead is dead.  You don’t get to come back from that, not even here.”  Locke emerges from the bushes, wondering as to the whereabouts of Smokey.  And because Ben doesn’t know where Smokey is, Locke simply explains that they’ll have to go to it.  But how did Ben get such control and knowledge of the Island?  Well, it probably had something to do with… 

9. The Banishing.  We see a post-purge Ben (I think) pushing Alex on a swing set outside of the barracks.  Richard approaches and warns Ben that if he pushes too hard she’ll fly right off the island.  (Was it me, or did there seem to be a bit of tension between the two of them after this comment?)  Richard informs Ben that “he’s” leaving, and we cut to the dock, where Charles Widmore is being led to The Galaga (the sub) via “military escort.”  Charles was not only being stripped of his “position” as leader, but being made to leave the island, as he broke the rules by not only leaving the island, but having a daughter there (Penny) with an outsider.  (Incidentally, have we ever met Penny’s mom?)  Charles warns Ben that he can’t fight the inevitable — that if the island wants you gone, you’re gone.  If only he knew how right he was.  And speaking of the Widmores, we then find…

10. Our Mutual Friend.  Or “Our Mutual Friend.”  Or Our Mutual Friend.  Remember how we all of us were sure that Ben murdered Penny before returning to the island?  Well, maybe not.  Ben is at the docks, where he calls Charles Widmore to tell him he’s staring at “Our Mutual Friend.”  The “friend” in question is Penny, Widmore’s daughter.  As Ben explains to Charles, he aims to kill his daughter and then return to the island.  Now, the words “Our Mutual Friend” are interesting for three reasons:  A) Penny, in this case, is their mutual friend, or their mutual interest, in any case; B) “Our Mutual Friend” is the name of Penny and Desmond’s boat, which came from; and C) Our Mutual Friend, the Charles Dickens book Desmond was saving to read before he died (which, incidentally, was the last book Dickens wrote), the book which contained the failsafe key he would one day turn inside the hatch.  But before Ben can carry out his plan, he is interrupted by Desmond.  Ben shoots at Desmond, who is seemingly hit by the bullet.  Ben pulls the gun on Penny, but before he can shoot her, as well, little Charlie emerges from below deck.  Clearly stunned and pulled back to the incident with Rousseau and Alex, Ben lowers his gun, only to be attacked by a seemingly dead Desmond.  Des hands Ben quite a whoopin’ before dumping him into the bay.  Well, I guess that explains the bruising and sling Ben sported upon boarding the plane.  One question, though:  who pulled him out of the bay?  I mean, he didn’t look like he was any position to recover from the beating he took, so why didn’t Ben just drown?  Or am I going too far in assuming he should have drowned?  I mean, maybe Penny decided that she couldn’t just watch this man die?  And by the way, didn’t Ben shoot Desmond?  Anyway…

11. Trek to the Temple.  En route to the temple, Locke points out that Ben “doesn’t like following someone,” and that he “doesn’t like not knowing the answers.”  “Now you know what it was like to be me.”  For the first time, we get the sense that Ben genuinely doesn’t know what’s happening, and perhaps, despite his ability as a master manipulator, couldn’t have orchestrated all of this.  Right?  Right???  Hmmm.  I mean, even though I get the impression that things weren’t unfolding in the manner Ben knew they would, they were ultimately unfolding in a way he foresaw.  I could be wrong on this, but if there’s one person on this show who doesn’t subscribe to “accidents,” it’s Ben Linus.  (And by the way, what are we to make of Locke in this scene?  Again, this is a man who, his whole life, has been taken advantage of, who has been lost.  Only in his death (and rebirth) does he now exude utter and complete confidence.)  They arrive at the temple, or the temple wall, that is.  According to Ben, the wall was constructed to keep people out.  (I wonder, then, what the actual temple will look like, and if it’s actually as “old” as everthing else appears to be.)  Now, perhaps the most interesting element to follow was this:  they’re not going into the temple; rather, they’re going under it.  First, how does Locke know to go under the temple?  How does he know that’s where Smokey resides? And second, the mere metaphor of going under or “down” alludes to Hades or Dante.  And in alluding to Hades (or Hell), you can’t escape the notion of alluding to death, as well.  Now, since Ben was brought to the temple as a child by Richard, and it was said that he would forget everything and lose his innocence, what if Ben (like Locke) actually died and was reborn?  Stay with me.  A major motif of late has been Egypt and reincarnation.  I mean, these themes have been everywhere, most noticeably personified by one Richard Alpert.  Well, in my main man Doc Jensen’s most recent column, he includes this email from one of his readers, and I downright love it, sans the Wikipedia mention:

Have you ever heard of the Egyptian Book of the Dead? If not, I really suggest you dive right into it. Here’s a summary from wikipedia.org about the first two sections: ‘Chapters 1-16: The deceased enters the tomb, descends to the underworld, and the body regains its powers of movement and speech…. Chapters 17-63: Explanation of the mythic origin of the gods and places, the deceased are made to live again so that they may arise, reborn, with the morning sun.’ Oh, and Chapter 125? ‘The Declaration of Innocence!’ Reborn with the morning sun?’ The Egyptian sun god was Ra, and Richard Alpert’s initials are RA….

Richard Alpert?  R.A.?  RA?  Holy hell!  Sorry, but there’s no escaping the significance of the first and surname of Mr. Eyeliner himself.  (And the eyeliner, incidentally, was an ancient Egyptian normality, as well.)  Anyway, back to the temple wall for just a moment.  Before Ben finally descends, he tells sun to tell Desmond Hume he’s sorry, and in the following scene we found out why.  So, Sun, Ben and Locke are on hand, which leaves…

12. Frank Lapidus.  Poor, confused Frank returns to the beach on his own, where Ilana and her gun-toting pals are still enamored with the silver crate.  Mutually confused, Ilana asks Frank an all too normal question, comparable to “What did one snowman say to the other?”:  “What lies in the shadow of the statue?”  This, of course, rang like some type of coded riddle, but also seemed to have a literal quality to it, as if she was waiting for a legitimate answer.  Frank, of course, had no idea to what she was referring, as was greeted with the butt of her gun to this forehead.  So, could she be referring to the four-toed statue?  Does this mean Ilana is not at all who she appeared to be, and is, in fact, absolutely familiar with the island, or at least with its mythology?  Could Ilana and pals be “the impending war” Widmore warned Locke about earlier this season?  We then cut over to our final scene of the night, which I like to call…

13. Judgment Day.  Locke and Ben enter the grounds beneath the temple, and Ben admits that, yes, Locke was right; he’s actually there to be judged for Alex’s death.  “I did kill Alex,” says Ben, “and now I have to answer for that.”  Ben continues forward before falling through the floor into a lower chamber, where he finds several columns covered in hieroglyphics.  He walks in front of a wall panel with glyphs of a “creature” being summoned.  Shortly thereafter, Smokey emerges from several holes at Ben’s feet and completely envelops him.  In the “cloud,” Ben sees moments from his life — particularly those pertaining to Alex — flash before him.  (Unfortunately, though, the effects were, um, horrible, and despite the fact that the moment itself was completely supernatural, the poor visuals were unbelievably distracting and took me out of the moment.  Damn you, CGI!)  Smokey then dissipates, and in its wake is Alex, or at least what appears to be Alex (i.e., Smokey appearing to Mr. Ecko as Yemi).  “Alex” grabs Ben and throws him against one of the columns.  In a rather interesting moments, she says, “I know you’re planning to kill John again.”  Wow!  What’s more, she tells Ben that he must follow John’s lead and do exactly as he says.  It’s a wonder, then:  are Jacob and Smokey (and the Island, even) all one in the same?  I mean, probably not, but who (or what) is actually calling the shots here?  So, after “Alex” disappears, we find Locke lowering a vine to Ben, and asking him what happened.  And old bug-eyed Ben, in one of his typically great lines, says, “It let me live.”  Egad!

Well, that’s it for this week’s episode.  As always, have at it, you vultures!

BD

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