Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Redemption and other things to mull over

Last night's episode, "Dr Linus", was a magnificent episode. Not because of any "answers" it provided or any myth development (though there was some of that too). No, it was magnificent because of the acting and the characters in it. It showcased Ben and Michael Emerson at their absolute finest. Also, it showed us that Ilana, who has basically been a mysterious dark-haired maybe-know-it-all, has the capacity for something we don't see a lot of in the Lost-verse: forgiveness.

There has always been a strong undertow of redemption in Lost. People have speculated since season 1 whether the island is some kind of purgatory or a place where the lost, troubled souls of the 815 passengers have a chance to, yes, redeem themselves. The makers of the show have said again and again that it's NOT purgatory of course, but that doesn't mean the island doesn't have elements of purgatory and redemption.

Sawyer's changed from a selfish con-man bastard to a good man and lately, maybe, back to a bastard again (though I doubt it). Jin and Sun are on better terms than they ever were before the island. Rose was cured of her cancer. Desmond's life was saved by Locke finding the hatch (and maybe finding Desmond also saved, and cursed, Locke as well). But no single moment in the entire show has been so cathartic and redemptive and brimful of grace as the scene in the jungle between Ben and Ilana.

When Ben was tempted by Smokey to run, grab the gun and kill Ilana, I was sure Ben would at least try it. And he did. Kind of. Except that he didn't pull the trigger and neither did she. And then Ben did what he never does: he spilled his guts for real: in desperation yes, but also I think because he was exhausted. He's seen Alex killed, he's killed Locke and he has killed Jacob. In hindsight he regrets every one of those deaths. And Miles revelation that Jacob was hoping Ben would NOT kill him seemed to wound him as well. Like it had been a test and he'd failed.

So he spills his guts to Ilana and ends it with the pathetic confession that he's only joining Smokey because no one else will have him. No one else will have this twisted, self-serving, manipulative, lying, murderous bastard. Ben, the man who killed his own father, killed his friends and colleagues in Dharma and threw them in a pit to rot, killed Locke in cold blood, killed Jacob, stalked Juliet's every waking moment... that Ben. The Ben who watched Keamy kill Alex instead of offering himself in her stead. But Ilana says the magic words. She says "I'll have you." It was maybe the most religious moment ever in Lost, and I mean that in a good way. It was absolution for Ben, forgiveness, grace... And the way the two actors played the moment it was brilliant and heartbreaking and just right.

Ben grew up as the child who was not wanted, as the child who was blamed for his mother's death, who must always on some level have felt guilty to be alive. It is to Michael Emerson and the writers' credit that I can see that pitiful child in Ben, even when he's at his very worst and that I feel sorry for him even when I want people to whack him over the head.

Some other thoughts:

  • When Ben said "He changed the rules" in the episode The Shape of Things to Come, I used to assume he meant that Widmore changed the rules and allowed Keamy to kill Alex. Now I wonder if he meant Jacob. Did he think Alex was protected somehow by Jacob and then felt betrayed when she died? That would make the act of summoning Smokey as revenge even more interesting.
  • What does Jacob's touch do? According to Alpert, he has not aged because he received a gift/curse from Jacob. Also, he can't kill himself. He can die and he can be killed, but he can't kill himself. Just like Michael couldn't kill himself because the island wouldn't let him. Just like Widmore and Ben couldn't kill each other. Just like Ben couldn't kill Locke (at least not on the island). Just like all the losties survived a plane crash that should have killed them. Just like the dynamite did not kill Jack. Does Jacob's touch mean that you are somehow drawn to the island and also protected on it?

  • Is Jack now a man of faith? He seems to be. All that time the original Locke was telling him they were there for a reason and he didn't believe it. Remember Locke's note to Jack "I wish you had believed me." It's taken Jack this long to actually believe it and he needed to see the magic mirrors for it to really sink in. I am going to very interested in seeing this new Jack handle things on the island now.
  •  And finally: when will we find out wtf is up with Claire? She's gone from cupcake sweet to feral squirrel and in between we got her abandoning Aaron in the jungle and oddly content in the cabin with Christian. Smiling when the fact that her baby was NOT on the island was mentioned
CLAIRE: Hi, John.
LOCKE: What're you doing here?
CLAIRE: Don't worry. I'm fine. I'm with him.
LOCKE: Wh--where's the baby?
CHRISTIAN: The baby's where he's supposed to be, and that's not here. It's probably best that you don't tell anyone that you saw her.
LOCKE: Why? Why is she--
CHRISTIAN: We don't have time for this. The people from the boat are already on their way back, and once they get here, all of these questions won't matter one bit. So why don't you ask the one question that does matter?
LOCKE: How do I save the island?
 It does not compute for me yet. Did she forget all that? What? I wish they'd address it because it is seriously annoying the crap out of me that she is now so mad at people for taking care of the child SHE left in the jungle.

Screencaps thanks to Lostpedia and Lost-Media.

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