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What Nikki Noticed: 5.12 “Dead Is Dead”

By Nikki Stafford,

  Filed under: Lost News
  Comments: 32

flsmall1I’m now switching to movie trailer man voice.

 

“In a world where bad television still exists, there are some episodes of television that make us wonder why we would ever bother with movies. Episodes like “The Constant,” “Through the Looking Glass, Part 2,” and “The Man Behind the Curtain,” so epic and groundbreaking that it makes Homer look like he just went to the variety store for cigarettes. Now comes a new episode to topple all others. [music swells, cut to Locke saying “Welcome back to the land of the living”… Ben shouting “Tell Desmond Hume I’m sorry!”… Desmond pummelling the crap out of Ben… Ben with Pee-Wee Herman/Alfalfa hair holding Alex and shooting into the sand… Ben pushing the bookcase away from the wall… Ben saying, “What’s about to come out of that jungle I can’t control”… music swelling as Penny yells, “Please don’t hurt my son!”… Smokey swirling around Ben’s ankles… Ben’s bloody face as he lands in the water…]

“One man returns to the island for the one thing he cannot get on the mainland [music suddenly halts, and Ben quietly says, “I came back to the island to be judged”… BOOM of the music]

“Dead Is Dead. Coming yesterday to a television near you.”

 

I swear I felt like I’d run a marathon when this episode finished. Bloody brilliant.

 

And SO much to talk about. But I should focus on one thing. (Me. Focus. That’ll be the day.)

 

So, I’m going to talk about Ben. (Shock.) Is he a good guy or is he a bad guy? Lost has always been about bad parenting, and the children who live as the results of what their parents have done for them, without them, or to them. The writers didn’t just insert all of the Oedipal stuff in there in the first couple of seasons for kicks – it’s important to realize that a child is formed by the things that happen to him/her. The Enlightenment philosopher John Locke believed that everyone was born a blank slate, and if we take that philosophy to be true, then what has been written on Ben – an alcoholic, distant, abusive father; being shot; being blamed for his mother’s death; a rebirth on the island that changed him – has been an epic poem.

 

Ben is a liar, pure and simple. He’s lied in just about every scene, whether he needs to or not. If you asked him his favourite colour, he’d probably say purple, even if it was blue… just to piss you off. But he was forced to lie early on. He was turned into one of the Others in his early adolescence, yet continued to be a double agent for them, re-integrating into the DI and pretending everything was fine. In the Others, he wore raggedy clothing; in the DI, he was a Work Man. In the Others, he had a baby daughter; he presumably left her behind when he went home to Dharmaville.

 

But what fans want to know is, is Ben good or is he bad? Is he Satan, or is he the Angel Gabriel? Is he really doing what’s best for the island, or what’s best for him? I’ve long maintained that he’s the good guy and Widmore the bad. In “The Life and Times of Jeremy Bentham,” we were led to believe that Widmore was the good guy (helping out good ol’ John Locke, saving his life) and Ben the evil little devil (helping out good ol’ John Locke by talking him out of suicide, only to strangle him the moment he wants to live again). But I believed that was purposely deceitful. And I still do. After last night’s episode, I’m pretty convinced of it.

 

Ben was transformed in the Temple, and was changed. Richard Alpert is not normal (most likely he’s as ancient as the hieroglyphs in the Temple). John Locke and Christian both came to the island as corpses, and are now walking around as very different people than who they were in life. But Widmore didn’t undergo a transformation, as far as we know. In 1954 he’s a scared young man, deferring to Alpert. In 1977 he comes riding into the camp on a horse, as if he’s running the Others camp, but not part of it, and he seems to use the rhetoric without any of the passion behind it, “Everything I did, I did for the island, yadda yadda yadda blah blah blah.” When Alpert lies and says Jacob told him to take Ben to the Temple, Widmore seems a little flustered, “Jacob, yes. Right. Of course. Jacob.” You can tell he’s never seen Jacob. Locke has. Richard has. Ben has. Christian has.

 

Widmore went off the island, made millions, and started a family. The island was like a getaway to him, a possession he wouldn’t let go of. But the island was everything to Ben; he went off the island in pursuit of things for it (or to hunt down anything that threatened it). When he says everything he did was for the island, I believe him. When he said in season 3 that he was born on the island, he means it – he’s referring to his rebirth in the Temple.

 

When Ben was ousted from the island by turning the FDW, he did everything he could to get back to it. When Widmore was banished from the island for breaking the rules (and then couldn’t find it again, leading me to believe someone turned the FDW to hide it from him, or maybe “The Incident” hid it from him), he first sent Desmond back as a guinea pig to find the island, then a plane full of people, then a freighter full of mercenaries. Now Ilana and her ilk look like they could be connected to Widmore, and if so, once again he’s sent in a gang with guns. Ben, on the other hand, took a chance and came back to the island himself. And not to make it his possession, but to be judged by it and accept whatever judgment it passed.

 

Widmore wanted Rousseau dead. Ben, wanting to prove himself, offered to do it. But when he realized Rousseau was a mother, he took the baby and sent Rousseau into hiding, knowing that if she were saddled with a baby, Widmore would find her and would kill them both. He raises Alex with as much love as if she were his own. He stole a woman’s baby – we can’t forget that. But maybe he didn’t realize what choice he had in the matter. Now, in the present, he marches up to kill Penny out of revenge. The moment he realizes she’s a mother, he hesitates. His mother died giving birth to him, and now he cannot kill another mother. Imagine what he must go through every time an Other gets pregnant on the island and dies.

 

The island is drawn to men of faith. Remember back in season 2, when Eko faced the smoke monster, he, too, was judged by it. First it showed him the painful moments of his life, and he just stared back hard in the face of it. Ben, on the other hand, breaks down when he has to rewatch Alex’s death. When Not-Yemi comes to Eko and tells him to repent, Eko refuses, saying he was given a certain life, and did the best he could with what he was given. Ben, on the other hand, apologizes to Not-Alex, admits to Locke that he really did kill her, and repents. The smoke monster lets him live. But it’s not so generous with Eko.

 

It has let him live, but it forces him to acknowledge that Locke is the man in charge, and the island’s true chosen one. Ben tested Locke in season 2. He tried to kill him in season 3. He followed him through the jungle and then took his place at the FDW in season 4. One would think he despises John, but I wonder if he’s recognized that he is a catalyst who must make things happen in order to save the island, but not the actual person who WILL save the island. When he turns to John just before turning the wheel, he apologizes for effing up his life (not the last 3 months, but his life, making us believe he’s been watching Locke for far longer). When he strangles Locke, he leaves the room and says to him, “I’m going to miss you John,” referring to the poor, broken, flawed John Locke he’s just killed, knowing that a new, confident, caustic John Locke will replace him.

 

After everything he’s done for the island, Ben is but an angel or an agent. John Locke, on the other hand, is seen as the true saviour. Will Ben accept that?

Nikki Stafford is the author of the Finding Lost series of books, which offer episode-by-episode guides to each season. The guide to season 4 is now available at Amazon.com. She posts regularly on her television blog, Nik at Nite. 

From TVFrenzy:

  • Jangras

    well well well.. too much to deal with, my beautiful Nikki…
    – locke’s definitely another person. He’s christianshephardly acting. I’m afraid he isn’t Locke anymore but some kind of ghost. I think we have a great clue here about the way storytelling is managed on Lost: we haven’t been told what happened to Christian, yet we’re brought to see it through the Locke Experience of ‘rebirth’. I’m looking for other examples of this way of telling one story ‘switching’ from different charachters.
    – In the opening scene widmore tells benny “just because you’re one of them (Dharma) doesn’t mean you can’t be one of us”. Weird he uses the same words describing Jack’s tattoo. Any possible connection here?

    • Heidi

      Jack’s tatto was actually “He walks among us but he is not one of us”, very good memory connection there, it seems to be another mirror item, makes sense from the DHARMA perspective of Ben.

  • Tyler Brent

    Possible theory that might make Ben neither evil nor good. More of a pawn in a greater struggle. Kinda a spoiler, maybe, so be careful.

    http://www.eleventhdraft.com/blog?id=338

    • icyone

      IMDb is like wikipedia without the oversight. Anyone can put anything on IMDb, and I haven’t seen this information anywhere else. Fake as faketown. The “very important role” that page mentions has already been cast and its not the actor mentioned.

  • Ben’s actions to protect the Island is actually not about protecting the Island, they are to gratify his sociopathic persona.

    Ben’s claim to be judged was only issued as a way to trick Locke into being a target of Smokey. For now, that backfired to some extent. If his vow to obey Locke is followed, then it is because the show’s creators have chosen to change a major part of their original plan for Lost because of the BenLovers.

    It is my hope that Ben remains one of the most evil, despicable villains ever seen on television and continues to betray the Island and anyone in his way to self-gratification.

    Ben not dying during this episode is a major flaw that will weaken the show’s durable quality.

    • icyone

      “If his vow to obey Locke is followed, then it is because the show’s creators have chosen to change a major part of their original plan for Lost because of the BenLovers.”

      Can you go into depth on the original plan for Lost and how this changes a major part? Kinda of presumptuous on your part to say that what happened on Wednesday wasn’t always intended.

    • marc

      SMITTY u are so ridiculous, you talk as if you were fired from the writing staff of the show. Don’t you think if ben wanted locke dead that badly he would have just shot him with that shot gun he was holding rather then try to trick him into seeing the smoke monster?

      How would you know what the original plan is or isnt? Why do you watch this show? Why do you come to this site? Stop being a hater. Get a life, if you dont like the show stop watching and stop telling us about it.

      • neoloki

        Ditto. Thanks marc.

        • Gjay

          double ditto

  • “…referring to the poor, broken, flawed John Locke he’s just killed, knowing that a new, confident, caustic John Locke will replace him.”

    I dunno if I agree with that. I mean, based on what he first says to Lock, when he comes to, it sure sounded like that. But then later, when’s talking to Sun outside of his old house, he seems to confide in her that he was completely surprised that Ben returned from the grave (whence the title, “Dead Is Dead”). Now obviously, he’s lying to someone. And since apart from the oar, Sun isn’t as much of a threat to Ben (and because the Sun conversation came after the Locke conversation… and “LOST” likes to present one thing and then change it later), I just assumed that was meant to imply he was lying to Locke.

    Thoughts, anyone?

  • Ben

    I don’t agree that it is a different Locke. Maybe I’m just misremembering, but he seemed to be acting similarly back in season one.

    • In season 1, he was confident because he’d “seen into the eye of the island, and what he saw was beautiful,” to paraphrase him. Then his faith was broken at the end of the season when he once again saw the eye of the island and it was a monster. Then again when he didn’t push the button. Then again when he was shot (and almost committed suicide). And the last time he drew breath, he was putting a rope around his neck and declaring himself a failure, crying because his life had no purpose. Now he’s leading Ben around the island, confidently striding around knowing exactly where he’s going (how did he know how to get to the Temple wall?) whereas the last time he was on the island he was sort of running around blindly. Remember his bafflement and frustration when he couldn’t find Jacob’s cabin?

      You could be right, but I think he’s a different person now that he’s undead.

      • Jangras

        Agree with Nikki: he’s kind of omniscent now.
        Btw, if it was really, that would be the real death of the character John Locke as we know it. It would be sad if he turned out to be like Chris Shep, cause I don’t find this character to be that interesting, though it is all based on mystery.
        I love Locke as a human being.

  • Jacy

    Priestybear, I agree that he was lying to Locke. I believe he was completely surprised that John was “alive” on the island. Ben did not come back to the island to be judged, he came back for his own purposes. He was perfectly willing to forget the whole Smokey-judgement thing when he couldn’t call the smoke monster. John called his bluff and also got Ben to admit that Ben was responsible for Alex’s death, not Widmore or Keamy.

    When it dawned on Ben, that John was now very, very special and could find the smoke monster, he had to go along with John. Once there, Ben became genuinely remorseful about Alex, but the smoke monster knew (and said as much as Alex) that Ben still wanted John dead and would try to kill him again. So Smokey looking like Alex put the fear of god into Ben.

    • Actually, I think Ben knows deep down that Locke is the chosen one, and he’s been putting him through a series of tests. He shot him in season 3. Not to kill him (he would have shot him in the heart or head if he wanted him dead instantly, and he was close enough to have aimed and hit wherever he wanted to) but in the stomach. When Locke lurched into the camp the next day when Ben was tied to the tree, the look on Ben’s face speaks volumes. Then they bicker throughout season 4, but Ben stays with Locke, and then usurps his position at the wheel. He kills Locke to get him back to the island as the final test. As in, if this man lives, he is the chosen one. If not, the island was wrong.

      If he really didn’t want him to live again, why bring him back to the island at all? Why keep the body cold in the meat locker? Why worry about preservation? Clearly he knew Locke had a chance of coming back to life. Yes, he’s surprised to see him there, but as he put it, it’s one thing to believe, it’s another thing to see it. Millions of people believe in God. But if God suddenly appeared to them in their bedrooms, do you think they’d just casually wave at Him and say, “hey”? No, they’d be as shocked as Ben was. It’s a confirmation of belief, and still worthy of shock. I think he’s lying to Sun.

      • Jacy

        I think that Ms Hawking told Ben that Locke had to go back. It wasn’t Ben’s idea to bring him back. You have a point about the preservation although I think it was just the right thing to do until you can get him “buried”.

        If Ben really wants Locke alive, why is he trying to kill him again?

        • Lego

          I agree. If Ben was just testing locke he would have accepted locke’s resurrection as the final sign. Smokey wouldn’t have to tell been to stop his new plan to kill John.

  • Steven

    One small nitpick. He didn’t steal Alex until AFTER the purge…so he wouldn’t have had to leave her anywhere when he went back to Dharmaville because he didn’t go back. If I remember correctly, they killed off Dharma in the early 80s, and Alex was just 16 in 2004. That means Rousseau and crew arrived on-island around 1988, clearly after the purge.

    Again, not a big issue, but it does clarify one piece to your column…which is great btw.

    • Zonker

      Nope. The Purge has been dated to 1992, based on Horace telling Locke (albeit in a dream) “I’ve been dead for 12 years.” Now some people want to discount this dream, or cast it as a time loop, but there is another problem with portraying the Purge as happening in the 1980s:

      Desmond’s old Swan mate Kevin Inman served in Desert Storm (we saw him in Sayid’s flashback). Then was recruited into Dharma. It would be very odd to think Dharma was still bringing new recruits in to the Swan station even after the main group had been Purged from the barracks, etc.

  • chad

    Nikki you are awesome… These were all the thoughts I have been thinking! Great writing! Ben is the man, he is good (or as good as anyone gets on Lost)… This was poetry..

  • Roger Workman

    I’ve long stated thaty Ben isn’t a “BAD guy.” From the beginning LOST has been as fuzzy gray as its opening Title. For example we’ve seen Sun as a meek abused wife in a loveless marriage only to find that that flower has thorns and isn’t the meek girl we thought she was. That’s one example but every character has been shown in both a dark and bright light.

    Ben has been unfairly judged bad because he was an “other” but not just an other “The Other.” Ben has been painted “BAD” beacuse he lies and manipulates. However, he does this for the ultimate goal and the ultimate good here, which is of course the island.

    Ultimately, “Dead Is Dead” has put the definitive light on Ben — he’s a good guy. Smokey had a chance to judge him and the only thing it showed Ben — presumably the only thing the Monster had an objection to — was his relationship with Alex. And unlike Eko who showed no remorse nor any regret for his actions (although he felt he was right) Ben absolutely did and was given a deserved reprieve.

    Ben Linus is a good guy!

    • icyone

      Good and bad are relative to each person. Smokey may only be concerned with Ben’s actions regarding the welfare of the island and judge him appropriately.

      It doesn’t mean Ben is good or bad, but that Smokey approves. It’s akin to you having a friend that you significant other doesn’t like. You think he’s a good friend, she thinks he’s a jerk.

  • Jangras

    Hey guys nothing about ETHAN? We left him that he looked like Maggie Simpson in 1977 and HE WAS IN THE DHARMA and we found him in 1990 lookin like Bart Simpson LIVING WITH THE HOSTILES.
    Was he stolen? Was he convinced by Ben to join the Hosties? Did he survive the Purge? Was Amy an infiltrate from the Hostiles?

  • Dolce

    Great article. Loved the movie trailer intro. I was picturing it as I was reading.

  • cap10tripps

    I’m starting to think that Smokey is Locke. Locke mysteriously disappeared and returned just as Ben says, “I can’t control what comes out of that jungle.” Then Locke knows the way to the underworld, and subsequently disappears while Ben is judged. Perhaps it is certain people’s destiny to be the human form of this “god.” Jacob (who was the vanishing human form of Smokey) says, “Help me.” The only one who hears this is Locke, because it is his destiny to be Smokey (who will eventually have a more appropriate name). Richard and the others look to John to light the way for a very good reason. He was destined to be (and now is) a deity…

    • Phil

      I’ve read this before too, but I don’t think it’s right–Locke watches the Smoke Monster attack the mercenaries from the freighter at the end of season 4, remember? If it IS Locke, then it’s Locke in the future or Locke in the past, not OUR Locke.

  • Summertime

    Hey, Nikki.
    Another great recap!

    I am with you about Widmore and why/how he got to be “The” Other. And you put it perfectly that Widmore considers the Island his possession.

    Nikki said: “he first sent Desmond back as a guinea pig to find the island, then a plane full of people, then a freighter full of mercenaries. Now Ilana and her ilk…”

    Widmore Industries also was one of the sponsors of Henry Gale’s Balloon!
    How many people has he sent to the island?

    Nikki said: “When Widmore was banished from the island for breaking the rules (and then couldn’t find it again, leading me to believe someone turned the FDW to hide it from him, or maybe “The Incident” hid it from him)”

    And I had another idea about Widmore. It may also explain the apparent timing problem with him repeatedly saying he had been looking for the Island for almost 20 years. What if Widmore was looking for the Island before he even left the Island?! We don’t know how Widmore, Ben, Richard, Tom, etc., travel off the Island. Maybe the mechanism has nothing to do with the traveler knowing where the Island is physically. So even when Widmore was using this mechanism to travel to and from the Island, he may not have know where the Island was physically. Or like Mrs. Hawking said “where it was in time”. Lostpedia connects Widmore to Hanso who is connected to DHARMA. What if Widmore had something to do with DHARMA? I wonder how DHARMA knew so much about the Island. They built Dharmaville directly over Smokey’s chamber? Where did they get the information about the ‘unique properties” and the “exotic matter”? When was the sonic fence built? Did DHARMA know about Smokey and the Others before they even arrived?
    Oh and about his off Island family? The actress who plays Penny was born in 1974. That was like 20 years before Widmore was banished. 20 years?! No wonder the Others were so pissed off! lol

    I posted a comment about this theory on another site, but didn’t get any replies. Am I crazy?

    Thank you, Nikki for explaining so perfectly Ben’s reasons for coming back to the Island and Widmore’s. And the differences between Eko being judged by Smokey and Ben being judged by Smokey. You said it PERFECTLY!

    @Jangras – Great connection with Jack’s tattoo and what Widmore said to Young Ben!
    Not a perfect match, but still a great catch!

    @Jacy – I agree that it seems to me like Ben didn’t know John’s body had to go back until Mrs. Hawking told him. (I bet he forgot all about John’s body until after he talked to her. Then got Jack’s attention with the obit) And we know Locke had to die because Richard told John that in one of the flashes, right? And do we presume Richard knew that because that flash was in the future after Locke told him the story of how he got back? Sorry, didn’t mean to open a can of worms with that…

    I am still on the fence with whether or not Ben expected Locke to be resurrected when he got back on the Island. I can see it both ways.

    Thank you again Nikki for the great recap!

  • Phil

    You bring up good points that I almost 100% agree with.

    But there’s a small part of me that thinks we’re missing something obvious…

    Why are we assuming that the Smoke Monster is a good guy? Remember when Ben said, “You don’t know the first thing about what this island wants.” ? That makes me think the island, like all the characters on the show, is not all good or all bad but motivated by something that we have not been shown yet.

  • Lego

    I disagree with:

    “he first sent Desmond back as a guinea pig to find the island, then a plane full of people, then a freighter full of mercenaries. Now Ilana and her ilk…”

    How the hell could Widmore have predicted that Desmond would find the island?

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