Last night’s episode gave several nods to some previous episodes, but mostly referred to two big ones, so this week I’m going to take a closer look at those references (I’ve done a more general analysis of the episode on my blog). There are some fans complaining that we didn’t get enough information on Bentham’s quest, and I’ll admit, I was surprised when I saw this episode title. My immediate thought was, “What, we’re only getting one episode to cover all that time?!” But I’m thinking the writers aren’t done with showing us Bentham’s work yet.
The two major episodes we need to revisit are season 3’s “Through the Looking Glass, Part 2” and “The Shape of Things to Come.” Let’s look at the more recent one first. In TSOTTC, Ben turns the wheel and is ejected from the island 10 months into the future, in Tunisia. He was injured right before turning the wheel, and he turns, throws up in the sand, and makes a tourniquet for his arm. He makes his way violently out of the desert, immediately gets his bearings, and involves Sayid in his master plan.
Locke turns the wheel and is ejected from the island 3 years in the future, in Tunisia. He’s broken his leg, he turns and vomits into the sand, and realizes people are watching him (just as the Arab guys immediately showed up when Ben landed in the desert, as if they’d been watching him a little more surreptitiously). Ben makes his way out of the desert on his own, but, in much the same way as the rest of Locke’s life, Locke is carried out of the desert, confused, and at the mercy of others. (Let’s give kudos to the mighty Terry O’Quinn in this episode… I’m not sure there’s a better actor on television right now.) Ben figures out his quest, Locke has his quest handed to him. But both men end up facing the same person: Widmore.
I think the final scene of TSOTTC between Widmore and Ben is one of the pivotal scenes in the series. Ben is lurking in the shadows, Widmore is bathed in white light. Watch the episode as if Ben’s the victim and Widmore is the bad guy, and you’ll come up with one picture. Reverse it, with white-light Widmore the good guy and Ben the baddie, and you get quite a different picture. But despite the use of light in this scene, I think both characters come down the middle. Like so many other powerful people in history, they have an agenda, and they don’t care who gets in their way. They don’t see themselves as evil, and many of them have ardent followers, but they’re going to get the job done. These two men face off in this brilliant scene (please give me many more scenes of Ben vs. Widmore… those two men on screen are electric together) hurling insults and threats at each other, with Ben threatening Widmore’s daughter and Widmore threatening his island.
But now we get Widmore’s side of the story, and he could be genuine, or he could be as big a liar as Ben. First, he says he was 17 in 1954, and was on the island for 30 years. That makes him 71 now, and if Penny is about 30 years old, then the suggestion is that she was born on the island. This begs the bigger question, asked by a few of my readers this morning: Is Penny really Widmore’s daughter? Could he have taken her just as Ben took Alex? Could she be… Ben’s daughter? (He could technically be 16 or 17 years older than she is, and that would make it possible; that or time travel could be involved.)
Ben’s actions in his final scene with Locke in “The Life and Death of Bentham” are as shifty as his threats to Widmore in TSOTTC. He seems to be there to save Locke’s life, but when Locke mentions Eloise Hawking, all bets are off. It’s like her name was the tip-off that Locke was in cahoots with Widmore, and Ben goes nuts.
Or could Ben be trying to save John? If John really is a Christ-like figure (last episode’s title, “316” referred to many things, among them John 3:16… Locke could be the island’s only begotten son), then he cannot commit suicide. He needs to die, according to Christian, but maybe Ben knew it couldn’t be by his own hand, and he needed to save his soul.
Or he’s a conniving little bastard and killed him out of fury.
The other episode that was referred to in this one was the season 3 finale. We see the obit in Jack’s hand, which last season seemed to be nothing more than a misleading prop, and now that we saw Locke’s passport said he was born in NY, we can see where the obit got that. As for where it got the idea that Locke had a teenage son, I suggested in my blog last week that perhaps Walt will be that son. Someone suggested this week that maybe Walt will be the one to find the body and will claim to be his son, or maybe Ben writes the obit and puts in that bit of info to throw people. Or maybe the prop department wasn’t very accurate with the obit.
But more importantly, we have the timing of Locke and Jack meeting up. I loved that scene in “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham,” and we can see Jack’s at the beginning of his downward spiral (and Fox is pretty amazing in this scene, seething with barely contained hatred for Locke). There seems to be a continuity error between this episode and the finale (either that or Locke’s body will be kept on ice for a REALLY long time). Locke meets with Jack in the hospital. That same night, he’s about to hang himself and Ben stops him, and tells him that Jack booked his first flight overseas, that Locke must have gotten to him. At the end of “Through the Looking Glass, Part 2,” Jack is holding the obituary and tells Kate that he’s been flying overseas “every Friday night” for a while, hoping the plane goes down. If he books his first flight the night Locke sees him, and is in full-beard capacity when he finds Locke’s obituary, it would appear a lot of time has passed. We’ve had to have months of Jack believing his father is alive somewhere, on that island, and Locke has seriously gotten to him. He’s got to go from insisting there’s no reason to return to becoming obsessed with going back to the island. And yet Locke dies at the beginning of the spiral, not at the end. Something isn’t adding up here.
But I know how carefully the writers are piecing things together, and they couldn’t have missed something as big as that (they’ve given me very good reason to have a lot of faith in them). There’s been too much build-up to just leave it like that. Not only that, but my biggest nitpick, as I pointed out on my blog, is the fact that at the end of season 4, we see the Oceanic 6 all referring to “Jeremy Bentham,” even in private conversations. Locke mentions it at the end of his conversation with Sayid; he’s only wearing a nametag with the name on it when he sees Hurley, he might have mentioned it to Kate but we don’t see him do so, and it was probably written on his medical sheets and Jack saw it. He never utters the name to Walt. There was no insistence… no, “You MUST call me Bentham at all times or something terrible will happen,” yet at the end of season 4, every off-island character is referring to him as Bentham. At the time I nitpicked it, saying if someone I knew closely suddenly changed his name completely, it would take me ages to switch my head around to calling that person a different name; hell, when entertainment arenas in Toronto change names it takes me a good half-decade to stop calling them by their old names. Yet they’re all calling him Bentham like it’s his real name, and he never made a big deal about it. Which turns it into nothing more than a plot device that was used to build up the big “BA-DUM!” surprise at the end of season 4 with Locke in the coffin.
So for that reason alone, I’m hoping this isn’t the last we’ve seen of this island philosopher.
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.