Last night’s episode didn’t seem to have as much fodder for discussion in it as recent episodes did (my post on it was shorter than normal), but it FINALLY gave us a glimpse of Sayid’s childhood, and contained in it what seemed like a crazy cliffhanger, but instead, I see it as the key to the series.
Quite simply, Ben’s not dead.
Dan asserts you can’t go back in time and change anything. I’m not sure if he’s right; after all, he’s just spouting the same rhetoric his mother had said, in her evil Mary Poppins voice. Maybe you can change events (so far, that doesn’t seem to be working out for anyone, so maybe he is correct). Even if Dan is wrong and you CAN go back and change the past, I think it makes for much, much better storytelling if Ben’s alive.
First, Michael Emerson. I can’t bear to lose him. If Ben is dead, Michael Emerson is gone. There’s no Ben in the future, he never lives past the age of whatever he is in this episode (Sayid says 12, I’m thinking 14 or 15), and there’s no need for an adult Ben anymore.
Secondly, pretty much everything in the last few years loses its punch if Ben’s not a part of it. From the person who manipulates Locke to the reason the freighter folk show up on the island, everything rests on Ben.
But mostly, I think Sayid’s purpose in going back to 1977 becomes NOT putting an end to Ben Linus, but actually turning him into the person he will become. He hangs his head and says, “You’re right; I am a killer,” and young Ben doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But 30 years later, the adult version of Master Linus will look at Sayid and say, “You’re a killer, Sayid.”
It’s not Roger who makes Ben the horrible person, it’s Sayid. He’s a little boy who is lost because of how his father treats him, and Sayid would like to think that Ben’s childhood is very much like his own, that Ben will grow up to turn into a torturing killer just like Sayid did. But maybe there’s a difference: Lots of kids, sadly, grow up in abusive homes. They’re not all ripping out people’s fingernails from the roots when they grow up. Maybe Ben would have grown up to be an adult who was broken, but certainly not a killer.
That is, not until he’s shot in the chest by a man who barely knows him. Sayid’s act could spark Ben’s entire existence. I’ve said often in my books that Ben always seems like he knows what’s going to happen next, and I speculated that he’s jumped around in time on the island and knew what was going to happen in advance because he’d already seen it happen. BUT… maybe he knows what’s going to happen because he’s going to glean it from the survivors, who will, in one way or another, tell him.
Here’s a possible scenario: Ben survives Sayid’s attempted execution, and realizes Sayid’s not one of the Others, but in fact, hates the Others. Ben grows up, Purges the DI (it’s the survivors who will give him the idea in the first place by telling him it’s going to happen; possibly even telling him he did it), becomes one of the Others, and sits back waiting for the Oceanic survivors to show up in their plane. When they do, he decides to destroy their lives for what Sayid did to him. That spinal cancer Ben had? Could it have been compounded from the bullet he got from Sayid as a child? Remember the first person “Henry Gale” faces off against in the Armory? None other than Sayid. Ben sits there and takes the beating, knowing that someday, he’ll deliver something SO much worse than what Sayid will dish out.
Ben will orchestrate the survivors getting off the island, he will kill Nadia, turn Sayid into a hitman, take everything away from him, and JUST as Sayid is putting his life back together, he’ll get him back on the island. And maybe there, he’ll dish out the worst he’s got.
I think Sayid mistook his purpose. He’s not there to destroy Hitler, he’s there to create him.
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.