Earlier this season, I gave Lost co-creator JJ Abrams’ new show, Fringe, a two episode try-out. I was a huge X-Files fan and, of course, really dig Abrams’ myth-building skills (as evidenced by my devotion to this property) – so this show seemed right in my wheel house. Well, two episodes in and I couldn’t hack it. It felt like someone jammed my chocolate X-Files into their CSI peant butter and instead of it being a fresh, delectable treat it was one of those moldy movie theater snacks that a dollar theater will keep in the concessions case for 5 years past its Born On Date.
How’s that for an image? Well, I speak from experience, having the extreme misfortune of biting into a Reeses that had turned white during some midday matinee of Backdraft back at that old Cameo Theater in South Weymouth, MA sometime round high school graduation. Yeah, a long time ago and yet that bitter taste has never left me.
Maybe it’s hyperbole, but a show that looked like a sure fire hit for my sensibilities just left me cold.
Then, this past winter, as I was looking for something to keep me entertained, I decided to give Fringe a second shot. After all – I SHOULD LIKE THIS. Once again, I got two episodes in and bailed.
Well, this past week came news that has piqued my interest yet again. It appears that Abrams has tapped his Star Trek connections and nailed legendary Leonard Nimoy for that show’s Alvar Hanso – i.e. Their Man Behind The Curtain – their Big Bad Mystery Guy, William Bell. Essentially, he’s the crux to that show’s core mythology. And while one part of me wants to jump on board and see Nimoy carve a new iconic character (assuming Fringe lingers – which based on its decent ratings, is actually a good possibility) – the other part of me thinks that Abrams botched it.
Nimoy should be Jacob!!!
Heroes got Sulu. Fringe got Spock. We damn well better not get Chekov!!!
All right – enough of this side trip. Let’s get Lost.
1. Speaking of Men Behind the Curtain, after a few weeks of tying loose ends and some decent character development, we returned to the good old fashioned myth making that showrunners Damon Linderlof and Carleton Cuse are so adept at by returning to that bug-eyed bastard Ben and his ever-coiling deceptions and misdeeds. This was a great episode, co-written by the genius Brian K. Vaughan, that vividly painted a few major pieces of the evolving mosaic as well as provided some tantalyzing hints to the true nature of one of the show’s more fascinating characters. No – not Ben.
2. Locke!!! I’ve got a new theory that just hit me this morning as I was sweating alongside the oldies (let me tell ya’ fellas – If you’re single and seeking the Elder Cougar Crowd, there’s no better meat market than the YMCA ’round 9:00 a.m. EST). Fortunately, I made sure my wedding bling gleamed nice and bright to ward off any old crows, and in my solitude, I was able to reflect. Anyway, more on Locke in a bit.
3. Back to He Who Shall Remain Eyelash-Less. Geez – you’d think after all those years of bunking in Richard’s little Fort Wilderness, that dude would have shared some guyliner to accentuate Ben’s peepers. Or at least, spared him that unfortante page boy that the studio stylist slapped on his cabeza. Next week, I want Ben with a fauxhawk.
4. So, we got a lot of info on Ben and his relationship with Alex in this episode. For starters, in an episode that absolutely pinballed back and forth with Ben’s deceptive deeds (he played so many sides, I think at one point he was actually betting against himself) – we found that Ben did indeed have a heart. In fact, this called into question an issue we debated earlier this season regarding Charles Widemore and Ben. In that Locke-centric episode, we saw the current day Widemore confront Locke about the need to strike down the demon Ben from this world. Charles spoke a good game and I really started to see him as a sympathetic character. Last night’s episode acts as the Yin to that Yang, with Widemore coming across as a truly evil bastard and Ben showing some semblance of humanity in his past. Afterall – he may have done a host of nefarious things but he’s no baby killer.
5. In that scene where Ben ambushes Danielle in her hut, he left her with a curious warning. Before sparing her life and spoiling the baby, he tells her that if she ever hears whispers – that she must run for her life, or something along those lines. In an episode brimming with allusions to the will of the island, I think it’s clear that the whispers are something indigenous to the island. They are not “The Others” whispering in the trees and also not Smokey. Instead, I think it’s tied directly to Jacob or his true nature – the true inhabitants of the island for whom The Others slave so tirelessly to protect.
6. Anyway, we see that at some point, Ben and Charles swap places on the hierarchy of things. Richard tips Charles to this early on when he confronts the young, ailing Ben by saying “the island chooses who it chooses”. So, it appears that upon their first introduction, Charles knew that he would eventually be usurped – a feeling that seems to sour their relationship. When Ben confronts Charles as he is being led to his banishment (by sub not frozen donkey wheel) – Ben makes it clear that Charles has done things in disservice to the island and that is why he has been sent away. So, that underscores Ben’s undying proclamations that everything he does, no matter how evil, is done for the island. At least, he seems to believe that.
7. One last thing about Ben’s encounter with Danielle. He’s got a teenaged Ethan by his side. My guess is that Ethan was spared (or survived) The Purge . We know The Others take a special interest in children (more so than Neverland Ranch), so I wonder if on the day of The Purge, Ben insured that all of the children were diverted from the DHARMA site.
8. Capping the flashbacks, we learned the nature of Ben’s present day injuries and as we all suspected, he got them trying to make do on his promise to Charles. And once again, we spied another crack in his harsh facade – with young Charlie causing Ben pause. Enough for Desmond to lay the smackdown and bloody up Ben’s face once again. I am seriously going to start a new drinking game. A beer everytime Ben gets punched. A shot everytime someone busts his nose.
9. In the present, Ben flip-flopped in his enthusiasm for Locke’s timely ressurection (the Easter Bunny is due any day now). In the immortal words of Bruce Campbell’s Ash “One minute you’re trying to kill me. The next minute you’re trying to kiss me… Blow!”
10. First Ben is overjoyed with Locke’s return. At the very least, it appears to shake him of that newfound memory he woke with. Seriously, tell me it didn’t look like he woke with the same troubled countenance that Desmond did when he awoke with total recall.
11. The next minute Ben is manipulating Caesar to pop a cap in the savior.
12. And then Ben is swooping to Locke’s rescue and taking Caesar out before we could learn what was up with this mysterious dude. I know we thought he was placed on the plane as spy for Charles Widemore but now I think he was just a bad dude who crossed swords with someone worse.
13. That said, that female Dog the Bounty Hunter (yup, that makes her Bitch the Bounty Hunter) – she appears to have initiated her own Lord of the Flies rebellion and has taken to arming the more thuggish red shirts among her collective. Not good news for Frank. I’m wondering if this is by design or simply another impediment to Locke and crew. And what’s in that case? Don’t tell me little bags of pretzels.
14. I’ve got an outlandish theory coming up, that I want to close with, so we’ll follow Locke and Ben’s journey to get there. The key to all of this is Locke’s intuition and resurrection. Again, more in a moment.
15. First, the intuition. Locke sees through Ben’s continued lies and instead of taking him at face value (blind faith is a Locke specialty), Locke calls him out. He’s not there to repent for killing Locke or any of the other 7 Deadly Sins he’s cashed in. Nope – he’s there to seek penance for killing someone he truly cared for – for placing the island’s will and his own survival ahead of his true love. And Locke sees right through Ben and judges him. (Very Important).
16. Locke and Ben then journey to the Temple, with Locke following his nose right to the source, and insists that Ben head into its bowels to seek out the dog that wouldn’t come when it was called. Why didn’t it arrive when Ben first summoned it? I think it did.
17. In the Temple, Ben spies Egyptian hieroglyphics on everything providing more proof that this island ties into Egyptian mythology. Most notable is that carving above Smokey’s crib – which depicts the Egyptian God Anubis – a shepherd to the Underworld and a judging force in Egyptian mythology (major shout out to Wikipedia for that one). And Ben is judged – shown a litany of his sins in much the same way that Mr. Ecko was judged. When Ecko was judged, he was greeted by his dead bro Yemi who left him with a cryptic, dire warning moments before Smokey arrived and beat down Ecko. This time, Ben receives a visitation from Alex, who immeidately turns on him and offers a second chance and a dire warning. It is watching him and knows that he is trying to betray Locke. And if that comes to pass, unholy retribution appears to be Ben’s fate. And with that warning comes a twist of the screw. Is Ben now fated to be Locke’s dutiful Renfield, in perpetual servitude to an undead master?
18. And there it is. “Dead is Dead”. And yet, Locke walks the Earth. In much the same way that Christian, Yemi and Alex all appear to draw breath. That’s not the only thing they have in common. They are all Smokey. Locke is Smokey!!!
19. And that’s my outlandish theory. I think the writers are very clear. “Dead is Dead“. Ben said he has seen incredible healing occur on the island but never a full-on resurrection. I don’t think Locke is alive anymore than Christian, Yemi, Charlie or Alex. I think Locke is Dead. And the Locke that Ben is traveling with is Smokey manifest. How else would Locke know exactly what was at the core of Ben’s guilt? How else would Locke see through Ben’s continued misdirection and stall tactics and continue to push Ben towards the Temple? How else would Locke know exactly where Smokey was resident? That sequence when Ben calls Smokey is telling. He steps outside expecting the trees to rustle and a freight train to burst forth. Instead, Locke ambles his way out of the foliage. And we sigh, expecting massive spectacle (which would come later). And yet, I think Ben did indeed call Smokey and Smokey showed up right on queue – wearing Christian Shepherd’s penny loafers and Locke’s funeral attire.
20. Dead is Dead. And Locke is Dead. But it appears – he has a little more living to do.
See you next week for Episode 5.13 – “Some Like it Hoth“.