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Remember back in Season 1, when life on Lost was simple? A group of men, women, children and a dog named Vincent crashed on a mysterious island, and they were trying to get off by building a raft and keeping signal fires burning? I’ll admit, and I’m sure I won’t be the first to admit it, I miss the simple days of Lost, when plot development was sometimes passed over in place of character development. It was nice to learn about these characters for the first time, and as the show continued, I feel as if the whole flashback dynamic stopped working, mostly because it was simply reiterating what we already knew about these characters. The introduction of the flash-forward was cool for a while, but it soon became dull. I still don’t know if it’s because I just grew sick of the whole “jumping back and forth to the past or future” schtick or if I just grew sick of hearing the word “flash-forward” from ABC’s other serial drama. Either way, earlier Lost episodes benefited from being able to take characters we didn’t know much about and using flashbacks to fill in the blank spaces.
Tonight’s episode of Lost, “Dr. Linus,” reminded me of how great Lost can be when it takes a step back from the convoluted plot-twists, mythology-heavy scenes and pointless expository dialogue scenes and focuses on character development. You may ask yourself, “How can a show that’s been on the air for six years find new ways to develop characters? Don’t we already know enough about them?” When it comes to Benjamin Linus, I don’t think there are any other characters on television that have such a twisted, confusing and eerie history. I could watch an entire show based simply on his past. He’s such a morally ambiguous character, making his choices and decisions that much more interesting: is he doing something out of the good of his heart, or because of the greed in his soul? Fortunately, although people may think they have Ben Linus pegged as the villain, I think tonight’s side-flashes and Island-plot helped dispel those rumors; instead, we got an emotional story that hinged completely on Ben and his actions on and off the Island.
I’m calling it right now: Michael Emerson will be nominated once again for the Best Supporting Actor Emmy, and I’m willing to bet 108 dollars that he’ll win it too. As good as Terry O’Quinn is, his character has changed too much for my liking. He’s lost that emotion that made him stand-out at the beginning of the show. Ben, however, has consistently delivered one solid scene after the other, and tonight, we got to see him interact with his daughter once more, a story-line ripe with possible moments for Ben to redeem himself in the eyes of fans who see him as nothing more than a snake. However, this wasn’t the Island-Alex we got to see; in Ben’s side-flash, he’s a respected teacher who tutors his student, played by Alex. Some of these side-flashes have been hit or miss, but tonight’s was easily one of the best. Also in this side-flash was Ben’s power struggle: he wants more than anything to have the principal’s job so he can make changes that are more to his liking. He resorts to blackmail, a typical Ben Linus tactic, but what makes this side-flash so excellent is how we see Linus change. Instead of following in the footsteps of previous episodes, we actually see Ben choose love and family over power. I know, the man who actually murdered his own father in order to move up on the totem pole actually passes up an opportunity to be more powerful? Sounds a bit fishy, but that’s the beauty of this episode. The writers were able to take a character who’s personality has appeared unwavering and completely changed the dynamic of his character. The scene with Ben and Ilana in the woods was heart-breaking, and showed Ben at his most vulnerable. Of course, he could’ve been lying, and nobody would put it against him (he’s a survivor in every sense of the word), but he seemed to be completely genuine in that scene. It was very well-done.
Besides focusing on Ben, there wasn’t too much else going on in the episode except for one short but extremely important scene between Jack and Richard. We learn that Richard is completely terrified by this fake-Locke guy, and as a result, he’s going to attempt to kill himself. We learn that Richard is blessed (or cursed) with the gift of immortality, but there’s a loophole: while you cannot die by your hand, you can die by somebody else’s hand. Therefore, he asks Jack for assistance in dying. However, Richard slips a key piece of information: when Jacob touches you, you’re blessed/cursed with the gift of very long life. Jack seems to believe he’s been touched by Jacob as well, along with everybody else he’s spent time with on the Island, and therefore sits with Richard in front of dynamite that is ten seconds away from exploding, completely believing that it will not explode and that they will not die. For a man who once put a gun to Locke’s head and pulled the trigger for his beliefs and the way he ran things, Jack has certainly made quite the change since Season 4. He’s become more erratic, paranoid and much more of a man of faith. He’s almost like Locke now, without the bald head, knives or father who pushed him from a seven-story building. It’ll be interesting to see how Jack evolves from here; he’s certainly changed quite a lot since Season 1.
And it wouldn’t be Lost without an ending that leaves you scratching your head, or in the case of “Dr. Linus,” screaming at your television for making you wait another week for a resolution. Seeing that Widmore found the island is extremely important, especially since we’ve had it driven into our head that if Widmore finds the island, things will NOT be good. It’ll be interesting to see how much Widmore knows and what he’ll do to regain supremacy on the Island.
It’s really a shame that long-time fans of the show are complaining about the writers taking their time in giving us answers. I’m sure we’ll get plenty of answers on what exactly is going on in this show, but anybody expecting to be given answers to every question is foolish. Lost has always been a show that’s built its reputation around being misleading and misdirecting their audience, and I’m willing to bet that the finale will leave some important questions unanswered. However, the show has never been about answering all of the questions. The showrunners said that Lost was about exploring the involvement of these specific characters with the history of the Island. If we want to see what happened in the past on the Island, it’d have to be a different show; this show focuses on a set of characters we’ve come to grow and love over six years, and tonight’s episode was a perfect example of how great Lost is at making episodes that are both character-driven and well-written.