Thursday, February 19, 2009

An Ode to Benjamin Linus

I like dark characters. You've probably got that from reading my Dexter posts. I have a fondness for the complicated and shadowy non-black-and-white world. I like that while Dexter Morgan does what is regarded as wrong and inherantly evil by taking human lives, his moral code complicates matters and turns it into an act of heroism, ridding the world of the rubbish that preys on it.

This is probably why I'm enamoured with Benjamin Linus from Lost. I have a confession; I was a fickle viewer back in Season 3. I quit Lost, cast it aside like an old boyfriend that no longer fit me. I don't remember where exactly I gave it up but the show was starting to wear on me and I couldn't be bothered anymore. My giving it up also can be blamed on J.J. Abrams. Since he had helped create the show and it was going into inevitable decline, i assumed it was going to go the way of all J.J. Abrams shows- a great premise, exciting action and then a complete and utter jaunt into the ridiculous that took away from everything I'd originally loved about the show*

(*For a prime example, see Alias)

Yet then came the writer's strike and there was nothing on. I had friends who said that season 3 of Lost had the coolest ending ever. So I Netflixed the rest of the season from the point at which I'd quit.

And I realized then that I shouldn't have given it up. Realizing that the flashback was a flashforward was genius.

Since then, my admiration for the show has grown. Every moment is carefully choreographed like an elaborate dance, weaving in and out of mythologies, creating intricate connections between all of the characters in some way or another. It's amazing, compelling TV.

For me, every week, though, it's Ben Linus who has me truly hooked. He's a perfect villain, the Keyser Soze of the small screen, complicated, manipulative and so full of lies that it's impossible to know when he's telling the truth.

I love him for that. The actor, Michael Emerson, plays him with brilliance; he's both creepy and compelling. I don't want him to be the bad guy because I don't want him to lose. How's that for screwy thinking? The villain always loses at the end of every heroic tale. It's hard to say if Ben is really the true villain of Lost or if he's just an ambassador. Yet most of the time, especially to the Oceanic Six, he is the villain. He's a chessplayer moving all of his pieces exactly where he wants them even though even Ben may not know what the endgame is. He never misses a beat. One of my favourite scenes is where he gets transported off the island into Tunisia. He's instantly assailed by would-be attackers. Ben doesn't miss a beat, deftly beating the crap out of the men with his telescopic beating-rod (sorry, I don't know the technical name for it). He then walks into a hotel as though that happens every day. Who knows, for Ben, it probably does.

Every week, we learn more about the Island, more about the characters. I love that the stakes are raised, everything is changing all the time. The time travel is brilliance and being executed perfectly, revealing the truth about events that happened clear back in Season 1, events that, on any other show, would have been forgotten, abandoned in hopes of a more sensational plot. Not with Lost, however. Lost is a show for the nerds of the world, the geeks who thrive on details that most people would miss. I confess, I'm one of them. I live for the "holy crap!" moments that the show delivers every week. It's a puzzle and even though it seems as though we're getting closer to solving it, instead we're seeing that it's not just one puzzle but an artful weaving that goes on indefinitely.

At the heart of it is Ben. We still don't know if he's good or bad, not really. We know he lies but only at times because at other times, he's brutally honest. For example, a couple of weeks ago, Kate confronted Ben and accused him of trying to take Aaron away to manipulate her. Jack, not wanting to believe that even Ben could be that cruel, tries to defend him and, in response, Ben simply says, something along the lines of, "no, that was me." Cruel, blunt and precise, Ben never minces words. He can be snarky, particularly with John Locke. He always gets what he wants.

While this week's episode, "316" had a lot of unanswered questions, where is Aaron?, why is Jin in a Dharma jumpsuit driving a Dharma van?, why are Sayid and Hurley on the plane, the one question that I want to know is this: Benjamin, who did you kill and who dared beat you up this time?

There's only one and a half seasons left of Lost, the writer's endgame is moving forward. I hope that means Ben's is too, no matter how grisly and dark it gets. The darker Ben is revealed to be, the more compelling the show and the more I'm hooked on watching it. In a way, I can't wait for the end of the show, to see how it plays out.

On the other hand, I don't want it to ever end, the ride is too much fun. Especially when Ben is the driver.

No comments:

Post a Comment