Lost: Dr. Linus

Tonight’s episode of Lost on Sky1 HD was my favourite of the season so far. No big action set-pieces, or major answers, but a fine example of the character-driven drama the series does so well, once again bringing a beautifully constructed long-running character arc to a head.

In the flash-sideways, we returned to the school where Locke is a substitute teacher and Ben works. The titular Dr. Linus, he teaches European history, but instead of being able to run his beloved history club, the principal (played by William Atherton, the villainous Walter Peck in Ghostbusters) tells him he has to run detention that week. It happens to be the same school that everyone’s favourite science teacher Lesley Arzt works at, and as they complain about the principle, Locke pipes up with the suggestion that Ben becomes principle. At home, Ben is looking after his aging father Roger (Jon Gries in excellent make-up), who mentions that they once were part of DHARMA but left the island. This doesn’t quite match up with everything changing at the point of the explosion, another hint that there’s more to this than just changing the future at the point of the Incident. After Ben changes his father’s gas, an irony considering what our Ben did to him in that DHARMA van, he answers the door to find Alex asking about history club. He tutors her the next day and she lets slip that the principal is having an affair with the school nurse. With the help of Arzt, he presents the principle with email evidence of the affair, and asks him to step aside. The principle presents him with an ultimatum, saying that he’ll give Alex a terrible letter of recommendation if he carries out his threat. For a moment it looks like Ben has done the dirty deed, but no, he’s actually done the right thing. Alex gets an excellent letter from the principle, and Ben doesn’t even take the credit.

On the island, Ben runs back from temple and bumps into Sun, Miles, Frank and Ilana, who is still suspicious of him. She gets Miles to check Jacob’s ashes, and he says that Ben killed him. They get to the old beach camp where Ben finds Sawyer’s old stash of books and mags, and Frank mentions that the reason he didn’t pilot Oceanic 815 was because he overslept. Suddenly Ilana puts a gun to Ben’s head and tells him to dig a grave. She says that Jacob was the closest thing she’s had to a father, she’s grief-stricken and looking for vengeance. As Ben digs, he asks Miles for help, saying that Jacob didn’t even care about dying. Miles says he did, and that “right up until the second the knife went through his heart, Jacob was hoping he was wrong about you.”

Across the island, Hurley is talking in his sleep about cheese curd. He and Jack start walking to the temple when Richard appears. Hurley asks if he’s a Terminator, or maybe a vampire. He takes them not to the Temple, because everyone there is dead, but instead to the Black Rock. He hints that, as many viewers had theorised, it’s where he came from. He says that he wants to die. Jacob touched him and gave him the gift of eternal life, but now that Jacob’s dead, his life has no purpose. He can’t kill himself, though (just like Michael back in season four), so he takes a stick of the unstable dynamite and asks Jack to light it. In a cracking, tense scene, Jack lights the fuse but doesn’t go away, postulating that because he saw in the Lighthouse that Jacob has been watching him all his life, he is here for a greater purpose than blowing up in an 19th century ship, and he will not be allowed to die. And, sure enough, the fuse fizzles out. The man of science has become a true man of faith.

Back on the beach, Ben is digging his grave and I am starting to get seriously worried about him. Sure, he’s done some terrible things in the past, but he’s an amazing character played by an amazing actor, and I’ve always held out hope that one day he’d turn out to be, as he once told Michael, one of the “good guys”. Things were looking very grim for him, when suddenly the sound of the Smoke Monster is heard, and he appears in Locke’s form to help Ben escape. He and his recruits are leaving for the Hydra, before they eventually leave the island for good, and he offers Ben the chance to stay and look after the island once they’ve gone. In the flash-sideways, Dr. Linus was teaching his students about Napoleon’s exile on the island of Elba, an Emperor in name alone, and there are strong parallels with what the Man in Black is offering. He runs and Ilana gives chase but he grabs a gun just in time, explaining that he knows how she feels, because he lost his daughter. He sacrificed Alex for the island, for Jacob, and he didn’t even care. That’s why he was so angry, angry enough to kill him, and he understands why she’ll never forgive him. She asks what she wants, he replies wretchedly that he wants to go with “Locke”, because no one else would have him. With tears in her eyes, she quietly says “I’ll have you”, and he follows her to beach. So powerful, so heartbreaking.

When Ben arrives back on the beach, he helps Sun set up shelter, slowly being accepted back. Jack, Hurley and Richard arrive on the beach, and it feels like the ending to a season one or two episode, like Do No Harm or Collision, where some people are welcomed back to the beach camp from the other side of the island in a slow motion montage, yet another call back to the feel of those early episodes. As Miles looks at the diamonds he’s just dug up from Nikki and Paulo’s grave (what was that Locke said about things not being buried on the island for long?), things seem quite settled and happy at the old beach camp, and it seems that things will be fairly calm on the island for once.

Or not. From under the ocean, up pops a periscope. Inside the submarine is a Mr Charles Widmore. My jaw dropped at that point (luckily I hadn’t seen Alan Dale’s name in the opening credits!), for some reason of all the characters I was expecting to return to the Island – Desmond or Walt for example – Widmore didn’t cross my mind once. What on the world does this mean for the island, and whose side will he take? It’d be natural to assume that he’d side with the Smoke Monster, apparently being on the side of evil, but what if he’s the person Jacob was trying to bring to the island?

That was an incredible episode. The flash-sideways was compelling and relevant to the on-island story. The scene with Richard and Jack was incredible, with an excellent performance from Matthew Fox. Hurley was brilliant in this episode, with some great one-liners and Jorge Garcia doing a great job as the audience’s surrogate, especially when trying to persuade Jack to run from the dynamite. The redemption of Ben Linus was an amazing moment, especially considering that at one point was thought to be one of the most villanous characters in television history. Ben’s story has been an epic tragedy, and while it might be debatable whether he deserves it, I’d love to see him get a happy ending, if such a thing is possible.

That wasn’t only the best episode of the season so far, it was right up there with some of the all-time great episodes of Lost. But with that shock ending, I haven’t got a clue of what’ll happen next.

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