Monday, June 23, 2008

The Shape of Things to Come, Revisited

So for my Lost talk at the Kitchener library last week, I rewatched “The Shape of Things to Come,” the Ben flashforward that I originally blogged about here. I was just meaning to go and check the opening scene, this time with the finale in mind, and thinking of it all being continuous from him moving the Frozen Donkey Wheel. Instead, I saw some new things I hadn’t really seen before, and so I wanted to reopen some questions to y’all on that episode.

So let’s start with the finale, with Ben turning the wheel to move the island, and subsequently being ejected from the island. He’s just killed Keamy, and as far as he knows, he’s blown up every person on the freighter. He’s said goodbye to Locke, and heads into the stalactite (or are they stalagmite?)-filled polar chamber. He’s ripped the Dharka on the way down, and the cut is pretty deep, into his arm. He turns the wheel, crying partly because he knows he’ll be forced off the island, and partly in mourning for Alex. There’s a flash, and boom… (now we’re in The Shape of Things to Come) he wakes up in the desert in Tunisia. He breathes out the arctic air and checks the arm of his jacket. He’s disoriented, freaking out, and he bends over and vomits onto the ground. Suddenly two Bedouin come riding over to him, and his mind is all over the place. You can tell he’s still confused… but this is Ben. He comes to his senses pretty quickly, overpowers the men, ties up his wound, and rides into town.

If we accept, then, that the events of TSOTTC come immediately after turning the wheel, then one assumes he’s had no time to prepare for what comes next, and luck just falls into his lap. At the hotel, where he finds out it’s October 2005, he sees a television where Sayid is talking about the death of his wife. Ben sees his opportunity and heads to Tikrit. He has a few days in there where he can put together a fake photo of the Widmore lackey, and convinces Sayid it’s actually a traffic shot of the guy at La Brea and Santa Monica. Sayid shoots the guy, and becomes Ben’s man.

So does Ben really zip 10 months into the future and whip up this too-perfect story, or does something else happen?

The answer to that question might lie in where he goes right after Alex is killed. He disappears into his hieroglyphic powder room behind the suit closet, and when he emerges, Old Smokey shows up angry as hell and eats all of Keamy’s men. The audience assumes the two actions are linked – that Ben went underground to call up the monster – but are they? Perhaps Smokey shows as the island’s reaction to Widmore “changing the rules,” and Ben had nothing to do with it. Maybe Ben disappeared into a time machine of sorts, and he already zipped into 2005, laid the groundwork for his war against Widmore, and then returned, knowing it was all in place. Maybe he simply did some research, and already watched Sayid mourning Nadia in the future once, figured out which Widmore lackey would be there, and then went through it all again… but considering post-Donkey Wheel he seems a little surprised about the date, and surprised to see the Sayid news clip, I don’t think he had things down to a science when he zipped forward. But he was definitely doing something under there, and I’m not convinced he was yelling “Sooey!” for Smokey.

Something I completely missed the first time, but now take it as proof of the claim that Claire is dead is a brief exchange between her and Miles. Sawyer saves her in his valiant hero scene, and takes her to the bedroom. Hurley is holding Aaron while the shootout is going on. He moves away from the window and goes to check on Claire. She comes out of the bedroom holding Aaron, and when Sawyer asks if she’s okay, she says, “Yeah, a bit wobbly, but I’ll live.” Miles, sitting nearby on the couch, replies bluntly, “Well, I wouldn’t be too sure about that.” Miles isn’t a fortune-teller, he’s a ghostbuster, so his reply wouldn’t be him seeing a flash of the future – it’s him seeing something right now. I’m thinking he senses from her standing there that she’s no longer with us. Death on the island is very different than death in our world. Yes, Nikki and Paulo and Ana Lucia and Libby and Eko and Boone and Shannon and dozens of others all left behind bodies to bury, but none of them were the offspring of Jacob’s mouthpiece. I’m thinking Claire means something different to the island, and it takes care of her because she’s Aaron’s mother. Maybe Smokey’s appearance had nothing to do with the death of Alex, and everything to do with the “death” of Claire.

I said it at the time, and I’ll say it again: that scene at the end of the episode is probably a harbinger of what is to come for the next couple of seasons. The episode IS called The Shape of Things to Come, after all… The face-off between Ben and Widmore never gets boring, no matter how many times you watch it. Ben asks Charles when he started keeping scotch by the bed, and Charles says it coincided with when the nightmares started. He asks Ben if he’s here to kill him, and Ben replies, “We both know I can’t do that.” Does he mean he can’t do it, as in it would be morally wrong? Or does he mean he can’t physically do it? Is Widmore immortal? Are they both immortal? (It would certainly explain how Ben takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’, but it would make his worry about his spinal cancer seem a little less serious.)

Rewatch this scene as if Ben is pure evil, and Widmore is the victim, and it plays out perfectly. When Ben says Widmore murdered his daughter, Widmore replies that they both know he did nothing of the sort, and that Ben did. Ben maintains that isn’t true, and Widmore repeats, “Yes, Benjamin, it is.” He asks Ben how he has the nerve to pretend he’s the victim, and then says, “I know who you are, boy.” It’s interesting he calls him “boy” here, as if he knew him as a boy and he’ll always be a boy to him. It’s why I think Widmore is much older than we originally thought. Perhaps his obsession with the Black Rock is because he was originally on it. So again, he says, “I know who you are, boy. What you are. I know that everything you have you took from me.” I know WHAT you are, he says, as if he’s something other than human. And he says he took everything from him, as if the island was his (maybe Alex was his?) and Ben usurped him in some way. Ben replies that he’s going to kill Penny, so that Widmore will know how he feels, and will regret that he’d changed the rules. Widmore says he’ll never find Penny (I guess by October 2005 Pen and Des are in deep hiding somewhere?) and Ben says he’ll never find the island, and Widmore says the hunt is on for both of them.

If this isn’t a signal to what’s next to come, I don’t know what is. I’m just hoping we get a LOT of new scenes with these two, because they’re riveting to watch together.


Anonymous said...

EXCELLENT POST NIKKI!!!! I never caught that quote from Miles about Clare but it looks like you are 100% correct! Great Catch!!!

As for Ben summoning Smokey when Ben re-emerges into his cabin you can see his shirt has ash on it which always made me think he did summon/release Smokey.

You can be sure I'll be rewatching this tonight!


Bogdan said...

I think there's an error in the title, the post is about "The Shape of Things to Come" (Ben FF) not "Something Nice Back Home" (Jack FF).

on-topic: I don't think that Ben traveled in the future after Keamy killed Alex. I think that the writers made that pretty obvious with the arm injury Ben got when he fell off the ladder. I consider that its purpose was to link Ben's FF in Tunisia with the frozen donkey wheel events is the finale, I don't believe that it was thrown in there just to confuse us. It is possible, but still it is far fetched even for Lost.

also, the scene with Miles wasn't aired during the original run. it was cut off during editing, the same happened with another scene with Miles when he walked through the sonic fence after communicating with the spirit(s) of the island.

Overall very nice post, please revisit some more episodes, it will bring some sunshine during the hiatus.

Best regards,


Anonymous said...

I think some of these theories are a little "epileptic trees," if you know what I mean.

Ben has a time machine in his closet -- evidence: it would be cool/make Ben being responsible for Nadia's death possible.

Clair is dead -- evidence: Miles discounted her claim she would be fine at a time when they were surrounded by ornery mercenaries with no means (as far as Miles knows) of escape.

Widmore is immortal -- evidence: Ben says he can't kill him. First of all, Ben said it, so I'm inclined to assume it's at least misleading, if not the exact opposite of the truth. Also, if true, it could just mean the island/Jacob still has work for Widmore to do, and Ben knows he can't kill him while that work is undone.

Ben is "not a normal human" -- evidence: Ben is a kick-ass character/Widmore says he knows "what" Ben is. Alright people, if you were asked "what" you were, would you assume the person who asked was implying you were not a human being, or would you answer by listing/explaining one or more of the roles you perform in your life?

I really don't mean any offense here. I'm just not willing to go along with some of the more extravagant WMGs that are out there.

Nikki Stafford said...

Tim: Thank you!

Bogdan: Yikes! I don't know why I always mix up the two titles. I didn't do it in my analysis, just in my title, for some reason. D'oh.

Not that JJ: No offense taken. Whenever I see your name in the comments, I assume you'll be disagreeing with me in some way. ;) (No offense was intended there, either, by the way... if I didn't want people to disagree with me, I wouldn't blog.)

This entire post was simply made as a suggestion, nothing more. One criticism that is often lobbed against me is that I never make predictions, or come up with wild theories like Jeff Jensen at EW. So I was simply putting together some things in this post as suggestions of what might be. That's why I pose most lines as a question and not a definitive statement. It's just to throw it out there, nothing more. I think we can all have fun doing that, whether or not it turns out to be true.

I think you're right on the sonic fence, but wrong on the Miles/Claire exchange. I only have one version of the episode in my PVR, and it's the one that aired that night, the same one I blogged on, and the scene is in there. Maybe they show more scenes in Canada, but it was definitely there on the first pass.

Anonymous said...

Great post.
I originally thought when I watched the episode that the exchange between Ben and Widmore happened during Ben's trip into the magic closet. If he does have some kind of time machine, portal, etc., he could have been gone for any amount of time and it would have only seemed like a few moments to the people in the house. You will also notice a large bruise on Ben's forehead before his trip into the closet that does not appear to be there after.
Anyway keep up the good work and keep the lost posts coming, we have a lot of time to speculate before the new season.

Nikki Stafford said...

Power: Excellent point, and I meant to say something about the bruise being gone when he comes out. (I might have mentioned it in my earlier post, because I know I've said something before) but that would definitely lend credence to the underground-chamber-as-time-machine theory.

The way things work on this show is they give you two things that seem to go together, but then they flip it on its head. For example, Ben goes underground, and then the smoke monster shows up, as if the two are linked. But I'm always suspicious of that on the show, that that would be too easy.

Similarly, in the finale Kate has a dream that Claire says to her, "Do NOT bring him back to the island," and we assume she means Aaron, but what if she meant Locke? Or Ben? Or when Hurley says to Jack, "you're not supposed to raise him," someone pointed out on here that that could have meant you're not supposed to raise Christian from the dead, not that you're not supposed to raise Aaron.

Everything potentially has more than one meaning, and it's just deciphering what that meaning will be. :)

Anonymous said...

Did you choose those thumbnails on purpose, because you didn't mention it in your post, but it showcases the brilliant direction on this show. Ben dressed in black, the left half of his face in light (sinister?), Widmore in white, right half in light. I'm sure it symbolizes the nature of both men - neither are within the realm of good or evil.

Anonymous said...

Hey Nikki, great that we're both offenseless! I completely agree (see! I don't always tilt horns with you!) that predictions are totally useless on this show, though "suggestions" are fun to consider. Here's one: what if the remaining 815 survivors try to negotiate with the Others for access off the island?

"Hey, Locke! Old buddy, old pal-o-mine! Say, we were thinkin' maybe we don't belong on this paradise o' yours and, you know, maybe we could leave, like Jack and the rest did?"

How do you suppose that would go?

Nikki Stafford said...

Not That JJ: LOL!

Locke: I've seen into the eye of the island... and it says you have to stay. So get back to sharpening my knives.

Anonymous said...

Seeing as Locke has replaced Ben as leader of the Others, maybe Ben once replaced Widmore? Maybe Widmore 'used to be' Jacob in some way?

thisguypossessed said...

I don't know if I really buy the idea that Ben time travels when he enters that secret room behind the secret room after seeing Alex get shot. Wouldn't he kinda feel like going back in time to save her or do you think that's not possible within the time travel rules? Or maybe he can only travel forward, and THEN back to where/when he first left. OK, my brain's starting to implode...

humanebean said...

Great post, as ever, Nikki. I continue to be amazed by the little things that jump out at me when I watch an episode a second time (or a third, or a fourth ... Hi, my name is Humane B. and I'm a Lostaholic). Case in point: "Flashes Before Your Eyes" when Mrs. Hawking tells Desmond that if he doesn't push the button, "every single one of us will die". At the time, you assume she means all on earth. But now, you have to ask - who is the "us" that she is referring to? What group does she belong to? The Others? The Natives/Hostiles? One of the groups seeking return to the island, led by Widmore/Abbadon or someone else? These little statements seem so innocuous on first viewing but are imbued with greater meaning upon reflection.

I don't think that Ben time-traveled when he went into the BenCave. I don't know what else he might have been doing other than summoning Smokey but I was very surprised that all of the sound and fury of Smokey's arrival signified ... little. Despite the gruesome sounds and violent brush removal, it appears that only one of Keamy's team was injured - and given what we think we know of Smokey's terminal potential ... how is it that even THIS guy survived (momentarily)?

Lastly, I too keep coming back to the Ben/Widmore scene and asking myself what this has to do with the events of the final episodes of the season, and preparations for the next. The "I know what you are" comment could easily refer to the fact that he considers Ben responsible for the mass murder of the Dharma Initiative members during the purge. Or, perhaps more likely, that Ben had entered into a relationship with the Island that was more than ... platonic. I still think that there is more to Ben's "I was born on this island" comment than just his self-identification with discovering his purpose there. Now that we've seen Locke ascend to Leader of the Pack (even if his sacrificial offering was slaughtered by Sawyer), what will his responsibility be for the "bad things" that happen? Indeed, as we peer into the coffin in the final moments of the season finale, aren't we asking ourselves this same question?

"What" has he become? "What" is Jeremy Bentham? Why does Sayid stop Hurley from speaking Locke's name aloud ("don't say it")? What are the "circumstances" that "have changed" and where is the "somewhere safe" that Sayid wants to take Hurley? If Jeremy Bentham has been appearing to the O6, pleading with them to return to the Island, did he also visit Desmond and Penny? EVERYONE has to go back ....

The way I figure it, there's either 263 or 270 days until LOST returns and we resume (not) getting answers to all these questions. *sigh* "WHAT" will I do until then?

Austin Gorton said...

Knowing now that Ben's Tunisian arrival was preceded immediately by the turning of the frozen donkey wheel, I'm more inclined to believe that Widmore did indeed kill Nadia, and that Ben, learning of her death, decided on the fly to use it to his advantage, rather than setting it up himself in an attempt to recruit Sayid.

Now that we know exactly when and where Ben was before Oct 2005, it just seems easier (and thus more likely) that he took advantage of the situation rather than creating the situation to that effect.

Also, for what its worth, Widmore's use of "boy" for Ben always struck me as a class-ism: Widmore, the upper class master, Ben, the lower class servant boy.

Anonymous said...

Awesome post, all these little details are great.
Check out
It is so hilarious!

Anonymous said...

Well...I'm in the middle of sitting down to watch a LOST episode a day everyday (and taking notes this time)now that I've gone out and stimulated the economy by purchasing the last 3 seasons and downloading the rest. Now, I don't know too much, but as far as Widmore goes, I know that old bugger gets around...I mean, wasn't he on the OC a few years ago? Maybe that's where the island originally dumped him and it's taken him all this time to find his way back? HAHA.

Either way, thanks for keeping the LOST addiction alive, Nik. Can always count on you for some helpful hints and new ways of looking at old episodes...and if I may...2 much needed shoutouts...ONE in response to the passing of a major talent in the comic book field--Michael Turner, whose art graced covers and interiors for Marvel, DC and Image, died from a long battle with cancer at age 37 over the weekend, he will be missed, and TWO for my Dad, Jim, whom I love and respect and wish I could help him in any way as he succumbs to his own fight with C-beast....if anyone of you could eek out an extra prayer for him and my mom, I'd appreciate it.

Thanks, and keep the posts coming, Nikki!!!

Your fellow LOST pal--

Don Edwards

Emilia said...

A couple of things:

First, I just noticed something about Christian. He's been mysteriously spotted on the island by two characters: Jack and Hurley.

In "Walkabout," Jack sees his father and follows him. Jack loses sight of him and Locke tumbles out of a bush with the boar he just caught.

In "White Rabbit," Jack sees his father again and follows him into the jungle. Jack slips and falls over a cliff, and it's Locke that finds him and pulls him up.

We don't see Christian on the island again until "The Beginning of the End," when Hurley peeks into Jacob's cabin. Spooked, Hurley runs away and runs into Locke.

I can only assume that Locke and Christian are somehow linked. Is Locke turning into Christian? Is Locke a mouthpiece for Christian?
This association starts happening shortly after Locke meets Smokey in "Walkabout." Remember, he says "I looked into the eye of the island." Does he somehow receive instructions on how to communicate Christian's message? Or does he unconsciously gain that power?

Second thing: I read on another board that the ritual of showing a boy objects and asking which ones already belong to him is one given to potential Dalai Lamas to test that they're his reincarnation. "They present a number of artefacts belonging to the previous Dalai Lama and if the boy chooses the items which belonged to the previous Dalai Lama, this is seen as a sign, in conjunction with all of the other indications, that the boy is the reincarnation." (from Wikipedia)

Who do you think Richard supposes Locke to be a reincarnation of? He does this test when Locke is a boy, so who has recently died?

At least I have a couple of things to work through before next season...

pete said...

Those are some really insightful observations, Emilia. There must be some cosmic connection between Locke and Christian (and by extension between Locke and Jack), but what the heck is it? We shall see...

Juanita's Journal said...

Rewatch this scene as if Ben is pure evil, and Widmore is the victim, and it plays out perfectly. When Ben says Widmore murdered his daughter, Widmore replies that they both know he did nothing of the sort, and that Ben did. Ben maintains that isn’t true, and Widmore repeats, “Yes, Benjamin, it is.”

Ben is slightly responsible, because he hesitated when Keamy demanded his surrender. But Widmore is a lot more responsible for Alex's death than Ben. A lot more.