Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lostaholics Anonymous: Ben Linus

Hello and welcome to this week’s Lostaholics Anonymous. The book is out now, I’ve done a couple of interviews, and it’s up to NINE reviews on Amazon! I’m so excited!! Every time I check in and see another one I have another little squeal of excitement. I just discovered this week that the first week of the book’s sales were higher than any other first week of any of the series, so that was also a very happy moment for me. I guess all that media I did way back in May paid off after all! ;) (In case you’re wondering, I also have a copy of the gigantic Lost Encyclopedia and I hope to get a review up soon on that one.) Once again, if you’ve bought the book on Amazon and liked it, please head on over and leave a review on there. It helps with the book’s visibility, especially around Christmas when it will get overshadowed by all the Justin Bieber memoirs. ;)

I’m so sorry to be so late on this week’s L.A. post. My day job is bleeding into my evenings lately because I’m too busy, but this was a week I’ve been looking forward to for a while (even though Fringe is on RIGHT NOW I’m writing this up... because that’s how much I care about you guys!). We’ve covered off the main dude, the main gal, the third corner of that love triangle, and John Locke, and now it’s time for... the villain.

Oh yes, it’s Ben Linus night!! Where do I start with Ben??

Last year when we were doing the Lost rewatch of seasons one through five, there was a lot of excitement in the first half of season 2. It wasn’t because it was where Desmond first showed up (OK, maybe a little over here) or because of the science vs. faith arguments happening in the Swan, but because of one refrain... “Two more episodes until Henry Gale! One more episode until Henry Gale!” Oh Henry Gale... you showed up on my TV and my favourite show was never the same.

From the moment he Keyser Soze’d the entire group of survivors and walked down the dock in those rags, Ben Linus was the fave character among many fans. I’m sure there are people out there who didn’t like him (and if you’re out there, I’m dying to know what you thought if you didn’t like him) but many of us loved him. LOATHED him, but loved loathing him. Michael Emerson played him with such aplomb, it was an absolute joy watching week to week and wondering just what this guy was going to do next.

In season 2 he pretended to be Henry Gale, almost got himself killed, but ended up getting two other people killed instead. He appeared to be the head guy, no matter what he’d told Sayid, and by the end of season 2 we just assumed they were all following his lead. In season 3 we immediately saw his vulnerability – he had a tumour on his spine and needed Jack to perform surgery – but he continued to be deliciously evil, while apparently following (begrudgingly, it seemed) some guy named Jacob. At the end of that season we finally got the Linus flashback, and saw there was once a time when this cold, heartless villain had been a sad, sweet, scared little boy who just wanted his mother back.

In season 4 he saw his power slip away, he lost the respect of his followers, and he was forced to follow John Locke, who appeared to have taken his place. It added more of a comic element to Ben (even though he’d always been hilarious before then, IMO), while flashforwards revealed the return of cold, heartless Ben as he turned Sayid into a hitman and then just left him there. Losing Alex was the thing that changed him utterly when he went off the island, and meant he had nothing more to lose, so he could play the game even more wildly than he’d done before. In season 5 we saw him kill John Locke and return his body to the island, but at the end of the season there was a turning point in Ben. Just as he’d resigned himself to having lost all his power, he suddenly came face to face with Jacob and realized his life had all been a sham. He killed Jacob out of feeling underappreciated, but quickly knew that he’d been a pawn of the Man in Black all along, and had never been one of the good guys, even though he’d thought he was.

Season 6, sadly, left us a little bereft of our Ben. He had some great moments in “Mr. Linus” and his sideways world self was a wonderful display of what could have happened to Ben had his life turned out differently (and had he made different choices along the way) but evil Ben wasn’t really there in the way we usually liked. By the end of the series he’d been redeemed, and became Hurley’s Number Two, where he actually became (finally) a useful and important follower of the island.

There are some great Ben moments that cannot be overlooked. The first great Ben moment happens at the end of “The Whole Truth” in season 2, when Locke and John finally let Ben out of the armoury to give him something to eat.

GALE: This must be my reward for good behavior, huh? I guess I earned myself some good will for finally drawing that map for Ana.
LOCKE: What map?
GALE: To my balloon.
JACK: [to Locke] Did you...
GALE: Wow, you guys have some real trust issues, don't you? Guess it makes sense she didn't tell you. I mean, with the two of you fighting all the time. Of course, if I was one of them -- these people that you seem to think are your enemies -- what would I do? Well, there'd be no balloon, so I'd draw a map to a real secluded place like a cave or some underbrush -- good place for a trap -- an ambush. [Gales pours himself some cereal.] And when your friends got there a bunch of my people would be waiting for them. Then they'd use them to trade for me. I guess it's a good thing I'm not one of them, huh? [Pause.] You guys got any milk?

I still remember the glorious shivers that ran through me after that scene. BRILLIANT.

My other fave Ben line:

LOCKE: Can I ask you a question?
BEN: I’m a Pisces.

Ha!! Not only is that the best Ben comeback ever, but considering we know his birthday was on December 19, he’s even lying about THAT!

No, wait... that wasn’t the best Ben comeback ever. This was:

JACK: How can you read?
BEN: My mother taught me.

Again, brilliant because not only is it filled with snark, but if his mother died giving birth to him, then she couldn’t have taught him to read.

Oh Ben. How I miss you.

What are your favourite Ben Linus moments?

Next week: Sharpen your pens (or... um... typing fingers?) and load those chef’s knives in the dishwasher pointy-end up! After five weeks of talking about the characters, I’ve decided to pause on them for a bit and jump right into the finale. We’re going to start with why we loved or hated it, and whether our thoughts of have changed between our initial reaction and how we feel now, then that discussion will probably go on for a bit (I might even have a couple of biweekly LA posts to deal with it) before we move to some specifics. This is the discussion I’ve wanted to have from the beginning, but figured it might be better to ease us in by talking about our favourite moments, and then characters. But now it’s time to talk about the meat of this thing: the finale. Looking forward to it!


The Question Mark said...

I don't think there's anything I could say about Michael Emerson or Benjamin Linus that hasn't already been said, so I'll just share this:

One of the greatest (if not THE greatest) compliments I have ever received happened last summer. I had made a seven-minute short comedy sketch with my pals where I played a psycho killer, and a friend who saw the finished product told me that seeing me play a psychopath was just as interesting for him as seeing Michael Emerson play Ben Linus.

Needless to say, I walked with a bit of a strut for the next few weeks after that.

Dusk said...

Some of my favorite funny Ben moments:

Locke: Ben What did you dooo??!? You've just killed everybody on that boat!!!

Ben So?

Jack: What about the rest of the people on the plane? What happenes to them?
Ben : Who cares?

Locke: How'd you guys get electricity?
Ben: We have two giant hamsters running on wheels in opur secret underground lair.

Ben: No John, we don't have a code for "their's a man with a gun to my daughter head in my closet"... but clearly we should get one.

Angela said...

Hmmmm, John Locke was the reason I tuned into Lost each week but Benjamin Linus made it a religious experience for me. I could care less about Jack and Kate, etc. Their perils were barely a blip on the radar for me.
Catching Ben in his lies was the most fun and how he effortlessly told whopping lies for his own gains.

Susan said...

How many times do I have to tell you, John, I always have a plan!

Marebabe said...

I would like to begin by saying that my autographed copy of Finding Lost S6 arrived on Monday. It took 13 days en route! (Postmarked 10-26, arrived 11-8.) But I’m so very pleased to have it AND the beautiful autographed bookmarks. My Mailbox Watch has come to an end! (I tipped the team of oxen with some extra oats, and gave them each a nice scratch behind the ears, and then they were off, to deliver more of Nikki’s books to eager, impatient LOST fans.)

Well, it’s late, and I can’t possibly do justice to a topic like Ben Linus in just a few minutes, off the top of my head. For now I’ll just say Amen to everything you said, Nikki. Very well put! More later.

Unknown said...

Ben is my favorite character. I can't really describe how much I love him. I'm tired and it's late, but I'll try to dig something up here.

I find season 1 and the first part of season 2 kind of boring. Of course, I didn't at the time I first watched. But now, if an episode is bereft of Ben, I find myself wanting to skip forward to Ben time!

I didn't always feel this way. I hated Ben, wished someone would just kill the guy already, up until "The Shape of Things to Come." The look on his face when he watched Alex died... Oh, man. Gulp. I was totally on his team after that. (I know some fans would be appalled at that, seeing as how he got her killed, but I don't see it that way.)

I want to say that I think so much of Ben's story was neglected by the writers at the end. That's true for other characters too, but of course none of those dropped story threads bother me as much as Ben's. (Annie, where are you?)

I love that the writers have the epilogue centering around Ben, though. I so wanted a happy ending for Ben, and even though he didn't move on with the other Losties (can anyone really envision him hugging all those people in the church?), that epilogue gave us the happy.

I could write pages about Ben! But I'll stop because I have to sleep sometime!

Efthymia said...

As I said last week, I believe in choices. And Ben made bad choice after bad choice; he used people, he lied, he murdered -he even mass murdered!-, not all that great a person in general. Still, I LOVED him! I never believed him when he said "We're the good guys", I didn't want him to succeed, and I loved it on the rare occasion when people wouldn't be fooled by him, but I loved watching him and I anticipated his appearance pretty much ever since he showed up. He stole Sawyer's throne regarding the witty remarks, which is one more reason why this character was so enjoyable, for me at least. There's this mean part of me that also loved him because he kept making Locke look stupid (I feel so horrible about myself sometimes...).
But I think that all this worldwide love about such an evil character comes down to Michael Emerson's performance. His expressions, his movements, his eyes, his voice, everything about him was wonderful! Even with the exact same script and lines, I doubt that Ben Linus would have had the same impact had he been portrayed by another actor. His exchange with Ilana in "Dr. Linus" which ends in her "I'll have you" and that pitiful look on his face and walking after her still has all my hairs on end, and I felt like watching a puppy, forgetting that this was the evil, lying, murdering etc guy. Ah, mr. Emerson!
I did feel sorry for him because of his ugly childhood. He joins Sawyer and Locke on that I did feel sorry for them but I couldn't excuse their choices.

And Nikki, after talking about the finale, we will continue with the characters, yes pleeeeease?

Gillian Whitfield said...

I LOVE BEN. Michael Emerson is glorious as Ben, and I think there's nothing really more to be added.

I knew that he was lying in season 2. Not because I knew what was going to happen (I didn't) in season 3, but I just didn't trust him. I think everyone felt the same way.

I don't really blame Ben for the death of Charlie. I blame Mikhail, because he was sort of like Ben's puppet, and he could have let Charlie live. And I also don't really blame him for the deaths of Ana Lucia and Libby. Michael killed them out of free-will. No one told him specifically, "You must kill two people in your camp before releasing our man."

In season 4, it was really when I started to realise, "Hey. He DOES have a heart!" when Alex died. It's like "How the Grinch Stole Christmas", his heart grew three sizes (or something like that. It's been YEARS since I've seen that movie).

In season 5, he came back dejected, and I think that part of the reason he was dejected was because he murdered John Locke. Throughout the season, he tried to get back in the lead. But was sadly manipulated by Locke . . . I mean, the Smoke Monster.

Season 6, he was definitely off his throne, and was more like a meaningless servant than a noble and feared king. Ilana hated him for sure, but still, he managed to at least get her on his side. I think that Ben eventually did get into that church after atoning for all the wrong things he had done. He helped Hurley protect the island and was a different man by that time.

Lisa(until further notice) said...

Ben was the most delicious character to watch. I'm sure the writers loved him as much as the rest of us did. Some favorite moments for me:

Hurley sharing the candy bar with Ben. Mostly because it proved what a truly good person Hurley was (Jack telling him, "you help people") and it showed Ben that if he just changed his ways a little bit, there would be poeple out there who would trust in and need him. Of course it still took him a while to get there...

I also loved the look on his face when he came across Sayid in the temple pool after he had killed Lennon and Dogan. "Come on, Sayid, there's still time." "Not for me (muahahahaha)"

Final favorite moment...the look on his face when Hurley asked him for his help upon becoming the new Jack, old Jacob. It was great.

After the finale talk, we need to talk about Hurley!!!

Austin Gorton said...

Ben constantly jostles with Desmond for the top spot as my favorite character.

There's just something so delicious about Emerson's performance. He's the villain you love to hate, and hate to love, and that makes for a terribly compelling character.

The best kinds of villains are the ones you want to both succeed and fail at the same time, and Ben was the epitome of that kind of villain.

You wanted him to get his comeuppance, both for the vile things he'd done to the Losties and the more abstract things (like the Purge) but at the same time, you wanted to see his endgame play out, you wanted to see him escape, so he could come back and make life tricky for the heroes once more.

Also, I have a huge soft spot for any kind of "always have a plan" character, the character for which every event seems to be just one more expected outcome in a well laid plan, and Ben is damn near the patron saint of that kind of character (well, Ben, or Grant Morrison's Batman).

Plus, he had a tremendously dry wit, which doesn't hurt.

@Dusk: Ben: No John, we don't have a code for "their's a man with a gun to my daughter head in my closet"... but clearly we should get one.

That's one of my favorite Ben lines. Also, the one Nikki quoted about his mother teaching him to read.

And anytime he pronounced the "h" in "what".

@Nikki In case you’re wondering, I also have a copy of the gigantic Lost Encyclopedia and I hope to get a review up soon on that one.

Oh, good! I was going to ask you about it. I'm curious what you think.

Nikki Stafford said...

Efthymia: Oh yes, I'll be returning to the characters. I just thought from this point on we could alternate character sketches with debates and discussions about themes and other topics, just to change things up a bit. I mean, we haven't gotten to Hurley yet, and there's no way I'm leaving him off! (Or... ahem... my Des.)

Teebore: Now, whenever I'm baffled, I actually say, "hhhhhwhaaaat??" ;)

Marebabe said...

I’ve had some time to think about Ben Linus this morning, and the thought that keeps rising to the surface is that he surprised and intrigued viewers perhaps more than any other character in LOST. The surprises came whenever a new aspect of his character was revealed, and the intrigue was from constantly trying to sort out the truth from the lies in everything he said.

“The Economist” ended with one of the most surprising AND intriguing scenes ever, when wounded Sayid made his way to the animal hospital where he reported to his boss, Ben, and got stitched up. We got STACKS of questions from that scene, especially this one asked by Nikki in her Rewatch post for “The Economist”:

Could Ben be turning Sayid into a monster because he NEEDS him to shoot him in 1977 so he’ll end up at the Temple and become one of the Others?

I think that nicely represents the kind of mind-boggling mystery that always surrounded the character of Ben Linus. The fans (including myself) absolutely loved it! I think Ben was one of the all-around best fictional characters EVER, including all literature, movies, and television.

Anonymous said...

Squeee!!! I also got my "Finding LOST 6" book on Monday, mailed Oct. 26. Niki must have made a HUGE dump at the Post Office that day;D Thank You!! It's been one of those weeks, but my review will go up on Amozon shortly!

Brooke, you just about killed me with that remark about Ben inside the church, hugging everyone, No Way was that going to fly! I never really thought about it before, but it would have really messed up the ending for him to be "in" the church. I'm glad he was there, and apparently was a good second in command to Hurley. Ben certainly changed the course of the lives of the survivors, but he was still not as important to them as they were to each other.

I learned the most about LOST just before season 3. A friend had seen a few episodes and was interested, so we watched seasons 1 and 2 before 3 began. I had so many "ahaa" moments. There were many things I didn't get the first time around, and many indicators of what was to come that I had completely forgotten. It really made me appreciate the writing.


Dusk said...

Nikki, just wondering but is one of those theme debates going to be in the couples in the ending?

I'm not a major shipper-watcher but I did care about it to a degree as with all areas of the show. I understand your being wary of Shipper wars clogging up your place, but I think we can all agree love is a major aspect of the show in general. Plainly obvious in the memory flashes in The End.

So are you planning a post on couples or an overall post on love on the show? Like parent-child love? But that would fall under parent issues which is a major theme on it's own. Sibling love is very much lacking in most cases.

Oh yeah, looking forward to the fate/free will one.

Fred said...

Sadly, I feel the sort of villain represented by Benjamin Linus is a thing of the past--to be more precise, of the post-9/11 past. Ben Linus did not stand alone, but shared the spot light with other such deeper villains as Snape, Gaius Baltar and Sharon Agathon (BSG), Swearengen (Deadwood), and that lovable but misguided individual, Walter Bishop (Fringe). The atmosphere of the past decade was thick with the affirmations of gray moralities, of expedience as a guide to what in better times would be questionable action.

Thus in the end, we may have to take Ben Linus' claim to Michael that they are the "good guys" as a truth. What we see and what we have trouble with is the cost--as Yeat's said, a terrible beauty is born.

In the beginning, Ben hides his individuality, and so his ethical responsibility, in the mass called the Others. By such an immersion, Ben is assured of acting for the island, even if the cost of such actions includes the death of Roger, the Dharma Initiative, Henry Gale, and John Locke. But Ben is, also, coded as a "villain" by the very cunningness of his plans (for how long did we ponder which side Snape stood on, whether he was Voldomort's secret henchman).

At the same time, Ben also acts for himself, as when he steals Alex in an attempt to save her from Jacob's order to eliminate the child (Walter Bishop acts similarly in his attempt to save the other Peter, ending up keeping him as a replacement for his own lost son).

When we see Ben come to island as a young boy, we realize the older Ben is not without origins such as our own (although possessed of a father, Ben lives very much like Harry Potter, whose uncle sees little of value in the child--but the difference choices make in lives, and perhaps there was no choice in Ben's as he was taken by Richard to the Temple). The conclusion of Ben's earlier life is death of the father-figure: first, Roger, then his usurpation of Widmore, and finally his murder of Jacob (Harry loses similar father-figures, from Sirius to Dumbledore).

In Season 6, Ben is to make a fateful choice, between returning to the group (MiB), or to decide to choose Jacob (via Ilana). Ben's confession does not clear him of his "sins", but for the first time he acts as an individual moral being, rather reliant on the group (Walter Bishop confesses to Peter his actions, but the effect is less than Walter expects).

In some sense I think Damon and Carlton re-wrote the figure of Darth Vader, making the ending of LOST's Ben Linus actually work for his redemption. As Locke said, believing has never been easy. But for Ben it was all too easy. Like Jack, Ben needed to work his way out of the cocoon, and the process was a difficult one. In some sense, Ben is the boy under the stairs, the one who carries a mark of the evil that attacked him (in this case by Sayid shooting him, and Kate seeking to save him and giving him over to Richard), and the realization there might have been another "Chosen One" (perhaps, Locke) but for the way omens work out (What ever happened, happened).

Rebecca T. said...

Ben, Ben, Ben, Ben, Ben *sigh*

As soon as I saw the Twitter yesterday that he was the topic of LA I was dying to get over here. Seriously, I actually teared up at the thought that Ben Linus will no longer appear on my tv screen except in reruns.

Pardon me while I go contain my grief.

All right. Now that I'v read the previous comments...

I love so many of the moments you guys mentioned. "How many times do I have to tell you I always have a plan!" Is probably one of my favorites.

Also "If you mean time-travelling bunnies, then yes."

The first moment I fell in love/hate with his character, though was that moment when we get a glimpse of his face a second before the door to the armory closes. The look on his face is so delicious it gives me shivers just thinking about it.

As much as I love the character, one of the things that completely closed the deal for me was the first time I saw an interview with Michael Emerson. He was so nice and articulate and funny and sincere and I just fell in love with the whole package. He truly made the part what it was and I agree that no one else could have delivered those lines to get the same effect.

His character was so complex, so broken and so misguided. Like everyone else has said, you wanted him to be found out, to receive his dues for all the people he made suffer, but at the same time you didn't really want him to get caught or ultimately punished because that would have meant no more Ben!

The scene between him and Widmore was so fantastic and nuanced. The scene where he says good-bye to Alex is heart-wrenching and his scene with Ilana left more than one fan, I'm sure, calling "I'll have you!" to the television screen.

Then there was Ben in a fedora, which makes me chuckle just thinking about it. He pulled off every persona he was given throughout the show with perfection.

Excuse me, I think I need to go pull Season 2 out again :)

sk said...

The only negative thing I have to say about Ben is more of a continuity error. In Dead Is Dead, the hairpiece Michael Emerson sported was just terrible. There is nothing worse than a bad toupee. I could not take my eyes off of it. LOL !

Linda345 said...

@sk Awful and noticeable toupee! In competition with Jack's mullet in Man of Science, Man of Faith. Lost did strange things with hair (Claire, anyone?).

Susan said...

Does anyone else think the guy cast as Claire's boyfriend (and Aaron's dad) would have made a great young Ben?

Quarks said...

I loved Ben, even though he wasn't quite up there with some of the other characters in my opinion. He had some of the greatest lines in the series, and there were many moments where he had me laughing incredibly hard. He also had great depth, and watching him change throughout the seasons was fascinating.

I have to admit, when Ben first appeared, as Henry Gale, I didn't particularly like him. For that matter, I still don't when I watch season 2 back, although that may be because the episodes from "What Kate Did" to about "Lockdown" are my least favourite in the whole series. What I like most about Ben, along with his humour, is his general attitude of always having a plan and being relatively evil, which we didn't see that much when he was Henry Gale.

Season 3 was where Ben really became a main character, and we got to see one side of the real Ben; evil, manipulating, and just generally amazing. He managed to get Jack to save his life, and have Juliet infiltrate the survivors' camp, before everything started to fall apart. He lost control of his people, found himself jealous of John Locke, and ended up being beaten up by Jack, before he called the freighter.

In season 4, we see much more of Ben's personal side. Yes, he's still fairly evil, and manipulating, but when Alex is killed, he finally realises that the power he has put everything else aside to achieve isn't that important after all. He has lost the only thing that actually mattered to him; his daughter. Even though she wasn't actually his daughter, he loved her as if he was, and it is her death that makes him see that.

In the flashforwards, and in season 5, we see Ben confront Widmore and tell him he is going to kill Penny, but when it actually comes to it, he can't do it. When he sees Charlie, he reminds him of Alex, and his own experience of being a parent. Desmond attacks him to stop him killing Penny, but Ben had already realised that he couldn't take Charlie away from his mother, as both Alex and his own mother had been taken from him.

Quarks said...


When Ben returns to the Island, he is looking for his punishment for letting Alex die. He killed Locke so as to return to the Island, and when he finally gets there he finds Locke alive again. When Smokey appears as Alex and tells him not to hurt Locke, and to do whatever he says, he does it. He most likely knows that it wasn't Alex he spoke to, but for several reasons, he does what she says and ends up killing Jacob. Ben thinks that Jacob is just as responsible for Alex's death as he and Widmore are, and when Jacob essentially tells him that he didn't matter, that his suffering didn't matter, and that Alex had died for nothing, Ben's rage takes over him and he murders Jacob. He doesn't even appear to regret it, until Miles tells him that Jacob's last thought was that he hoped he was wrong about Ben.

When the Man in Black offers Ben the chance to be in control of the Island, Ben decides to join him. He has lost everything in order to get power, and now he finally had the chance to have it. His desire for power is all he has left.

The series ends for Ben with him finally being redeemed. He is now Hurley's second-in-command, and he actually has a certain amount of power. But for once, he doesn't want any more. He is happy with what he is. When the Man in Black tried to destroy the Island, Ben helped to save it. He saved Hurley from being probably killed by a falling tree, and by doing that, essentially saved the Island. If Hurley had died, there would be no protector of the Island, and then who knows what would have happened. In the moment when he decided to save Hurley, Ben was finally free of the selfishness that had consumed him for so long.

In the flash-sideways, Ben was the complete opposite. He was good, not evil. He helped people, instead of controlling them. He sacrificed his power for someone he cared about, instead if the other way around. The only thing which was the same for Ben in both universes was how much he cared for Alex. When Danielle tells him that he's like her father, Ben is so happy. It is not long after that moment that he gets his memories back, and his decision to stay is clearly based on his feelings for Alex. I like to think that not long afterwards, Alex and Danielle also got their memories back, and were able to move on and be happy. Ben did not experience much happiness in his life, so it was good to see him being happy afterwards.

Overall, Ben is one of the most important characters in Lost. For several seasons he played the role of the villain, but at heart he was a good guy. When Eko says in "The Cost of Living"*: "I ask for no forgiveness, Father. For I have not sinned. I have only done what I needed to do to survive" and "I did not ask for the life that I was given. But it was given, nonetheless. And with it... I did my best", this could just as equally apply to Ben. He was dealt a bad hand, but he made the most out of it. He made bad choices, one of which leading to Alex's death, and at many points he was blinded by his desire for power, but at heart he was a victim of circumstance. As shown by the flash-sideways, had he been in different circumstances, he could have been a great man. He was just unlucky.

* On a side note, an interesting piece of trivia is that Tania Raymonde, who played Alex, appeared in an episode of CSI:NY called "The Cost of Living.

I can't wait for next week, to discuss the finale. I didn't take part in any finale discussions when it was first on, so I'm looking forward to being able to give my views on this incredible episode.

Quarks said...

Just realised I forgot to say anything about Michael Emerson's performance in my comments. While all of the actors and actresses in Lost are incredible, Michael Emerson overshadows most of them. He is an incredible actor, and I don't believe that anybody could have played Ben Linus as well as he did.

Fred said...

Does anyone know who developed the character of Ben Linus? In the beginning, Ben was meant to be a brief appearance, but Emerson's dramatic performance of the character gave the character life beyond the general sketch. I have the feeling Elizabeth Sarnoff was important in developing the character, but beyond some of her credits for episodes in which Ben is a main feature, I really don't have any more than speculation.

Furthermore, it's remarkable how quickly they developed this character from really nothing. While Richard got a full episode to develop his background, Ben has at least a number of such flashbacks, and his character arc is as well evolved as Locke's or Jack's. We can't say as much for Sayid, nor for Desmond, nor some other main characters. (Note: I still love Naveen Andrews performance of Sayid, but Sayid comes to life more through Andrew's performance than the realisation of a fully developed character--so many questions I have about Sayid).

So returning to Ben, if the character was meant for only a few episodes, that supposes he might have been killed late in Season 2 (probably a failed escape). Thus, the whole Michael/Walt development might have taken a slightly different turn; even the Others might have been handled quite differently with likely a different leader, say Ms. Klugh?

Many here should love the above speculation, as this implies there was a lot of rewriting with regard to the direction of the show as it was going through Season 2, no less.

sk said...

@Fred ... I think that the writers and producers of LOST realized that they hit pay dirt when they saw the first dailies of Michael Emerson. Sort of like what happened to Kelsey Grammer on Cheers, and he went on to win many Emmys for his portrayal of Dr. Frasier Crane, and end up with his own show.

Michael Emerson, a classically trained stage actor, is quoted as saying, "It worries me a little bit about the power of TV. More people saw me in The Practice, (and LOST) then will ever see me in all the stage plays I ever do. Which is sort of humbling. Or troubling. Or both".

You gotta love the man. He is that great.

Pamalamb said...

Great topic for discussion! I've really enjoyed the discussion so far. While I loved many of the characters on Lost, Ben and John are special because it was two scenes (one for each of them) that truly grabbed me a held me as a fan: the scene at the end of Walkabout where we see John is in a wheelchair and the scene that Nikki refers to where Ben is given cereal to eat and he delivers has speech that begins "If I really was one of those people..."

I didn't add a comment to the discussion about John Locke because I had so many thoughts swirling around in my head, I couldn't turn them into a coherent comment (although I really enjoyed reading what everyone else had to say). With Ben however, I would like to comment on a few things. I loved to watch this character. He was so well written and so well played by Michael Emmerson that it truly was a joy to watch him each week. Although I loved what the character added to the story, It really was a love/hate feeling. I think his "end justifies the means" way of life really bothered me because I do not agree with that philosophy at all and he took it to such extremes. It also always bothered me that he seemed ten steps ahead of the losties all the time because he had inside information -- he always seemed to get the best of them. I think that was one reason I enjoyed watching his character in the second half of season 5 and in season 6. He finally didn't have all the answers and had to depend on other people. I think that humbling experience was what allowed him to become an "awesome #2" to Hurley later on.

I find it interesting that the writers had planned on getting rid of his character after a couple of episodes, but then he went on to have a major part in the remaining series. I think that it was their ability to adapt and change the story as needed that made it so great. If they had stayed with the original story and had been inflexible about changing things here and there it would never have been the outstanding TV show it became. That's why the dropped threads and/or unanswered questions never bothered me, I think those things might be necessary for a show like this to become what it became.

BTW, on a completely different topic, I saw an article on yahoo about famous houses for sell. One of the featured houses was the house in Honolulu that was used as the exterior of the house that Hurley bought with his lottery winnings.

sk said...

How much is it listed for ?


The Hurley Factor.

JenniferS said...

My favorite Ben line was the one Michael Emerson mentioned on the Jimmy Fallon show, when Locke brings him some cooked rabbit and Ben says, "This didn't have a number on it, did it?"

I hated Ben but my heart always kind of broke for him too. Particularly after I saw how "Roger Workman" treated him. (And how great a moment was that, when we discovered that Ben's father was "the" Roger?) Mostly his complicated relationship with Alex and his grief over her death made me sympathize with him, just a little.

His torture of Locke made me furious with him, though at the same time I laughed every time he made snarky comments when John was being dense.

While we're sort of on the subject, someone mentioned that it was Jacob who wanted Ben to kill Alex as a baby. Are we sure about that? Seems a little hands-on for old Jacob.

JenniferS said...

Forgot to give props to Quarks for the comparison of Ben to Eko. I never thought of that -- good eye.

Linda345 said...

I read an interesting article some years back regarding Seinfeld, where the writer was making a point that the most memorable character of that show was, not the wacky Kramer, as would be expected, but George, whose lying, conscience-challenged ways captivated us.

Same with Ben. For me, he's the character who will first spring to mind in years to come. Sure, Hurley was sweet, Jack was relatable, Locke was philosophical: But Ben Linus was compelling. He said he was one of the good guys, but I thought he was bad, or was he good? Or was he bad? I wondered...

Ben provided the narrative with needed tension. By the time he was introduced, the smoke monster had become ho-hum, the Jack/Locke banter was tired, and Eko was dead. The moment had arrived for an infusion of Ben Linus and his villainy (or was it?).

When I first saw Henry Gale (Gale -- get it? Dorothy Gale in the Wizard of Oz), trapped in Danielle's net, I felt so sorry for this poor man who had simply been trying out his hot-air balloon (another Oz reference)with his now dead wife, and now was being treated unkindly by our Losties. Then came the scene where the camera panned in on the man, sitting in his lonely cell, and his face settled into an evil smile. I said, uh-oh. He had just manipulated John Locke, the first of his many manipulations over 3 delightful seasons. Ben lied, but sometimes he told the truth. You never knew. He kept you off-balance.

Ben had an issue with power. Control of the island was important to him, just because he liked control. Ben's power struggles with Locke provided some of the most intriguing scenes of the show: two amazing actors playing off each other.

I loved Ben's humanization in Season 6, but I wouldn't have liked it a moment sooner. His apologizing to Illana, standing there bereft of that power he was so attached to, letting go of that need at long last, showing his true nature that we hadn't seen since he was a boy, before Sayid shot him -- wonderful.

I'm enjoying reading these comments, and I note that others are as amazed as I am at how TV characters are written. I don't know about anyone else here, but I belong to book discussion groups (yeah, like Juliet), and there the character discussions are OH SO different. We trust that fiction writers have chosen their characters themselves and have had control of that person, from development to denouement. Different here, isn't it? Episodes are written by committee, and they have to be mindful of a TV schedule. The characters are then further fleshed out by the actors portraying them, by their skill or lack. Adding to that, the writers must work around the actors' availability, as well as DUIs and temper tantrums. The finished product is a result of all this.

So a thank you goes to the writers, and especially to Michael Emerson, for the awesome, intriguing, wonderful, BEN LINUS!!

scrvet said...

Through Ben I learned that the writers weren't going to answer our questions so easily. When Ben said something I thought " Well, there's an answer I was looking for", but the next episode I realized he was lying and my previous answers were not genuine. I learned to trust flashbacks more than dialogue.