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What Lies in the Shadow of the Statue: Dead Isn't Always Dead on "Lost"

"On you, my lord, with anxious fear I wait/And from your judgment must expect my fate."
- Joseph Addison

On last night's episode of Lost ("Dead Is Dead"), written by Brian K. Vaughan and Elizabeth Sarnoff, some of Benjamin Linus' missing backstory was tantalizingly teased out as we learned the truth about the abduction of Alex Rousseau, the friction in Ben's relationship with Charles Widmore, and the fate of Penny and Desmond.

And, oh, we got to see Ben and Locke climb into the cavernous underground beneath the Temple where Ben received his judgment from the nameless smoke monster and received his instructions from the island.

Ben has been one of the most complex--if not THE most complex--characters on the series to date and his motivations have been enticingly ambiguous since his introduction in Season Two. Last night's episode painted a somewhat different picture of Benjamin Linus, one in which he might not be wholly evil but still have some human emotion. Of course, this being Lost, it's a complicated humanity that pits the well-being of The Island above the life of Ben's own daughter.

So what I did I think of this week's episode? Put on your Dharma jumpsuit, grab yourself an oar, and let's discuss "Dead Is Dead."

Ben. I still don't trust Ben as far as I can throw him. Even after allegedly discussing his reasons for murdering John Locke minutes after preventing him from killing himself (he says he had knowledge that would have died with him and then didn't have time to convince him to hang himself again afterward), I am still not sure what to make of Ben. He quickly turns Cesar against Locke, preying on Cesar's suspicions and paranoia to make him believe that Locke hadn't been on the plane. Just why does he do this? In case Locke turns on him of course. Or he doesn't want to go along with Locke's plan about making sure that Ben gets his judgment from the smoke monster. As always, Ben is thinking ten steps ahead... and yet for once Locke seems to have more knowledge than he does, making their relationship very different this time around than it was when they were last on the island. And when Ben very shockingly shoots Cesar after stealing his shotgun? Well, it's his way of saying that he's chosen his next step. (Is Cesar dead? It certainly looks that way.)

Ben also tries to turn Sun against Locke as well and gain her trust if she ever wants to see Jin alive again. Yet he seems to be completely surprised when Sun shows him the Dharma Initiative orientation picture containing Jack, Kate, and Hurley; he had no idea that the castaways had traveled back in time nor that they were members of the Dharma Initiative. Which means that Ben didn't remember them from his childhood and that wasn't why he gave Michael their names in Season Two. Hmmm.

Loved that Ben's house was left the very same way that it was when we last saw it, the unfinished game of Risk still sitting on the kitchen table, and that Ben went back into the secret compartment behind his closet to summon the smoke monster as he did last season (when the Barracks where under attack by Keamy and his men). However, I couldn't help but wonder that when these homes were constructed (and the secret room containing Ben's passports, etc.), did the builder know of its proximity to one of the Cerebus, uh, sink drain? Were the Barracks built there for that very reason? In order to ensure that someone could summon the smoke monster? Very interesting...

Ben, meanwhile, doesn't want to receive judgment for killing John Locke... or even for attempting to kill Penny Widmore (more on that in a bit) but for standing by and allowing his adopted daughter Alex to die rather than give himself up to Keamy. As we see in the flashback, Widmore tells Ben twice that Alex is meant to die and he claims that Jacob wants her dead. When he's finally exiled from the island (although we still don't know why), he tells Ben that if the island wants Alex dead, she will be dead and that he can't fight the inevitable. So was Alex always meant to die at the hands of Keamy? Perhaps. It seems to me that if the island wanted her to live, she would have miraculously survived the shooting somehow. But she's dead, right?

Alex. When Ben receives the judgment of the smoke monster, his life is spared after he relives the moments that brought him there: images of taking Alex from her mother, pushing her on a swing, and watching her die. Afterward, the monster disappears. But in its place: Alex herself. Ben claims that "dead is dead" but we all know that's not the case on Lost and have seen numerous examples of when the dead have seemingly come back to life (Locke), appeared as some sort of spirit guide (Christian), or appeared in visions. So has Alex been subsumed into the island itself now? Is she a physical/spiritual manifestation of Ben's own guilt given human form? Or has she joined the shadowy realm of those clinging to the invisible thread between life and death, forming a sort of triumvirate with Claire and Christian? Interesting...

More than anything in his life, Ben feels guilty for the the death of Alex, even though he didn't pull the trigger himself. While he wasn't directly to blame for her dying, his inaction in the face of such danger for his beloved daughter speaks volumes about why he wants to be judged. After all, he took Alex from her allegedly insane mother (and told her to run if she ever heard the Whispers in the jungle), prevented Widmore from killing her, and raised her as his own. Sayid claimed that he stood by and let his daughter die but it's clear that Ben is being eaten away inside from his complicity in this matter. It's the one thing he does feel guilty about and feels that he should be punished for: not the shooting of Cesar, not the murder-by-proxy of numerous people, not the attempt on Penny's life. With Ben, it all comes back to Alex, to the promise of what children represent: a chance to undo the sins of the past. And yet he's willing to sacrifice this for what he perceives to be the greater good, the safety and protection of the island. Is this why he's spared from death by the monster?

The Smoke Monster. We learn in this week's episode that the monster doesn't have a name. Or at least its name is so old that it's lost even to the Others. In the chambers deep below the Temple (which is forbidden to be seen by outsiders), there's a sort of multi-holed vent from which the smoke monster emanated. Its presence is clearly linked to the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs that cover the walls of the chamber... and to one key panel which depicts the jackal-headed god Anubis summoning the smoke monster to him. That Anubis was an underworld god, charged with overseeing the Veil of Death, is significant here when so many matters seem connected to the afterlife... or lack thereof.

So what is the smoke monster then? A servant of Anubis himself? A wispy jackal capable of weighing the good and evil inside everyone and then pronouncing judgment upon them: life or death? It certainly seems that way. While we get some answers in this week's episode (along with somewhat hokey special effects), it's clear that we still don't know the full story here. Why didn't the monster appear at the Barracks when Ben summoned it using the sink hole behind his secret room? Why did it need Locke to lead Ben to The Temple in order to judge Ben? Was it significant that Ben return to the place where the monster had once healed him and restored his life? And why did Locke have to lead him there? Hmmm...

Locke. It's fantastic to see Locke have more of a leadership role than Ben for a change, to be the one with the answers instead of the questions. Which places Locke in a very dangerous position with Ben, who is used to being the keeper of secrets. It's clear that Locke has a connection to the island and to the smoke monster. He knows what must be done (though I can't help but wonder when Locke got to when Sun and Ben were outside the house) and it's Locke, not the monster, who appears outside. Coincidence?

Likewise, Locke seems to be the latest in a series of intended leaders for the Others, following in the footsteps of Widmore and Benjamin. Just as Widmore tells Young Ben, "Just because you're living with them doesn't mean you can't be one of us," the same applies to Locke as well. He too was healed by the island, he too was accepted into Jacob's confidence, he too was initiated into the mysteries of the island. He willingly accepts the miracle of everything that has happened ever since he set foot on the island and his resurrection is just the latest in a series of inexplicable phenomena. In fact, it's slightly eerie how unwilling Locke is to wonder what happened to him in the time between death and rebirth.

The Others. The Others, meanwhile, appear to assimilate whatever discarded clothing, buildings, or equipment they can find, rather like scavengers do, moving into the US Army camp after they kill the soldiers, taking over the Barracks after the Purge of the Dharma Initiative. Rather like jackals, themselves. Interesting, given the reverence they pay to Anubis, no? In this episode, we see them in a camp town, with a rider coming up on horseback, much more at home in the jungle than we've seen them before. The sight of them in their little camp made me wonder where the Others have gotten to since the events of Season Three. Richard was taking them to The Temple, so I can't help but wonder if they are all still there or have moved on since then. And just how did Ben manage to initiate a very young Ethan Rom into the Others? Very curious.

Penny. We learned just how Ben got those injuries before he boarded Ajira Flight 316 but I am extremely glad that the writers didn't kill off Penny Widmore... though Ben definitely went to the docks with the express intent to kill her as payback for the death of Alex. Hell, he even shoots Desmond before turning the gun on Penny and would have likely followed through with it if he hadn't seen Charlie. It's Charlie's presence which prevents him from murdering Penny, just as how years before, Baby Alex stayed Ben's execution of Danielle Rousseau. And the Desmond beat the living hell out of Ben before tossing him, bloody and beaten, into the ocean. (Go Des!) I am however, very confused how Desmond and Penny sailed from London... to Los Angeles.

Lost Literary Allusion of the Week: Desmond and Penny's boat is named for Charles Dickens' novel "Our Mutual Friend," which was intended to be the last book that Desmond read before he died... a copy of which Desmond had in The Swan and which contained an undiscovered letter from Penny declaring her love for Desmond and they fail-safe key.

Ilana. I'm really not sure what to make of Ilana, especially after she attacked Frank Lapidus when he returned to the camp. There has always been something that I didn't like about her, something underneath the surface that jangled my nerves, especially given her insistence that she and Sayid board that particular flight. Her question to Frank, "What lies in the shadow of the statue?" seems to resemble that of Desmond's riddle "What does one snowman say to the other?" So is it a code to see if Lapidus is on their side? Does Ilana work for Widmore? Did Eloise Hawking tip him off that the Oceanic Six was intending to return to the island? And just what is in that gigantic crate that Ilana and Bram (October Road's Brad William Henke) seem so intent on opening? Could Widmore have found a way to return to the island, after all? Or is Ilana working for what's left of the old Dharma Initiative, given the riddle's similarity to Desmond's snowman question? It goes without saying that the coded question to Lapidus is also clearly meant to reference the statue on the island itself as well. Is it Anubis who casts his shadow over the island?

Best line of the evening: "I'll be seeing you, boy." - Charles Widmore to Ben

What did you think of this week's episode? Were you excited by the reveal of the smoke monster or disappointed? Is there any shred of humanity left inside Benjamin Linus? Why does the island want him to be following John Locke? Discuss.

Next week on Lost ("Some Like It Hoth"), suspicions about a security breach intensify in the Dharma Initiatve following Ben's kidnapping from the infirmary; Miles is reluctantly forced to work with Hurley when he's asked to deliver an important package to a top Dharma official.


Unknown said…
OK, now my brain hurts....So many theories, so little grey matter.
I love the new (dead?) Locke! Not only does he look spiffy in his suit but it's great to see him in control while Ben scrambles to make sense of what is going on.

Ben's journey through the temple reminded me a little of Indiana Jones but I kind of liked that.
Maggie said…
Thanks for another great write up, Jace. I always love reading your take on shows because you always get me to see them in a different way.

I don't know what to make of Ilana and was really weirded out by her question to Frank which seemed to make no sense. Thanks for reminding me about Desmond's snowman riddle. It definitely does make me think of that now and make me wonder if you are right and Ilana works for either Widmore or Dharma. Dharma would be even more interesting if they were attempting to retake the island back from the hostiles after all this time! I just got goosebumps!!!!!
ted23 said…
@Danielle Definitely reminded me of Indiana Jones but wasn't sure I liked that. Smoke monster seemed pretty lame in this incarnation. Didn't like the special FX in this episode, thought made the monster pretty wimpy really by having it come from some holes in the floor like a radiator. Eh. Not my favorite ep.
Heatherette said…
So glad that Ben didn't kill Penny! Or Desmond. Or Charlie. I would have been heartbroken!

When reading your Lost reviews I always feel like I'm watching the episode again but with a new perspective. Thanks!
HipHopAnonymous said…
Great ep. What struck me was that I finally feel like I understand now why Ben said Alex was, "just a pawn and means nothing to me," when Keamy was about to kill her. Because that's exactly what she was. Just a pawn. At least at first.

It seemed to me that the scene where Ben challenges Widmore to kill baby-Alex mirrored the scene in season 3 where Ben challenged Locke to kill his own father (the Man from Tallahassee). Richard later explains to Locke that Ben did this in order to embarrass him in front of the Others because Ben perceived Locke as a threat to his leadership. When Locke refuses, he loses face with the Others and is soon cast out. At least until Sawyer does the job for him.

So I would argue that Ben is doing the same thing here with Widmore, and what's more, he originally stole Alex, not because Danielle was insane, or because he was emotionally moved by the baby, but purely to use the baby as a pawn against Widmore, knowing that Widmore would be forced to either murder the baby himself or lose face in front of the Others. As with Locke, Widmore loses face, and before long gets cast out likewise.

Yet despite all of this, Ben still grew to love Alex as his own daughter over time, perhaps without even realizing it himself until she was dead. I suppose that's what makes Ben kind of a tragic character. He's grown so adept at using people as pawns he doesn't even know his own heart anymore.
Mazza said…
I would have screamed if Ben had killed Penny! I am happy he didn't and that we got to see some of him and Widmore together on the island in the past. Not sure how Des and Penny sailed to LA from London. Would have taken a while if they went around South America. DIdn't think about that. As for Elana, I think that maybe she is working for Widmore and what's in that crate is something that he wanted brought to the island for a reason. They knew the 06 were going back and that was the best chance of reaching the island.
Jace Lacob said…

Very good point about Ben trying to embarrass Locke in front of the Others with Anthony Cooper... I like your thought that it was that very same situation that Ben hoped to engineer with Widmore and Baby Alex. However, I do think that he cared for her, though. It was clear from the way he was pushing her on the swing that he did have a paternal relationship with her and he sought to remove Karl from her life when he was worried that she would get pregnant and die if they had sex. I think it was perhaps the one humanizing influence on his life.
HipHopAnonymous said…
@ Jace. Yes, I agree totally. Ben did genuinely love Alex and think of her as his own daughter. But I'd argue that his love for her happened almost unconsciously or even against his better judgement.

That is to say, he originally saw her as an opportunity to oust Widmore, then assumed the role of doting father for appearances sake, only to become exactly that... a doting, loving father. But in the back of his head, Ben always knew that he originally took Alex to be used as a pawn against Widmore. So in the moment when he is faced with Keamy's threats, it's almost like the two realities of his relationship with Alex collide.

Before I could never understand why Ben would tell Keamy she was just a pawn and meant nothing to him. It seemed like a rather poor bluff. But now I think there may have been a part of Ben (the 'Other' part I guess), that actually wanted to believe that. Of course he was lying to himself as much as he was to Keamy.
CL said…
Ben has been one slippery character. I can never tell whether he's being truthful, lying through his teeth, or lying with the truth! I've enjoyed the ride, but it's about time someone - or something - told him to knock it off and play it straight from now on. I wonder if he'll be able to follow instead of lead.

Frankly, I don't know what all the hoopla is about when it comes to leading "The Others". Charles Widmore didn't want to give up the job either. But why? It's such a crappy job! Is there some sort of compensation? Immortality, perhaps?

I'm really enjoying Lost right now. I don't think it's ever been this good.
Ally said…
Really good ep, but the sfx person should be eaten by the smoke monster.

My favorite line: "I was really just hoping for an apology."
Lamar said…
From London to Los Angeles through the Panama Canal. It costs about $1,500 for a yacht to pass through the canal.
Anonymous said…
I wonder if Christian is only a spiritual guide - his body was never found, and though he's been seen off the island, he has certainly been a bit more active on it.

My response when Ben said no one had ever been brought back on the island was 'Except Christian'. Not sure though, as Walt 'appeared' to John after Ben shot him, and seemed to have no recollection of that when they met up in NYC.

Every episode just seems shorter and shorter. It's been amazing all this season!
Anonymous said…
I thought this weeks episode was great. Any idea when we will see Faraday again?
Anirudh Vinay said…
* Very confused how Desmond and Penny sailed from London... to Los Angeles.

Desmond had gone to Los Angeles to find Faraday's mother . So Penny could have gone with him & had the boat shipped or flown there
Twalls said…
My theory is that Ilana and her boys are tied to a cult, secret society or some other party that has kept the secret of the Island as guarded knowledge... I don't believe she is connected to Ben, Widmore or Dharma, although she could be. They got the guns from the Hydra station, and the case... well, that could be navigation, communications or survival equipment. Or something to smoke Smokey.
Oreo said…
Hey... has anybody thought about Locke? Is the Locke we're seeing in his "Own Time"
~Locke turns the wheel, next he's with Charles Widmore who tells him that he saw him when he was 17, and when Locke was asked how long it had been for him he states it had been only 4 days.
~Widmore than tells Locke that 3 years had then passed since his friends had been back from the island. This would mean that Locke visited the future Jack, Hurley, Kate, Walt, and Sayid, and that he isn't in his own time because he jumped 3 years into the future.
~Is anyone following me?
Michael Davey said…
Don't forget that Ben tells Sun to tell Desmond that "He's sorry". Presumably for shooting Desmond and trying to kill his wife, Penny.

Great episode. I watched the entire show from season one again, and gained a lot of insight, caught a lot of different things. I recommend that if you like lost and want to fill in a lot of the blanks, you should do the same. I also watch the show twice, once by myself, then again later in the night with my wife.

Again, I catch a lot more.
Rv said…
I think Ilana and her big boxes and guns may be related to the people who tried to recruit Miles. They said there was a war coming.
Jace Lacob said…

Yep, it's discussed in the write up for this week's episode ("Some Like It Hoth"), which can be found here:
Michael Davey said…
By the way, the preview for the episode in two weeks shows Dan arriving in the sub.

What does this portend? Dan has always said that they can't change anything, that the future has already happened.

I think he has realized that he is wrong, that they can change some things. Of course they can, but in changing it, do they change it to what they want it to be, or change it from what it would have been had they not been there?

For instance, Jack refused to help young Ben as he lay bleeding to death. He is a surgeon, yet he was waiting for the island to tell him what his role is. When offered a role, to save Ben, he rejects it. So Ben is given into the Others hands, straight into the temple, where he is saved, but becomes an Other.

Clearly, they can change things, the question is; what should they change?

Dan has has probably realized, as we have seen, that not only can they change things, but they are all integrally a part of things.

So he can perhaps save Charlotte (sp) but will he even try to save the rest of the Darma crew? Can he, or will events simply run out of control?
Unknown said…
The situation with Bram and Illana makes me think that there are several groups vying for control of the island: Ben, Widmore, Faraday, and "the shadow of the statue" crew that has an increasingly annoying habit of calling everyone "my friend." Then again, Caesar probably wasn't one of them. They might be exiled others, like widmore, the offspring of some, or those who experienced some concentrated miracle on the mainland (like Juliet's sister.)
New Locke is great! He's always been my favorite character. and now that he's not as easily manipulated, I think I'll like him more.
Josh Sauer said…
I think it is wrong to suppose that, just because Ben went back to that room to call the smoke monster before, that he was necessarily going back there for the same purpose this time. I think that's what he wanted them to THINK, but he seemed a bit reluctant when Locke offered to TAKE him to the smoke monster. I think he was talking to somebody else, telling them where he was, so they could come get him out of this jam.

While I believe he was genuinely effected by his encounter with the smoke monster, and Alex (who may have been a false manifestation much like Eko's brother), I don't for a second believe that he REALLY wanted to be judged, and I think he was quite put out that Locke essentially called his bluff and forced him to do exactly what he SAID he wanted to do.
Anonymous said…
Great Write up there. Though I would like to point out that you are correct about Anubis and partially correct about the hieroglyphs. There is some Eygptian hieroglyphs and then there is something else mixed in with them. I am attempting a translation to work out what it says. There has been a long standing idea that the Eygptians were visited by aliens (not a theroy I uphold) but this could explain some mysteries.

It is also worth knowing that in Greek and Eygptian mythology, Smokey Entities would often be called upon to do the bidding in the night of the gods, as the gods even feared to walk the world at night (Mythras)
Anonymous said…
Mike, you don't get it. Maybe you just started watching this season and never watched the first four, but Ben was an "other" from the beginning. They didn't change anything in the past, in fact, they are responsible for turning Ben into the person that he is. They only fulfilled what had already happened, ironically being key players in Ben's development.
Unknown said…
So What DOES lie in the shadow of the statue?

"that which" or "He who lies in shadows"
"a Shady liar"
"Ben, when he's standing in the shadow of the Statue"
"Ben lies no matter where he is"

Recall that the others took control of most Dharma stations and even monitored 815's "Hatch" Ben was Dharma bred and would know Dharma codes, especially if Dharma security continues to be helpful towards "Little Ben" I'll bet Ben could have walked in on Des in the Hatch and told him the correct punchline if Ben had decided he wanted use of the Dharma station "Pearl" for his own uses. Illana may be under his Employ, sent to fetch Sayid and be sure he is on a specific flight.
Is the statue of Anubis? I like this idea, perhaps the statue was erected in his honor as he was given leadership over the Ancient Egyptian Others. I think Ben may use Anubis' reputation as an example. I do feel confident that we've seen more honesty in his character than we've seen in him since before he went to the temple. Perhaps while he was in the Temple he was infused with the spirit of Anubis, but the spirit itself can't remember previous incarnations. I wonder then, if Locke's new life is borrowed from an ancient God.
Ben already has the spirit of Anubis, so who now resides in Locke?
Anonymous said…
Can't wait to see more of Ra. I mean R.A. ... Richard Alpert. :)
Anonymous said…
Q: What lies in the shadow of the statue?

A: That which watches over all of us.
athinkingman83 said…
"What lies in the shadow of the statue" is a statement, not a question. It is a koan, a riddle.
A lie, as in untruth.
The statue is tall, powerful. Casts a big shadow, indicating how widespread the lie is.
It is of Egyptian origin, so it goes back a long way.
Who lives under the Statue? Jacob. It was built to cover him, but not in terms of protection. He will probably be the most misunderstood character of all.
Ilana goes to Jacob's house, and realizes that he has not been there for a long time, but Locke encounters "Christian" in the house last, and Christian says he can speak on behalf of Jacob. This is an analogy of modern Western religion. Jacob is the true god, lives under the lie of the statue, and lets Christian (Christ) speak on his behalf.
Read David Icke's "The Biggest Secret" and Carl Sagan's "The Dragons of Eden" for more on this, if you need more scientific proof.
Anonymous said…
You didn't just recommend David Icke, did you? You had me until then. Icke is a mental wackadoo. He's a sci-fi head case.
athinkingman said…
Yeah I know, but I never said I believed it. But the symbolism for Western religion is there. What he wrote about fits in with the Lost storyline. Kernels of truth? I don't know. Maybe the world IS flat...
athinkingman said…
You know , it just occurred to me that the statue is that of Sobek, the (reptilian) Egyptian god of righting wrongs, especially when death occurs. That's what the island does. He is like a receptionist for the other creator gods, directing the prayers of the dead to the proper gods.
Sobek didn't emerge in the Egyptian pantheon till about 1400 BC, so it was there at least that long, and the ship Jacob and that man (don't know who he is yet) see on the horizon is from the mid 17th century. It's the Black Rock.
In the opening scene of the season finale, the man with Jacob accuses him of bringing the people here, and with them come death and fighting and everything bad... just as the survivors did when they crashed in paradise, no less. Just human nature I guess. Still not sure why he wants to kill Jacob. Clearly, Locke is reincarnated from that man.
Jace Lacob said…

This thread is for discussing the episode "Dead is Dead." If you want to discuss the season finale, please go here:
Anonymous said…
every book is written to be read.

i can follow your opinion of lost´s content, mixing up several genres, adding different people from dieffrent countires and religions, leading to the presumption that lost is, in the end a game.

like all great histories (bible etc.) divided into good/light and bad/dark.

but i must admit, the phrase that lost is a game could be wrong construed by many reasons…

sure, the archetype of game has two sides and the highest achievement is to win by following the rules,

which had been set by the creators.

and this is the point i was suggesting there might be a problem.

since the beginning of the mankind alsways the same good vs evil…

on this world it´s not game that we´re in, that mades the story, it is the chioce we have, it´s the choice we made.

it´s not a game this is life and life is not a game ;D

Fueeeeh… this is my lost theory, which i developed with friends and a lot of time in front of my pc.

i noticed the ancient war this night when i take look a zeitgeist the movie and take a closer look at the first part.

the blueprint of all religions lies in old egypt(a theme highly tied in LOST), and further more in the past of heathen belief.

maybe lost is the way to show us that where able to make the choice on our own, without confining religion.

to accept our destiny to fulfil what´s is called dharma.

at the end of this movie an old firend shows up.guess who?. richard alpert (the real one) has been cited and he says smth like

we all have the possibility to make a decision. to choice. choice between love and fear.there´s no others-there´s just a we.

this could be the intention of the makers: power to the people

of course this is not the solution. but i assumed when i looked the third season back in 2007,that lost is all about its past

and past itself. the story and the losties are going more n more back into past, so that answers can be given to the viewers.

i´m sure we´ll see more of the black rock and the true habitants of our beloved island.

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