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"They Changed the Rules": The Shape of Things to Come on "Lost"

I've been not-so patiently waiting for the return of Lost to the airwaves and I have to say that last night's episode--which brought with it death, revelations, and more mysteries--more than made up for the torturous wait.

Last night's episode of Lost ("The Shape of Things to Come") was a tantalizing mind-game of a puzzle, focusing on the engimatic character of Benjamin Linus, who--in a nifty bit of narrative legerdemain--is actually becoming more and more sympathetic to me (unlike, that is, my former favorite character Locke, who seems to be becoming more and more unhinged with every episode). Once again, we are offered morsels in the form of small answers to the very large questions posed by this maddeningly brilliant series but the further questions they raise are just as tasty as before: just "what" is Benjamin Linus? What are the "rules" established between him and archenemy Charles Widmore in their ongoing war? How did Ben summon the monster? Let's discuss.

Ben. That opening shot of an anorak-clad Ben waking up in the middle of the Sahara was absolutely gorgeous and shocking. While Ben later claims to Sayid that he took Desmond's boat (The Elizabeth) on the correct bearing and then got a plane from Fiji, we know he's lying. He was just as confused as we were to see that he was in the middle of the desert. The anorak, to me anyway, suggests that he didn't know where in the world he was going to end up or in what climate (or time, to be honest); it indicates that theories that Ben has a way off the island--by moving in space or time (to 2005) or, well, space/time--are accurate.

As for the anorak itself, it had a Dharma station logo on the upper right of the coat (one we've never seen before, a symbol within a spiral, that I believe refers to The Orchid) and the name Hallifax on the upper left. Hallifax is of course a reference to Edgar Hallifax, a.k.a. Marvin Candle, our friendly Dharma station orientation guide/research scientist/possible one-armed man. I'm not entirely sure why Ben's arm was cut and bleeding when he's found by some armed horsemen but Ben proves he's not playing around when he whips out a blackjack and then takes down the two men without breaking a sweat. Niiiice.

Loved that Ben's pseudonym in Tunisia (there's the Tunisian connection again, site of the polar bear finding) was Dean Moriarty, which has two connotations. First is the proper name itself which is that of the hero of Kerouac's book "On the Road" (which, come to think of it, is just what Ben is at the moment); second is of course Moriarty himself, the dogged archenemy of Sherlock Holmes. So which is it: hero or villain? That's what makes this storyline so damn fascinating is that I'm really starting to question week to week just what makes Ben tick. And the answer may be far more complex and less black and white than we've originally believed.

Death. I thought for sure that Claire was going to die in this episode, especially since Hurley had Aaron with him and Claire was in the cabin that exploded... and yet Sawyer managed to find her buried under some rubble and dazed but alive. (Loved that she called him Charlie for a second.) I thought for sure she was a goner (which would explain how Kate ended up in the future with Aaron) but I never for a moment thought that the producers would kill off Alex in such a heartbreaking fashion. After being taken hostage by Keamy's men (and triggering the 14J warning code when she turned off the sonic fence), she was forced to hear her adoptive father Ben call her a pawn and "admit" that she was not really his daughter... seconds before Keamy blew her brains out. Ben was SHOCKED that his distancing himself from Alex didn't produce the desired effect and he seemed genuinely confused that Keamy didn't let her go. But why would Keamy have not killed her, especially if she wasn't his daughter and therefore didn't invalidate the "rules"? Color me confused.

Sayid. While the episode's flashforwards belong squarely to Ben, I was glad to see that they also advanced one of the more complex storylines introduced this year as they explored just how Sayid ended up in Ben's employ. When we see Sayid, we're just as shocked as Ben to catch a glimpse of him on the news as he returns to Iraq for his wife's funeral. Ben, in the guise of a press photographer, tracks him to Iraq and learns that (A) Sayid did manage to finally track down his lost love Nadia in Los Angeles and married her and (B) she was murdered by a man who works for Charles Widmore who then followed Sayid to Iraq. I'm not entirely sure what was gained by removing Nadia from the playing field (or if the murder of the relatives of Oceanic Six will prove to be an ongoing plot point) but it definitely propelled Sayid to become Ben's assassin as he finds himself on a course of vengeance.

Charles Widmore. I absolutely loved the scene in which Ben confronted Charles Widmore in his London bedroom. After sneaking into a luxe apartment building (and nearly having to take out the doorman), Ben accesses the penthouse lair of his arch-nemesis. But instead of killing Widmore, he wakes him from his slumber, noting that Charles now sleeps with a bottle of whiskey (MacCutcheon, of course). Their conversation had me on the edge of my seat: Ben alleges that Keamy killing Alex changed the "rules" and that, in recompense, he'll kill Charles' daughter Penelope. (A situation that poses a problem as she is Desmond's constant.) I found it interesting that Charles believed Penelope sufficiently hidden (like Ben has concealed the island) as to prove this impossible and that Charles doesn't view Ben as a victim in this equation. He knows just "what" Ben is and where he came from and alleges that Ben took something from him (the island) years ago and he intends to get it back. The war has just escalated.

(Sidebar: As for Widmore's Australian accent in this scene, I'm not sure if that was an intentional change from his typical English accent or more the fact that actor Alan Dale's English accent wasn't, er, quite up to par. I found it extremely uneven as he seemed to slip into an Aussie or Yank accent even when he was meant to be English, surprising considering the Australian-born Dale does a flawless American accent.)

Ray. I was intriged when Ray, the ship's creepy doctor washes up on shore with his throat slit. Just how did he get there and why was he killed? The answer to the first part is easy (thrown overboard), the second slightly less easy (captain killed him) and then there's the revelation that the doctor is just fine aboard the Kahana, a fact that Faraday is eager to cover up. (Fortunately for us, Bernard understands Morse code.) We know that time runs differently on the ship than on the island, which means that while Ray is dead on the island, he's still alive on the boat when the Morse code conversation occurs. Which means, he hasn't been killed YET. But that's likely to change the next time we catch up with the freighter.

Smokey. I loved seeing Smokey in all his glory. Seemingly summoned by Ben from the mystery room concealed within the OTHER secret room in the bunker, Smokey takes on an even more menacing, malevolent form as he sweeps across the barracks, killing everything in its path and crackling with electricity. Ben clearly lied to Locke about not knowing what the monster was and, behind that hieroglyphics-covered wall lies the secret to the monster. Just what was down there? A Cerebus vent as indicated on the map in the Swan? Or something else? And why was Ben so filthy and covered in soot when he emerged? Hmmm.

Hurley. I had a feeling that while Ben and Locke might let Claire, Aaron, Sawyer, and Miles go back to the beach, there was no way in hell they were letting Hurley go with them. After all, he's the last one to have seen Jacob's cabin and the only way they are going to be able to locate it again. Hurley sadly accepted his fate, more willing to see everyone put their guns down than to try to escape his fate. Just why Hurley has become the keeper of the secret is intriguing to me (and what it means) as is the fact that Locke and Ben, so clearly favorite disciples of Jacob, cannot seem to find that ash-surrounded cabin. Just what they'll find there or what Jacob will tell them to do will have to wait for another day...

Jack. Poor Jack is swallowing antibiotics with abandon, claiming that he has a stomach flu, but it's clearly more serious than he's letting on. Moments like this totally remind me--in the best possible way--of Season One. Will Jack survive? Yes. Will his appendix rupture? No. While we know that Jack has to live (he does get off the island, after all), it's bound to be a tense situation as possibly Juliet is the only person who has the surgical skills to save Jack. Who will step up to lead them with Jack incapacitated? My guess: Kate.

Lost Literary Allusions of the Week. Besides for the aforementioned allusions to Sherlock Holmes and "On the Road," there were a few other literary references this week. The man Ben claims murdered Nadia (who is then shot down by Sayid) was named Ishmael, the narrator in Herman Melville's Moby Dick; it's also a Biblical name referring to the son of Abraham (and Hagar) whose half-brother was Isaac, the father of Jacob. (Hmmm.) The episode's title, "The Shape of Things to Come," is a reference to an H.G. Wells novel which recounts a history of the world, told from the future.

Next week on Lost ("Something Nice Back Home"), Kate and Juliet must work together to save Jack when his health is compromised; Sawyer, Claire, Miles, and Aaron head back to the beach but discover they are not out of the woods when they encounter Keamy along the way.

Comments

Anonymous said…
I think you meant Edgar Halliwax.

Anyway, fantastic episode! I can't tell you how many times I sat there gaping at the screen in complete shock! Seeing Ben wake up in the middle of the Sahara Desert completely threw me. He looked as surprised to be there as I was seeing him there. And the fact that he had no idea what the date was! How does he get off the island, anyway? Maybe there's more to his "box" metaphor in season 3 then he let on.

Meanwhile, the smoke monster is more terrifying than ever, but it was fantastic being able to watch it attacking the freighter people and rooting for Smokey for the first time ever! However, if Ben really controls that thing, then was he behind all of its appearances in the past? Did Ben tell Smokey to kill Eko? Or did Smokey do that one on his own?

I have to admit, I started to tear up while Ben was saying goodbye to his daughter. He really is becoming one of the more sympathetic characters on the show. I'm sad that Alex is dead. I was hoping that the events of Meet Kevin Johnson would lead to a bigger role for Alex in future episodes. But I guess the final connection to Danielle Rousseau is now gone. I'm going to miss that french woman and her daughter.

Again, the flash-forwards were fantastic! I love that Sayid decided on his own to work for Ben, rather than Ben blackmailing him and making another one of his infamous deals. However, given Ben's smile as he walked away, I almost wonder if he didn't set the whole thing up himself to make Sayid want to work for him. Did Ben have Nadia killed?

Also, the final scene between Ben and Widmore was brilliant. I'm almost positive now that Charles Widmore is Dharma, which makes me wonder if we'll be seeing him in any on-island flashbacks. I'm totally rooting for Ben to win his war, yet at the same time I hope he doesn't succeed in killing Penny. I love how this show can make you root both for and against a character in a single scene.

Meanwhile, on the beach, I loved that Bernard knows morse code! I never saw that coming! What exactly does a dentist need to know morse code for, anyway? Also, I'm glad that Daniel finally admitted that they are not going to rescue the losties. That should bring some interesting beach-side plotlines in the future. Also, Jack's sickness is very odd. I thought people don't get sick on the island. What happened that caused Jack to get sick now? I can't wait for next week to see Jack be the one needing a doctor for a change.

Finally, Sawyer and Hurley's characters are going in really interesting directions now. Sawyer is stepping up to be a real leader this season, especially last night with his protectiveness of Claire and her baby. That con man has really come a long way from when we first saw him in season 1. I also love that Ben admitted that he needed Hurley to find Jacob's Cabin. Why is Hurley so special, and what's going to happen when the Hurley, Ben, and Locke return to the cabin?

Wow, I need to stop! This was a brilliant, brilliant, BRILLIANT episode! It will forever be in my book as one of the best of the series! And I can't help feel that the show will only get better over the next five weeks!
Unknown said…
I watched the episode, but haven't had a chance to watch the smoke monster frame by frame yet.

Is there anything good to see if you do?
Anonymous said…
Can they just kill Charlotte already? She's so annoying and all she does is flare her nostrils every time someone wants to know the truth. I love Daniel, Myles and Frank, but Charlotte's gotta go.
rockauteur said…
Jace - your one comment about the time on the island and the freighter being different. While we have established that to be true, and while it would be interesting statement that the Doctor hadn't yet been killed on the freighter when he washed up on the beach, the morse code conversation doesn't neccessarily mean that he hadn't been killed. We never established exactly what the freighter said in morse code back to faraday, only that he was lying.
Jace Lacob said…
Justin,

Daniel tells Jack the Morse Code response to his question was "Friends are fine. Helicopter is coming in the morning."

Bernard then calls Faraday on his lie and reveals that the ACTUAL message was, "What are you talking about? The doctor is fine."
rockauteur said…
Oops! My bad...

It was interesting though that we got a small piece of information... that the Losties don't use Desmond's boat to get off the island. Regardless if Ben was lying (and he obviously is) about how he got off, but seems like at least the Oceanic 6 didn't use that as their means to get off. Will anyone discover The Elizabeth aboard the island? Maybe it will come back into play upon the Oceanis 6's return...
Ben is now, by far, the most interesting and complex character on the island (sorry Locke)!

I loved that, for the first time, we actually see Ben shocked as Alex is killed before his eyes. He is so used to getting his way and manipulating people into doing what he wants but now, as he said, the rules have changed and I can't wait to see what that means in terms of Ben's future.
Anonymous said…
I noticed that you were confused about Ben's arm being hurt in the opening scene. While I don't know what caused it, there is a clear parallel to Candle's hurt arm in the Dharma videos. My guess is that however Ben's managed to get off the island might come with a price.
Anonymous said…
I am so glad you mentioned the accent thing w/Alan Dale. It was driving me nuts. Also, I know that it wasn't exactly a surprise that Ben was going to see Widmore at the end, but I do think the reveal would have been MUCH better if they didn't have Alan Dale's name in the opening guest credits. I knew the show was almost over and we hadn't seen him yet, so...

Also, since everything seems to mean something - what do you make of the comment during the game of Risk about, "Australia is the key to the whole thing" Or whatever the line was? (besides just the fact that oceanic 815 took off from Australia, of course)
The CineManiac said…
Ally,
I noticed that comment as well, and thought it might mean something.
I loved the whole thing, it was really one of the best episodes of Lost in it's 4 seasons. And it makes me long for the final 38ish episodes. I want to watch them all at the same time.
Anonymous said…
Great episode, great write-up. Out on a limb, but maybe the reference to Australia being the key and Whidmore slipping into an Australian accent were related. Maybe they are preparing us for his character being Australian. (The eternal question when watching Lost is how much is pre-meditated from the outset, and how much made up as they go along.) Whacko, but it's the one show that can do that to you.

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