Lost: The Curious Case of Jeremy Bentham

I feel compelled to rant about Locke for a while. Because this started out as an amazing episode. But then it turned into an episode about Locke.

And there was a time when I looked forward to Locke-focused episodes. And, indeed, his first one was one of the show’s all-time best. But then Locke got obsessed with his no-good father, and so did the show, and I’m sorry, getting conned out of a kidney is no fun, but there are worse things in the world, you know? And for the past three seasons every Locke episode has been about how he’s obsessed with the island, and with his hatred of his father, and with the idea that he’s destined to be special, and these are not things that interest me. Locke is snarky but not funny, pathetic but not appealing, clever but not all that smart. What’s so special about that?lost

I don’t understand why there are people who watch this show for Locke, just like I don’t understand why there are people who watch this show for Jack. They’re my two least favorite characters, and I couldn’t care less which of them wins the battle over logic v. faith (especially now that Locke has already won it). I took Philosophy 101 freshman year and got my fill then. Lost is an adventure show, on which freaky cool stuff happens sometimes. When its characters are mysteriously good at either understanding the freaky cool stuff or making the freaky cool stuff happen (see, for example, Daniel or Ben or Desmond or Richard or Walt), that’s good. When its characters don’t care about the freaky cool stuff but are just along for the ride and trying to make the best of it, like Sawyer and Jin and, well, most of the original cast, that’s fine, because we audience folks can relate to them. But when its characters clearly don’t understand or control the freaky cool stuff and yet still act like it’s all about them, like Locke and Jack and, to a lesser degree, Juliet – that’s just boring. I don’t want to be hit over the head. This isn’t Heroes.  I’m watching Lost to have fun and to go “Whoa!” every now and then.

Speaking of going “Whoa!” the teaser this week was awesome. But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

The basics: Locke has landed on the island and come back to life, and he’s hanging out with last week’s debut characters, Caesar and Ilana. He’s busy trying to piece together how he got where he is, and flashing back to his experiences since he left the island. These experiences consist of going to the Oceanic Six one by one (except for Sun; he kept his promise to Jin not to contact her) and begging them to come back to the island. They all refuse. Meanwhile, Locke’s being aided by Charles Widmore, who rescues him from his traumatic move from the island to Tunisia and then provides him with a driver/executive assistant/possible vampire, the creepy Matthew Abaddon. Then Ben shows up and kills Matthew and tracks Locke down just as Locke is about to hang himself for his failure. Ben pulls his puppet strings on Locke, just like Widmore did, and as always, the super-special Locke is unable to withstand this manipulation. So then, after Ben talks Locke out of committing suicide, he strangles Locke himself.

The good:

  • The teaser. The episode opens with Caesar prowling through a previously unseen room. Then Ilana comes in and talks to him for a while, and we don’t know what’s going on or where they are, and then they leave and start walking through the jungle and we see them walk right past the downed Ajira Airways plane. It doesn’t sound like much on paper, but the effect of it is to turn this show on its head in the best possible way. For once I’m hoping the mystery of who these people are and why they’re on the island doesn’t get resolved too soon.
  • The scene where Locke goes to see Hurley in the mental institution is funny. Hurley, sitting outside doing a watercolor (Hurley’s mental institution looks like a fun place to be sometimes), sees Locke wheel up and immediately assumes Locke is dead and a hallucination. Then Hurley tells Locke why none of the Oceanic Six will want to go back, explaining, for example, that “Jack’s a doctor now.” Hee!
  • Walt! Guess he came when I called him.  He’s now a teenager (how lucky that Malcolm David Kelley’s aging in real time matches up with the show’s timeline for once). Locke goes to see him, but doesn’t invite him back to the island, even though Walt’s been having useful-sounding prophetic dreams about Locke.

The bad:

  • Between the 50s team of Ellie and Lil’ Widmore and the rest, Rousseau’s crew, the Boaties, the Desmond/Penny family, and whoever else I’m forgetting, do we really need a whole new cast of characters at this point? (Well, if Caesar et al are as cool as this episode would indicate, I suppose it can’t hurt.)
  • We get one of those Jack/Locke scenes that is supposed to be really significant and at the heart of this show and symbolic of the battle between logic and fate or whatever, but that always just makes me start hitting refresh on WashingtonPost.com.
  • In fact, most of the scenes with Locke and the Oceanic Six felt like filler, with lots of forced references about how all the characters think Locke is sad and pathetic. So do I, but I don’t much enjoy hearing them go on about it.
  • Lots of disturbing visuals this week. First, there’s Locke undergoing an extremely painful looking medical procedure to fix his leg courtesy of some sadistic Tunisian doctors. We then get an instructional video on how to hang oneself. (I know from House that hanging is painful but it preserves the heart best for future transplant purposes; maybe Locke has a Seven Pounds-type plan in mind.) We also get a tutorial in how to clean a crime scene and make it look like a suicide. I don’t know, maybe this stuff is totally the norm if you watch a lot of CSI, but it freaks me out.

The stuff that will matter next week:lost49

  • We don’t know exactly what happened to Ajira Airways Flight 316. We see the plane sitting in the jungle, and it doesn’t look to me like it crashed too badly, and Frank the pilot was apparently okay. We do know that the Oceanic Six didn’t arrive with the rest of the passengers – they seemed to disappear during the flight. Interesting. However, Ben didn’t disappear with the Oceanic Six. He landed or crashed with the others and is being kept in their makeshift infirmary, still with that blood all over his face.
  • Caesar, the glorified extra who spoke to Jack in the airport last week, seems to be the leader of a strange group that includes Ilana (Sayid’s law-enforcement escort on the flight) and a bunch of non-speaking roles who are on the island for unknown reasons. He seems really interested in the Dharma Initiative, though.
  • Charles Widmore pretends to be Locke’s best friend (and maybe he really is, who knows at this point). Widmore says that back in the day, he had been a leader of the Others, but Ben tricked him into leaving the island. Now, Widmore says, Ben has done the same thing to Locke. Widmore also says there’s a war coming on the island. Oh, boy.
  • I’m sure this has been discussed ad nauseam on forums I don’t read, but why is Richard not the leader of the Others? Because I think he probably actually is. And of all the power players on this show – Ben, Jacob, Widmore, Mrs. Hawking, etc – Richard is the only one I want to know more about.
  • It’s unclear why exactly Ben kills Locke. It happens immediately after Locke expresses a desire to go see Eloise Hawking, but from Michael Emerson’s performance there are many ways the scene could be interpreted. He could well have walked into the room knowing he’d kill Locke eventually; maybe he just needed to get information out of him first. Or it could be more complicated than that. Ben’s motives usually don’t get explained for six episodes or so. Either way, I hardly found it shocking that the show’s protagonist, who we knew was going to wind up dead, turned out to have been killed by the show’s antagonist. But whatever. Anyway, Ben doesn’t seem too thrilled with himself for the whole murdering-Locke thing.
  • Locke came back to life, and stuff. We don’t know how that happened either. He obviously doesn’t remember anything between his death and his resurrection. Looks like he really did copy Jack’s dad by coming back to life. Does this mean Locke will turn into Jacob, too?

Next week, we get: Surprising Twists, Shocking Turns, and Heart-Stopping Revelations. (Seriously, that’s what the promo said.)

Season 5, Episode 7: The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham (originally aired February 25, 2009)

For another take on this episode, check out Can’t Keep a Good Locke Down by J.B. Perlow.

For more on Lost, click here.

Wednesdays, 9/8c on ABC

Photographs courtesy of ABC and IMDbPro

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