‘Lost’: And the dead guy is ... Jeremy Bentham?!?
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‘Lost’s’ fourth season ended in a flurry of action, a few major revelations and whole lot of familiar beats. As a season-ender, it ranks below last year’s game-changing flash-forward shocker and Season 2’s four-toed statue and listening station surprise. (Speaking of the statue, I demand that be addressed next year.) But it’s well above the disappointing hatch-opening at the end of season 1.
The biggest shock, of course, was the identity of the person in the coffin at the end of last season. As we learn at the beginning of the episode, the bearded Jack exists three years ahead of the just-rescued Jack. Which puts the flash-forwards somewhere around 2008. And according to Kate in 2008, the man in the coffin is Jeremy Bentham. Don’t feel slow if you had to rack your brains the first time you heard the name; I thought I had missed something as well. It wasn’t until a few scenes later, when Hurley alluded to Sayid that Bentham was a pseudonym, that I began to feel a little relief. There’s a lot of loose ends on this show to keep track of, and I think we all live with a little fear that we’ve completely forgotten some important clue. (But we haven’t forgotten about that statue.) Bentham, it turns out, is just a pseudonym for none other than John Locke.
The Locke twist was reserved for the very last scene in the episode, but anyone multitasking while watching could have easily figured this out through a Google search. Bentham was a noted 19th century philosopher whose main claim to fame was his advocacy of utilitarianism -- a belief that the morality of any action is dictated by its utility to the overall happiness of the group. In other words, the ends justify the means. Bentham’s rejection of the traditional view of individual rights was a reversal from the beliefs of such 17th century philosophers as John Locke. In the three years between his ascendancy as the leader of the Others and his death, it seems Locke underwent a pretty major change in his value system. Just what happened on that island after he moved it?
But enough about dead philosophers. What about the action?
For starters, we got an intense shootout in the jungle between Sayid, Kate, the Others and the Keamy Squad -- a fight the Keamy Squad ultimately lost. Then we got a bumpy helicopter ride, a thrilling dive from said helicopter by Sawyer, an exploding freighter, Ben going feral on Keamy and more assassination action from the very suave ‘Sayid Bond’ in 2008.
All very exciting, but I have to be honest -- a lot of the beats seemed to have been lifted from previous season finales. Once again, we found the Oceanic 815 survivors adrift at sea in a little raft, only to be spotted by a boat’s searchlight far in the distance. Season one may have ended with Walt being dragged away by the Others and this one may have had a reunion between Desmond and Penny, but it felt a little familiar. The same thing with the revelations of the Orchid Station. Just like last year, we found ourselves in a previously unseen Dharma Station, with the survivors confronting an enemy they thought they had previously killed. Last year it was Mikhail in the Looking Glass; this year it was Keamy in the Orchid. Then we had the moving of the island -- a process involving Ben turning a wheel hidden in a room below the station that results in the sky over the island getting whited out. Remember Desmond crawling below the Pearl Station at the end of season two to turn the failsafe key?
I choose to think these recalls were done purposely. Like great epic poetry, the themes and imagery return over and over in subtly changed ways. The alternative is that the writers are starting to run out of ideas. With two seasons left to go, that’s a ghastly prospect. Let’s just assume the familiarity was intentional.
Once again, the episode belonged to Michael Emerson, whose portrayal of Benjamin Linus gets deeper and richer with each passing week. One moment he was simmering with animal rage at Keamy’s taunting, hiding in dark like Rambo, until he sprang out and stabbed Keamy up really good. Then he was back into coldblooded and remorseless mode, channeling his inner Dick Cheney when Locke confronted him with the idea that he was responsible for the deaths of everyone aboard the freighter. His response: ‘So?’ (Come to think of it, maybe Dick Cheney has just been channeling his inner Benjamin Linus.) Then he was in full-on tragic hero mode as he slowly turned the wheel that would at once save the island from destruction and ensure his permanent exile from it. The growing anguish on his face as the wheel moved was truly moving.
New questions arose. The most intriguing was probably raised by Miles, when he confronted Charlotte about her previous connection to the island. According to Miles, she’s been trying to get back to the island. And if Charlotte’s response is to be believed, it’s apparently the place she was born. This development must have been a relief to Rebecca Mader, the actress who plays Charlotte. Up until now, she’s had a whole lot of nothing to do. And on ‘Lost,’ that usually means death is around the corner.
We also have to wonder about the fate of Jin and Michael. Though I’m not too worried about Jin. Remember that Daniel Faraday was on his way back to the freighter in the boat when it exploded. Jin was surely rescued by Faraday. More troubling is Michael’s fate. In his final moments, he saw Jack’s father, who told him he could go. It’s similar to Jack’s father appearing to Claire before her disappearance and I think we can begin to assume that Christian Shepherd is now functioning a little like the Angel of Death. Perhaps the Walt of 2008 (who paid a visit to Hurley) has begun seeing visions of his father. Kate has certainly been seeing Claire, who warned her in a very intense scene not to take Aaron back to the island. (Too bad Claire couldn’t have been that frightening for the rest of her time on ‘Lost.’)
Which brings us to the final scene -- Ben confronting bearded Jack over Locke’s body. It seems the Oceanic Six will indeed have to return to the island. But the trick, according to Ben, is that they all must go back, including Locke. Sayid and Hurley shouldn’t be a problem -- Sayid busted Hurley out of the mental ward. Kate is angry with Jack, but she’s sane enough to be bargained with. Even Locke won’t be too much trouble -- we’ve all seen the wonders you can do with a corpse in the ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’ movies. But in one of the most surprising twists, it seems Sun may have flipped to the dark side. After wresting control of her father’s company, we see her meeting up with the evil, evil Charles Widmore in London. It seems Jin’s apparent death was too much for her. She’s out to get Ben. And what that means for Jack and company remains to be seen.
It was definitely the most hurried ‘Lost’ finale we’ve seen in a while, with lots of information thrown at us almost every second. But for the first time, it really felt like the story was winding down instead of building up. Fewer grand mysteries were thrown at us. Instead we got smaller ones, little things for us to nibble on for the next eight months, instead of major questions to choke on. Desmond finally got reunited with Penny. For one couple, it seems life will move on. For the rest of us, it’s stasis until 2009.
-- Patrick Kevin Day