Friday, September 18, 2009

"We're the good guys, Michael."

Benjamin Linus has been the de facto villain of "Lost" since he was introduced as "Henry Gale" in Season 2, but I have long believed that he will prove to be one of the show's true heroes, if not the hero.

The line that gives this entry its title is a fan favorite, ostensibly because it is taken ironically: How can The Others be the good guys? They kidnap children, threaten the lives of our Losties, keep people in cages, drive French women crazy and shake bunnies in cages.

But though the person that's been leading them since Charles Widmore's banishment is certainly devious and deadly, The Others are, more or less, good people. And Ben has only acted in their best interests, protecting the island and those he believes it belongs to. The Losties are our heroes because the show is primarily told from their point of view. Jack is the main protagonist, but felt more like a hindrance through most of seasons 3, 4 and 5, which only helped me empathize with Ben and his people.

This past season, Ben and his cosmic counterpart, John Locke, reached their respective low points. John was pulled from the brink of suicide from the last person he expected to call his friend -- who then turned around and killed him. Ben bared his inner struggle to his god, if you will, and was duped into killing that god by a man(?) posing as Locke. Each man has been a patsy for a force larger than they could have imagined, and only time will tell if Ben also has to suffer Locke's ultimate tragedy of finding even further indignity in death.

Season 6 is going to involve some form of "rebooting," most likely in the form of an alternate reality existing parallel to the 2007 existence in which Ben murders Jacob. I believe Ben will be key to uniting these two realities and determining the ultimate fate of the island, and he will redeem his rather sad existence.

It's quite a role, Benjamin Linus, and tonight Michael Emerson acknowledged as much when he won the Emmy for best supporting actor:

I was heavily invested in "Lost" after finishing the first season, but that investment didn't turn into obsession until Emerson showed up near the end of Season 2, a wildly uneven season that had more than its share of depressing and sometimes just plain bad episodes. (Remember "Fire + Water," in which Charlie has religious visions and gets punched out by Locke? That must be the worst episode of the series.) Emerson brought a totally different energy to "Lost" and gave it something it was lacking in the first season: a tangible antagonist. I no longer see him as "the enemy," but that cunning energy is still there, as is the sardonic wit. (Only Josh Holloway can match Emerson for bringing the funny.)

I wonder if Matthew Fox and Evangeline Lilly feel as if "their show" has been completely stolen by Emerson and Terry O'Quinn. Tough shit. Jack and Kate are still important, central characters, but they will never be as interesting as Ben and Locke, and I think Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse know this. How will they make us truly care for Jack and Kate again in the final season? Where will the journey end for Ben and Locke?

We won't know until May, but until then we can enjoy these great Season 5 moments from "Lost's" newest Emmy winner, Michael Emerson:

(The first clip, incidentally, also contains O'Quinn's best scene from his five years on the show.)

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