People who are fans of both the tv show Lost and God got a great treat with this week’s episode, “Dr. Linus”. Ben Linus has always been one of my favorite characters on Lost, not for who he is (or has been) or what he represents, but for his character’s complexity. In many ways, Ben is one of the most human characters on the whole show.
Season 5 ended with Ben in a struggle that many Christians find themselves in at some point in their life – he had spent most of his life serving Jacob (who I believe is the God-figure in Lost’s mythology), had sacrificed everything for him (including his own daughter – can you say Abraham?), and felt like Jacob didn’t even care. In the climactic scene, he asks Jacob, “What about me?”, and Jacob responds simply, “What about you?”
My initial reading of that scene was that Ben was asking, in essence, “What’s in it for me, Jacob? What do I get out of serving you?”, and Jacob responds, “It’s never been about you, Ben. You need to understand that.” After this week’s episode, I’m not so sure.
The reason I’m “not so sure” and not “totally sure” is that Ben has always been a very difficult character to read. When we first met him, he consistently manipulated and schemed and lied to the point that I wrote him off as a completely self-serving, power-hungry, tyrant of the Island. But last night’s scene in the jungle with Ilana really made me question that. If you didn’t see it, here’s a quick recap.
Ben had just been confronted by Smokey (Man in Black, or Flocke, if you prefer) and promised that, if he would help Smokey and his group escape the island, Smokey would leave him in charge of the Island. We know from Ben’s back-story that authority and power on the Island are all he has ever really cared about. Ben runs into the jungle, pursued by Ilana, who is furious with him for killing Jacob. Ben finds a rifle and has the drop on Ilana, but instead of just shooting her and escaping, he feels the need to confess to her. He tells her about his daughter, Alex, and how he chose his position of authority and power on the Island over her life, only to have that power and authority taken away from him anyways. Here is their conversation. Powerful stuff…
And with that, I think that Benjamin Linus may have finally turned a corner. Interestingly, his other-self in the alternate 2004 timeline (Timeline B, as I call it) made the same decision. Given the opportunity to grab the principalship of the school he works at, at the expense of student Alex’s chances to go to Yale, he chooses her future over his own power.
I don’t know where the writers, directors, and producers of Lost are going with some of their themes and messages, but I think you’ll have a hard time finding something in pop culture that preaches as well as the above scene. It speaks to confession, doubt, priorities, grace, acceptance, and a host of other important issues.
Seriously, if you’re not a Lost fan, or you’ve never seen the show, check it out. It’s probably too late to jump in now, but you can watch the whole show from the very beginning on hulu.com for free.