Lost review: ‘What They Died For’
Benjamin Linus: liar, manipulator, killer … and one of the possible heroes of the island? We will see.
Spoilers follow for Lost’s “What They Died For.”
We are in the final leg of the final chapter, folks. “What They Died For” nicely sets up the series finale of Lost in pure Lostian fashion. Which is to say: It answers a number of questions, but maintains a level of mystery and suspense by not giving away the game and setting up one last mystery. It unleashes a final cut-to-black revelation that will have you pondering its exact meaning. Smokey wants to destroy the island, and use Desmond to do it? Whoa. How? Why?
But until the finale (tomorrow, as I hastily prepare this surface-scratching review), we have a few conclusions supplied here.
We know who the replacement for Jacob will be (at least it sure seems like we do).
We know whose side Widmore was actually on (at least it sure seems like we know).
More characters are snuffed out (though I’m not necessrily counting Richard among them), meaning the endgame’s avenues of possible travel are reduced in number. At least one old score is settled, and the episode’s biggest character question seems to be: Just how much of a villain is Benjamin Linus? He’s a liar and deceiver of epic proportions, no doubt, and yet he’s a real wild card. His role in the finale may very well be to bring Smokey down while pretending to be his ally.
After “Dr. Linus,” where we really seemed to get a window into this guy’s soul, watching him here carry out the ultimate crime of opportunity — killing Widmore — was shocking while at the same time making perfect sense. This was a score that absolutely needed to be settled, and even if Widmore may have seen the light and returned to the island to do the right thing, that doesn’t erase the past and all the horrible things that happened after Widmore sent that nutjob Keamy and his mercs to the island on that freighter.
Michael Emerson has been one of the great treasures unearthed by Lost, and it was great to see Ben in full-on liar-and-killer mode here. You can never be completely sure what this guy is going to do from moment to moment, and yet because of how the character is written and performed, his actions make a demented sort of sense from his point of view. Even as he does terrible things, you find yourself sympathizing with Ben. (Look no further than the sideways timeline of this episode, where the goodness and kindness of this man, under different circumstances, is beyond evident.)
Ben’s alliance with Smokey is in keeping with Ben’s arc, too. Here’s a man who has always wanted to be head honcho of the island, and Smokey’s deal essentially gives him that opportunity. It will be interesting to see if what happens in the finale — which seems to be heading toward a major war between the proxy forces of Jacob and MIB — will ultimately come down to a choice by Ben, and what that choice will mean for everyone involved. For now, Ben and Smokey may be allies, but I’m not sure I see that lasting.
The underlying theme of “What They Died For” is choice. Jacob, as seen last week in “Across the Sea,” was never given a real choice. His “mother” presented him the illusion of a choice that was actually the ultimate coerced non-choice. So, Jacob, who is resurrected here long enough to supply the remaining candidates with the information they need about why they have been through everything they have on this island, and why and from whom it needs to be protected, explains that someone will have to stand up and choose to take Jacob’s place.
As hinted at weeks ago by Sayid just before he exploded, it’s going to be Jack. That is presuming, of course, Jack survives the coming war and the twists and turns of the finale don’t put everything that’s on the table here up for grabs yet again (which, let’s face it, is always a possibility on Lost). If it does end up being Jack, then it’s been a heck of a journey for this man, who started the series as the hero before becoming a knee-jerk-responder who made as many bad decisions as good ones, the turned into a passive element and a broken man.
Then, of course, there’s the sideways timeline. I enjoyed the hell out of seeing Desmond putting the Flight 815 band back together, like this was some sort of Lost version of The Blues Brothers. One common criticism of this season (and a feeling that I couldn’t shake myself at times), was that the writers seemed to take an awfully long time setting up all of the characters in the sideways timeline. But you see here that all of that laid groundwork was necessary and pays off here. The pieces are being moved quickly into place now by Desmond, his master plan, and all of his recruited allies.
To do what, I have no idea. Will the sideways timeline be erased, altered, combined with the island timeline in some way? Will memories or awareness cross over into the island timeline, or vice versa? Or will both timelines survive in some way? How will this all tie in with the final battle for the island and Smokey’s plan to use Desmond to destroy it?
Should be one hell of a mind-bending finale.