The first thing we learned in "Dead is Dead" is that dead is not dead. At least, not in conventional ways. After a mediocre Kate-isode last week, this Ben-centric episode felt epic. The man formerly known as Henry Gale was in full manipulation mode last night, and the episode's sole focus on him highlighted the fact that, all in all, there's not been enough Ben in the fractured, busy storytelling of late. Typical of a great episode, though, the characters answered some questions and raised even more, including the very nature of of life (and, well, death).
Let's start with some categorizing. Who's dead and who isn't? Both Penny and Desmond are alive everyone can breathe easy. Locke is "alive." (The quotation marks here mean everything.) Despite Ben telling Locke that it was part of his master plan to kill Locke so he could be resurrected, Ben admitted to Sun that Locke walking around alive scares the living daylights out of him. In fact, this episode marks the final shift in the Ben-Locke power struggle, with Locke reigning victorious. Locke now knows things Ben doesn't, which infuriates our former Jacob-whisperer. Yet, "the Island" has chosen to keep him alive for whatever reason. On the brink of life/death is Alex, slain daughter of Ben/Rousseau. Alex's alive-but-not situation evoked a little Christian Shepard, and gives credence to the theory that Olde Smokey ("he who shall not be named") can reanimate or possess the bodies of the dead for his own purposes (except that the bodies must retain some part of their original person, since they often slip in some unfinished business while they're up and about).
Speaking of Olde Smokey and Judgment Day, I felt the judgment was altogether weak, given what we've seen Smokey do in the past. Yes, Ben allowing his daughter to be killed was pretty bad, but let's not forget Ben has done some pretty terrible things in his day (not the least of which was killing Ceaser in cold blood on the way to get judged. Great idea. Also that he killed the entire Dharma Initiative. And plenty of other things). Arguably, Alex's death was a backfiring of Ben's reverse-psychology mind game with Keamy and not in the least intentional. But, details. It's pretty much the only thing he's ever seemed remorseful about.
In other island news, we got to see a middle-aged version of Charles "kill that baby!" Widmore, looking drastically different throughout time. After seasons of my focusing on the mysteries of the Dharma Initiative, I'm becoming more and more fixated on the Others. The cause of the Ben versus Widmore battle was alluded to, but not explored. It seems that Ben took the keys from Widmore, so to speak, but surely their everlasting hatred has deeper roots than that. Why does the island pick such egomaniacal nut jobs to pass its torch to? Locke's extraordinarily mild-mannered in comparison, but even he has gained a certain smug post-death confidence (but who wouldn't have?).
"Dead is Dead" was written by my one of my favorites, Brian K. Vaughn, so the dialogue was superbly snappy. In honor of both Vaughn and Ben, I'll end this with a list of Ben's greatest quotes from last night:
Next week: Yes! Yes! Yes! At last, the Miles episode. His ghost whispering finally comes in handy, and everyone's "fate" may be revealed! Unlikely, but a girl can dream. Also appearing: Dr. Pierre Chang!
Musings and Miscellanea:
- Has anyone timed these episodes? I can't help but feel there are disproportionately more commercials than normal. As friend DeKalb put it "Ben episodes should be commercial-free and sponsored." By delicious hams, perhaps?
- Most powerful scene tonight actually belonged to Desmond. The scene of him pummeling Ben left me clutching my chest. Thank god Ben didn't kill Penny. Although I approve of his "shoot now, ask questions later" policy of a true villain.
- Hmm, check out those Egyptian markings in the Temple. New evidence for the Lost City of Atlantis theory? Smokey could be related to Ammit .... discuss.
- Laugh out loud moment for me came when Alex/Jacob confronted Ben saying, "You bastard! I already know you are planning to kill Locke!" I didn't! But I never see Ben's treachery coming because I just love him too much.
- Um, RIP Caesar. Speaking of, does anyone else not give a frak about the stranded newbies on the satellite island?
- I loved how ABC is playing up the number 42 and showing Harold Perrineau to get Losties to watch "The Unusuals." If he's not screaming "WAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLTTTTTTTT!!!!!!!!!!" it's just not the same.
(Photo courtesy ABC)
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