Thursday, March 22, 2007

Wheelchair-Bound Ben and the Locke Box

The Man From Tallahassee. This was the episode we'd all been waiting for. Well, certainly me, anyway. We had to wait more than two seasons to find out why John Locke was in that wheelchair. When the flashbacks in this episode once again were about his father, I figured his jerk of a dad had something to do with his paralysis, a pretty logical assumption anyway. And as bad as Anthony Cooper seemed before, he was much worse in this episode, resorting to murder - even of his own son, who saved his life - in order to continue his cons. It's no wonder Locke is traumatized.
I understand his motivation for blowing up the submarine. It's consistent with his feverish desire to keep the outside world out of this island, a wish that has driven him to more and more desperate actions as the series has progressed. He has three main reasons for this, evidently. He doesn't want more people coming here and ruining the sacredness of this island - though obviously it's a little bit more in the 21st century than we thought in the first episode. He doesn't want to be in a position where he might have to leave, foregoing his connection with the island, his profound sense of purpose and the use of his legs. And he doesn't want even the slightest possibility of coming into contact with his dad again.
I understand his reasons, but I still think he's being very selfish, coming off as more of a thug than a wise mystic. It isn't fair to deny everyone else a possible escape route, since that is what most of them want. Granted, because of the implosion of the hatch - if Ben is to be believed - the sub would soon be gone anyway, with little hope that it could ever find its way back, and the only difference would be that Jack and Juliet are gone. Locke seems to be fighting violently for a sense of control over his surroundings. Maybe the sub explosion was as much about beating Ben as cutting off an escape route - except he ended up playing right into Ben's hand.
Ben... what a marvelous character. His scenes with Locke were fantastic, prickling with tension and the irony that this intimidating leader is now in a wheelchair while Locke is standing. The two share a bond because of that experience, and Ben voices the doubts I've uttered myself: Why did he get sick when the island healed Locke (and Rose)? And why is his healing process going so slowly? I don't really get all that business about a magic box, but at the very end, when he beckoned Locke to follow him and see what was behind the door, I muttered threateningly, "If they even have Locke's dad in there..." They did. Silly Others. Somehow they managed to collect the one person in all the world Locke truly fears. How'd they find him? How'd they get him there? Is it really him, or have they somehow managed to tame the smoke monster to suit their own purposes? Maybe the smoke monster has been under their control all along, and since they know everything about each of the castaways, they know just which form to have the smoke monster take in order to unnerve them the most.
If I were Jack, I'd be a little ticked off with Kate right now. Of course, she only came crashing the Others' party to save Jack, but he told her very plainly not to. Not that I blame Kate for coming to his rescue. But he was about to get away. If they'd dropped in a day later, he would've been gone. Oh, how aggravating! He's just trying to live as peaceably with the Others as he can until he can get the heck off the island and back to civilization. I don't think there was anything so strange about his behavior. But I get why Kate was upset by her chilly reception and his apparent affections toward Juliet.
Sayid sort of disappeared into the background in this episode except in that moment when he let slip to Alex the crucial information that her mother was still alive. This news is very unsettling to her and no doubt will further strain her relationship with her father. I thought it was nice that after acting like such a tough guy, Locke very gently apologized to Alex for involving her in his scheme. He apologized to Jack, too, for thwarting his escape, though this didn't seem particularly sincere. Jack and Locke have had a pretty tumultuous relationship, especially since the end of the first season; if Jack didn't have murderous feelings toward Locke before, he probably does now.
I think it's interesting that Jack plays the piano. And I found Ben's fridge amusing. I don't know, just something about this guy in combination with food tickles my funny bone. Maybe because it's just such a benign thing, eating cereal or leftover chicken, so it seems silly to show such a devious man enjoying such an innocent activity. His confession that the sub maintains "the illusion" that island residents can leave whenever they want is rather chilling, yet it also shows that Ben fears losing his grip on his community. (I just love listening to Ben talk. He's so incredibly precise in his pronunciations. Like how you always hear the "h" when he says words beginning with "wh". It's a unique and compelling speaking style.) Interestingly, we see Richard again, and he's cow-towing to Ben; somehow I thought he might be even higher up on the totem pole than Ben is.
We got a little of Tom, but not much. Not really enough to further our impression of him. He still shows concern for Ben, checking to see if he is okay and apprising him of the situation with Kate and Sayid, but he comes across as pretty harsh during the scene in which those two are apprehended. His conversation with Kate is mostly civil, if a little sarcastic. I could've done with a bit more Tom in this episode, but I'm glad he was at least a prominent background character. I don't know the name of the other guy we kept seeing, but he didn't particularly capture my fancy.
Now that Danielle has seen Alex and Alex knows about Danielle, it seems a reunion must happen before too long. Perhaps Alex will begin to pepper her dad with questions, though probably not; as much as she dislikes the man, she also fears him and doesn't want to get herself - or her mother - into any trouble. I think this episode showed she has at least a little affection for her dad, though. She protested when he said she hated him, and she did seem a little worried about what was going to happen to him, though she also warned Locke about how manipulative he is. Locke knew this but still managed to let Ben "play him like a Stradivarius," to borrow a simile from Lex Luthor. One way Smallville and LOST are very similar, incidentally - lots of father-son conflict. And father-daughter. Alex has a naughty daddy. But it would seem that Locke has a worse one.
When Locke gave the kid who came to visit him the brush-off, I was disappointed. He was in a position to help this boy and his mother a lot, and instead he just pretended he didn't know anything. But then he took matters into his own hands. Maybe by feigning ignorance, he thought he was protecting the young man from his father by sparing him the motivation for a direct confrontation. But telling off his dad was just as fatal as confiding in his future stepson would have been. Locke underestimated the depth and breadth of his dad's malice. So did I.
This was a satisfying episode. I'm not quite sure what to make of Mr. Cooper tied up in the closet, and I'm still finding Locke's behavior in general to be rather disturbing, which is very frustrating since I like him so much. But it's nice to finally have at least one mystery cleared up. Now I suppose we won't get back to Locke and his dad for a couple of weeks, since next week seems to be a beach-intensive episode. Bad things are happening. Everyone seems to be on edge. Sun whacks Sawyer something good; maybe she finds out he and Charlie were behind her abduction? The trailer promises us that someone will die. Erin is displeased. Enough with the deaths already. Red-shirts are bad enough. I don't want to lose one of the major players. Yet if it must happen, I predict... oh, I don't know. Not Charlie, Hurley or Sawyer. Not Claire, because she has to raise her baby lest he become evil incarnate. Not Sun, because she has to have her baby. Not Desmond, because he has to save Charlie. I guess that leaves Jin. Or Bernard or Rose, who have been gone so long we've almost forgotten they exist. Or Vincent, which would make me sadder than if it was Nikki or Paolo. Ahem. I predict Jin. But I won't be happy to see anyone go...

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