'Lost': Killing them not so softly

Michaelemerson_lost_s4_240As befits a show with the gravitas of Lost, I usually tend to talk about fairly serious topics on this blog. I'm just taking what the show gives me and retorting in kind. Just how things go. But today, I thought we'd change things up, and deal with a nice, sunny topic? That topic? Genocide! Wheeee!

OK, sarcasm aside, I do want to look at something I hinted at in an entry last week. I asked you to think about the following topic:

One thing to ponder, and something I'll discuss at further length later on: at the end of Season 3, Ben Linus tells Jack that if the Boaties land on the Island, every living person will die. But last week, we learned they have come for Ben himself. So, what conclusions can we as an audience deduce from these two things? What, exactly, does Ben mean?

In the meantime, we've learned that Ben is working with at least one, if not more, of the Oceanic 6, and looks quite healed from his stint as the Lostaways' favorite punching bag. As the M to Sayid's 004815162342, he certainly seems to be still waging the war he predicted would come should Naomi's crew land aboard the Island. But we still don't have a firm grasp of the stakes Ben alluded to at the end of Season 3. So I ask again, what does Ben mean when he says every living person on the Island will die if Lepidus' helicopter lands safely?

Much like I did when examining the nature of Jacob/Smokey, I want to try and answer this question by putting out a few possible explanations. Since any theorizing here is at best a shot in the dark anyways, I might as well fire off as many theory bullets as possible. I'm one violent theorist, y'all.

On with the possibilities.

Possibility 1: Ben worries that should the Boaties capture him, the Island itself will take revenge upon all still there.

By this, I mean that, in Ben's mind, he controls the somewhat vengeful spirit of Jacob, and, by extension, Smokey. Should he be removed from the Island, no one will be able to soothe their rage, and, as such, Smokey will systematically wipe out all living creatures on the Island.

Pros: This feeds into Ben's ego, if not the reality of the situation. Although Ben's as good a liar as there is, he's even more prone to self-deception when it comes to his importance to the Island. Shooting Locke near the end of Season 3 showed just how much he values his relationship with Jacob, and how dearly he protects it. One can look back and see that the silent walking of the Others, in addition to being creepy, could have been in order to avoid detection by Smokey. This could mean that Ben's notion that Jacob isn't the man you visit without an invitation means, "No smoke monster will destroy you on the way to my ancient, magical cabin."

Cons: This assumes, of course, that Jacob and Smokey share a relationship, which hasn't been proven yet. It also assumes the silent walking is a function of avoiding Smokey as opposed to kidnapping people.

Possibility 2: The Boaties carry with them a virus as part of something called The Spider Protocol, created by the modern-day Hanso Foundation.

In "The Lost Experience," The Hanso Foundation created a virus that would target specific genetic targets to affect the same outcome as the original Dharma Initiative: to change a core value of the Valenzetti Equation, which predicts the end of the world. The Boaties would be part of a plan to likewise wipe out any survivors on the Island.

Pros: Notice what fell out of Faraday's pack in "Confirmed Dead"? Gas masks and red bags with biohazard symbols on them. The gas masks also call to mind The Purge. (And why on earth did the Dharma Initiative have weaponized gas, anyways? Or, was the gas provided by someone else? Hmmmm.) It's also a pretty good guess that the freighter offshore is the Helgus Antonius, another important element of "The Lost Experience." This ship had quarantine zones built into the ship.

Cons: I've always been skeptical of the whole "sickness" concept on the Island, and wondered just how much to read into the "Quarantine" signs on the inside of the hatches. One could also easily explain the gas masks and biohazard materials as simple cautionary measures. Given the experiments Faraday ran in "The Economist," it's clear there's a lot about the Island that the Boaties don't know about.

Possibility #3: Ben has an end-game in mind, by which he'll ensure that if he can't rule the Island, no one will.

This theory appeals to those who feel that Ben would take The Purge to its logical extreme, and wipe out everyone rather than cede control to any external forces.

Pros: It's not like Ben's above such an action when it comes to the Island. One also wonders what the "Temple" is, and if it's in fact a safe house for the Others. Perhaps he gave Richard an order to launch a second Purge that would kill everyone but keep the Island hidden for good.

Cons: Even though Ben's five steps ahead of everyone, this seems a wee bit extreme. Also, give the fact that he's still alive and kicking in "The Economist"'s flash-forwards, it seems unlikely that genocide's on his plate. After all, he'd have killed the Oceanic 6 before they left if so, correct?

Possibility #4: Ben knows that those offshore do not fully understand the unique properties of the Island, and as such, could create a time-space rift that would cross the streams, so to speak.

Read the link for further explanation of crossing the streams, but essentially, getting to and from the Island is such a delicate thing that, if done clumsily, could threaten the world just as much as not pressing the button every 108 minutes.

Pros: Notice Faraday's urgency in telling Lepidus to fly out EXACTLY the way he came in. Notice the time differential in the rocket sent from the Freighter to the Island. And remember just how insistent Ben is that people not leave the Island under any circumstance.

Cons: Well, he and Richard seem to come and go quite a bit, thanks to his magical walk-in closet. In fact, I think we've been looking at the wrong C.S. Lewis book. A lot of people have been pointing towards Prince Caspian as a clue, but we easily could have named this last episode "The Linus, the Glitch, and the Wardrobe." The whole time-flux/parallel timelines issue also gets everyone terribly upset whenever I mention it, and could complicate matters so much that no matter of exposition could ever truly explain it in a satisfactory manner.

Possibility #5: Ben's frequent flier miles are due to work being done off the island to thwart Team Abaddon's attempts to take over the Island.

Under this theory, Ben is the hero of Lost. No, seriously, the dude's the hero, using deception to move to and from the Island, constantly evading Team Abaddon, and working towards some end-game yet to be determined. If they capture Ben, the Island is lost (pun intended) to the forces of darkness.

Pros: Team Abaddon knows about Ben's movement, but can't seem to get a fix on him. And given the events of "The Economist," it looks like he's still moving about undetected. (It's unclear if Team Abaddon even knows he's alive by the time of the events in Germany.) Capturing Ben would be checkmate in the war between the two sides. Since they can't catch up to him in time in the real world, they have to use a more dangerous Plan B: capture him on-island. In addition, note the vehemence with which Abaddon insists there are no survivors of Oceanic 815 when talking to Naomi. It's as much a dictum as it is an assertion.

Cons: It's just as plausible that Team Abaddon wants to snatch Ben in order to punish him for, you know, killing the Dharma Initiative and ending the world. Totally possible that's the reason. Also, Ben as the hero of Lost? Man, that would be a gutsy move for the writers. So gutsy, and such a reversal from everything we've seen to date, that I'm not sure it could possibly be true. Ben as tragic figure enamored of Annie and willing to do awful things for her sake? That I can see. Someone besides Locke, Jack, or Desmond being the ultimate hero of the show? That I have a hard time seeing.

So there you have it: five possible explanations. I want to hear what you think about them. I need your help to get to the bottom of this. Pick one! Mix and match! Come up with your own! It's all in the name of good clean genocidal fun, after all.

Ryan also posts every 108 minutes over at Boob Tube Dude.