The Great 'Lost' Debate: The fate of Benjamin Linus

michael-emerson-lost-s6-320-2.jpgIt's time for another " Lost" debate here at Zap2it, where my colleague Rick Porter and I discuss a pressing matter in the show's universe. One of us starts off a topic via email, the other responds, and after a few theories and more than a few insults later, I post the results here for you on the blog.

Before getting into today's debate, I want to make sure you all know about Rick's take on the first trailer with Season 6 footage that aired during "Desperate Housewives." I know this might be shocking to some of you, but I in fact do NOT watch "Desperate Housewives," so I missed the promo. Which is good, since I don't want to see a second of coverage before tomorrow night. But if you did see the promo, or simply want to know Rick's take on it, be sure to go check it out.

One final programming note: be sure to come participate in a live chat here on the blog February 2nd starting at 7:30 pm EST. I'll be chatting with fellow fans all the way through the hour-long recap hour. Should be a blast. All the details can be found here.
 
Finally: many of you follow me on Twitter. Just as many of you seem to loathe the service more than Nikki, Paulo, and Bai Ling combined. Either way, if you're curious about following my in-show reaction to each and every episode of the show this season, follow this account. I'm cleaving it off from the main account so I don't spoil anyone not on the East Coast.

OK, business out of the way. Let's have some fun. Today's topic: what will Ben Linus's ultimate legacy on "Lost" be?
 
Ryan McGee: So Rick: I thinking I'm going to like this little back-and-forth series. Last time out, we gave each other some food for thought in looking at Jack and Locke's potential roles in Season 6. Both will undoubtedly factor heavily into the show's themes of choice vs. destiny as the show winds down its narrative. This time around, let's look at my personal pick for All-Time Great "Lost" character, Benjamin Linus, and try to peer into his crystal ball for the final season.
 
To me, it's too simplistic to call Ben a villain. Clearly, both in execution and performance, the writers and Michael Emerson have crafted a character that goes beyond simple definitions. Some characters have clear arcs for Season 6, whether they are those of redemption, tragedy, or triumph. My first question to you: which way do you think Ben will go this season? He's on record as calling destiny a fickle...well, you know what. And Jacob didn't seem too impressed with him inside the statue. But have forces conspired to break him as kharmic retribution, or as a way to finally build him back up again?
 
Rick Porter: This is kinda fun, isn't it? Getting to nerd out on someone else's dime = good times.
 
As for Ben Freakin' Linus, I can't see how he doesn't start season 6 a broken man. Being no dummy, the realization of what he's done to Jacob -- and at whose behest -- will probably dawn on him pretty quickly. The fact that he allowed his emotions to get the better of him could also play a part in that downward spiral: For a guy who almost always is looking farther down the road, that's a pretty serious failure.
 
I'm starting to see him not as a villain and not really as a hero either, but mostly as a tragic figure. Here is a man who has worked his entire adult life for the goal of protecting the Island, only to be told, essentially, "Thanks, but we've decided to go in another direction." I'd want to shove someone in a fire too if it were me.
 
RM: But you could also look at Jacob's "What about you?" in another light. It's not that he's unimportant. It's that he's consistently done things for the wrong reasons. And, if your thinking that "whatever happened, happened" is true, then in some senses Ben Linus never had a CHANCE to achieve his potential after Sayid shot him and he was "healed" in the Temple.
 
While Ben always claimed to be working for the Island, I don't think such service lands you a tumor on your spine. That's the type of punishment you get for going off-track. Remember how last time out, we talked about Jack and Locke needing to work together more? Well, what if the tumor was Jacob's way of giving Ben one last shot at redemption? Imagine a scenario where instead of infiltration, The Others offer shelter and support from Day One.
 
Now THAT's something I'd be damn curious to see as a result of Jughead's detonation. How about you?
 
RP: Well now -- that is intriguing. And you make some excellent points about Ben having had his chances, but never quite doing things for the right reasons. In that interpretation, he's definitely a shining example of the adage that power corrupts.
 
I think, though, that a Jughead reset wouldn't necessarily have the result of Ben suddenly being accommodating to Island newcomers. The Others' history of antagonism dates back at least to the time when the bomb arrived there and Richard led young Widmore, Eloise et al in killing all the U.S. soldiers on the Island. I get the sense that even in a Jughead reset, the Dharma purge would still have happened. There's also the question of whether young Ben being around at the time of the Incident immediately affects adult Ben's behavior in the bowels of the statue ... and also, my head is starting to hurt from trying to divine all the time-line effects the Incident could have.
 
Which is off-point a bit, I know. I believe, though, that any redemption or vindication for Ben's actions thus far will have to be earned by means other than an alternate timeline being created.
 
RM: Or, as you and I have discussed before: we don't know how much memory will carry over should a reboot occur. Part of me loves the idea that we've already seen bits and traces of accumulated memory/experience from Jughead's detonation: Faraday crying at seeing the falsified wreckage of Oceanic 815 is an example you've noted, and I concur with that. People like Abaddon also seemed to have a sense of things to come that seemed...unnatural. Could it just be Lance Reddick's cryptic acting choices? Perhaps, but I'm hoping it's something else.
 
But here's the good news: the time for speculation's over. The season's about to begin. And surely, the first episode will clear everything up. Because the season premieres of "Lost" do nothing except answer question after question, right? Right? Rick, why are you pointing at me and laughing?
 
What are your thoughts, fair reader? Will Ben end up a hero, a villain, or something else entirely? Leave your thoughts below!

Ryan invites you to join the hundreds already in Zap2It's Guide to Lost Facebook group.
 

Photo credit: ABC