Sunday, March 14, 2010

Other Thoughts on "Dr. Linus"

Last Tuesday's brilliant episode, "Dr. Linus," was full of so much stuff that I just had to write more about it. I just go so caught up in writing my college paper about Ben and Brutus that I didn't really mention much of anything else.

Here's some other things I was thinking about along the way.

Michael Emerson

I know Jason will disagree with me here, but Emerson is the BEST. ACTOR. ON. TV. RIGHT. NOW! Jason's got a major man-crush on another Michael (C. Hall from Dexter), and thinks John Lithgow's performance as last season's Trinity Killer was the greatest thing he's ever seen on TV.

In this episode, Emerson doesn't just show us why he got the Emmy for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama last year -- he makes a play for this year's Emmy as well. This episode he manages not only to add depth to Ben Linus, but convinces us to love him. It's hard to make an audience sympathize with a villain. We might fall in love with the actor and really enjoy his/her performance, but we still hate the character. For example, Gene Hackman's performance as Lex Luthor is one of the best ever for a comic book villain in a movie; I still hate Luthor, though. Alfred Molina almost made me turn the corner on Dr. Octopus in Spider-Man 2, but Emerson has managed over the course of four seasons to make Ben Linus -- a killer, conniver, schemer, power monger -- into someone we can love.

I once read somewhere that the best actors are those whose performances are so convincing you forget who the actor is by the end of the performance. Emerson has managed to do this with Ben Linus. And it's awesome.


After Principal Douchebag tells Ben he will have to cover detention all week due to cutbacks, Ben and Dr. Arzt bitch bitch bitch in the teacher's lounge at lunch. If you've ever had the experience of being a teacher or a substitute, there are few places as gossip filled as a teacher's lounge. Teacher's a the world's biggest hypocrites when it comes to telling students how to conduct their lives. Most of us are often worse than the kids when it comes to talking shit. This is why I choose to spend my lunches sequestered in my classroom, entertaining a bunch of kids who love to hang out and eat.

Most of the talk about this scene has been about Locke giving Ben the encouragement to begin his coup of the Principal. I was really struck by, though, the jobs that Ben, Arzt, and Locke have within the teaching profession: history teacher, science teacher, substitute science teacher.

All three of these guys are on the outside looking in to some respect. In today's academic culture, history and science are almost as relevant as the rapidly declining electives classes. English and Math are the two curriculur areas that get the most attention, teachers, money, and love. Neither are tested on high school exit exams across the country, and neither share as much weight in the computation of annual school performance numbers as English and Math. One of my friends is a history teacher, and he has always called history the "English support class." And there's lots to support this.

So here's Ben, who, despite being the leader of the Others all those years, is an outsider. In the season five finale we discovered that he had never had a relationship with Jacob. He was taking orders from a man who never seemed to care about him. That's how history teachers have been feeling for years now. It's only fitting that this is where Ben would be placed. He could have easily been an English teacher, what with his extensive library of books and literary aliases, but history suits him better. He's the outsider hoping to find a place to fit.

A Gripe

And I'll make this quick. Back during my comments for "The Substitute," I griped that Locke became a substitute too easily in California's educational system. This episiode absuses that system even more by implying that Ben -- who holds a single-subject teaching credential -- can just waltz into the Principal's office and blackmail his way into an administrative position. At one time I was taking classes to become an administrator. Not only do you have to have the teaching credential, but you also need the Masters in Educational Administration and the administrative credential. A glowing recommendation to the school board from a retiring Principal will not do anything unless the credentials are in place.

I know this is just a TV show. That's why I said I'd make it quick.

Now, I feel better.

Alex Lives!

Why is a teen girl showing up at a teacher's house in the evening?

I've heard some people get mad about this. Me? Well, I was really close to my Senior English teacher, and I visited her often for guidance and support. In a lot of ways she was more a mother to me than my own was able to be. Alex showing up at Ben's only shows us that not only is he mentoring her, but their relationship has a father-daughter feel to it as wel, which was heartwarming for me.

A Candidate? For What?

Sun finally gets to have some dialogue that doesn't include her husband's name. Awesome!

Ilana tells Sun that she and Jin are candidates to replace Jacob. She also tells her that there are six candidates left. There are only six numbers: 4 (Locke), 8 (Hurley), 15 (Sawyer), 16 (Sayid), 23 (Jack) and 42 (Kwon?) While Ilana isn't sure if Sun or Jin is the 42 candidate, she should be aware that there are only five left, right? Locke, she has seen for herself, is dead, therefore off the list. So, is she counting Sun and Jin as candidates at this point, or is she thinking of someone else?

If it is someone else, then Kate is the only one that makes sense. For two reasons: 1) her name was on the lighthouse dial at number 51 and 2) her name was on the list that came out of the oversized Ankh in the guitar case when she and the gang showed up at the Temple Others' doorstep.

Lots of conversation was had about Kate's name missing from the wall of the cave that Evil Locke showed to Sawyer. Some speculated that Evil Locke was not aware of her significance. According to showrunners, Kate's name wasn't missing; it was lost on the cutting room floor. And since she wasn't crossed out, that would technically make her still a candidate.

What, though, is the significance of the number 51? We've seen all the other numbers appear throughout the entire series as a symbol of forces outside our control exacting their will -- now, though, we get a number that does not fit in the sequence. It's as if Kate's an outsider, a rebel. A constant variable.

Jacob's Touch

Richard tells Jack and Hurley that Jacob gave him a gift -- eternal life. There has been a lot of debate on this point. Some have specualted that Jacob's touch has given each member of the castaway crew a different gift, but that wouldn't completely make sense because Hurley was talking to the dead before Jacob touched him for the first time. Other speculation has been that Jacob's touch keeps them from dying at their own hand, but that doesn't take into account why Keamy couldn't shoot Michael Dawson back in season 4.

There has to be a reason for all of this. And I think the simplest reason is that some are under the protection of Jacob specifically, and some are under the protection of the Island. Once we were introduced to Jacob, people stopped talking about the Island as being an independent character. I still hold fast to the notion that the Island has a will of Its own.

Jack Shephard: Man of Faith

Wasn't the dynamite scene, for lack of a better word, "Dyn-O-Mite!"

Jack, after a dark night of the soul staring out at the endless ocean, has come to terms with his maker, ala Lieutenant Dan in Forrest Gump, and is now a true believer. He wasn't brought here without reason -- the Lighthouse revealed this to him. And after all the brink-of-death shit he's experienced since day one on the Island, Jack is now unafraid of a sweaty little stick of dynamite.

I love this change in Jack! He's become a man on a mission, and true to his name, he shepherds Richard back into Jacob's flock.

Stephen King

This season has been about mirrors in a lot of ways. The endings of "The Substitute" and 'The Lighthouse" mirrored one another in how Sawyer and Jack, respectively, discovered regions on the Island with answers as to why they are on the Island. Now, "Sundown" and "Dr. Linus" end with reunions. "Sundown's" reunion was dark and haunting as Sayid, Claire, Kate, and Evil Locke seem to join forces. The ending to "Dr. Linus" was a lighter reunion, the old fashioned sort, with characters returning to the beach. Jack, Hurley, Sun, Miles, and Frank all meet up again.

This brings to mind Stephen King's classic novel The Stand, which was about the formation of two sides waging a war of good and evil in post-apocalyptic America. Mother Abigail, the kind old black woman, brought the "good" guys to Boulder, CO, and the Man-in-Black brought the "bad" guys to Vegas. They attempt to rebuild society, but with an aim to eventually destroy the other.

Our sides have finally been formed. Here's a roll-call:

Jacob's Team: Jack, Hurley, Sun, Miles, Frank, Ilana, Ben, Richard.

Evil Locke's Team: Locke, Sayid, Sawyer, Kate, Claire, Jin, Cindy and select Others.

If the comparisons to The Stand are to continue, what's next is that members from each side will attempt to infiltrate the Other's camp in an attempt to gain intel. My best bets are Sawyer representing Locke's team and Ben representing Jacob's team. Sawyer is a con man, and Ben was called by Evil Locke personally to join him.

Will they go this route? It seems inevitable since Locke's group is now on the Hydra.

I'm loving that the group has been divided into teams. Some have said it's starting to feel too much like a comic book, but I think this has been much more daring. If you look at the teams, there are people we care so much about on both sides. Sayid may be evil, but we still love him and don't want to see him hurt. And Sawyer, Kate, and Jin, despite being with Evil Locke, may not necessarily belong to him. There's a lot more here than black-and-white game playing.

Charles Widmore!

This ending was a shock, especially in light of Jacob's comment to Hurley that someone was on their way to the Island. I think we were meant to assume it is Widmore after this week's reveal, but I'm not sold on this.

Widmore has been looking for the Island for quite sometime and mentioned to Locke back in "The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham" that a war was coming. What side is he on in this war? Logic, based upon the facts presented to us, would suppose that Widmore is aligned with Evil Locke. Now that Ben is with Jacob's squad, though, that would seem even more likely.

My thought is that Widmore is not the one Jacob was waiting for. From what I gather, Widmore didn't even really know Jacob either, just like Ben. I think Jacob is waiting for Desmond, and will hold tight to this until proven otherwise. After all, the "rules" do not apply to Desmond, and that makes him sooooo special since at this point we've been continually reminded of the rules that govern the relationship between Jacob and the Man-in-Black.

Desmond is coming, on it!

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