Thursday, March 20, 2008
When good nerds go bad…and end up ruling deserted islands and pwning John Locke like a handpuppet
My name is Liz L. and I heart Benjamin Linus. I feel like I should be in a 12-step program when I admit that, but it’s true and the “Lost” fan in me can’t fight it any longer. The ferrety little man who is (apparently) the true puppetmaster of that “Lost” island has become an irresistible character on this creatively-rejuvenated show. Last week’s Ben-free episode reminded me of how much he adds to “Lost”’s humor, mystery and all-around squirreliness. Without Ben pulling the strings, the tension just doesn’t seem as taut.
Best of all, Ben has become a well-rounded character in the months since he first appeared, claiming to be Henry Gale, survivor of an ill-fated ballooning accident. We know he is a man who loves his “daughter,” whom he took from island woman Rousseau and whose boyfriend he keeps trying to kill. Oops. And we know he is afraid of only one thing: the ghostly Jacob. And we know he knows how to control people with indisputable ease, becoming the type of passive-aggressive titan to which I can only aspire.
Actor Michael Emerson deserves an Emmy for bringing Ben to life and giving him the nuances that make a character truly unforgettable. Like a hunted animal, his large eyes are constantly moving, taking in every detail of his surroundings. He sinks into himself, making his small frame seem even smaller. And yet when he smiles that menacing smile, you have no doubt that he is a powerful man in control.
But what I love best about Emerson’s performance is the sick humor he gives Ben. Two episodes ago, when the depth of Ben’s “affection” for fellow Other, Juliet, was finally revealed, I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or be horrified. When she comes to his door for what she thinks is a dinner party only to find that it’s a date, he literally bounces up to her like a chipmunk claiming the biggest macadamia nut in the jar. Then later in the same episode, he takes Juliet to see the body of her former lover, a man whose death Ben contrived. Emerson evoked the perfect mixture of regret, shame and a ballsy “he had it coming, I hope you’ll love me anyway” arrogance.
Yeah, there’s definitely something wrong with me, but “Lost” just wouldn’t be “Lost” without Ben, a hero so rat-like he should be hatching evil plans from a Habitrail. Who wouldn’t want to see that?