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?

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

I like the character of Ben in the way you mentioned -- he's nuanced, he's interesting. However, I find it disturbing when women like Ben romantically.

That's so disturbing! Issues, anyone?!

Shan said...

I love Ben. A list of all his great lines could take up several gigs, but just a few from the Juliet-centric ep a couple of weeks ago:

"You're MINE!!" (pause) “Take as much time as you need.”

“This didn’t have a number on it, did it?”

"See you guys at dinner."

Emerson definitely deserves an Emmy.

Liz said...

I, too, am a Ben Linus fangirl. I especially love him as a prisoner-- as Henry Gale, or just recently, when he was all tied up and beaten and following John around. Something about Ben playing powerless is, like, my favorite thing. For my money, the best Ben moment ever is in S2, when Jack lets him out of the armory to have breakfast, and he explains what he'd do if he were one of the Others (which, we know, is exactly what he's done)--and then asks for the milk, and...scene. Creeps me the hell out EVERY TIME.

And this is me, shutting up now.

Scrap Irony said...

So, would this be a bad time to mention that I've never actually seen Lost?

Letishue said...

I think it's a credit to Emerson that he makes the character work. With anyone else I could see it turning into mustache twirling, but he just sells it. He can go from killing his father in cold blood to bumbling around his kitchen attempting to impress Juliet. It's masterful. He's definately one of the most compelling characters on Lost (and that's saying something because they all kind of rock).

Beana said...

Emerson's work as Ben is genius, but I still love to hate him. He killed Rousseau! How do you kill off the Linda Hamilton of The Island!?

Anonymous said...

What is it with women who fall for sociopaths? From the very first scene with him in The Pearl, when he exchanged glances with Juliet, it was pretty obvious that he was more than a tribal leader to The Others. He was the master of their cult.

Ben is a monster. Unambiguously. He's a monster. If you are attracted to him, you probably need therapy.

tgrfan23 said...

Michael Emerson continues to get shafted at the Emmys because the NATAS' panelists who vote on these things are complete morons. Though he does have an Emmy for his guest appearances on The Practice.

Liz said...

Anonymous -- see, the thing is, uh, I'm not always entirely serious on this blog. Just a heads up...

boudiceaborn said...

An episode with Ben in it is generally that has me yelling at Sawyer, Lockee, Jack, or whoever is getting taken in by him at that particular point. He's just so devious! I should probably switch sides to make it easier on myself, he's obviously going to win out in the end.

I'm also in mourning over Rousseau, but I'm not sure yet whether Ben orchestrated that.

Liz said...

I'm completely upset about Rousseau. I'm hoping she's not really dead. I never thought about Ben not orchestrating it, though. That would be a really interesting twist.

geogirl said...

I agree he is an amazing actor and his character adds so much to the show but lordy how I want to see that man die. Especially now that he killed Delenn...um, I mean Rousseau. ;-)

I think the characters of Ben and Juliet helped save the show from the year 2 dulldrums and both of these fine actors deserve an emmy now!!

srah said...

I love Ben! I had gotten to the point where I hated everyone on the show (except Sayid and Desmond and they don't get nearly enough screen time). Ben is so creepy and wonderful. His lines aren't even that great - it's all in his subtle, creepy delivery. He makes watching Lost worthwhile!