Tag Archives: Jeremy Bentham

Lost – “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham”

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“The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham”

February 25th, 2009

Because there’s a war coming, John – if you’re not back on the island when that happens, the wrong side is going to win.

The question of destiny plays a pretty fundamental role in how things operate in the world of Lost. John Locke, of course, was a man who believed in the foundational aspects of destiny, who took on the role of believer while on the island because he had been most affected by its healing, most drawn in by its mystery, most wrapped up in its central nervous system of sorts.

But Locke has never been unwavering in that faith, until more recently; when the island began skipping, his insistence that he needed to go and find the others came from the words of Richard Alpert, and was something that has never made sense in and of itself. Locke does not know why he is to bring them back, or what good it will do, but he has committed himself to Alpert’s word, and to the island that he has some sort of a connection to. We knew, from the show’s fourth season, that Locke got off the island, and that he spoke to the Oceanic Six in order to convince them to return, convince them to come back with him. But what we didn’t know is what drove him to do so, and even before this week’s episode, “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham,” that point wasn’t entirely clear. Was it fate and destiny that brought him to this place?

There are, however, two faces of fate that linger around this narrative, two people who appear to profit from and are driven by the manipulation of fate, this power lust of sorts for something approaching control. When Locke returns to spread his word, the word that the island told him to tell, he is swept under the wing of two men who lay the same claims, who give the same reasons, and who ultimately offer the same thing: safety, protection, guidance. We have been taught, with time, to trust neither of them, and with the structure of this episode we have to wonder where the show now sits on these two men. The episode, written by series creators Damon Lindelof and Carleton Cuse and directed by Jack Bender, investigates a period in John Locke’s life where he became another man, where that man had his faith tested, and where John Locke was reborn.

And, well, there’s a lot of things to consider with this.

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Lost – “316”

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“316”

February 18th, 2009

“We’re all convinced sooner or later, Jack.”

There is a point in “316” where Ben tells Jack the story of Thomas the Apostle, a man who is best known for doubting Jesus’ resurrection. What we take from Ben’s explanation is that Thomas was a brave man, who stood up for Jesus during his life and was unwilling to back away from threats against him. And yet, he isn’t known for that: he is known for not believing, for not welcoming Jesus back into this world under circumstances that he couldn’t grasp immediately. While he did eventually believe once he felt Jesus’ wounds with his own hands, that doubt has defined his existence.

In many ways, “316” is a study of Jack Shepherd’s willingness to believe, and whether or not fate and history will remember him as the person who rebuffed John Locke when he first came to Jack off the island or as the person who eventually became a believer and got on Ajira Airways Flight 316 in order to return to the island. The same pattern goes for the rest of the Oceanic Six: are the decisions they made, the sacrifices they take in order to go back to the island, enough to overcome the fact that they ignored Locke when he first came to them? They were all convinced, sooner or later, to return, but where they sit on that timeline could be very important to their futures.

What this week’s episode, scripted by Lost overlords Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, doesn’t do is give us the ability to answer these questions, presenting a labyrinth that is complex not because of some sort of twisted time warp but rather because we are still missing parts, human parts, of this story. While we got to see what brought Jack to the end of this episode, we do not yet understand the context of the letter he receives, or how the rest of the Oceanic Six resolves this conflict. These questions aren’t going to be solved by Mrs. Hawking spouting off techno-babble, but rather an investigation into these characters, their motivations, and the kinds of questions that have formed the foundation of the series since its opening.

Perhaps its fitting, then, that we begin this episode the same way we began the pilot, a close-up of Jack’s eye as he wakes up in a whole new world for the second time.

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Season Finale – Lost – “There’s No Place Like Home, Parts 2 & 3”

“There’s No Place Like Home, Parts 2 & 3”

May 29th, 2008

“Who the frak is Jeremy Bentham?”

[In case this 4700 word review wasn’t enough, here’s more post-podcast thoughts about the Lost finale! Was the finale spoiled by the one which preceded it, dooming it from the very beginning? Well, no, but it’s a valid argument.]

This is the question that pervades the conclusion to Lost’s fourth season, one that I asked myself the second the name was uttered. Now, I presumed that this (like most Lost names) had special meaning, but resisted the urge to head off to my computer to use Wikpedia to find out which philosopher or some other profession the show was using to describe this intriguing character who, as the finale unfolds, we learn was in the casket we saw a season ago.

And, well, I didn’t even have to wait until I returned to my computer: someone who was only in the TV lounge to watch a show proceeding Lost knew the story, and immediately it clicked: it wasn’t his ideas that made him an ideal choice, but rather his legacy.

From Wikipedia:

As requested in his will, [Jeremy Bentham’s] body was preserved and stored in a wooden cabinet, termed his “Auto-icon”. Originally kept by his disciple Dr. Southwood Smith, it was acquired by University College London in 1850. The Auto-icon is kept on public display at the end of the South Cloisters in the main building of the College. For the 100th and 150th anniversaries of the college, the Auto-icon was brought to the meeting of the College Council, where he was listed as “present but not voting”. Tradition holds that if the council’s vote on any motion is tied, the auto-icon always breaks the tie by voting in favour of the motion.

In an episode full of light bulb moments, pieces falling into place as we knew they had to, this was the biggest: a realization that, in kind with the words of the characters standing beside the casket, there was life after death for its occupant. Death is strange on the island, we know this: whether it’s Christian, Claire or Charlie, it is clear that dying is not final in this world.

And there is nothing final about this finale; while we turn the corner on one chapter of the lives of our castaways, the series has simultaneously created a whole new set of mysteries, a whole new structural question (perhaps even rivaling our post-season three confusion), and certainly more than enough dramatic potential for the final two seasons to resonate just as strongly as this one.

To be frank, this is no “Through the Looking Glass;” its moving pieces were smaller, and its scale (even considering Locke’s mission from Jacob) are in no way going to create something to that level. However, the episode fulfills that finale’s potential, paying off storylines both emotional and adventurous, and providing more than enough fodder for Lost fans to continue salivating for the final 34.

In the meantime, let’s salivate over this one.

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