After struggling for an identity in its opening episodes, it seems that Season 5 of Lost finally has its ‘thing’ figured out. It’s the ‘Dharma Initiative’ season. Even after several episodes set largely in the 70s, the appeal of seeing the DHARMA team at work hasn’t worn off yet, particularly with the close looks at scientist-eccentrics like Radzinsky and Oldham, both of whom are destined to achieve cult-like status within the series. Horace, originally introduced to Lost fans as a corpse several seasons ago, is himself becoming an intriguing and sympathetic leader as he struggles to maintain the uneasy truce with the Hostiles – or so he thinks.
The past few episodes have focussed fairly heavily on the interaction between members of Lost’s own love quadrangle, Sawyer, Juliet, Kate and Jack. Indeed, we do get some good scenes between the foursome this week, including Kate’s realisation that Juliet and Sawyer are ‘together’, and Juliet’s sadness that her and Sawyer’s arrangement is in jeopardy (the unspoken implication being that Kate’s return is the real problem). However, the episode puts most of its stock into hammering out a place for Sayid in the new order of things – although unlike his friends, he’s not willing to submit to his position without a fight.
This week, the episode structure most closely resembles Lost’s early episodes, intercutting character-specific flashbacks with the ‘current’ action on the island. However, the days of sitting through episode-long mini-arcs designed to loosely parallel the main action is mercifully over, and the succinctness of this week’s flashback scenes is entirely welcome. In the past, any one scene could’ve been spun out into an entire multi-part plot thread comprising half the running time of an episode. Instead, with Lost’s time ticking constantly away, we get to see only the important turning points in Sayid’s life, including the inevitable explanation of how he ended up on Flight 316. The lack of shocking new information is unusual – virtually all the events depicted were already implied- but to go all metatextual for a moment, the neatness of narrative leaves Sayid in a precarious position.
Now that the character is alienated from the core cast, the loose ends of his past all tied up and perhaps even his ‘destiny’ fulfilled in the attempted murder of young Ben, one has to wonder how much time Sayid has left in the show. Rumours of a major character death from the original cast have been floated for this season, and right now, Sayid might as well have a target on his forehead. Either way, with the shooting of Young Ben, the current chapter of his life appears to have reached a definitive end one way or the other. There’s no going back from that.
The apparent murder of Young Ben, however, isn’t quite as shocking a development as it may have initially seemed. Once you get past the amazement of what you just witnessed, it’s easy to figure out a likely explanation for how things will play out. After all, we know the island can heal people who are ‘special’ – even bring them back from the dead. We also know that Ben is (or was) ‘special’. And lastly, we had it drummed into us at the opening of season 5 that “Whatever happened, happened.” Quite clearly, getting shot in the heart isn’t going to be the end for Benjamin Linus – instead, it might prove to be his beginning.
The final scene, then, acts as a circular resolution to Ben and Sayid’s relationship, explaining why Ben was more than happy (out of a sense of both necessity and revenge) to encourage Sayid to be the calculated murderer he’s always been. It’s possible things will take a different turn, but if not, it gives the episode a subtle yet believable character arc – and if Lost is going to stay entertaining as the mysteries slowly fall away, that’s exactly what the show needs.
Check out a review of episode 9 here.