Last week I wrote about Charles Widmore, discussing wheat we know about him so far and whether he’s good or evil. This week I want to talk about his nemesis, Benjamin Linus. I really suggest you check out Widmore’s page, it’s quite relevant to what I’m talking about today.
I’m going to go through Ben’s actions, as we’ve seen them, and judge him based on what we know. There’s still a lot that we don’t know about the character but I think we have enough to make an informed decision.
The Dharma Years
If Ben does turn out to be evil then it could easily be blamed on his awful upbringing by his terrible father. From what we’ve seen of Ben’s childhood he was an ordinary boy thrown into a rough life. His mother died when he was born. His father blamed him for his mothers death and neglected him after that. His father drank a lot and ignored the boy. Ben appears to have had two possible substitute father figures, Horace Good speed and Richard Alpert. Unfortunately he eventually had to choose between the two. He chose Alpert and survived the Purge.
The Purge is a contentious issue between Lost fans. We still don’t know who to blame. We don’t have all the facts yet about it so we shouldn’t be quick to point fingers at Ben or Richard. What we do know is that Ben let it happen, it doesn’t look like he warned any of the Dharma folk about the incoming wave of poison. That doesn’t reflect well on his character.
Then there’s the scene in the Dharma van. Ben killed his father deliberately and in cold blood. It’s almost as though he wanted to see it happen. Strike two.
Surviving the Purge might have just been Ben using his skills of self-preservation. We can’t condemn him for surviving, but going out and killing his father separately was way past self-preservation.
As the leader of The Others Ben had a lot of power. The Others unquestioningly obeyed his orders. You could say that all that they did was his responsibility. So how did The Others act? They’ve been involved in a few acts that were less than moral.
They tend to steal children. So far the count is at four and a half; Alex, Walt, Zach & Emma (the Tailie kids) and Aaron (it wasn’t a real kidnapping). The Others say it’s for the best, but it really could have been handled better.
As for the other actions of The Others, well they did kill people, but I tend to agree with what Tom told Jack way back in season 3, the Oceanic survivors killed Others more easily than they’d like to admit. So The Others aren’t uniquely violent. But on the other hand Ben has called for the deaths of our survivors and rarely even blinked when they died.
In the end Ben is responsible for leading a group of violent people, he is responsible for the deaths he ordered and although you can be sure they he’d be able to escape that guilt it’s still there.
There have been a few times when Ben’s evil really came through his facade of weakness. The two times that I’m thinking of are when he shot Locke, then when he shot Charlotte, when he killed Keamy, and finally when he killed Locke. The last one might have been the most innocent of them all. The fact that he can talk his way out of punishment for these acts is mostly because all those times the innocent party survived. When he shot Locke and Charlotte they both survived, so it was just attempted murder. When he killed Keamy he blew up the Freighter, but the only person who cared about that was Sun because Jin supposedly died there, but he didn’t so it was OK. And now he’s killed Locke but in the end Locke was resurrected and possibly better than ever, so in the end it’s OK. The fact that he’s not very successful in his murderous ways doesn’t change the fact that he’d murder all of those people at the drop of a hat.
I think Ben has one theme to all of his actions, it makes for a strong argument and is great for when he’s manipulating desperate people. The motto is, The End Justifies the Means. If you actually believe that then you might very well think that Ben is a good guy. But I don’t think that in a discussion of whether Ben is good or evil that kind of moral justification should be tolerated.
I think what we should focus on is Ben’s “End”. What is Ben’s goal? In season 2 & the beginning of 3 it seemed to be surviving cancer. In the second half of season 3 it seemed to be disposing of Locke. In season 4 it was surviving. Off the island, in season 4 and 5, it was revenge for Alex’s death. And for most of season 5 it has been getting back to the island. These aren’t noble goals, so unless Ben has some other very subtle goals then it’s time to admit that he’s evil.
(Note: The two redeeming parts of the Ben’s character are actually not at all to do with the character. They are the two women who loved him, Alex and Annie. For unknown reasons these two characters seemed to love him despite all of his evil. Unfortunately we don’t quite see what they see, maybe someday we will understand their point of view, but until then we can just like them separately from Ben.)
In my opinion Ben is completely evil, he’s a great talker and at times he is useful, but in the end his evil is quite obvious. Ironically I really like the character. Without Ben the stories would be insanely dull. So I don’t really want him to die, I just want him to continue to fail when he tries to murder my favorite characters, (I’m looking at you Penny).
What do you think?