Writers: Brian K. Vaughan & Drew GoddardDirector: Jack Bender
Cast: Michael Emerson (Ben), Terry O'Quinn (Locke), Naveen Andrews (Sayid), Matthew Fox (Jack), Jeremy Davies (Faraday), Rebecca Mader (Charlotte), Elizabeth Mitchell (Juliet), Ken Leung (Miles), Evangeline Lilly (Kate), Jorge Garcia (Hurley), Josh Holloway (Sawyer), Sam Anderson (Bernard), Kevin Durand (Keamy), Alan Dale (Charles Widmore), Tania Raymonde (Alex), Faran Tahir (Ishmael Bakir), Kaveh Kardan (Merchant), Yetide Badaki (Desk Clerk), Marc Vann (Doctor) & Sean Douglas Hoban (Doug)
The barracks are attacked by adversaries from the freighter after Ben. Meanwhile, Jack tries to discover the identity of a dead body washed ashore...
"He changed the rules..."
-- Ben (Michael Emerson)
A little early for UK fans, as Sky One will be showing this episode on 4 May.
So, tread carefully -- major spoilers ahead....
So, tread carefully -- major spoilers ahead....
After a short hiatus, Lost resumes for the last 7 episodes of its fourth season, focusing here on the show's most enigmatic and joyously manipulative character: Ben Linus (Michael Emerson). In The Shape Of Things To Come, writers Brian K. Vaughan and Drew Goddard craft a gripping siege, mixed with compelling flashforwards and lots of mythology-deepening intrigue...
Alex (Tania Raymonde) has been captured by Keamy (Kevin Durand) and his mercenaries from the freighter, who force her to turn off the sonic fence that protects the Barracks where Locke's anti-rescuers team are living. Fortunately, the fence deactivation sends a coded phone call to Locke's house, which interrupts a game of Risk being played by Locke (Terry O'Quinn), Sawyer (Josh Holloway) and Hurley (Jorge Garcia). The call's recorded voice informs them of a "Code 14", which sends Ben into a panic when he hears about it later. Ben quickly advised they all move to his house, which offers a better vantage point on the tree line Keamy's men will appear from, and they prepare to stave off attack...
The flashforwards this week focus on Ben, who we first see lying in the middle of the Sahara Desert, wearing a parka with a bloody gash on his forearm. It seems likely that he's transported himself there from the island and, after dispatching two Bedouins on horseback armed with AK-47s, he travels by horse to a hotel in Tozeur, Tunisia -- using his alias of Dean Moriarty to get a room as a "preferred guest". He also fishes for the exact date from the hotel clerk, who tells him it's 24 October 2005 – which places these events 13 months since Flight 815 crashed. Ben then notices a television, where Oceanic Six member Sayid (Naveen Andrews) is being swamped by paparazzi.
On the island, Keamy's men launch their "shock and awe" attack – rather humorously killing three superfluous members of Locke's group, as Sawyer dodges bullets to try and get to Claire (Emilie de Ravin), whose house is blown to smithereens by a RPG. Claire miraculously survives the attack(!), and Sawyer carries her back to Ben's house – where Hurley has her baby Aaron.
As all this life-threatening danger is going on, things are more tranquil back at the beach with Jack's pro-rescuers group. That is, until Bernard (Sam Anderson) notices a dead body washed ashore. Jack (Matthew Fox) and Kate (Evangeline Lilley) help drag the dead man onto the beach, where freighter crewmen Faraday (Jeremy Davies) and Charlotte (Rebecca Mader) identify the throat-slashed body as that of the ship's doctor. Who killed him?
In another flashforward, Ben is now dressed as a cameraman in Tikrit, Iraq, looking down from a building rooftop on a funeral processing heading through the city. One of the men carrying the coffin is Sayid, who notices Ben watching from above, misidentifies him as paparazzi, and assaults him as he leaves for his car. Sayid is stunned to find it was Ben snooping on him, and even more shocked when Ben tells him that the man who murdered his wife is one of Charles Widmore's men. Ben has speed-camera evidence that Ishmael Bakir (Faran Tahir), was fleeing the scene of Nadia's murder in Los Angeles, but doesn't know why Widmore would want to kill Nadia.
In the barracks, Miles (Ken Leung) arrives with a walkie-talkie so Ben can speak to Keamy – who reveals to Ben that he has his daughter Alex held hostage. Ben speaks to Keamy, who promises not to hurt anyone if Ben gives himself up, but Ben doesn't accept that proposal. Seeing Keamy outside, Ben holds firm as Keamy brings out Alex and threatens to shoot her dead unless he gives himself up. Even in the face of a very real threat to his daughter's life, with Alex pleading for help at gunpoint, Ben steels himself and tries to act as if Alex means nothing to him. Keamy calmly shoots Alex in the head, leaving Ben numbed and speechless.
On the beach, Jack wants answers about what happened to the doctor. Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell) asks if Faraday could fix the smashed sat-phone to ask the freighter's crew, but the microphone is apparently broken beyond repair. But they might be able to send tones, as Morse Code. A little later, Farady fixes the phone and taps out a message ("what happened to the doctor?"), and when the reply comes back he claims it says their friends are okay and the helicopter is coming back in the morning.
However, Bernard also knows Morse Code and reveals that the freighter's message actually said: "What are you talking about? The doctor is fine.". Angry at all the deception, Jack reaches boiling point and forces Farady to admit that it was never their intention to rescue the survivors of Flight 815.
Keamy's men have vanished into the jungle again to rethink their plan. Ben mumbles that "he changed the rules" and surprises everyone by entering his secret room, and then disappearing into another secret area covered in runic symbols. After some minutes locked inside, Ben steps out and tells everyone they're going to have to run when he gives the signal.
An earthshaking roar thunders outside, as the Smoke Monster pours into the barracks and heads into the jungle after Keamy's team. Ben and the others run for the jungle, as the enormous monster pulsates inside the jungle, tearing up Keamy's men as they scream in agony. And, as Locke leads everyone away to safety, Ben takes a moment to say goodbye to his daughter...
In Tikrit, Ben is keeping an eye on Bakir inside a café, but loses him in a crowd outside. Bakir gets the jump on Ben, forcing him down an alley, where Ben asks him to deliver a message to Widmore. As Bakir listens, he's shot dead by Sayid from behind. Sayid enters his clip into Bakir's dead body, before Ben tells him to go home because this is his war, not Sayid's. However, Sayid says he's spent 8 years searching for Nadia and Widmore's men took that away from him, so it's his war too. He asks who's next, and Ben says he'll be in touch.
In the jungle, joined by Ben, Sawyer decides he's heading back to the beach with Claire, Aaron and Hurley, rather than follow Locke and Ben's plan of finding the mysterious Jacob. Locke can't let Hurley go, as he's the only person who knows where Jacob's Cabin is located, and Hurley agrees to stay.
In the last flashforward, Ben has arrived in London and gains access to a penthouse, where he finds Charles Widmore (Alan Dale) asleep in his bed. Widmore wakes up and doesn’t look surprised to see Ben standing there. Ben says he's comes because Widmore killed Alex, but Widmore refuses to accept responsibility. Despite that, Ben says he's going to kill Widmore's daughter (Penny) so he can understand how he feels, and wish he hadn't "changed the rules". Widmore is angry, yelling to Ben that it's his island – it always was, and it will be again. Ben is certain he'll never find the island, leading Widmore to comment that the hunt is on for both of them.
The Shape Of Things To Come is another knockout instalment for fans, like myself, who lap up episodes that take great joy in nudging the mythology along. Sure, it's packed full of more questions, but it's tempered with moments of understanding: we now know when and how Ben recruited Sayid to become his hitman (see: The Economist), and who he's targeting (Widmore employees), and the connection between Ben and Widmore definitely runs deep. Did the island really belong to Widmore once? If so, how or why did he give it up, or lose it?
We already know that Ben was a little kid when he arrived on the island, as part of DHARMA, before growing up and "purging" DHARMA with a gas attack, and there was no sign of Widmore back then. So Widmore's claim for ownership must pre-date even DHARMA? But then, why would he need the Black Rock ledger (which it's widely assumed gave him directions to the island in 1996)?
Michael Emerson gives another bravura performance, and it’s now impossible to imagine the show without him. How strange to think he was only written into season 2 for a few episodes, but has now evolved to become its linchpin in many ways. He certainly seems to be the character with all the answers, yet it's testament to the writing that he plausibly refuses to give many answers, or lies.
Indeed, awhile back Locke asked him (amusingly) what the Smoke Monster was, and Ben claimed not to know. But he must have done something in that secret-secret room to summon smoky, which arrived to thunderous effect, misty tendrils grabbing hold of soldiers, as its enormous black mass pulsated above the jungle treetops, lightning flickering deep inside. It really is a thing of majesty, and one of Lost's most compelling mysteries.
There are a few nitpicks and problems that deflated some of the drama, of course. The opening attack on the barracks came across as funny instead of tense, with Sawyer dodging bullets as three inconsequential islanders were killed – fortuitously meaning Locke's big group were cut down to regular cast members. How neat.
Oh well. It's an unfortunate problem Lost has had since season 1 – trying to convince us that 40+ people survived the plane crash, but we only ever focus on a dozen or so cast members. I can let it slide, as they already tried to rectify this "fault" with the poorly-received Paulo and Nikki characters last season.
But I really am disappointed by how the writers have handled the Rousseau/Alex/Ben storyline. We're still not 100% certain Rousseau died in the last episode, but Alex is definitely a goner now, and it all stinks of missed opportunities for those characters. We'd better get that long-awaited Rousseau flashback one day, as that's been on the back-burner since season 2!
But overall, what a fantastic episode. It was a great idea to base the island storyline around a siege, the fan-pleasing return of the Smoke Monster, and some exciting flashforwards that coloured in the Sayid/Ben storyline from The Economist, whilst making it abundantly clear that Ben can somehow travel in Space and Time via the island. And the icy confrontation between of Lost's mysterious puppetmasters (Ben and Widmore) was the icing on the cake.
-- How did Ben travel to the Sahara Desert, why was his arm cut, and what DHARMA station does the logo on his parka belong to?
-- Why can't Ben kill Widmore, and what exactly are the agreed "rules" between them?
-- What did Ben do in his secret room, and why is its door covered in strange symbols? It seems likely that he summoned the smoke monster to attack Keamy's men – but how, and why was he covered in soot when he came back?
-- Why do the freighter crew say the doctor is fine? Is it another time-travel phenomena, so he is actually still alive on the freighter and the islanders are seeing physical evidence of his future murder/suicide?
24 April 2008
ABC, 10.00 pm