First Claire turns bad, then Sawyer, and now Sayid? It seems like all the characters LOST fans loved are actually… lost. So, are the writers, producers and directors making a big mistake in the final season, or is there hope for redemption?
Last week’s episode, “Dr. Linus,” focused on the show’s most dubious character: Ben Linus. In previous seasons Ben murdered countless people, tortured enemies, manipulated friends, betrayed allies, and assented to his daughter’s death–all in reckless pursuit of personal power, control, and glory.
In John Milton’s Paradise Lost (a poetic retelling of the biblical fall of man) he juxtaposes Adam’s ability to reason before and after the fall. Before, Adam sometimes hedges the line of evil, but the gravity of his unfallen reason pulls him back to faithful worship of God. After the fall, Adam hedges the line of goodness, but inevitably his fallen reason draws him into evil self-worship.
Ben is a reflection of Milton’s fallen Adam. Like Adam, Ben approached self-sacrifice and goodness in past seasons, but at the threshold he fell back into lustful pursuit of self-glory and power.
In season 5 he helped John Locke, but only to murder him. In season 4, he sacrificially moved the island, but only to seek vengeance upon Chalres Widmore. In season 3, Ben kindly offered Juliet the opportunity to fix her sister’s infertility, but only to imprison her on the island. The list goes on, but this message is clear:
Ben cannot change his own heart.
Last season Ben murdered Jacob in cold blood. In “Dr. Linus” he faces the consequences for his evil when Illana, Jacob’s former bodyguard, locks Ben to a tree and forces him to dig his own grave. A moment before he finishes digging, fake John Locke–the incarnation of evil–appears and offers Ben his greatest idol: power. Locke tells Ben that he can rule over the island if Ben meets him elsewhere, but to do so Ben must kill Illana.
Then this poignant conversation happens:
Ben is prepared to murder Illana for power, but an interior battle breaks out. Finally, he deeply feels the emptiness of power’s promises. His heart breaks from the weight of the blood and wickedness on his hands. Lost, weary, and beyond forgiveness Ben desperately asks to leave.
Only empty evil will accept him and broken-hearted Ben knows he deserves nothing but judgment.
Then Illana does the unthinkable, she offers grace. She offers to take in the despicable and the lowly. In a moment Ben’s life is transformed–Illana humbles him with love so that he is no longer a slave to his desire for power. He follows her slowly, like a confused child so long deprived from food or comfort, that the promise of a feast makes him dizzy, and joyful, but never suspicious.
Do you see the gospel here? Ben’s previous attempts at good deeds never transformed him–he always fell back into wickedness. Grace, however, compels him to the quietest sort of affection. He returns to the beach camp and humbly asks to help Sun build her tent. For the first time, by grace, Ben Linus crosses the hedge from hatred to love, from evil to good, and from deciet to integrity.
Does not the sweetness of Christ’s grace work the same miracle in us?
So, can grace save Ben Linus? Yes, of course it must.