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The Untold Truth Of Ben Linus From Lost

There were many forces that the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 had to contend with on the supernatural ABC drama "Lost." Fans of the show likely remember the Others — a group of enigmatic, hostile inhabitants who apparently lived on the Island before the show's galvanizing plane crash — as particularly troublesome. As "Lost" progressed, we learned more about the Others' history, including their battles with previous Island arrivals and their allegiance to the supposedly godlike figure known as Jacob.

The Others went through several leaders over their long history, but the one who started the war with the Oceanic survivors was Benjamin Linus, portrayed by Michael Emerson. Serving as the main antagonist for a sizeable fraction of the series, Ben came across as a manipulative sociopath who will do anything to assume ultimate control of the Island. Like many components of "Lost," Ben had a lot of secrets that needed solving.

The series ended in 2010, but a lot of diehard "Lost" fans still don't know everything about Ben Linus. Here are some lesser-known truths about the most fearsome leader of the Others.

Ben wasn't designed to be a major character

When Ben Linus first appeared on "Lost," he didn't refer to himself by his real name. Posing as a survivor of a hot air balloon accident named Henry Gale in Episode 14 of Season 2, titled "One of Them," Ben used this fake persona to infiltrate the survivors' hatch by allowing himself to be taken prisoner. By the end of Season 2, with the help of a reluctant co-conspirator, Ben had managed to capture and manipulate the main characters for his own personal gain. This is where he revealed himself as the leader of the Others.

It's hard to imagine anyone other than Ben Linus as the main villain of the first half of "Lost," but it wasn't supposed to be that way. Henry Gale was only originally slated for three episodes, but the minds behind the show liked him so much that they kept him on for longer, and he evolved into a major character. However, the writers and directors don't deserve all the credit for turning Ben into one of the most memorable characters on "Lost." Emerson ended up winning a Primetime Emmy for his performance in 2009, leading us to think his bug-eyed brilliance also provided some of the heavy lifting in this regard.

Richard Alpert had a big influence on Ben's leadership

Ben Linus may have been the leader of the Others who wielded absolute power over his people, but that doesn't mean nobody influenced him behind the scenes. Flashbacks in Season 3 as well as certain parts of Season 5 reveal that Linus was a much gentler person in his youth. But after a violent encounter with a time traveler, young Ben wound up in the care of Richard Alpert, an ageless member of the Others played by Néstor Carbonell, who had been mediating conflicts between the Others and the Island's other inhabitants on Jacob's behalf.

We never truly see how much of an influence Richard had on Ben leading up to Ben's betrayal of the Dharma Initiative and officially adding himself to the ranks of the Others. But the show's creators have commented on how important Richard is to Ben's history. DVD commentary for Season 3 revealed that Ben and Richard's relationship on the Island was originally imagined to be similar to that of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, where each has the power to choose the next person who would replace the other.

Ben's fake names reference literary characters

Ben Linus' use of the alias "Henry Gale" is one of the many examples of his mastery of deception. Interestingly, in L. Frank Baum's "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," Dorothy's uncle was also named "Henry Gale." This wasn't the only instance where Ben used the name of a character from classic literature as an alias. One of the passports Ben used when he traveled off the Island was under the name "Dean Moriarty," a character from the essential 1957 Jack Kerouac novel "On the Road."

References to classic literature were a staple of "Lost." Several characters on the show were named after famous authors, scientists, philosophers, or other fictional characters. These included John Locke, named after the English philosopher of the same name; Charlotte Staples Lewis, whose name references "Chronicles of Narnia" author C.S. Lewis; and Desmond David Hume, who shares his middle and last name with a Scottish historian.

Since "Lost" was a very thematic show that focused on classic literary and philosophical notions like free will and the nature of good and evil, it makes sense that the writers crammed in as many of these references and callbacks as possible.

Ben and John Locke's mothers have the same name

The extensive use of thematic and literary techniques on "Lost" made it a much more complex show than just about anything else on network television at the time. As more of the story and history of the characters was revealed, we saw that sometimes, even the smallest details can connect two characters who otherwise don't seem to have much in common. For example, to say Ben had a strained but highly unique relationship with John Locke, played by Terry O'Quinn, would be an understatement. Sometimes they had similar agendas; sometimes they didn't. But due to their conflicting personalities and worldviews, Ben and John Locke usually weren't on anywhere close to the same page. 

But regardless of all that, an interesting fact about these two is that both were born to a woman named Emily. While not the most important fact about these two characters, it reinforced the idea that everything in "Lost" is connected. Plus, after the infamous "Save Martha" moment from "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," one can't help but wonder ... why did they keep fighting each other if their mothers shared the same first name?

Ben kept tabs on everything and everyone

Similar to how the characters on "Lost" always seemed to have a connection to each other, there were various objects within the show that held special secrets and hidden details. And many times, they could be in places you wouldn't normally think about. For instance, in the Season 3 episode "Through the Looking Glass," there was a brief scene where Ben is writing something down in his diary. While this might not seem like much, diehard fans of the show scanned these pages for themselves after the diary was sold at an auction alongside several other pieces of "Lost" memorabilia.

When looked at closely, the diary reveals that Ben kept tabs on the plane crash survivors and his own people. The diary entries were also distinctly written in Ben's cold, calculating voice.

Sometimes, a small detail can go a long way in fleshing out the character.

Ben always kept a photo of his daughter with him

Ben's diary wasn't the only Ben-related prop that "Lost" fans obsessed over. If you're observant enough, you can find that many of the same background objects appeared in various episodes. One of these was a photo of Alex, Ben's adopted daughter played by Tania Raymonde, who he kidnapped when she was a baby and kept hidden from her biological mother who was also living on the Island. Even though Alex wasn't his real daughter, and he eventually made some choices that had severely negative impacts on her safety and continued existence, Ben did seem to care for Alex, and kept a framed photo of her that's seen in multiple episodes, including "Through the Looking Glass, Part 1" and "One of Us."

Another recurring background object of Ben's was a painting of a mysterious woman in his house. The identity of the woman is unclear, as is its origin and the nature of Ben's attachment to it. But that hasn't stopped fans of the show from dedicating an entire wiki page to this painting. Devoted members of the "Lost" viewership have gone to similar efforts for Ben's diary and Ben's picture of Alex

Ben's birthday is marked by death

Birthdays are supposed to be happy occasions. This is not necessarily the case for Ben Linus, considering his special day is closely associated with tragedy and mass murder. Ben was born in the mid-1960s in Portland, Oregon. Unfortunately, Emily Linus died giving birth to him. This led to a strained relationship between Ben and his father Roger, played by Jon Gries, who blamed his son for his wife's death. Many years later, when the Others decided to do away with the Dharma Initiative, Ben murdered his father and played a part in killing the rest of the remaining Dharma folks.

The death of Ben's parents was an important part of how he transformed into the menace we knew in the main storyline. But the fact that both of his parents died on the day he was born is something that doesn't get brought up that much. Out of all the things in Ben's past, this is probably one of the darkest aspects of his character.

He may have time traveled before

The Island held many secrets and surprises, one of which was its ability to travel through time. With the threat of former Others leader Charles Widmore on the horizon, Ben Linus traveled to an underground ruin hidden deep within the Island to turn a giant ancient wheel. When this wheel turned, the Island and all its inhabitants vanished to a different point in time. The one who turned the wheel also time traveled, but was instead transported into the future, and off the Island.

After Ben turned the wheel, he was transported to the Sahara Desert, and eventually made his way to Tunisia. When asked if it was his first time in Tunisia, Ben replied, "No." It had already been established that the Others can travel off the Island under specific circumstances. But this exchange, as well as Ben's knowledge of where the wheel is and how to use it, could imply that this isn't the first time Ben made the Island jump through time.