Ben Mason: Trapped by Circumstance

Our newest Contributing Author, and one of my best Twitter friends, Lauren debuts with another examination of the best Falling Skies character: Ben Mason!

It is well established that the character of Ben Mason is the richest and most interesting of the Falling Skies cast. After undergoing the greatest development of any character so far in the series, he still has untold potential and mystery left to be explored. But I do not believe that Ben is a fan-favorite in his own world, among the fighters and civilians of the 2nd Mass. Ben has been indirectly responsible for every death this season except for Rick’s, and the 2nd Mass was probably more displeased that Ben seemed to be the reason Rick came back at all. I am a devout worshiper at the altar of the Middle Mason, but after repeated episodes in which Ben tries so hard, yet can’t seem to win, I am frustrated. Not with Ben, of course—Ben’s motivations make sense, and they are well-intentioned—but why can’t he ever catch a break, and how can we believe that the 2nd Mass tolerates such a jinx?

For as long as the viewers have known him, Ben Mason has been a people-pleaser. After his rescue in Season 1, Ben works hard to appear relaxed and likable, wanting just to fit in. He makes light of his trauma and any aftereffects thereof and struggles to keep Rick in line in order to preserve this image. He volunteers to leave his newly-reunited family rather than be a source of tension when it is made clear that his presence is not wanted among the 2nd Mass. And as the inception of a continuing theme for Ben, we see him wrestle with wanting to use his extra-human abilities to aid the fight against the Skitters while maintaining his façade as an unthreatening, average kid. In the end, Ben sacrifices his chance at normalcy and acceptance to jam the Skitters’ communication signals at great cost to himself. Though it is a victory for him, the Season 1 finale ends with the message that things are worse than they seem for Ben, and, for once, Karen is not lying.

In Season 2, as Ben’s transformation progresses and the possibility of preserving his humanity diminishes, his desperation to convince both himself and the 2nd Mass that he is squarely on humankind’s side makes him an unstable liability. Though trying harder than ever to be of help, he is dismally unsuccessful and causes more grief than anything for the 2nd Mass. Ben’s early offenses are moderately tolerable: he is reckless as a soldier, accidentally shoots Tom, and conceals potentially valuable information about the enemy out of self-preservation. Ben does rescue Tom from Pope’s attempt at banishment, but later, in an effort to take the fight against the Skitters into his own teenage hands, he begins to cause real, regrettable injury to the 2nd Mass, putting Jimmy in harm’s way to disastrous effects. Ben’s eagerness to prove that he is not weakened by his former captivity drives him to volunteer for a potentially inappropriate mission rescuing children from being harnessed. Ben ultimately causes Weaver to sustain a life-threatening injury when he overestimates the harness’ continued effects on him as well as his own self-control and destroys the harness tank in a blind shooting panic. The 2nd Mass’ greatest fears are then realized when Ben comes clean about his secret liaisons with rebel Skitters. If Pope had been around, Ben would not have survived another day.

Instead he does, and after the events of Homecoming, it became unacceptable to me that Ben could ever return to the 2nd Mass without some sort of redemption. By running off with Karen, Ben endangers everyone, from himself to the Skitter Rebellion to the 2nd Mass, and damningly leaves Maggie in critical condition without alerting anyone to aid her. Though Ben is a victim of cruel manipulation, willingly making great sacrifices to do what he thinks is best, from the 2nd Mass’ perspective, he is a traitor in full form. Yet in the most inexplicable write off of Ben’s actions, precipitating a perilous assault that results in the death of two characters, Ben is received back into the 2nd Mass with no more than a wry “Glad to see you got Ben.” Hal, who ragged on Ben mercilessly for his role in Jimmy’s death, assures Ben that he is completely blameless; an inconsistency for his character, especially considering his all-important ego should still be stinging from Ben’s takedown of him in front of Karen. Even Pope, who is alone with Tom and Ben and never can hold his tongue regarding either Mason, said NOTHING about Ben’s actions or the foolishness of bringing him back, when he had been the prime soothsayer of the group expounding that Ben could not be trusted. One would think Pope would not pass up the mother of all I-told-you-so’s.

Only Weaver actually voices concern that Ben may be a threat to the 2nd Mass, a fear he has harbored since standing at Jimmy’s grave. In that scene, it is apparent in his face that Weaver feels he is not just holding a crying Ben to share grief, but that he is holding a wolf by the ears, spelling unknown danger for the entire 2nd Mass. Indeed, despite being one of the 2nd Mass’ greatest fighters, the possible savior of the human race, and a princely Mason, Ben actions culminate in his presence being such an unsolvable problem, that he simply must remove himself from the 2nd Mass before he furthers any harm.

It seems the writers have set Ben on a season-long course of trials and failure to culminate in a fantastic victory in the finale, but this is too long in coming and does not serve fans of Ben who must now suffer an indeterminate number of episodes without his presence. Perhaps it is because the writers themselves are so enamored with the character arc they have created that they want his redemption to have an honored position in the Season 2 finale, bringing Ben’s transformation full circle and mirroring his explosive reintroduction in the Season 2 premiere. But after 7 episodes of Ben inadvertently scoring own goals, they have run out of excuses for him and simply sent him away until the time is better. This may have been prevented if they had given him one small win, some kind of vindication partway through the season that would reaffirm his value to the 2nd Mass and give pause to those who would rather he were not around. Instead, they make me suspicious that the reason they sent Pope away was because they could not come up with a good enough explanation for why his character would not have taken matters into his own hands.

Bring back Ben in a timely manner and all is forgiven.

 Lauren is the newest Contributing Author here at THE Falling Skies Blog, she (legally) dispenses drugs by day, heaps praise on Ben with me by night, and I forgive her for mentioning Justin Bieber in her Twitter handle.

She can and should be followed on Twitter, @Biebfan87

Keep the Resistance Strong!

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~ by The Falling Skies Blog on August 10, 2012.

One Response to “Ben Mason: Trapped by Circumstance”

  1. Lauren, this is great. I agree totally with what you have written. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    @JenniferRux

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