Obviously, with this show, thematic elements and unanswered questions can go on and on and on for hours. What is that smoky monster? Why is it that no one from the Island can die? And exactly who in this story are the real bad guys?
One of the keys to solving many of these puzzles, it seems, is discerning who's in charge here.
Recall, in the next-to-last episode, that Ben refuted the long-held notion that he's the guy in charge of The Others.
HURLEY: Is that why you killed all these people, too?This exchange, needless to say, is more than a little out-of-place. We learned in earlier episodes that The Others -- with the exception of Juliet, who was brought into The Others' group -- revere Ben, and certainly he's not averse to giving orders ("I want lists in three days"). And yet, Ben doesn't seem to think of himself as a leader -- we know that he's insecure enough around Locke that he tried to shoot him, and that he's actually taking orders from the mysterious Jacob.
BEN: I didn't kill them.
HURLEY: Well, if the Others didn't wipe out the DHARMA Initiative--
BEN: They did wipe them out, Hugo, but it wasn't my decision.
HURLEY: Then whose was it?
BEN: Their leader's.
HURLEY:But I thought you were their leader.
BEN: Not always.
(By the way, "Jacob" is a wholly different story. Who is he? What does he want? And why? These are questions I'm trying to answer but can't.)
It's actually not the first time Ben's mentioned someone else being in charge -- this is from when we still thought his name was Henry Gale (and yeah, he was conning us the whole time -- doesn't mean he was lying right here).
BEN: None of this matters. I'm dead anyway. The doctor's gone to make a trade and we both know he'll come back empty-handed and then I've lost my value. So either Jack comes back here and kills me or my people find out where I'm being held and they do it.The question of leadership has existed since the beginning of the show, however. At first, it was Jack who gave most of the orders (against his will, but that's what happened). Then Locke -- revealed to be an adept hunter capable of providing food -- won the respect and admiration of everyone. The two of them shared it for a time, before Sawyer delivered this priceless scene:
LOCKE: Why would your own people want to kill you?
BEN: Because the man in charge -- he's a great man, John, a brilliant man -- but he's not a forgiving man. He'll kill me because I failed, John. I failed my mission.
But Sawyer, despite his cunning, never really seemed equipped to lead anybody. Following the capture of him, Jack, Kate and Hurley at the end of Season 2, Locke assumed leadership briefly, and when Jack returned (and Locke realized his destiny by joining The Others), leadership went back to him. And now Jack's (apparently) vowing to take everyone off the Island himself, a vow that's apparently getting him physically punished.
It seems, off the Island, that Jack's still in charge of the survivors -- giving them orders about the story once they're rescued, visiting Hurley in the hospital ("wanted to see if I was gonna tell"), even saving someone's obit to show to Kate. Of course, it's gradually slipping away from him, as we've seen.
So leadership, in addition to being fluid, appears to be corrosive. Look at Ben, for example -- freed of the responsibility of leading The Others and saving the Island (a role that seemingly has passed to Locke), Ben's turned into an international assassin, pulling strings and making himself the personal enemy of Charles Widmore.
Widmore's an interesting case of leadership, as well. Presumably the one sending the boat after Linus, he's also ruthless enough to have faked the wreckage of the plane (unless Ben did that, as he claims). As TBL and EW have noted in separate stories, however, it seems that Widmore isn't alone, either -- he's apparently in cahoots with Mr. Paik, the person who -- according to Sun, at least -- is at least partially responsible for the death of her husband.
So it all comes back to who's in charge. Is Ben the real leader of The Others? Is there someone else trying to attack the Island who we haven't yet discovered? And who's going to lead those remaining on the Island to safety? Is there even any safety to be found?
Once we figure out who's really in charge, we may actually gain some insight into what's going to happen next.