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Ben's innocence vs culpability

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  • Ben's innocence vs culpability

    MOD NOTE: This arose as a tangent discussion in the thread talking about Buffy killing the Knights of Byzantium, so I've copied across Lostsoul's post to have a separate thread to discuss how innocent or culpable do you think Ben is?

    Originally posted by DeepBlueJoy View Post
    Ben was far from innocent. He could have helped Buffy or killed himself.
    You make it sound so simple. If you were in Ben's shoes would you kill yourself?
    Heck, he might have been able to stop the whole mess by taking strong drugs that rendered him unconcious on the day before the portal ceremony
    One of Glory's minions says that Glory's too powerful for drugs to work.
    He also killed a bunch of mental patients and his comment suggested it was not a one time thing.
    I always saw Ben killing the crazy people as a form of mercy killing. As far as Ben knew they couldn't be restored. Also Ben was also skeptical about their family members being able to look after them 24/7.
    My deviantart:

  • #2
    I think Ben's struggle with his choices is very much a part of the story in S5 and is there to sit alongside those of Buffy and also Dawn. Xander even directly contrasts Ben and Dawn when they are weighing up their options in The Gift...
    What about Ben? He can be killed, right? I mean, I know he's an innocent, but, you know, not like Dawn innocent. We could kill a ... regular guy.
    Dawn of course is described as an innocent by the monks, but when we find out about Ben and Glory I think the impression is that Ben was just an ordinary human child that Glory was trapped in (I can't remember which episode we find out about that to check how it is described). Ben understandably wants to live his own life and not be limited by Glory, and I think we do hear about his wish to rid himself of the connection and his inability to do so. Although how truthful it is of one of Glory's minions to say she could never be fully contained is hard to know.

    But in Listening to Fear when Ben talks of summoning the Queller demon he describes it as, 'cleaning up Glory's mess. Just like I've done my whole damn life.' What his focus is here is questionable as surely a bunch of people all killed in one night on a ward is going to draw more attention than an increase in people being admitted with sudden madness and people who aren't Glory's victims, like Joyce, can also be caught up in it. It seems quite callous to be seen as a wish to release the victims. Even though he describes his wish to be a doctor in Spiral as being about connecting to humanity, the question of whether he could take human life with his own hands is raised as he suggests getting to the key first could free him from Glory. So it feels a little bit like the queller and the risk of it taking out others who aren't permanently damaged from Glory is about him not having to do it himself. And I still question why he feels it is cleaning up her mess anyway.

    In the end, the potential of his own life that Glory eventually offers him wins out and self preservation/survival means he opts to be passive to what Glory is doing and not try to block her. He's going to stand by and watch more innocent people be killed. So I think even if he was innocent originally in how he was created alongside Glory, he does choose to look past what she's doing for his own interests too eventually and some of the choices he makes along the way are also iffy.


    • #3
      He is in final analysis someone who thinks: my life versus billions of humans and maybe trillions (if the entire universe and all realities bleed together) - my life is worth more.

      This makes him worse than Glory in some respects. He is human, she is not. He is sane, she is at best mentally unstable. He says he cares about humans and therefore became a doctor - but he murders people and ends up collaborating with Glory. This makes him at best a selfish coward or (and, IMO) at worst, the worst mass murderer of all time - he would have killed everyone - and not even in a psychotic break like Willow.

      He was willing to HELP end ALL humanity for a *possible* chance at existence.


      • #4
        DeepBlueJoy I think this is the path we see with Ben too. There is a question over whether he only exists to host Glory I think and you can sympathise with him for being bound to a being that is so inherently destructive and dismissive of human existence. But it must affect him and even if that isn't fair and it was done to him, he makes choices that are morally corrupt. How much is that Glory's influence seeping into him as he is affecting her towards the end? We really can't know. Summoning the Queller seems to show an earlier inclination to prioritise self over others, despite whatever interest he has in connecting with humanity too. It makes me wonder how sane he can be himself when he's had to live with this impossible truth and such an internal division. At the end of the day, he and Glory are bound together and he chose to put his own existence first. So there is definitely some culpability in there as well as some direct choices/actions.

        But would Glory have truly gone and faded away? If this was a long term trap that was intended to eventually kill her when the possibility of using the key passed, should Ben get the opportunity to find out who he is when he isn't inherently connected to Glory and potentially influenced by her? I'm not even sure that was ever a realistic chance, but I can see the argument that if separation was possible he could have been given that chance.


        • #5

          I'm so surprised how "genius" you all are. I keep reading here and really think I have an encyclopedia of brilliance worthy of repeated study.

          Ben and Glory felt like someone who was “infected” with having imagined God/god/et al and is glad to have discovered a wider reality, but also just can’t quite get rid of never thinking about some of the comforts that “something bigger” than a human exists, that just might care about them in an uncaring universe (Even though humans are quite capable of calling on their own conscious, also called one’s “humanity” within the Buffyworld, without god, just as one can do evil, without demons—even though the “influence of a demon,’ is (a smile) to explain “where evil comes from” that is within humans and yet, in the Buffyworld is something “imposed.”

          The idea of “innocence” itself is a very loaded word, as it can mean not knowing, or a full understanding that makes absolutely everything completely new once more, not to mention, gods aka children are posed as ‘innocent’—extremely powerful, but ignorant of the freedom and constraints of true physical materiality.

          Cleaning up God’s mess is usually done with a human’s failure to rise to the perfection of their own imaginings of what this God is like in hia omniscience, omnipresence, etc. (my favorite joke on that score: "Get lost.")

          By all of the above, I am referring specifically to Joss’s own atheism and thus, toward t the western God of Islamic, Judeo, and Christian thought had no problem ordering the slaughter and enslavement of thousands, whose only crime was in the worship of other gods. Not to mention having what “the chosen people” wanted in goods and services, e.g. women. It is no secret humans justify anything with some god on their side and use demons to defend this all powerful god “allowing” them to exist, in order for us to continue to fail ourselves, and need god’s mercy and redemption. The surrender of our own power to some future "joining" with God or real "justice" (against those who have been "atrocious" ); or to exist in the real estate of unbored bliss.

          Although not killing each other might be better, (with an eye on the deep responsibility to life itself in clear-eyed restraint to notions of abusive and superior entitlement) Buffy’s struggle with this question was to claim Dawn as her own blood, as all things that made her of herself, a a human being,in body and mind and soul, worthy of her own existenceand free will; and that alone is worth her survival in Buffy's choice of “protective sacrifice for another.”

          I might add, it’s not what they say…it’s what they do. None of us gets out of life without failure or even alive, but the learning and the living is what all humans share. A perfect god will always fail that, when all of the universe, even the gods die for humanity’s immortality.


          • #6
            I agree that Ben is a complicated character who is both noble in some ways and incredibly selfish in others. He befriends Dawn and tries to comfort Buffy when her mother dies. He tries to hide Dawn from Glory. He even drives out to the abandoned station to help Buffy when Giles is wounded. But as we see in that scene, the moral code of the Scoobies is quite different from Ben.

            But I think what makes Ben different from your average Sunnydale resident is that he is a doctor - and that gives him a kind of social and moral cache instantly because of the role that medical doctors play in our society as arbiters of life and death. So much of Season Five is about normalcy in terms of 'wellness' - who decides who is sick and who is well. In that sense, doctors are the ultimate deciders which places Ben as a foil to Buffy - Death is his Gift as well, you might say.

            I mean, look at the scene in which the tied up leader of the Knights of Byzantium, Gregor, is looking at Buffy and her friends in Spiral with tremendous pity as well as disdain. Since there are no women in the Knights of Byzantium, one has to assume that’s there a twinge of sexism as well going on here as most of them are female - and many of the females are there to nurture both Tara and wounded Giles. Gregor most likely thinks that they are soft-hearted women who cannot understand the immensity of what is about to happen. And so he turns to someone he considers to be more malleable and easier to persuade because his masculine mind is uncluttered by empathy:

            GREGOR: You.
            And Ben looks up from the sink where he is washing his hands after operating on Giles – an apt metaphor for the possible betrayal about to take place.

            We know that Ben has been told about the Knights of Byzantium – and he’s aware that he’s the soft target they’ve been trying to bullseye for a long time. So when Gregor addresses him – it’s like the Coyote addressing the Road Runner to ask directions – a shock to the system that is only relieved by Gregor’s next question – a highly ironic example of the stupidity of taking things at face value:

            GREGOR: You are not a part of this, are you?
            What does Gregor mean by this? It’s obvious that Ben IS a part of this – he drove all the way from Sunnydale to help Buffy and stayed to operate on Giles – whereas most guys would have left skid marks on the road after seeing the Knights waiting outside the abandoned gas station.

            But it’s possible that Gregor as the head of an order of Knights recognizes that doctors are usually neutral players on battlefields – their aim is to alleviate suffering and save the wounded. Ben’s absence in the Scoobie RV has already shown that he was not part of the initial group – his words to Buffy speak to his supposed ignorance about what is going on. Gregor has no idea that Ben knows more than any person both inside and outside the station – he merely sees a medic who might perform an even greater act of mercy by destroying the object that threatens them all. And Ben makes a joke that both places him inside and outside the group at the same time:

            BEN: Just a friend of the family.
            It’s an interesting turn of phrase – is there a small part of Ben that wishes he had a family other than Glory’s minion setup? One assumes that he separated himself from his supposed biological family when he found out about Glory – like Dawn, one imagines that he had an impossible task in understanding his place in the world when he found out that he was literally created to be nothing more than a meat and bone prison to contain a mad God.

            But this distancing of Ben from the Scoobie Gang – just a friend – not family – brings up the limitations of the average person to empathize with a stranger. And Gregor places heroism within selfish human dimensions – he poses a question that haunts most would-be heroes who are only willing to stretch their necks out a bit for what they believe in:

            GREGOR: Would you die for them?
            This hits directly at the idea of heroism – the willingness to help so acute that it actually overrides the biological imperative to stay alive at all costs. Whether Ben or Florence Nightingale in a war zone, the bravery in putting one’s life on the line for a stranger is immense – it means a flouting of one’s own need for self-preservation for an abstract concept of the preciousness of human life. An ability to empathize that is so great that one willingly sacrifices themselves for another.

            And the answer of a true hero to this question is often confusion – for it’s not a matter or weighing pros versus cons to determine whether a person should be saved – but just something that must be done. What else could they do but save others if it means putting an end to cruelty and suffering? Buffy’s calling as the Slayer means not only helping those in her immediate family like Dawn – but people she’ll never know – even if it should mean her death.

            And Ben is silent here – his role as a foil to this kind of bravery is to interject moral ambiguity into the heroic ideal. As an unwilling participant in Glory’s tale, he’s eager to rewrite the narrative so that it’s a happily ever after tale for him and no one else.

            GREGOR: Because that is what your future holds if you align yourself with the Slayer and her misguided people.
            Gregor is careful here not to put down Buffy and her friends – he doesn’t call them evil or Satan’s minions or anything like that. A wise campaigner, Gregor tries to convince Ben that they’re just misguided – foolish simpletons who don’t understand the ramifications of keeping Dawn alive. Gregor is most likely disappointed with Ben’s response because he doesn’t really understand the full meaning of what Ben is saying:

            BEN: It's my life. And I'll do what I please with it.
            Gregor doesn’t realize that Ben IS Glory – the intended receptacle for her prison on earth – made only to be destroyed as a punishment for something that he himself is blameless for. And this line echoes what Ben told Gronx earlier – he’s not planning to be the vessel for Glory – regardless of how he was created, Ben intends to create a life for himself – even if that means thwarting Glory’s plans.

            GREGOR: It's not just your life. Unimaginable legions will perish, including everyone here. You can stop this. You can save all their lives... by ending one. The little girl. The Key. Destroy it, and the will of the Beast will be broken. She will fade, a distant memory... and all of this madness will end.
            And this is what Ben wants to hear, right? We’ve already seen him tell Gronx that he intends to murder Dawn and prevent Glory from taking away his life. Now he’s been given a grand send-off by Gregor to do just that – a terrific justification for killing Dawn that benefits himself in the bargain.

            So why does Ben hesitate here? Most likely, it’s for the same reasons that Ben decided to become a doctor in the first place – his decision most likely stems from a realization at a young age that taking his own life meant saving the world from Glory’s possible escape. When Ben found he was not willing to forego his own life to save others, his guilt drove him to find an occupation in which he could save others without sacrificing himself.

            In Season Five, we see a multiplicity of doctors – the Initiative Dr. Overheiser in Out of My Mind; Riley, the battlefield medic in Fool for Love; Joyce’s first doctor, Dr. Isaacs, in Shadow; Joyce’s surgeon, Dr. Kriegel, in Listening to Fear and Into the Woods; Love Doctor Buffy in I Was Made To Love You; the mysterious warlock Doc in Forever; the Doctor who fires Ben and treats Tara in Tough Love and the nurse who is decked by the mad patients in Spiral as she calls for an unseen Doctor McCarthy.

            And Ben, of course, is the central figure in this plethora of medical practitioners. He’s meant to represent the ultimate heroic impulse – the medical superman who ends suffering and the secular mediator between the living and the dead. And he ironically contains within him a God who came from a dimension of unspeakable torment – a master of inflicting pain and suffering.

            Ben’s name is interesting – in the Hebrew Bible, the naming narrative given for the unusual name is a corruption of the name Benoni – an allusion to Rachel’s death after giving birth to him – meaning “son of my pain.” In actual etymology, the name means “son of the right” or “son of the South” – referring to the subordination of that particular tribe to another. In both senses, Ben’s name is fitting – he is a child born of Glory’s pain (both her own and that she inflicts on others) and he is subordinate to her nature despite being the outward vessel that contains her.

            Ben tells Gronx that he chose to be a doctor because his desire for normalcy – as a person created to contain a demonic God within, becoming a physician is the closest that he can come to feeling that he’s a part of humanity. It’s a rejection of the inner monster within – a way in which to cut off her enormous power – and obviously meant to be a parallel to Buffy’s struggle with her inner Slayer throughout Season Five. And Ben’s moral struggle to contain Glory’s madness while still trying to keep his own life “normal” leads to ethically dicey behavior – especially calling a Queller to kill patients and cover up Glory’s misdeeds – while pretending to be a kind of innocent in the game of life and death.

            When the monks are murdered in the search for the Key, Ben’s attempt to wash his hands of Glory’s deeds allows him to fool himself into believing that he’s not culpable in the fate of her victims. And the viewer is led to believe that Ben may be the man that Buffy’s looking for because he represents the kind of normal, everyday heroism that Buffy desires – not dusting vampires, but saving lives in the purist sense. Why does Ben find himself in Sunnydale? It can’t be coincidence – one assumes that he’s pretending to go along with Glory’s plan to find the Key because he has alternative plans in mind – kill the Key and Glory’s influence wanes.

            When we first see Ben in Season Five, there’s a sense that he does care about others. He’s giving Dawn a chance to play with his stethoscope – allowing her to play-act the healer when her mother is sick. Dawn wanders about, listening to the heartbeats of various people. She listens to Ben’s heatbeat – normal; Buffy’s heartbeat – normal; Riley’s heartbeat – abnormal. And we are tricked by the scientific instrument into believing that Ben is normal as opposed to Riley – that he is a potentially stable and “normal” boyfriend for Buffy – but we forget that Buffy’s heartbeat sounds normal as well even though she is a Slayer.

            When Buffy and Ben next meet in No Place Like Home, he’s helping to strap Glory’s victims to a gurney. A few jokes pass between them about Buffy’s strength – Ben calls it her “radioactive spider bite” in a reference to another superhero and then labels himself as a “Doctor – almost.” So like Riley, there’s another intimation that Ben isn’t all that he seems to be – but we’re still drawn in like Buffy by his compassionate words and sunny demeanor. And at the time, Buffy seems more intent on blaming magic than nature for her mother’s illness.

            Did Ben already consider calling the Queller to rid himself from having to look at Glory’s victims? Too squeamish to kill them himself and too in love with life to kill himself – he seems to feel he can avoid the entire ethical problem by getting someone else entirely to take them out.

            In Family, we see Ben for a moment in the locker room discussing the mad patients with a fellow intern – amazingly, Ben has learned from years of practice to show zero emotional distress in front of others despite coming face-to-face with Glory’s victims. And we see in retrospect that Ben is likely responsible for other deaths as well when Glory appears to send the Lei-Ach demons after the Slayer.

            And we see the human “normal” side of Ben again in Shadow as he pulls Buffy away from the insensitive Doctor Isaacs who is barraging her with questions over Joyce’s health. Over and over again, Ben is shown as a “normal” young man who loves his work and seems to be empathetic to the patients and loved ones at Sunnydale General (or Memorial) Hospital. And then – in Listening to Fear – we suddenly see a different side of our intern – who Local Max winningly called Benevolent Ben:

            DREG: It's strange. A body might ask what exactly it is you think you're doing. He might ask what all this was meant to accomplish. Because to a humble postulant, it looks like chaos. Like unnecessary attention drawn where it ought not to be.
            BEN: (angrily) Get out!
            DREG: Sir, forgive me. I just want to understand. Why summon the Queller?
            BEN: What do you think? Because I'm cleaning up Glory's mess. Just like I've done my whole damn life. (Listening to Fear)
            And Ben is no longer the kindly doctor saving lives, but an infiltrator who seemingly works for Glory – a monster who summoned the Queller to gobble up the mess Glory’s left behind with her mind-sucking. But his position as Glory’s minion is ambiguous – his refusal to help Glory in Checkpoint tells us that he’s not on Buffy’s side – but he’s not completely on Glory’s side either as he learns who Buffy is:

            BEN: Buffy Summers is the Slayer?
            JINX: That's the one! Very clever of you, sir.
            BEN: The Slayer. How does Glory know this?
            JINX: I do not know, I was not there. But the beauteous Glory said for you to tell us please, where her dwelling is ... who her friends are...
            BEN: Why? So Glory can find her, do something to her? Why would I do that?
            JINX: I don't know, sir, she just said to tell you to do it. For her. That was her message.
            BEN: Well, I've got a message for Glory too. (Checkpoint)
            And Ben commits his first act of real violence and cruelty as he punches Jinx – and we see that Ben is not as benevolent to Glory’s demon minions as he is to human beings. Does this make Ben heroic in some way? He certainly protects Buffy from Glory’s inquisitive minions – but again there’s a measure of moral compromise here – Ben can’t tell the Slayer who he is in fear of being murdered himself. And it’s his life – Ben’s attitude as survivor is contrasted throughout Season Five with Buffy’s self-sacrifice – Death is not Ben’s gift. It’s his curse – and Glory rages over her inability to either kill or control Ben. Because she shares the same problem – to harm Ben is to harm herself – and Glory finds it infernally frustrating that she has no control over the vessel she lives in:

            GLORY: All he has to do is turn over that tiny squirming Slayer girl! I have business to do with her. If she knows where I can start looking for my key... aah! Why won't he help? He knows her. He could go to her! He could talk to her! He could seduce her and bang the key out of her! (Checkpoint)
            And one wonders if Ben himself doesn’t think of this as a possibility – for once he finds out that Buffy’s sister Dawn is the Key, Ben is like the proverbial sheep who follows everywhere that Buffy goes:

            BUFFY: Ben! Hey!
            BEN: Buffy, hi.
            BUFFY: I barely recognized you without your hospital scrubs.
            BEN: Oh, you'd be surprised at the extent of my wardrobe.
            BUFFY: Really?
            BEN: I actually have entire outfits that aren't blue pajamas.
            BUFFY: Um, my sister ... uh, told me what happened at the hospital before I got there.
            BEN: Uh huh.
            BUFFY: And, uh, I just wanted to say ... thanks. For looking after her?
            BEN: That's okay. I'm glad Dawn's all right. (Crush)
            And there he is again at the party, flirting with Buffy as Spike glares at him.

            BEN: Buffy.
            BUFFY: Ben! Hey. I didn't even know you were here. And again with the non-medical clothing.
            BEN: Well, actually, these are orthopedic pants. Man, that sounded so funny in my head.
            BUFFY: (fake laugh) It's very, very funny. It's funny in my head too.
            BEN: You having a good time?
            BUFFY: Yeah, I am. I was dancing earlier, and you know, my friends are here, so, but, I mean, not that it's all about me. Are you enjoying yourself?
            BEN: I am now.
            BUFFY: So, um – do you – maybe – wanna dance?
            BEN: I'm not really good. You know, rhythm. Uh, sure. I'd love to. Let me just dump this. I'll be right back.
            BUFFY: Okay. (I Was Made to Love You)
            And after Spike accosts Buffy to taunt her, Ben swoops up to rescue her:

            BEN: Was that guy bothering you? Should I, um, offer to get inappropriately violent or something?
            BUFFY: (smiles) No.
            BEN: (smiles) Good, 'cause, honestly, I don't wanna.
            Shot of Spike moving into the crowd, looking over at Buffy and Ben chatting.
            BUFFY: So, are you ready to dance?
            BEN: Um, first... (we see he's holding a small pink piece of paper)
            BUFFY: What's that?
            BEN: Uh, yeah, my phone number. (We see Spike in the background watching) I was gonna try to subtly work it into the conversation, but it didn't pan out, and I thought I should try to give it to you before you see me dance. You know, in case you wanna get coffee.
            BUFFY: Thank you. Um, I, I just, I-I think you should know that I ... (sighs) I kind of have this bad history in which, you know, we go get coffee, and, well, it all ends with, with you leaving town, and you just got here and everything...
            BEN: Apparently we'd be risking a tragic chain reaction, but ... I just really like ... coffee. I think coffee might be worth it. And I would like to get to know ... coffee better.
            BUFFY: Then I'll call you. (I Was Made to Love You)
            Is Ben honestly interested in Buffy as a woman? Or is he trying to get close to her to get to the Key? Most likely, Ben is morally compromised as usual – too driven to survive to let Buffy go – but too merciful to harm her sister Dawn. And so, as always, Ben swims in Glory’s pit of moral turpitude while pretending to himself that he’s really walking on water.

            So it must be a tremendous disappointment to him when Buffy seems to inexplicably turn away just as he begins to make contact – and even worse, it looks like he’s conspiring against Glory when she hears the message on his machine:

            BUFFY: (on Ben’s answering machine) Hi, it's Buffy. Um, I hope this is your machine, there, there wasn't a message. Anyway, um, about coffee. I, um ... I just ... I don't think this is the best time for me to be ... drinking coffee. Um, I'm sorry. And, um, bye.
            GLORY: What the hell?
            JINX: If I may, your inconceivableness, it sounds to these humble ears like our Ben tried to make a date with the Slayer.
            GLORY: A date with the Slayer? No. No. No, no, no. He is planning something, he's working against me. She turned us down? (I Was Made to Love You)
            And once again, Glory suggests that getting closer to the Slayer is a good thing – that it means the revelation of the Key is close by. And Ben tries to muddy the waters a bit by being a bit obtuse about the motivations behind his courtship of the Slayer – but inadvertently reveals that the Key is an innocent – an interesting choice of phrase:

            BEN: Fine. Let the best me win. Let Glory understand this: I won't help her find the key. I would never do that to an innocent –
            JINX: An innocent? The key? That's an interesting choice of words.
            BEN: No, that, that's not what I –
            JINX: I understand, sir. I'm sorry to have bothered you, I'll take my leave.
            BEN: You understand what? When I said it's innocent, I didn't mean that the key is – it's not a person.
            JINX: Of course not.
            BEN: You're gonna run and tell her, aren't you? Do you understand what's going to happen if she finds the key? How many people are going to die?
            JINX: Please, I heard nothing.
            BEN: I can't let that happen. Don't you see?
            Ben stabs Jinx with the dagger. Jinx gasps.
            BEN: I can't. (Forever)
            And Ben performs the first heroic action that we’ve seen so far – he murders Jinx to protect Dawn – a true innocent. Does Ben somehow empathize with Dawn? There’s an obvious parallel between Ben and Dawn – both have “sisters” who aren’t real – but share the same DNA. And we see that the only person that Ben truly protects – the actual Key – is a figure that Ben can empathize with. For he has stood in her shoes a long time – and the feeling of separation from humanity is something he keenly feels. The little girl that he allowed to play doctor with his stethoscope has heard his heartbeat before - and confirmed his humanity through his identification with the young girl who has a dark power beneath her benevolent exterior.

            BEN: You two have a fight? It's okay, I know how that goes. I got a sister too. They can be a real pain sometimes. I tell you, there've been a lot of nights I wish she didn't exist either.
            DAWN: It's not Buffy. It's me. I'm the one that doesn't exist.
            BEN: Look, I know it can feel that way sometimes, but when you're older –
            DAWN: No, you don't understand. It's not real. None of this. They made it.
            BEN: Dawn –
            DAWN: I'm nothing! I'm just a thing the monks made so Glory couldn't find me. I'm not real.
            BEN: You're the key?
            DAWN: How do you know about the key?
            BEN: Go! Before she finds you. Don't ask me how she knows, 'cause she always knows. Just go.
            DAWN: Wait! Calm down, just tell me –
            BEN: You don't understand, you're a kid. You stay, she'll find you. She finds you, she'll hurt you.
            DAWN: What's wrong with you?
            BEN: You're what she's been searching for. I am telling you, run. You don't know, you – oh god, oh god no, she's coming. I can feel it, you've gotta get out. No ... oh no, she's here! She's here! (Blood Ties)
            And now this kid has watched Ben treating Giles – he’s as much a hero as Buffy in her eyes. And Ben is aware that he’s being watched by the very creature that can resolve his moral dilemma – if Ben can simply kill her, then he no longer has to face the choice of self-annihilation or destroying the world. The moral struggle within Ben as whether to help or harm – save himself or save her – is obvious in his face – even if Dawn can’t see it. She’s too busy watching the suffering Giles – just as Xander is watching Dawn and Ben.

            There’s an interesting setup here of watching others deal with pain – the voyeuristic quality and claustrophobia of the interior scenes mirroring the viewer’s unease with the situation within. One of the keys to empathy is the ability to discern and measure pain – as Xander demonstrated in his brief encounter with Spike. And now he keeps a steady eye on Ben – perhaps not quite as trusting in the hero Doctor as Buffy – and as Ben walks up to monitor Giles’ condition, Dawn jumps at his approach.

            And Ben recoils from Dawn’s moment of fear – he acts almost as if she can see the thoughts spinning in his head – and apologizes for scaring her.

            BEN: Sorry.
            And Dawn asks the question that every hero and every physician in existence hears day in and day out as Ben feels for Giles’ pulse – the very essence of life as Giles struggles to survive his wound:

            DAWN: Is – is he going to be okay?
            This question reveals the priestly role of the doctor as the modern figure who is expected to prophesy life and death for the patient as well as his loved ones. And like a priest, Ben answers in an oblique manner as to whether Giles will live:

            BEN: He was hurt pretty bad, Dawn.
            And the specter of possible failure rises for both Dawn and Ben – for different reasons, of course.

            Dawn already feels guilt for Tara’s madness and Spike’s torture – the death of Giles would be almost too much to bear. It would not only mean a catastrophic failure for the Scoobie Gang and her sister – but also makes her indirectly responsible for yet another death as Giles sacrifices himself like the monks did to protect the key.

            And as for Ben – looking at Giles makes things even clearer – his failure to kill Dawn would not only mean his own death – but that of billions. Isn’t taking out Dawn the right thing to do in the end as Gregor said?

            Dawn looks at Ben as Ben glances nervously at Xander – the lone witness to anything Ben might try to do. What is Ben thinking? Some painless way, perhaps, to kill Dawn – inject a toxic substance into her blood that stills her breathing or stops her heart? And then just as Xander leaves, Dawn says something that makes Ben stop in his tracks:

            DAWN: It's because of me. It's all my fault.
            And Ben immediately responds as he walks over to his bag:

            BEN: No, it isn't.
            Ben recognizes in Dawn his own feelings of guilt for Glory’s actions – she is as much a victim of circumstance as he is. And as he takes out a syringe, the temptation to just end it all – either himself or Dawn – must be unbearable.

            DAWN: You don't know what's happening.
            BEN: I don't have to. I just know that sometimes terrible things happen to good people. It shouldn't, but it does. It's nobody's fault. It's just the way life is.
            And this is the philosophy by which Ben has lived his entire life – the death Glory has caused is nobody’s fault – certainly not his. So why not fill the syringe with deadly poison that will solve all of his problems?

            When Ben is fired shortly before this moment, his superior mocks Ben’s constant stream of excuses for failure – including the real one in a hilarious moment of inadvertent, impossible truth – and lectures Ben on taking responsibility for his own actions:

            DOCTOR: Sure. You can also tell me that the dog ate your homework, or maybe eating Twinkies made you do it, or – maybe yeah, that there's really a wicked demonic creature living inside you that takes control of your body and forces you to do its bidding. Take responsibility for your actions, Ben!
            BEN: I – this – you know, forget it. Just forget it. This is so unfair. You're taking everything away from me. Everything I worked for, I earned, I care about. These are my choices, this is my life, and you're ruining it! (Tough Love)
            And Ben responds with a lament about how unfair life is – he never asked to be created – and yet he must suffer the consequences of being the receptacle for Glory and bearing the guilt for crimes that he never committed. And he tries to form some coherence from his shattered identity by telling himself that he is Ben multiple times before Glory claws her way to the fore to commit even more mischief.

            And this conversation must come back to Ben – take responsibility for your actions – as he pulls down the plunger, filling the syringe with mysterious liquid. And Dawn watches him expectantly – will this medicine save Dawn and assuage her terrible guilt.

            And we see Ben come menacingly towards Dawn – only to pass her by and plunge the needle into Giles’ arm. And we see that Ben has made his choice the moment that Dawn took blame upon herself for all the havoc caused by her making – his natural empathy has won out after all. He can’t kill innocent Dawn – and it’s for the same reasons he can’t kill himself. It’s nobody’s fault – sometimes terrible things happen to good people.

            If Ben were to kill Dawn for merely being the Key, then he’d have to admit that he himself was culpable in Glory’s crimes for merely being her receptacle. And that is too much for Ben – he’d rather do nothing and Que sera-sera – whatever will be, will be. As the Knights of Byzantium might say, let God sort it out.

            And concern for Giles inadvertently has Dawn asking Ben whether his merciful gesture will help anyone:

            DAWN: Is that going to help?
            And Ben turns away – we’re not certain if he’s changed his mind as Dawn shows concern for the doctor:

            DAWN: Ben?
            And as the fateful syringe that might have stopped Glory by either killing Ben or Dawn falls to the floor, we realize that Ben’s mind has been made up for him as he vainly tries to stop the approaching transformation. She’s coming and there’s no way to stop her. And Ben’s instinct is the same as Buffy’s at the beginning of Spiral – to run away and give the Scoobies a chance to escape:

            BEN: You have to let me out!
            As Ben runs into the main room, Dawn follows him with concern. Has Ben finally gone stir-crazy?

            DAWN: Ben –
            BEN: You don't understand! I got to get out! Open a door! NOW!
            As Xander and Anya stand in the doorway looking bewildered and Willow turns from Tara, Buffy and Spike race into the room from the back office.

            BUFFY: What happened?
            DAWN: I don't know! He just freaked out!
            And they stare in puzzlement as Ben pleads with them – he can’t be trapped in the gas station – and the folly of Buffy’s plan becomes clear. The Scoobies have kept the Knights of Byzantium out – but at the cost of keeping themselves locked inside with the one figure that can do them the most harm. And as they stand paralyzed, watching Ben, he makes one last plea to lower the barrier that separates the outside from the danger within.

            BEN: LET ME OUT!
            And Buffy senses that there’s something truly terrible happening here – and she turns to Willow far too late to give Ben a chance to escape:

            BUFFY: Okay, Will, open a door—
            But before Willow can even act, Ben begins his fateful transformation as the beast within starts to manifest itself on the outside.

            BEN: NO!
            And we see the merging of the two sides of Ben/Glory as his masculine features lengthen and shape themselves into a recognizable form that the Scoobies know all too well:

            And Buffy’s face registers the shock of this new revelation as Gregor’s words about Glory’s home of flesh and bone come back to haunt her. And in one moment, she realizes the terrible mistake she made by trusting to fantasies of heroic salvation as she pushes Dawn behind her.

            And it’s not only the presence of Glory that horrifies the gang – but the terrible nature of the transformation itself as the benevolent and heroic Doctor Ben turns out to have been hiding a God of suffering and torment within. The desire for normalcy has turned on itself – and the façade of happy endings has been finally stripped away to reveal the devastating truth of reality underneath.

            Which makes him a perfect foil to Buffy in Season Five.
            Last edited by American Aurora; 23-07-21, 02:52 AM.


            • #7
              American Aurora it is definitely worth acknowledging the ways in which Ben does take less than easy paths at different points to try and do what he thinks is morally right. Looking to hide Dawn from Glory is a great example of that. And I think that he does have the potential in him to place others above himself. But we see him waver so often too. It could just be the increasing effect that Glory was having on him that increased his self focus. Or it could be that when it came to the final point when he saw Glory was about to realise her plans and get what she wants he feels cornered and when fear of his own death finally hits, self interest won over.

              Great points about the repetitions on health and the heroic position of medical practitioners and I loved your point about Ben's heartbeat being 'normal' as was Buffy's. As a doctor who could be focused on the ending of suffering, the calling of the queller could well be seen as an act of mercy. Contextually, he was talking to Glory's minion, when he described it as cleaning up Glory's mess so perhaps wasn't likely to expose his full emotional responses. But, as you say, it does feel like an avoidance of dealing with it to call the queller, even as that act is actually making a choice.

              Although I agree that Ben avoids making the decisions and tries to avoid being culpable in Glory's crimes, he does make choices here and there that work with, as well as against, Glory as he struggles to decide what to do overall. So there is definite ambiguity to Ben that threads through the season. It is just hard to know how much of it is the negative effect of the position he is in as the cage to Glory and how much is Glory's influence. If it had been possible to draw the two apart then surely he deserves the chance to see who he can be without the connection to something so inherently evil hanging over him? That conflict is within him all the time but is it born of circumstance more than character?

              In comparing him to Buffy we can perhaps consider that moment after Spiral where Buffy retreats into herself, having seen the outcome of Spiral as having lost Dawn to Glory. She has the moment where she feels relief to lose the burden. But that isn't an ongoing conflict where Buffy jumps from one behaviour to the other and the retreat is in part from herself for having had that moment, as understandable as it might be. So there is a real contrast to Ben despite the similarities and mirroring that we're given and we know that is not Buffy's nature and where her actions lead from everything we know of her. Whereas everything is so uncertain with Ben and which side of the line he'll walk all the way through. What is inside Buffy is a force for good, and it links to her character and nature. What is inside Ben is a force for evil, but how connected is that to his own character and nature.