'Lost': Mo' money, mo' problems for Charles Widmore
Let's face it, "Lost" fans: correctly predicting future events on the show is a tricky business. At best, you're making an educated guess. At worst, you're flailing about in the dark, screaming out conspiracies like so many crazy people on the subway. Back in Season 3, I correctly predicted that Charles Widmore sent Naomi and Co. to the Island unbeknownst to his daughter, Penelope. For realz. Not a bad guess, and hey, given how many guesses I make, at least a few have to be correct, statistically speaking.
But what I did not even fathom at the time was that Charles Widmore himself was himself not only on the Island, but Ben Linus' predecessor as leader of the Others. Such a thought didn't enter my mind (or the minds of many) until "The Shape of Things to Come," the post-strike episode that stuck a stake firmly in the ground to denote the start of the show's endgame. And the reason why I didn't think Widmore could possibly have come from the Island is both extremely silly, but also extremely perplexing in light of everything we've learned about him in the interim.
That reason? The dude's stinkin' rich.
Now, it's a given in most "Lost" circles that Widmore's wealth and power allowed him to make a claim for the Island. But I've never seen an extensive look at just how Widmore managed to create such a conglomerate when he ostensibly spent the majority of his life through at least the Purge. There are vague mentions in "Dead is Dead" of frequent off-shore trips, including one that sired Penelope with her mystery mother at some point, but even if you want to assume that Widmore spent a lifetime ascending the ranks of The Others only to use that power to build an economic powerhouse specializing in pregnancy tests and hot-air balloons, you have to ask the most basic of questions: Why?
While not as omnipresent as it once was, The Hanso Foundation might offer a clue as to Widmore's intentions, as well as the vast, interconnected network of Others currently living and existing off the Island on a full-time basis. Whereas the U.S. military were asked to leave before being slaughtered in the 1950's, the Dharma Initiative were curiously allowed to co-exist with the Others on the Island. The exact nature of their agreement never truly surfaced in Season 5; all we had to go on were various hints of conditions, parameters, and punishments. Nevertheless, Horace, Pierre, Amy, and the rest of the DI were nevertheless permitted to conduct experiments on the Island.
This naturally begs the question: what did The Others get in return? Given the clout of the Widmore Corporation, one can easily imagine a quid pro quo in which the financial arm backing the research also used their know how to set up a not-so-small kitty for The Others. Or perhaps The Others recognized that the work being done by the DI was both a) beyond their own skill and b) potentially profitable. Now, it's curious to think of The Others as having materialistic ambitions, but it's not impossible to assume a young man like Charles Widmore having worldly as well as Island-based ambitions lodged deep in the cockles of his crooked heart.
In either case, insight into the power wielded by the financial backing of the Hanso Foundation might have sparked an interest within Widmore to not better the world, but exploit it for his own ambition. Scarcity of product drives up the price of the commodity, and Lord knows The Island is unique in terms of its potential output. Think of Charles as Jed Clampett times ten thousand. (Hell, no wonder The Others like to dress as hillbillies.)
All kidding aside, even if The Others accepted Hanso's help in this scenario, it takes a long time to build up the type of company that The Widmore Corporation is without it seeming straight-up ridiculous to swallow for "Lost" fans. It's not like Charles Widmore started the company after seeing a late-night infomercial in the early '90's post-banishment. But none of this gets to the heart of the issue: why do it at all? Why not consolidate power on the Island, ascend to the throne, and rule without distraction? Why consistently leave the Island to create an interconnected series of companies, contacts, and networks under the very nose of the so-called civilized world?
The most likely reason is The Man in Black, a man who would mark someone like Charles down in the "easily corruptible" column. In the aftermath of Ben's defiance concerning Danielle Rousseau, Widmore suffered a body blow to his ability to effectively lead the group. Couple that with his historically wary attitude towards Ben, and you had a man ripe for the picking in TMiB's eyes. What if The Man in Black opened Charles' eyes at that point of the real shape of things to come: Ben's ascension and Charles' banishment? What if The Man in Black suggested that the creation of a corporation might fund a possible return? What if he pointed out that the son conceived with also-exiled Eloise might hold the key to his return, if only Charles had the funds?
In this light, The Widmore Corporation looks like one of the greatest, most elaborate back-up plans in the history of humanity. Its sole purpose was to devise ways to allow its founder to reclaim what he felt was properly his. All facets of business, all employee directives, all research and development were geared towards the single purpose of dislodging the Island from Ben Linus' grasp.
While Widmore worked in public towards private goals, the original network created under his initial watch fell under Ben Linus' control. The off-Island war into which Ben conscripted Sayid? It had been going on as long as Widmore's banishment. Lawyers, businessmen, and butchers alike coexist in "normal" society, with the latter unaware of the secret war going on just below the surface. Now, it's the associates of the Widmore Corporation squaring off against The Others (aka, Mittelos Biosciences), both nominally respectable organizations with an agenda no one can truly detect. Just as the aliens from "V" use technology and the media to gain power, so too do Charles Widmore and Ben Linus wield economic clout in order to fuel a war on an island that has no concept of currency.
Where has this all led? For Ben Linus, Jacob's blood on his hands; and for Charles, nightmare-filled dreams in his head. Doesn't sound like a very good return on investment for either of them.
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