Living up to his potential
From what I understand, Ben was originally concieved as a lame duck of a character, or should I say dead duck? Ben was supposed to witness Merly's murder and be disposed off a few episodes later. It was Nick Searcy's talent that kept Ben's head on his shoulders. It's Nick Searcy who gave Ben his deeply human qualities and brought him way beyond a sterotypical good ol' boy. Nick is AG's unsung hero, IMO, as brilliant in his performance as Gary Cole is in his Lucas Buck.
But this disc isn't about Nick, it's about his Ben. Ben is a weak man, I don't think there can be any doubt of that. The debate, I believe, is in where the weakness is from. Is it inherent or learned? I think it's both, heavy on the learned. As I've stated before, Ben had to have had some leadership qualities to have been the quaterback and captain of his high school football team with his future poised for pro. What happened to those qualities, where did they go? Years and years of Lucas Buck. I've always seen Lucas as using Ben's self-esteem as his personal yo-yo. Tear it down, build it up, tear it down again. Just never build it up too much, to the point that Ben would break away from what was an abusive realtionship.
Imagine the state of Ben's self-esteem at the point that Lucas stepped in to "help" him. He'd injured his knee and lost his chance at pro, I think we can speculate that a lot of his self-esteem was wrapped up in his football career, his girlfriend was knocked up and he had to do something about that quickly, and he had family secrets that he felt it was his duty to keep hidden. He was just ripe for Lucas's head games. Can't you just see a younger Lucas practicing new methods of screwing with people's heads out on poor Ben before he made use of them out there in the rest of Trinity?
Ben learned to think of himself as a loser, and it became a self-fufilling concept. Weaknesses in his character became exagerrated, overwhelming many of his strengths. Ben wants to see the best in people, that led him to turning a blind eye on a lot of things. He doesn't like a fuss, he likes things simple, so it became easier to let things go and not look too hard at them. He's easy-going, not stupid, but he can be a lazy thinker.
The thing about Ben is, he does care. I don't think that Sheriff's Dept could run without Ben doing all the paperwork and filling in the gaps. It's not like Lucas gives a damn about the details, and that's probably one of the reasons Lucas kept him around so long. Floyd obviously coudn't handle the everyday nitty-gritty. For all of Lucas's disdain for minutae of police work, I think he has a grudging respect for Ben's competence in that area. After all, he relies on it heavily.
Witnessing the murder rocked Ben's world. He had to re-examine so much, from himself to Lucas. It's true that he sits on the murder, a lot of that because of fear, but I think a lot of it came from his dependent relationship with Lucas. Head games create a sense intimacy with the person playing the game. Ben's and Lucas's realtionship had a very intimate tone to it. He might not trust Lucas, he might fear him, but he feels like he needs him, too. I truly believe that Ben loves Lucas. It's a strength as well as a weakness. It's his love for Lucas that gives him some of the best insights into Lucas's character.
It's after the murder that Ben begins to live up to his potential. It's slow going, but I think the arc of Ben's development is just beautiful. As in any attempt to change learned behavior, there are times when he falls back a step or two, only to eventually regain his progress. By the time of TBW, we see a Ben much closer to who he must have been before he let the devil (figuatively speaking) into his daily life. A Ben willing to take charge of what he sees as his own problem, his baby brother. He's unsure how to go about doing it, and he needs a pep talk from Rita and a kick in the ass from Lucas to find his way, but he definitely shows his potential.
I've long considered Ben an Everyman character, someone representative of "us" in the face of evil. Unwilling to see it when we are staring it in the face, afraid, insecure; but those things are tempered with the compassion and decency that is at the heart of the human equation. Would we, in Ben, rise up to fight and destroy evil? It's a good question. Not the scenario that I would go with, but I can see Ben (humanity) as the one standing when great evil is pitted against its foe (be that foe good or another form of evil) and both are destroyed. Ben would still be there when the dust settled, ready to pick up the pieces and get on with living. IMO, that is Ben's true potential.
There's a lot more to talk about when looking at Ben---he became an intrinsic character in the tapestry of life in Trinity.
1. How does Ben's fatherhood shape the choices he makes throughout the series
and the way he looks at Lucas?