Gentlemen, by the time I was done shaking the hand of last night's episode, I nearly fainted. I've largely been pleased with this season, but I wasn't prepared for "Happily Ever After." It felt like my first sip of McCutcheon scotch after a long life of drinking Famous Grouse. I most definitely "felt it" this week.
Last night's episode was the final element of what is arguably Lost's finest triptych: Desmond's journey through time. Season 3's "Flashes Before Your Eyes" told us that Desmond was special—maybe too special for love. But then Season 4's "The Constant," explained how true love is even more special than time travel. And now Season 6's "Happily Ever After" has asserted that Desmond and Penny's love (and Charlotte and Faraday's, and Charlie and Claire's) is so special that it's timeless.
Having seen all three of these episodes, I wonder whether Lost isn't only about destiny but also about love, and whether the writers want us to think that destiny and love are actually one and the same. With the exception of Sawyer's Kate-Juliet conundrum (and maybe Widmore and Hawking's torrid affair), we've never seen a sustained romantic encounter on this show that hasn't been between two soul mates. Love, the show suggests, is the one thing that you can't choose.
Jack and Seth, I'm starting to think that we all love Desmond most because we barely ever get to see him. In general, Lost is far from restrained, but the show deploys Desmond and his supernatural powers with admirable infrequency. We love Desmond not just because he's the most well-rounded, romantic, charming Scotsman this side of Craig Ferguson, but because the show hasn't allowed us to grow sick of him. He's a friend we spend an intense evening with once a year, and it's probably best that way.
Last night's redemptive dialogue between Desmond and Widmore (in both timelines) was crackerjack as always. Most intriguing was Widmore's sales pitch: "Penny, your son, and everyone else will be gone forever" if Desmond doesn't help him. Note that Widmore doesn't say "die"—he just says they'll be gone. Is it possible that (as many have guessed) we already know how Lost ends? Maybe it ends with Smokey winning the on-island battle, escaping into the real world, and then making that world (or that timeline) cease to exist. This would suggest that the flashsideways is the epilogue to Lost, a universe that is starting over again after the last experiment failed. Except this time, the lessons of the (sorta) past can actually inform the actions of the (sorta) future.
In Widmore's office are two important pieces of art. The first is a scale of justice, with white rocks on one side and black on the other. The two sides are in balance. The other is a sailboat that looks all too reminiscent of the one Desmond used to try to sail around the world (the same journey that marooned him on the island). Is it possible that Widmore, like Eloise (and maybe Minkowski!), is wise to the game being played? I assume Eloise and Widmore don't have the kind of marriage in which they share everything with each other.
There were no mirrors in Widmore's office from what I could tell. Nonetheless, last night we had a character conspicuously gaze at his reflection not once but twice. First: When Desmond stares into a glossy Oceanic departures/arrivals screen right before he talks to Claire. Second: As he approaches the jail where the cops are holding Charlie. It's time we put these Narcissus moments into Formula Watch. Faithful TV Club reader Brian Braunlich sent me a link last week showing all the times we've seen our characters stare into a mirror in the flashsideways. But I'm still at a loss—what does it all mean? Does the mirror holds the faint whispers of the past (or the sideways), a muted version of what came screaming through for Desmond in the MRI machine? That's my leading guess, but all thoughts welcome in the comments.
Eloise and Desmond's chat was the off-island equivalent to the Smokey-in-a-wine-bottle scene from a couple of weeks ago. When Desmond wants to meet Penny, Eloise disapproves because it would be "a violation." A violation of what? Some arbitrary rule that some unnamed figure has created for reasons that are not at all clear? Good. Because I was finally starting to get used to all the arbitrary rules that we've already been given. Seriously, though, this suggests that even in this alternate timeline there is still a larger force keeping an eye on the castaways. But unless that force has a hell of a wet suit, it's not on the island, because the island is at the bottom of the ocean.
Also, it looked like Eloise was wearing a shooting-star brooch. The last time we saw her with a brooch it was an ouroboros, otherwise known as a snake eating its tail. The ouroboros was meant to symbolize the universe course-correcting itself; that you can never quite escape what destiny has in store. So, folks, what do the shooting stars mean? Lost TV Club Theory No. 12! A meteor shower is coming to the alterna-timeline, and it's going to be the kind of major cosmic event that can merge parallel universes.
Onto other matters: It appears that no one experience brings about recollections from the other timeline. For Charlie, it was near-death asphyxiation. For Desmond, it was the MRI machine. For Faraday, it was just seeing the woman he loved. So how will Desmond show the rest of his flight-mates what he has already seen? Jack, I like your idea of a Dodgers game. But Desmond is an MRI-minded guy. Will the thrilling climax of Lost take place in a medical-equipment warehouse?
Jack and Seth, neither of you mentioned the triumphant return of George Minkowski. We've seen George before, when he was hemorrhaging from the nose on the freighter in "The Constant." He was Desmond's Sherpa through the mechanics of time travel but died before he could find his own constant. Now in the new timeline he's back, acting like a deranged pimp who just happens to be a chauffeur. Minkowski spoke all of his lines with a stilted wink, as though he knew far more than Desmond. Is it possible that he—like Eloise—knows that Desmond is living in two timelines at the same time? Maybe Minkowski is also going back and forth, and he realized it just before Desmond? Lost TV Club Theory No. 13! In Season 4 Minkowski flits back and forth not between the past and the present but between that timeline and the new, sideways/parallel? one.
Sound effects were especially important last night (as they usually are in Desmond episodes). When Desmond first entered the other timeline, there wasn't a whoosh sound effect. Likewise when he returned to the magnetic room of death. The only time we heard it last night was when he walked away with Sayid and then woke up on the stadium floor. Maybe the whoosh tells us that Desmond is living in two universes concurrently. When the whoosh is absent, he's conscious in one universe and passed out in the other.
My brain is still so scrambled from last night's episode that it's best to let bullet points drive us the rest of the way. Last night's episode was chock-full of good, referential moments.
- Widmore tells Desmond, "The island isn't done with you yet." Eloise told him the same thing in Season 5.
- When Desmond says he bets Claire's unborn child is a boy, is he predicting the future or remembering the other timeline? We've seen that Desmond can do both, and as Claire's (sham) psychic would be happy to tell you, premonitions and hunches are very different things.
- More talk of choice, but this time from Desmond. "There's always a choice, brother," he tells Charlie. And he's never even met Jacob or Smokey!
- Charlie drives into the marina, almost killing Desmond exactly where Ben almost killed him at the end of last season.
- After Desmond ends up in the hospital, the doctor shines a light in his eye. The same thing happened in "The Constant," causing Desmond's consciousness to hop into the past.
- In this new timeline, Penny's last name is Milton. Yet another Paradise Lost reference.
- Faraday's lecture didn't make sense. Just because he remembers setting off a nuclear bomb doesn't meant that's what caused the timelines to split. We've already covered why that's probably not what happened, but it appears Faraday doesn't read Slate.
Finally, I admit that Lost TV Club Theory No. 3 has been disproved. Desmond was indeed on the plane. I originally thought he may have been an apparition, but apparitions don't recognize their co-passengers. (An aside: Our editor Juliet points out that Jack couldn't have been at the hospital the same day as the plane touched down. He would have been at his mom's, looking for Christian's will.) As usual, Jack and Seth, I will accept my punishment. Maybe try strapping me into a car and driving it off a pier? At least I'll see something flash before my eyes.
Leave your questions about last night's Lost and the season thus far in the comments, and look for a Q&A tomorrow.