Getting Lost: Happily Ever After

It’s time for another installment of “Getting Lost,” where John S takes you through all the salient questions from last night’s episode of Lost:

As Bunk Moreland might say: Are you happy now, bitch? You know, it’s almost like the producers said, “Alright, fine, you think this season is starting to stall? Well, we’ll give you Desmond. And then we’ll throw Daniel Faraday in. And then we’ll throw in the clearest explanation of the Alternate Timelines to date.” Unlike “Ab Aeterno” from two weeks ago, which positioned itself as a mythology-heavy episode but didn’t really tell us much that we didn’t already know (with the notable exception being “cork”), “Happily Ever After” was quite the opposite. It was an episode that seemed like an repeat of a typical Lost formula but was actually more illuminated than any episode thus far this season.

How exactly did this seem like a repeat of a typical Lost formula? Well, in many ways this episode was exactly like the first Desmond-centric episode of the series, “Flashes Before Your Eyes.” In that episode, a “catastrophic electromagnetic event”—in that case the explosion of the hatch—sent Desmond’s consciousness into an alternate timeframe, in which he was still with Penny. Even though his life in that timeframe seems ostensibly better, though, he is forced to return because it is his purpose to return to the Island.

The same format, more or less, happened in “Happily Ever After.” In this episode, the electromagnetic event is merely an experiment done by Widmore’s new crew* to see if Desmond can, indeed, survive it. Instead of having the relationship he wants with Penny, he has the approval he craves from Widmore. And instead of simply going back in time, Desmond goes into the alternate version of 2004 that we’ve been seeing all season long.

*Does the fact that the two scientists Widmore previously brought to the Island—Charlotte and Daniel—were each born on the Island and pretty important to its history mean that Zoe and Seamus (played by Jerri Blank’s long-lost son) have Island backgrounds as well? Because we sure as shit don’t have time for that.

Well, in honor of Passover, how was last night different from all other nights? What separated the Desmond story from all the others? Well, while we had hints before that the two realities were intertwined—Jack noticing the scars on his stomach from his appendix surgery, for one—this episode kept them coming fast, loose, and unmistakable. There were small things, like Desmond knowing Claire would have a boy, him flinching at the word “button” in the MRI room, and the look of recognition Eloise gave him when they were introduced. But there was also the more obvious fact that Charlie and Desmond both had glimpses of the lives we know.

Back in “LA X,” when Jack saves Charlie on the plane, I had assumed that Charlie had told Jack, “I was supposed to die,” because Charlie was in the bathroom committing suicide. This episode, though, revealed that it was an accident, and that the only reason Charlie thinks he was “supposed to die” was because he saw a vision of his life with Claire, and now believes—even knows—that this life isn’t supposed to exist. When he “shows” Desmond what he means by trying to drown both of them, Desmond once again finds himself in the position of trying to rescue Charlie while he drowns, and in the course of doing so sees a flash of the famous “Not Penny’s Boat” scene.

So, does that mean you need to be going through a near-death experience to see the other timeline? Well, Charlie’s glimpse seems to confirm the theory that Juliet’s last words indicated that she knew of the alternate timeline, but this is the first we’ve seen someone look the other way. And it seems like, in order to see alternate timelines, you need to be either about to die or in the process of falling in love. Daniel Faraday, who in this timeline is Daniel Widmore, a classical musician who followed his passion without his mother forcing him into physics, sees a glimpse of the other timeline when he falls in love with a woman who is almost certainly Charlotte at first sight.*

*The fact that he falls in love with a red-haired woman at a museum, combined with our knowledge from “Recon” that Charlotte is still an archaeologist in the Sideways stories, means that Faraday almost certainly fell for her, and not that girl he put in the coma. That girl can’t catch a break.

What’s rather surprising is how quickly both Charlie and Daniel realize that the lives they are currently leading are not the ones they are meant to lead—surprising since, in the normal timeline, both of them are dead. It might make sense for Charlie, since he went to his death knowingly and still had time with Claire, but things didn’t really work out for Daniel on the Island. Of course, the new Daniel doesn’t really know that, but he’s still convinced that he doesn’t want that bomb to go off.

Were you at all surprised by how clearly and flatly the show placed the Island-timeline over the new one, having characters come out and say that this one wasn’t “real”? Well, fans of the show are clearly much more invested in the former than the latter, so not really. It does put to rest any theories about those Sideways stories existing as epilogues or happy endings, though. I was a little surprised, again, that Faraday was so clearly against it, since his explanation in “The Variable” about doing big things to change the past seemed so important to the Island mythology. He’s making the bomb’s detonation seem like a clear mistake.

So if Desmond’s trip back to 2004 in last night’s episode mirrored his trip back to 1996 in “Flashes Before Your Eyes,” then, well, what does that mean? I think it means a couple of things, but most importantly it means that the Sideways stories are an instance of the lives of these characters without the necessary “course correction” that the universe takes. No matter how happy these lives are, the characters are supposed to be on or involved with the Island somehow, and Desmond, it seems is ready to show them that.

And what about the Desmond story itself? This was pretty close to the best Island Sideways story all season, possibly topping Locke’s in “The Substitute.” For one, it included relevant information about the function of the Sideways stories themselves, but it was also a pretty compelling story in its own right, as Desmond’s stories usually are. There were the standard gimmicks of “Look at all the things that are different,” but in this case most of them made sense. Having Desmond work for Widmore wasn’t so much a surprise as a way to show the emptiness of Widmore’s approval. George Minkowski’s appearance as Desmond’s driver mirrored his appearance in the sick bay in “The Constant,” when he walked Desmond through his flashes. And all the characters Desmond encountered—Charlie, Jack, Daniel, Penny—were characters that Desmond was connected to before, and his encounters with them in this timeline paralleled his previous run-ins with them (saving Charlie, serendipitously running into Jack, being walked through time-travel by Daniel, falling in love with Penny). That, combined with some great moments from Henry Ian Cusick, made this episode great.

Any other thoughts? Lots, actually. First of all, did the fact that Desmond and Penny met at the same stadium that Jack and Desmond met at right before Jack went to perform surgery on his future wife indicate to anyone else that Penny might be Jack’s ex-wife in this new timeline? This feels obvious to me, but I can’t articulate why.

Also, are we sure that Charlie was referring to Claire when he mentions the “blonde” in his near-death hallucinations? At first I actually thought he was referring to Penny. I’m actually starting to think that neither the Sidways stories nor the on-Island stories are, at this point, “real.” After all, Juliet seemed to see a “real” world when she died, and she was on the Island already.

My hypothesis is that we are seeing two equally imperfect versions of reality: one in which the apparent detonation of Jughead did nothing but throw our characters from 1977 to 2007; the other reality, though, is not what happened if the bomb did go off, but what would have happened if the Island never even existed—or rather, if it existed (since we saw it under water) but as nothing more than an island. As I’ve pointed out, after all, the differences do not seem to subscribe to a 1977 cut-off date. Eventually, the “real” reality will prove to be a blended one, in which the bomb went off. Somehow, these two extremes, though, will present the characters with a choice of how to deal with that explosion.

Finally, why was Desmond so willing to go with Sayid at the end? Sure, he had a gun, but Desmond seemed pretty convinced that Charles knew how Desmond was supposed to serve the Island, and yet he wasn’t at all alarmed by Sayid’s interference. Was he just comforted because he remembered seeing Sayid in the water at the end of “The Package”? I would guess that he knows something that wasn’t seen in his story, possibly whatever happened when he tracked Sayid down in the Sideways plot.

Predictions for next week? As usual, we can expect not to see much follow-up on the cliffhanger ending of Sayid and Desmond in the night. Unfortunately, though, the title of next week’s episode pretty much gives away who it is about. So I’ll make another prediction: Somebody important will die next week.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by lonnieg on April 8, 2010 at 9:37 PM

    John!! All I could think of when I saw Seamus was Bogie Nights and the violent students.

    To paraphrase:

    “Did you just give me away?”
    “No. Of course not! I traded you for a guitar. And all these years, I’ve always wondered, what happened to that guitar?”

    Reply

  2. […] what seem like delusions in the real world, but which make sense in the context of the Island. As I noted last week, it’s not really clear yet what triggers visions of the Island-reality, but it seems like it has […]

    Reply

  3. […] that spirituality manifested itself in the Sideways stories. Starting with Desmond’s episode, “Happily Ever After” (a name which certainly takes on new meaning after last night), the central question of the season […]

    Reply

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