Aw yuss, a Desmond episode! I love Desmond eps, but they tend to be pretty intricately tied in with the larger Lost plot and backstory, so they always take a ton of explaining. Here goes, brutha!
So, even the most casual of Lost watcher probably knows that the show’s first season (i.e that one year when Lost was mega-popular) ended with the opening of a mysterious hatch found on the Island. What was in there, we collectively wondered all throughout that first Lost-withdrawal filled summer. What was in there? Well, long story short, Desmond was in there.
Or, long story long: A likeable, romantic, and surprisingly spiritual Scotsman, Desmond Hume had washed up on the Island while competing in an around the world boat race. He had entered the race to prove to his prospective father-in-law, Charles Widmore, that he was worthy of Widmore’s daughter Penny.
After washing up on the Island, Desmond was forcibly recruited by the remnants of the Dharma Initiative to guard the Hatch: a high-tech safety valve on the massive build-up of white-coloured time energy that lay at the heart of the Island (just go with it).
Desmond eventually met up with the other castaways and formed a particular friendship with fellow British Isle’s native Charlie. But his exposure to the time energy had side effects and Desmond found himself leaping around in time, bouncing between the present day and his life as a younger man Slaughterhouse Five-style.
Before he could go crazy and/or die from the strain of all this time jumping, he was able to turn off his time-hopping by making fleeting contact with Penny, who had been looking for him since his disappearance. (As seen in Season 4’s “The Constant” – often called Lost’s best episode, and definitely it’s most sweepingly romantic.)
Des eventually succeeds in escaping the Island and reuniting with Penny (ironically with the help of a boat of people Charles Widmore sent to kill everyone on the Island.) He settled down for a nice quiet life with penny and their newborn son Charlie (not named after his grandfather).
But their peace was short-lived, as then-villain Ben rolled by their place to kill Penny, and accidentally shot her husband instead. (It was revenge for a whole other thing, see our entry on Dr. Linus a few weeks ago for more details). Which leads us to…
Last week we learned that the mysterious “package” that Widmore brought to the Island, is actually a drugged-off-his-face Desmond. This week we learn that Big Poppa W’s plan is to place Desmond between two giant magnets and zap him full of electromagnetic energy. This will (apparently) turn Desmond’s time-hopping powers back on, which Widmore needs for…well, mysterious and vaguely sinister reasons.
Des is locked in the room, the giant magnets hum on, and as he desperately bangs against the door, white light fills the screen and…
We cut to Alternate Universe Desmond in the now-familiar setting of the Flash-sideways Los Angeles airport. He’s kind of a hard-ass no-nonsense business type in this timeline, though he does show a spark of kindness to fellow traveller Claire.
FS Desmond is Widmore’s trusted right hand man, and Charley Dubz is really friendly and trusting of his subordinate. Really friendly. Creepily so. At one point he hugs Des and says “Nothing’s too good for you”, while looking him dead in the eye. (shudders)
Widmore sends Des to pick up a band member who’s causing delays for a concert Widmore’s son is playing in. Desmond finds the troublesome musician, one Charlie Pace, who is still recovering from the near death experience he had all the way back at the start of the season.
Charlie is convinced that as he lay choking on his drug supply in the airplane bathroom, he saw a vision of a beautiful blonde woman and felt a second of pure, rapturous love. Chasing the high as usual, Charlie steers Desmond’s car into the bay so he can have another near death experience and see his mysterious blonde again. He also does it to give Desmond a taste of the same experience.
As the car sinks into the water, instead of a glimpse of his ideal woman, Desmond sees a flash of the original Charlie, our timeline’s Charlie, and his dying warning (“Not Penny’s boat”).
Des pulls Charlie out of the water, but now he’s got a name to put to his “things aren’t quite right” feeling: Penny. Work still comes first though, and he drives to meet Widmore’s wife and tell her Charlie can’t play her son’s concert. Widmore’s wife in this timeline is Eloise Hawking (who I’ll talk about more in the “Our Thoughts” section.
Things go well at first, but when Des starts asking questions about the Penny he hears mentioned on the orchestra list, Eloise turns cold. She clearly knows a lot more than she’s let on about the rewritten time line: she tells him he’s messing with how things should be, that he now has the thing he’s always wanted, and that he can’t meet Penny because he’s not ready yet.
Disturbed, Desmond bumps into the youngest Widmore on his way out (though we know him better as Season 4’s mumbly physicist Daniel Faraday). Daniel talks about how he too has had visions of a mysterious woman and also dreams of complex physics that mean nothing to his waking mind. Daniel’s sleep-physics and his visions of a somehow better life have lead him to a pretty big logical leap: that at sometime in the past he set off a nuclear bomb to rewrite time and prevent a catastrophe. (He’s right on the money, but it’s still kind of a strange conclusion to draw from the evidence.)
One last piece of info Daniel shares: where Desmond can find Penny, who happens to be Daniel’s half-sister. That night, Desmond heads to a sports stadium where he sees Penny exercising by running rounds of the seats. He introduces himself, she is surprised, but also gets the sense that she knows him. She takes his hand, and…
Main Timeline Desmond wakes up. He has apparently been gone for only seconds, but his entire demeanour has changed. He has had some experience that has changed him, and now he is relaxed and happy to play a part in Widmore’s plan. “When do we start?” he asks.
Before we can learn exactly what Widmore’s plan is, Sayid attacks and shoots the guards, fulfilling the mission Smokey sent him on last week. Still smiling, Desmond happily goes with Sayid to meet the Man in Black…
But we’re not done yet: in a Marvel-films style final teaser scene, we cut back to the Alternate Universe, where Sideways Desmond makes plans to meet up with Penny later, returns to his car and asks his driver to get him a list of all the other people on his flight from Sydney. Why? “I just need to show them something.”
Cian: Ahhhh….ya can’t beat a good Desmond episode. They’re so anticipated by Lost fans because they pull back the curtain a little further than we’ve seen before and show just the tiniest peek at what’s really happening. The revelations in a particular season’s Desmond episode let you see all the other episodes in their season in a new light.
They reliably provide a “Holy shit!” moment, whether it’s “Holy shit, there was a guy living in the Hatch and the Dharma Initiative are a thing?” (Season 2), “Holy shit, there’s time travel in this show?” (Season 3), “Holy shit, that’s how time travel works in this show?” (Season 4), or this episode’s slightly more complex “Holy shit, the alternate timeline didn’t just occur naturally, it’s been constructed/put together to give all the character’s their deepest desire?”
Because of all these “Holy shit” moments, Desmond episodes tend to be the most complex and sci-fi heavy of Lost stories. But all of these high-concept sci-fi ideas work because they are grounded in a simple and universally understandable theme: love is really important and you should fight to get back to it if you lose it.
But back to those sci-fi elements for a second: let’s talk about Eloise Hawking. Daniel’s mother and Widmore’s wife in the Flash-sideways universe, Mrs Hawking was a kind of mentor to Desmond in earlier seasons: a fellow time traveller who knew a lot about how it worked, and a bit of a stickler for following the rules of “how things were meant to turn out”. She eventually stuck so firmly to her belief in the laws of time that she was willing to send her son to the Island, knowing that he would eventually die there (having already seen his death as a result of time-hopping.)
The Eloise we see in the new timeline appears in a slightly different role: instead of crapping on about the rules of time, she now seems to be aware that she and the other characters are living in an altered timeline. And, far more interestingly, she seems to hint that the timeline is somehow artificial in nature, and that it has been managed and put together to give Desmond his deepest wish (Widmore’s respect).
So are we dealing with some kind of Black Mercy situation? (Shout out to the classic DC Comics storyline “For the Man Who Has Everything”, check out the Justice League episode of the same name for my preferred version of the story). By this I mean, have the Losties been put into alternate lives that offer them the happiness of their heart’s desire to distract them form their true purpose (being candidates)?
Because the Losties have largely been living happier lives in the FS universe: Jack has a son and resolves his father issues, Locke has purpose and a happy relationship with Helen, Ben can see Alex again, Sawyer has a job that lets him do good while continuing his search for Cooper, Sun and Jin are in love and planning to run away from her controlling father forever. Hell, in Sayid’s episode he heavily implies that his deepest wish is to see Nadia alive again, and in that episode’ s flash-sideways scenes, one of the first things we see is her alive and relatively happy.
I’m curious what your reaction will be Noel, because while an episode like “Happily Ever After” works beautifully as an important piece falling into place in the jigsaw of mystery and character development that is Lost’s ongoing plot, as a stand-alone story I don’t know how clear or even comprehensible it is.
We watched “The Constant” together at some stage last year, and while that story absolutely works well as a stand-alone time-travel romance that new viewers can more or less watch and appreciate without much backstory, that is very clearly not the case with “Happily Ever After”. (Nor should it be – we’re 5 episodes away from the end of an immensely complex six year story, I don’t think anyone expects this to be a good jumping on point for new viewers…)
Noel: I remember us watching that episode, one of my first tasters of Lost in a long time so it was! Kind of swayed me as well, at least half led onto this feature of the blog I suppose!
But as opposed to last week where I was singing the praises and declaring myself a convert, I spent a good thirty of this forty minutes staring at the screen with a giant blank stare on my eyes, wondering if I’d skipped an episode or something.
I just didn’t enjoy this. More time was given to Desmond’s flash sideways story than any other characters this season(it was like 90% of the episode easily), and there was no sign of either Smokey’s or Jacob’s camps, both of which I’ve got somewhat invested in at this point.
Until reading your synopsis up above Cian, I was completely “Lost.” (Heh, geddit? Cos it’s the name of the show? I’m hilarious and original.”) I think, thanks to this, I’ve got a pretty good grasp now on what the last forty minutes were, though I have questions on your theory. How would the flash sideways versions of each character distract them from what’s happening on the island, as we know they’re completely unaware of this alternate timeline? And what is the point of the FS versions of Smokey’s characters? I like the theory, I’m just curious as to how it fits in.
Also, was George somebody we know from the island from previous seasons? Seemed like the perfect way to get one of those cameos in as they’ve done previously.
All in all, I really don’t think I can comment on this episode. I didn’t enjoy it, but it’s not fair for me to say that as my only basis for that is the fact that I had no clue whatsoever of what was happening. Well that and the absence of any character I actually cared about.
It did get me excited for things to come. There was clearly a little build up for things to come, with Desmond working with Charles and Smokey, and the whole “alternate timeline isn’t real” stuff. It’s got me looking forward to next week, and excited for the finale, but the episode itself fell flat for me. I’m sorry Cian, I know you’re a huge Desmond fan! My lack of Lost watching has come back to haunt me! I should have listened to you two years ago and gone and watched the whole thing!
Cian: Yup, it’s definitely an episode that’s too welcoming to the new viewer, I’ll say that much. Good instincts though, George is indeed a returning character: in the main timeline he was the guy on the boat in “The Constant” who also developed time-hopping sickness, and died to establish the danger Desmond was in.
As for my “they’re trapped in their dearest fantasies as a distraction” theory, there’s a long history of stories where the bad guy traps the good guy in a perfect life to keep them out of the way, with the good guy being totally unaware it’s a dream (at least at first). As well as the Justice League story mentioned above, think for example about that episode of Supernatural where the genie traps Dean in a dream where his parents are still alive. (TV Tropes has a whole list of stories like this: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/LotusEaterMachine).
Oh, but one more thing. We forgot to talk about the biggest reveal from this episode: Desmond’s favourite pasta.
Noel: What?I don’t remembe-
- Widmore: “I brought you back to the Island.” Desmond: (lip twitch of pure rage)
- The hospital ER nurse asks Des if he’s having any double vision. Heh.
- After all the mystic-ey, destiny-heavy stuff of the Jacob/Smokey plot in the last few weeks, it’s nice to change thing up with a more sci-fi flavoured story. By all means tell a story for the Man of Faith, but throw in a little something for the Man of Science too!
- The room with the magnets was fairly large, and I get that Desmond was trying to break down the door, but when he gave up on that, why did he stand right in the middle of them? There’s room at the back dude!
- When having scotch with Widmore, Desmond said slainte! I know it’s popular in Scotland as a drinking toast too, but my mind did jump straight to Irish when I heard it.
- Desmond comes on just a tad creepy and stalkerish at the stadium with Penny doesn’t he?
- Is Desmond like an inside man now? The fact that his flash sideways story gave him his happy ending, based on Cian’s theory from a couple of episodes ago, would suggest that he belongs in Jacob’s camp. And Sayid’s bringing him to Smokey. Curious, I am.
About the Authors:
A lifelong TV addict since his first episode of Sesame Street, Cian Sheppard works as an English teacher in Germany and thinks you look very nice today.
Rumored to have been born with a games controller in his hand, Noel Gleeson works as a Java Developer in Ireland and loves all things pop culture.