LOST Recap: Season 6, Episode 10: “Happily Ever After”

8 04 2010

Alright, I guess this is where I come across as a complete hypocrite.  Last week I wrote about how I thought that people with negative feedback about the show should mostly keep it to themselves.  After all, we’re in the final few hours…let’s enjoy it while we can!  Well, despite most of the positive reaction I’m seeing, I was only so-so on this episode.  The funny thing is, it’s not so much due to the episode’s execution, or acting, which was spot-on, as usual.  Instead, I was upset because the answers given are not what *I* wanted to see or hear.  (Yeah, I know, that’s hypocritical.)

Prior to writing this entry, I had actually thought about sugar-coating my analysis, because I didn’t want to come across as a “hater”.  But while I promise not to be cynical about what appeared on screen, I also won’t hold back my true thoughts on the episode, and why I think that the flash-sideways has turned into one big, unnecessary mess.  I’ll try to substantiate my stance, because I think that’s important.  But I think it’s only fair to give you my true thoughts, despite what I just wrote in the intro of last week’s post.  Read on if you dare…

Waking up on the island

Desmond is back on the island, and he is not pleased

I absolutely loved Desmond’s reaction to discovering he’s on the island, and the way Henry Ian Cusick pulled off the scene.  Although the episode’s title refers more to the end state of the episode, Desmond had to feel as though he had already found his happily ever after.  He spent years on the island pushing a button in isolation, but at long last had found Penny and was starting a family with her.  Is there any other way to react after being forcibly dragged back to a place that carried so many bitter memories?

“Are we ready?”

One of the things I constantly run into with the folks I talk to about LOST, is their desire to categorize Widmore.  “Which side is he on?” is a question I typically get.  To which I answer, “His own.”  Seriously.  I don’t think he’s playing for Team Jacob -or- the Smoking Club.  Widmore’s got his own agenda, and he’s pulling out all of the stops to make it happen.  If his actions at any point in time happen to line up with either side, I think it’s just the way things played out in that moment.  He’s out to harness the electromagnetic properties of the island, and I doubt that Jacob or Smokey really care about that at all.

“Penny, your son, everyone else…will be gone forever.”

I’d love to know exactly what Widmore means by this.  After all, we do have the alternate timeline, in which both Penny and Desmond do exist, and the future is open wide for them based upon the events of this episode.  Is he referring to the Penny and Desmond in this specific timeline?  Or does he mean that both timelines (and perhaps others) will be wiped out?  I ask, because one of the interesting things that seemed to come out of this episode (I can’t tell for certain if it’s by design), is that we’re made to care for both timelines equally now.  I’ll get into this more as we go, but the facts are that we spent almost a full episode in the sideways universe in this episode, and it seems as though the reason why everyone likes it so much is because they could finally relate to the characters.  Desmond, Penny, Charlie, Eloise, Daniel…even Widmore himself seem to be characters that we want to find themselves in the alternate timeline.

But it’s also a double-edged sword.  If we care just as much about the characters in the sideways timeline, then what does it matter if the main timeline characters die, or “cease to be”?  And if they don’t, then why the flash-sideways at all?  I supposed that in a nutshell, that’s the problem I’m having with the flash-sideways, and the way it played out in this episode.  But before I go on too much of a rant, let me continue with the analysis.

Desmond doesn’t just survive the electromagnetic event…

Desmond engulfed in the electromagnetic event

…he uses it to transport his consciousness to the alternate timeline.  So, let’s deal with the more obvious first.  Widmore knows that Desmond originally survived turning the failsafe key down in the Swan Station.  But he needs to know that this isn’t some kind of fluke.  Why?  Because he’s going to tap the power of one of the other remaining electromagnetic pockets (as evidenced by Jin’s Dharma map).  To what end, I’m not sure, but whatever it is, it won’t be a minor event.  Hopefully we’ll get a better idea of this as soon as next week.

But the thing I’m more interested in focusing on is Desmond’s flash into the sideways universe.  Note that there was no weird flash-sideways noise prior to us following him over there.  To me, this indicates that this is not to be taken the same way as all of the other flashes.  Desmond’s full consciousness has headed over there, and he’s going to return with a full memory of all of the events.  Looking back, this isn’t a huge surprise.  There have been numerous instances where characters in the main timeline have lost consciousness and have seemingly “woken up” in the alternate timeline.  Last episode with Sun losing her ability to speak English could almost be seen as her making the round trip and “forgetting” English due to her counterpart not ever having learned it.

But the piece that I struggle with the most is that Desmond’s flash to the alternate timeline seems incredibly convenient.  Why would previous flashes have everything to do with time, either backwards or forwards, whereas this time it sent him to the alternate timeline?  I guess one could argue that Desmond went to the alternate timeline in “Flashes Before Your Eyes”, but he knew Penny in that flash, and they lived together.  That doesn’t jive with the alternate timeline shown in this episode.  And while I’d love to just go along for the ride, I really can’t in this case.  If you’re going to break the laws of time and space, I think you’ve at least got to be consistent about it.  I know that Desmond is “special”, but that can’t be an escape clause for whatever plot point the writers want to drive home.  Sorry, but this trip is just too fantastic for me.  But hey, at least the effect itself was really cool.

Charlie has a death wish for a reason

I could write a bit about Desmond’s encounters with Minkowski and Widmore, especially the contrasts evident in his relationship with Widmore, but those are as straight forward and knock-you-over-the-head as can be.  Instead, I’ll write a bit about Charlie’s appearance in the episode.  First, let me say that I miss having Dominic Monaghan on the show.  I feel as though his acting talents were greatly underutilized in the show.  We got to see just how much acting chops he had in the last few episodes before Charlie’s demise, and I think he does another fantastic job in this episode as well.

Charlie gives Desmond the reason for his recent actions

Aside from that, Charlie’s character in the flash-sideways has some pretty amazing motivation.  From his discussion with Desmond in the bar, it wasn’t like that from the start.  But he had a near-death experience on the plane, and now is blindly committed to nothing else but having it again.  Taken on its own merit, this is a pretty cool concept.  I like the idea of trying to find your “true” purpose, perhaps in a timeline opposite your own.  This would be especially true if you could somehow link to this alternate timeline, as our characters do.  But really, are we supposed to care just as much about these characters as we do the ones in the main timeline?  If so, isn’t it too easy to care -less- for the characters in the main timeline?  To me, the integration of the two timelines has created additional confusion, not clarification.  I’d love to see Charlie somehow make it in this timeline.  I’d love to see him make things work with Claire.  But doesn’t that somehow make his heroism in the main timeline less dramatic?  If he can simply make things right in his life in the sideways universe, then how much do we really care that he’s dead in the main one?

Charlie and Desmond share a moment

Charlie messes with Desmond's mind

Another cool sequence here executed nearly flawlessly, as Desmond experiences the flash to the main timeline as a result of trying to save Charlie from drowning.  It’s funny; if this was done somewhere around Season 2 or 3, and was in the main timeline instead of the alternate timeline, I think I’d be raving about how incredible this episode was.  Again, the concept in and of itself is a fun one.  But here in Season 6, as an alternate to our main timeline, it just doesn’t carry the same weight.  The alternate characters’ “search” for the real timeline is devoid of tension because A) we already know that it exists and that it is the main timeline, and B) there’s no consequence for failure.  If they don’t find the timeline, so what?  Our original LOSTies are already all there.  Plus, nothing truly “bad” is happening to the majority of them in this timeline.

Speaking of which, you might think that the characters are “getting what they think they want”, as a sort of appeasement for what they really want in the main timeline.  Maybe they’re in some sort of “heaven”?  At least that’s what you might think if you look at Claire, Ben, Hurley, Sawyer, Desmond, and Faraday.  But what about Sayid?  He’s still a cold-blooded killer in both timelines.  What about Sun?  In the alternate timeline, she just got shot, and will likely lose her baby.  What about Jin?  He shot Sun in the alternate timeline.  It’s not all rainbows and butterflies in the flash-sideways either, which makes it even more difficult to explain.

More electromagnetic fields = more Desmond flashes

Desmond experiences additional flashes

Not surprisingly, Desmond gets a richer flashing experience when his brain is at the center of an electromagnetic field.  As a result, he gets clearer flashes of Penny, and comes to understand and feel just what Charlie told him about.  It seems as though true love is what is tearing at the fabric of reality in this timeline.  And it’s enough for Desmond to give up on his task of getting Charlie to the Widmore function, and instead begin to think about how he can track down Penny.

Eloise still knows more than she’s letting on

Eloise implores Desmond to stop looking

At first it seemed somewhat surprising that Eloise so quickly forgave Desmond for not getting Charlie to the party.  But I should have known better: she’s just trying to keep Desmond away from Penny, just like she did in the main timeline.  This time, however, it’s for a reason that’s unknown to the audience.  “It is, in fact, a violation.” is a great line.  Is this some grand fabrication of a world in which certain characters know what’s going on but are not allowed to tell?  It’s almost as if Eloise is playing the role of a referree in some fashion.  One thing to keep in mind is that Eloise was on the island prior to the Jughead detonation.  And she supposedly knew how important it was to allow Faraday to die prior to the bomb going off.  So it’s not too much of a jump to think that she knew exactly what the consequences were even before anything happened.  And thus, she could carry that knowledge into either timeline, because she knew it prior to the event that caused the fork.  But we still don’t know what that information is, or why Desmond isn’t yet ready to meet Penny.

“…and that’s when things got weird.”

As if Desmond hasn’t had enough reinforcement about what’s happening in this timeline, Daniel manages to steal a few minutes of his time to share with him all of his flashing experiences.  First he talks to him about his love at first sight experience with Charlotte.  Then he talks of his physicist drawings, and about his theoretical nuclear bomb situation.  Finally, he wraps it all up in a neat bow by giving us the tangible link to all 3 flashes: love.  I guess the question I’m left asking myself is, is this timeline completely devoid of love?  Is that what the great consequence is if Smokey gets off the island?  I’m not even sure if we’re supposed to make that connection.  Or perhaps, it’s only that way for those that managed to get to the island in the main timeline?  Honestly, there are just too many variables and abstractions to really make any sense out of it all.  And perhaps, that’s what the writers were shooting for.  While I was hoping for a measure of simplicity to explain everything as the final episodes aired, perhaps the writers are looking for more complexity so that we viewers can continue to go back and decipher certain scenes even as the series comes to an end.  I suppose time will tell.

Physical interaction with Penny forces a return to the main timeline

Penny and Desmond meet for the first time in the flash-sideways

Again, notice the lack of the typical “whoosh” sound as Desmond returns.  This is our clear signal that he’s been along for the ride, and understands everything that we just saw.  I’m led to believe that while his consciousness from the main timeline was there in the flash-sideways, he was merely along for the ride.  It wasn’t he that was making any decisions over there, it was still the alternate Desmond that was doing that.  Regardless, Desmond has now seen the light.  He understands what’s at stake, and is ready to do what he needs to do to keep the main timeline intact.

Sayid convinces an unknowing Desmond to go with him

What he doesn’t know, is that Sayid’s playing for the wrong team.  And unfortunately, he’s headed to meet up with the Smoking Club before Widmore can use him for the grand experiment he has in mind.  But I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of that situation…

Meanwhile, back in the flash-sideways…

Just to really hit you over the head with it, notice that we do indeed get the “whoosh” sound as we flash over to the alternate timeline one last time this episode.  Clearly, “our” Desmond is not privy to this last scene, which is fairly intriguing.  The alternate Desmond wants to get the remaining Oceanic 815 members together.  But why?  How could he possibly know that the common denominator was that flight?  Regardless, it should be interesting to see what comes of that in the weeks to come.  The flash-sideways finally has some definitive drama!

In all seriousness, I think what’s happened for me is that I wish that the flash-sideways wasn’t necessary for telling the story.  It now seems inexoribly tied to the main narrative, but doesn’t seem to provide any true consequence…either for those trying to escape it, or those in the main timeline trying to stop it from existing.  With all of the answers we crave from 5+ seasons of our main timeline, do we really need this much exposition on the alternate timeline?  Why is this so important that we’re spending time learning about it (in some very fantastic and unexplainable ways) instead of getting some answers that we’ve waited years for?  Maybe that will be explained that in the coming weeks.  But even with as neatly packaged a story as we had this week, it simply doesn’t have that “oomph” factor for me at this point in the series’ run.

One last thing I’d like to share: for any of you Locke fans that are still holding on to hope, I think that this episode at least allows for the opportunity for Locke to come back and be Jacob’s replacement.  After all, if Desmond can move from the main timeline to the alternate timeline, who’s to say that Locke can’t do the reverse?  And if that sounds too fantastic for you, just look at some of the things that happened in this episode.  NOTHING is too crazy or bold to happen in this show anymore.  Just something to keep in mind…

Post-episode questions:

1. What specifically does Widmore wnat Desmond to do?

2. Now that Desmond has travelled into the flash-sideways, can we call it “real”?

3. Why are some LOSTies extremely content in the flash-sideways, but others are shadows of their main timeline counterparts?

4. Can Desmond and Penny find true love in the flash-sideways?

5. Does Smokey have any specific plans for Desmond other than keeping him away from Widmore?

That’s it from me this week!  I hope you enjoyed the episode more than I did, and if you have some angle you saw that you think will help me enjoy it more, please share in the comments!

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6 responses

8 04 2010
Robert Bonamico

I think this week’s episode illustrates that the Sideways Timeline is an an analogy for the Corporate World – a world where large egos are satisified, and any ideas of “Consciousness Altering Love” are warded off as taboo, and additionally, they Violate the Rules 🙂
Seriously, I think that the sideways timeline is possibly a spin off dimension. It is very similar in many ways, although with the characters, we should analyze:
CHARACTER ISLAND TIMELINE SIDEWAYS TIMELINE
Jack Would never be a good father Is a good father
Sawyer Con Man Cop
Dogan Lost his son in car accident Has his son
Daniel Scientist Musician
Hurley Unlucky Lucky
Kate Fugitive Fugitive
Claire Giving up baby Giving up baby
Saiid Killer Killer gone good
Kwons Married UnMarried
Locke Crippled Crippled
Ben A leader A wanna be leader
Desmond Widmore Unapproves Widmore Approves

The list goes on and on-not sure what it means exactly but it must mean something when some get their Happy Ever after and some do not. Would appreciate further anaysis on this point as it seems to be at the heart of the sideways universe.

8 04 2010
hablodepablo

Hi Robert, thanks for checking in, as always. I appreciate you taking the time to post. Your question sounds like a great secondary post, like the analysis of the flash-sideways in general I did a couple of weeks back. But in giving your thoughts some initial thought, here’s what I came up with:

While not everyone is better off in the sideways timeline, a good portion of our LOSTies are…at least at first glance. I think that this can be looked at in at least 2 ways: first, that someone or something is appeasing them by granting them what they think they want. This keeps them from “looking” as Eloise said, or from digging deeper into something. Perhaps they are destined for their island lives, but Smokey is pulling strings so as to keep them from trying to determine what that “true purpose” really is. This keeps him in play, because the island stays submerged, and no one takes Jacob’s place as keeper of the island.

The other line of thought could be that the circumstances evident in the sideways timeline are simply a result of the Jughead decision, and not any grand scheme of Smokey or any other entity. The question in this scenario is whether or not the sideways timeline could be changed, specifically regarding the island, by future action. I have a feeling we’ll see more of this as Desmond attempts to “enlighten” the rest of the Oceanic 815 passengers.

The monkey wrench for me is the thought that not all of the LOSTies have better lives in the sideways timeline. It makes it hard to come up with a standard way of viewing the timeline, and what any potential resolutions are, when you can’t accurately place the “rules”. My guess is that this will also get further straightened out in subsequent episodes, although we really don’t have a ton of time left for things to make sense.

I’ll ponder this some more and see if I can come up with something that makes a bit more sense and perhaps lends itself to a resolution.

8 04 2010
Robert Bonamico

I guess I should have tab delimited the list:
CHARACTER| ISLAND TIMELINE SIDEWAYS| TIMELINE
Jack| Would never be a good father |Is a good father
Sawyer| Con Man| Cop
Dogan| Lost his son in car accident| Has his son
Daniel |Scientist |Musician
Hurley |Unlucky |Lucky
Kate |Fugitive |Fugitive
Claire |Giving up baby| Giving up baby
Saiid| Killer |Killer gone good
Kwons |Married |UnMarried
Locke| Crippled |Crippled
Ben| A leader| A wanna be leader
Desmond| Widmore Unapproves |Widmore Approves

8 04 2010
Vy

My co-worker and I were talking…didn’t Desmond meet Penny way before any of this flash-sideways stuff? He was sailing around the world when he crashed on the island to prove to Widmore he was worthy enough for his daughter way back when. Where does that come into play?

8 04 2010
hablodepablo

Hi Vy! thanks for checking in!

I think a lot of folks are making the assumption that the fork in the timelines goes all the way back to 1977 when the Jughead bomb went off (or didn’t go off). One timeline shows what happened if the bomb did go off, the other shows what happened if it didn’t. This may or may not actually be the case, but it’s what many viewers are thinking.

If this is true, then the incident with the bomb (and the fork that caused the alternate timeline) happened well before Penny and Desmond met. My assumption is the encounter between the 2 of them that you’re referring to happens somewhere in the 1990s, at least 10 years after the Jughead incident on the island.

Good question! I hope that answer helps!

10 04 2010
Mike P

Paul, I’m very gratified you were “shaken up” (or should I say “shaken sideways”) by this week’s ep. It shows that the writers are not done with us yet: still throwing curves in the storyline that send even the best reviewers reeling.

Has not anyone figured out what’s going on yet? Do you keep a watch on other reviewers to see what they’re speculating?

At this point, I personally would like to see the whole mystery offered up on a silver platter… but for now I’ll settle for the entertainment that accompanies the analytical anguish.

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