So are you a bit more convinced now that Lost's final season is going someplace amazing? The Desmond-centric "Happily Ever After" recharged our faith in the "flash-sideways." Here are 15 cool things we learned last night. Spoilers ahead, brotha...
Desmond's "catastrophic electro-magnetic event" back in season three is still significant. Remember when Desmond activated the fail-safe in the Hatch, releasing all the electro-magnetic energy all at once? Somehow Charles Widmore knows about it - maybe because he interacted with Desmond while he was skipping through time as a result. Desmond shouldn't have survived it, but either it made him different or he already was different.
Desmond no longer jumps through time, but through universes. As many of us had guessed, this year's counterpart to "Flashes Before Your Eyes" and "The Constant" involves Desmond mind-tripping into the L.A.-verse, rather than along his own timeline.
The L.A.-verse is devoid of love. Desmond's "flash-sideways" involves him being happy and prosperous - but loveless. And indeed, it turns out to be significant that all the other main Losties are also missing out on their major love relationships. (Except for Locke, who's got Helen. Interesting.)
The hydrogen bomb did indeed cause the flash-sideways universe. I think we can take it as a given that Daniel Faraday's plan did work, and setting off the Jughead in 1977 created another universe, in which the Incident did not happen, and thus Oceanic 815 landed safely. But a whole lot of other things changed too, including the Island having sunk to the bottom of the ocean.
A near-death experience is not the only way to glimpse the other universe. Juliet apparently saw the L.A.-verse when she was dying in the season opener. Charlie had a vision of Claire while he was choking on his drug stash (but didn't notice she was on the same plane as him.) And Desmond started to see the truth while he was drowning. But then Desmond got another glimpse while inside the MRI (magnetism again), and it sounds like Daniel Faraday/Widmore had an epiphany without needing any kind of brush with death.
Eloise knows something about all this. Just as Eloise was very concerned that Desmond stay on his path while he was skipping through time, she's very keen for him to avoid upsetting the balance of things now that he's universe-jumping. Assuming that events prior to the H-bomb going off remain the same, then she remembers killing her son Daniel - and she knows that this won't happen to him in this universe, because he's no longer the same guy. But how much else does she know? And what does she mean, Desmond's "not ready yet"?
Desmond really was desperate for Charles Widmore's approval, in both universes. At least, that's what Eloise seems to think. And sure enough, in this universe, he's got it. They even finally drink some of that 60-year-old MacCutcheon whiskey that island-verse Widmore kept taunting Desmond with. So is there a kind of Faustian bargain, where everyone in the L.A.-verse has what he or she secretly always wanted, but it's somehow empty? (Or does this only apply to Jacob's people? Smokey's gang, like Sayid and Claire, are basically screwed in the L.A.-verse.)
Certain people are always going to work for Charles Widmore. In the island-verse, George Minkowski was a communications officer on Widmore's Freighter. In the L.A.-verse, he's Widmore's limo driver, who's a little too eager to find you whoever, or whatever, gets you through the night. Other familiar faces: Susie, the nurse who looked after Hurley (and Libby) at Santa Rosa Mental Health Institute, is back, looking after Desmond in hospital — although this time she's named Nurse Tyra, for some reason. Also, this episode saw, at long last, a crossover between Lost and that other island-castaway show. The attorney who told Desmond that Charlie's not allowed to leave the state was played by Sundra Oakley, a former Survivor contestant.
Widmore's plan requires Desmond to withstand a powerful electro-magnetic force. Assuming Widmore's even partly telling the truth, he wants to keep Smokey from leaving the island. And doing this requires Jin's help in deciphering that map of magnetic fields. And then exposing Desmond to one of them. Are they sending Desmond to the Orchid? Or the ruins of the Swan? Or someplace else, that only Jin can find? (They wouldn't need Jin's help to find either of those places, after all.)
If Smokey leaves the island, everybody dies - according to Widmore. Last week, Widmore said that if Smokey gets off the island, then Jin's daughter and his grandson will cease to exist. Which could just mean that anyone who was born as a result of Oceanic 815 crashing won't exist any more. But this week, Widmore went further - his daughter Penny and "everyone else" will also cease to exist. So it's a bit less ambiguous now, I guess. (But if the island doesn't exist in the L.A.-verse, does that mean Smokey escaped already in that universe? If so, then why is everyone still alive?)
The literary references continue. Penny's last name, in the L.A.-verse, is "Milton," aka the author of Paradise Lost, the story of how we were ejected from the Garden of Eden. And the rabbit who's scheduled to go through the E/M test is named Angstrom - a nod to Rabbit Angstrom, the hero of John Updike's famous tetralogy beginning with Rabbit, Run.
It may come down to a choice between love and life. Charlie can have a timeline where he and Claire loved each other - and he's dead - or one in which they've never met. (Or, of course, he can do the sensible thing and track Claire down in this universe.) Likewise, Daniel and Charlotte are both dead in the timeline in which they were in love. (And we never really knew if Charlotte loved Daniel back.) Are these characters really going to be willing to die, just to restore a timeline in which they experienced epic love affairs? Is that where we're heading? There are hints that this is the case.
Desmond and Penny still share a connection, in any universe. As a follow-up to "The Constant," this episode was considerably less powerful and epic, it must be said. The Desmond/Penny relationship is at the episode's center, but it only comes to the fore towards the very end. The episode is much more about Desmond stumbling on the truth about the two universes than it is about him rediscovering his love for Penny - and yet, when they finally do meet in that stadium, you'd have to be made out of volcanic rock not to feel something. They're meant to be together, no matter what happens to the timelines, and no matter what Charles or Eloise or "the island" thinks.
Something about visualizing the two universes leads both Desmonds to a decision. In L.A., Desmond's not only eager to have late-night coffee with Penny - he's also suddenly determined to track down all of the passengers from Flight 815 and show them something. Is he going to give them all near-death experiences or stick them all in an MRI? Meanwhile, the island's Desmond is suddenly eager to cooperate with Widmore. Until Sayid comes to snatch him, at which point he's eager to cooperate with Sayid too. What gives?
There's definitely something the L.A.-verse people have to do, to set things right. You get a definite vibe, from this episode, that this is a larger version of season four. This time, instead of the Oceanic Six having to go back, it's everyone from Oceanic 815 who must "go back." Except in their universe, the island doesn't even exist any more. Clearly, this was a pivotal episode, since it was written by showrunners Cuse and Lindelof, and directed by Jack Bender. We're starting to glimpse how the two universes are connected, and how they both have a part to play in averting some terrible catastrophe. Not surprisingly with that pedigree, it was a pretty engrossing, fast-paced episode where the storyline felt ready, at last, to move into top gear.
What did you think?