Saturday, 10 April 2010

LOST 6.11 - "Happily Ever After"

Saturday, 10 April 2010
WRITERS: Damon Lindelof & Carlton Cuse
DIRECTOR: Jack Bender
GUEST CAST: Alan Dale, Jeremy Davies, Fionnula Flanagan, Sheila Kelley, Dominic Monaghan, Sonya Walger & Fisher Stevens
[SPOILERS]In a final season that's proving to be fun but divisive (I think fans are split 50/50 on the success of the flashsideways device), it was a relief to find "Happily Ever After" giving us something of a lifeline to grab onto. It still doesn't make perfect sense to me (more on that later), but I'm happier about the direction and it feels like things are starting to pull together...

The Island '07: Desmond & Widmore

Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick) has been brought to the Island against his will by Charles Widmore (Alan Dale), having been shot by Ben and hospitalized back in season 5. Widmore needs Desmond because his natural ability to withstand extreme electromagnetism will prove useful -- in defeating Smokey, one would assume, but nothing has been made clear yet. This is Lost, remember. But has Widmore been a misunderstood hero all these years? Or is his plan only beneficial to the losties up to a point? He was still the man who sent a freighter to destroy the Island's inhabitants back in season 4. Battered and bruised, Desmond was taken to sit between two gigantic solenoid coils (the effects of which already toasted one poor man to death), and the levers were pulled to begin the experiment...

X-Timeline '04: Desmond, Charlie & Widmore

In the flashsideways universe, Desmond's an easy-going lawyer with no family of his own, working contentedly for Widmore. He's happy with his lot in life, but things are complicated when he's tasked by Widmore to bail "Drive Shaft" rock star Charlie Pace (Dominic Monaghan) from jail, to play at his son's birthday party that evening. But Charlie's a distracted man, having had a near-death experience aboard Flight 815 after he choked on a pouch of heroine during turbulence. While unconscious, Charlie saw a vision of a beautiful woman (assumedly Claire) whom he had extremely deep feelings for, and has since become convinced that his existence is a lie and he must find a way back to her.

Desmond is incredulous about this bizarre story (hallucinations by a strung-out junkie is the more likely explanation!), but after Charlie caused their car to crash into the harbour, and Desmond had to rescue Charlie from inside the sinking vehicle, he himself "flashed" on a memory of trying to save Charlie from drowning inside the Island's Looking-Glass station (see: season 3's finale.) The haunting shot of Charlie pressing his hand to the car's window, inked with "NOT PENNY'S BOAT" (echoing what happened seconds before his on-island death), immediately became one of this season's most evocative visuals. A perfectly constructed goosebump moment.

Naturally, Desmond came to realize there was something in Charlie's story, particularly after an MRI scan's electromagnetism elicits memories of a great romance he once had with a woman called Penny (Sonya Walger), and after arriving at the Widmore's birthday party he overheard a Penny mentioned on the guest-list. This scene also saw the return of Eloise (Fionnula Flanagan), who in this reality is happily married to Widmore, but who clearly knows the falsehood of this existence but suggests Desmond just get on with his life. Eloise has always been a curious character (similar to Desmond in how she can perceive the truth behind knotty timelines and, as evidence here, entire changes to a timeline.) As he left the party, Desmond also met Widmore's son whose birthday's being arranged -- musical prodigy Daniel (Jeremy Davies) -- who has also realizes something's amiss with his life, having scribbled complex equations in a textbook after waking from a dream. And he has a theory that "we changed things" by detonating a nuclear bomb, and piques Desmond's interest by revealing his half-sister is the mysterious Penny.

This led to another of those wonderful Penny/Desmond encounters (at the same sports stadium Desmond met Jack, funnily enough), as Desmond made a connection with the woman he believes was his lover in another reality. Some very touching scenes from Cusick and Walger, who have a really easy and engaging chemistry together, which had made their love-story one of Lost's highlights all these years. It's always particularly good when they're separated and struggling to get back together, and now the whole of existence if conspiring to keep them apart. And it seems Desmond has a plan, as he gets into his chaueffer-driven car: to find the other passengers who were aboard Flight 815, because he has something to show them...

In Summation

Clearly, a hugely significant episode and turning-point for the final season, and one that has renewed my faith that Lost's writers know what they're doing. It helped that Desmond's a far more interesting and dynamic character than most others on the show, and because he's intrinsically linked to the sci-fi aspects of the series, "Happily Ever After" could use his storyline to start making things a little clearer in our minds...

With that in mind, a quick theory: while it hasn't been made clear what the exact nature of the flashsideways universe is, it feels likely to me that everyone's existing in tandem with the original timeline. Kind of like how quantum mechanics shows that sub-atomic particles can exist at the same time in two places, the flashsideways are that theory on a bigger scale -- the result of the hydrogen bomb reacting to the electromagnetism and "exotic matter" the Island's full of, perhaps? It's not an "alternate" timeline in the traditional sense (as the creators have assured us), because that would suggest the existing one never happened, but both are happening simultaneously (if slightly out of step, time-wise.) And only Desmond's consciousness is able to jump between the two universes, so assumedly he can bring them together.

Overall, a fine episode all round. I was particularly intrigued by how Desmond, occasionally zapped back to the prime reality, started to act very strangely. So when Sayid (Naveen Andrews) appeared to rescue him from the clutches of Widmore's team, he agreed to go with him with a minimum of fuss. In fact, is the fact Sayid and Desmond have both been acting like they're brainwashed significant? I still find it odd that Jacob insisted that Sayid be taken to The Temple, if the result of that was him dying and being "resurrected" with, apparently, his emotions draining away. Was Jacob doing to Sayid what Widmore's done to Desmond; made him something of a "shadow" in this reality, so he has a stronger existential sense of things in the X-timeline?

Questions, Questions, Questions!
  • Why did Desmond just follow Sayid?
  • What is Widmore's mission on the Island?
  • What sacrifice will Desmond have to make for Widmore's mission? In bringing the two realities together, will he have to die? Or lose his son as a result of any changes made?
  • How can Desmond survive such extreme exposure to electromagnetism? Will be just have to leave it at "he's special"?
  • When Eloise Widmore refers to a "violation", that surely infers some higher power is in control of everything. If so, is that Jacob? Is this flashsideways universe going to be Jacob's own "loophole" to get things back on-track?
  • Why is Penny's last name Milton, if Charles Widmore and Eloise Hawking are her parents? Is she only a blood relation of Widmore? If so, who is her mother?
9 APRIL 2010: SKY1 (HD), 9PM