I had my fears about this episode, fears that seem silly in the wake of what is now one of my favorite hours of Lost ever.
I'm relatively spoiler-free at this point, but I do check upcoming episode titles and their receptions with the spoiler community, and "Happily Ever After", for whatever reason, wasn't well-received. This shocked me, since I had assumed it was going to be a Desmond episode. For a Desmond episode to be disappointing seemed anathema to me.
Well, I don't know what the early raters' problem was, because not only did "Happily Ever After" amaze me, it actually left me feeling significantly more confident that the end of Lost will be satisfying after all.
And when I say "satisfying", I mean "satisfying to me". For those of you who support the ATL as an epilogue, you and I are ideologically opposed, and we will soon see who wins the day. Personally, I think this episode shows that the ATL is a what-if aberration, one that will need to be destroyed in order for the true timeline - the one that we have always known and loved - to win out. I'll more fully explain why I feel this way later in the recap.
Desmond has been brought back to the island to make a sacrifice, one that will save Penny (and pretty much everybody). But before he learns what that sacrifice is, he must survive a test. Without further explanation, he is thrust into a strange Dharma generator chamber. Even before he's put inside, Zoe's team screws up and accidentally kills one of their own people with the generator. Zoe's side kick (you know, what's his name) tells a rabbit locked up in a cage, "You're next, Angstrom." More time-traveling bunnies!
The generator fires electromagnetic energy at Desmond, causing him to blackout and, presumably, sends his consciousness to the ATL.
I wrote last week that Desmond's unique connection to electromagnetism would ultimately be important, so I was delighted to see this aspect figure in so heavily already. We know that Desmond was permanently, irrevocably altered by turning the failsafe key atop the pocket of energy at the Swan hatch (which we now know was the mother of all energy pockets). The effect on Desmond has been profound, giving him temporary future-seeing abilities, sending his consciousness into other time periods in his life, and possibly giving him the ability to "change things" relating to the timeline that otherwise wouldn't have been possible.
It should be quite apparent, then, that the end game of Lost will involve Desmond undergoing a huge electromagnetic event to achieve the show's aims, be they slaying the Man in Black or reconciling the divergent timelines.
But as the episode continues, Desmond becomes more and more aware that something is off in this reality, where Charles Widmore is his business partner and close personal friend and he's never met Penny. I'm sure the parallels - sharing a glass of MacCutcheon whiskey, for example - weren't lost on any fans, so I won't go into them.
One thing I will point out, though, is the painting of the scales in Widmore's office.
Note the black and white rocks, just like the scales from the caves. Also, my girlfriend pointed out to me that the astrological symbol for Libra is a set of scales. Libra is the seventh sign of the Zodiac, and it begins on September 23 - the day after the crash of Oceanic 815.
Desmond is sent to keep an eye on Charlie Pace, who's been going through an existential crisis ever since his near-death experience on the flight. The turbulence and the asphyxiation brought him to a place in his mind where he was in love with a beautiful girl. In other words, Claire in the MTL.
This is, of course, a huge development. So far, the characters have paused and appeared confused when they looked in mirrors, and shown signs of vague recognition when they run into each other. But Charlie is the first character to admit to these "flashes". And then, during one of the most satisfyingly revelatory scenes in I don't even know how long, he shows Desmond what he means.
Desmond remembers Penny. He remembers Charlie drowning at the Looking Glass station. We see it on screen. Just like that, it's finally, unequivocally clear that these characters are subconsciously aware of the true reality.
It's probably also true that the realities are affecting each other. On-island Sun's loss of her ability to speak English last week was probably a result of her ATL self being placed in a situation where the inability to speak English was particularly troubling. In moments of extreme stress, danger or excitement, the two realities clash.
This becomes even more clear during Desmond's MRI. The procedure gives him even more lucid flashes. It's interesting to note that "flashes" are now part of the plot. They aren't just something for the viewer to watch and learn about a character's history or future. The characters are experiencing them, now, as we experience them, or similarly.
Daniel Faraday is aware of it, too. He explains to Desmond that he wrote complex physics equations even though he doesn't know anything about physics. He is somewhat aware that he set off a nuclear bomb and brought about this reality in the first place. Daniel's admission here is especially key, because he is really the architect of this entire reality. It was his idea to set off the bomb. But now, he thinks he made a mistake. The language is the language that so many others have used, perhaps most notably, John Locke. He tells Desmond that they are in a reality that "wasn't supposed to happen".
The ATL isn't an epilogue, my friends. Nor is it a meaningless, inconsequential separate "what-if" reality. The ATL is the incorrect reality, dare I say, the enemy reality. It is the one that wasn't supposed to happen, just like the Oceanic 6 were never supposed to leave, the freighter was never supposed to reach the island, the survivors were never supposed to change the past.
This incorrect reality only exists because of the actions of the one person capable of "changing things" - Desmond. It all starts at the Swan hatch when Desmond turns the failsafe key, subjecting himself to an unfathomable amount of electromagnetic energy. This makes him special: "the rules don't apply" to him, as Faraday claims. He gains the ability to see the future - to see Charlie dying, specifically. And because of his uniqueness, he is able to prevent Charlie dying long enough in order for Charlie to disable the Looking Glass. Remember, the lock was musical, and Charlie is probably the only person among the crash survivors who could have disabled it. If Desmond hadn't intervened and saved Charlie, the freighter never would have reached the island.
The rest, of course is history. Because Keamy's team attacks, Ben moves the island, sending many of the crash survivors back in time and, eventually, the Incident transpires at the Swan construction site in 1977, launching the alternate reality. It was a reality that only occurred because of Desmond's electromagnetic powers, which is why it will be up to Desmond - perhaps in both realities - to solve the equation and ensure that the true intended reality wins out.
And make no mistake, it is the main reality - the island reality - that is supposed to win. Lost is a show about free will, yes, but it's about destiny, too. The island has brought with it plenty of tragedy, but it's fundamentally a special place, a place where miracles happen, a place where people get a second chance. In the end, the show will not condemn this island, but celebrate it. It will do that by proving that the alternate reality - though interesting, sentimental, and seemingly good - is wrong. Our characters destinies reside on the island.
We have a good understanding now of what the rest of the season might focus on during flashes. Desmond asks Minkowski for the 815 flight manifest - what could he want with it? I can only assume that he wants to track down the people who were on the plane, get them together, trigger some electromagnetic event, and that will be the end of the ATL. It wouldn't surprise me if Desmond has the ability to close his eyes, randomly circle names on the manifest, and ends up circling Jack, Kate, John, Sawyer, Sayid, Hurley, Jin and Sun, or something. He "just needs to show them something". He needs to show them that their lives aren't real.
She tells him that what he's doing is a "violation". Clearly, Eloise knows something about this reality and the other one. I wonder if she somehow has contact with her MTL self. It might make a lot of sense if she's been able to compare notes between the two realities. I think Eloise would most likely conclude that her life is better in the MTL, where Daniel isn't dead, her and Charles are still in love, etc. It might be her goal to perpetuate the wrong reality. If Desmond's ATL quest is to reunite the passengers of Oceanic 816, Eloise might be his main adversary.
Then again, I find it a little strange that she would have wanted Charlie to come to the concert. Charlie has never met her or Daniel, but he knows the name Widmore and may have recognized Penny. Seems like this would have led to more trouble for her. So maybe Eloise is on the same side as Desmond after all, she just has a different way of accomplishing things.
Desmond meets Penny in the same stadium where he encountered Jack in the flashback of "Man of Science, Man of Faith". She has the sense of recognition of him that many of the characters seem to be having toward each other. He has already seen her in his flashes, and when they touch, he faints, returning to the generator on the Hydra. Later, the episode flashes back to this moment, and they decide to go get coffee.
Interestingly, love seems to be the best medicine for making the characters realize what's going on. Charlie's vision of Claire, Daniel's encounter with Charlotte, Desmond's meeting with Penny - it's love that leads the way. Charlie and Claire, and Daniel and Charlotte can't be together in the main reality, though, due to character deaths. I wonder if they would still push Desmond to pursue the truth if they knew this.
So Desmond is earnest to help Charles save the main reality. Desmond could be necessary for Charles's plans for a couple reasons:
1) Desmond is the ATL character with the highest level of comprehension that there are two realities. He may be able to will his consciousness from one reality to the other, setting events into motion that will restore balance to the timeline, such as uniting the 815 passengers in the ATL.
2) Desmond is the only character capable of surviving another cataclysmic electromagnetic event. He will have to climb into the Orchid wheel chamber, or revisit the Swan pocket, or something, in order to harmonize the timelines.
3) Flocke is actually made of electromagnetic energy, and Desmond is the only one who can kill him.
The only reason I like the third answer is because Desmond is so willing to go with Sayid. What if Desmond had an unseen conversation with Charles where he was told to go to Flocke's camp? This seems to make his lack of hesitance more likely. It also would explain why the Dharma pylons are able to keep out the Smoke Monster, if said monster is a cloud of energy.
Then again, it's also quite possible that Desmond went with Sayid for another reason: destiny. I think Desmond finally understands that he is special, he has to do something, and whatever it is, it's going to present itself. Until then, he's going to go with the flow.
In any case, the fact that the ATL exists will figure in heavily to the resolution of Lost, even on the island. And I don't think it's going to be an epilogue.
Terrific episode. I can't wait for next week, even though the weeks where we can look forward to new hours of Lost are suddenly so few.
As always, thanks for reading,
- Robby "Robz888"