Desmond episodes are always epic and game-changing. Happily Ever After was no exception. I knew that whatever we were about to see was bound to be pretty special. I figured it would be a Sideways, though I wondered if they might throw us for a loop with another flashback instead. I had a feeling that we would have a bit of both, as Desmond has always straddled multiple times. What we got was in many ways a repeat of Flashes Before Your Eyes, but instead of going back in time eight years during the “catastrophic electromagnetic event,” Desmond shifted into another life entirely, a life where he met no fewer than nine people who crossed paths with him in the original timeline.
Hurley helps Desmond, who in turn helps Claire. A very sweet series of interactions. The brief meeting with Jack was nice too; the doctor seemed rather tickled to see Desmond, intrigued by the synchronicity, especially once he brought up Charlie. The major surprise for me in terms of the Sideways cast came in the form of George Minkowski. As soon as I saw him I let up a cheer. George is to Desmond what Abaddon was to Locke in The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham, without the ominous aura. I had this horrible feeling that Desmond was going to return to the car at the end to find George dead, but no such disaster occurred. So far, this life is kinder to George.
Then, of course, we have Charles, who in this timeline is a beloved father figure to Desmond, who greets him with a hug and who toasts him with his 60-year-old MacCutcheon scotch in an exact reversal of the iconic scene in Flashes Before Your Eyes. “Nothing is too good for you,” he tells Desmond warmly, to which his happy-go-lucky employee responds with a cheerful, “Slainte!”. Of course, in this scenario, Desmond isn’t courting Penny, but I get the sense that if he was, that would be fine and dandy with Charles. Since Daniel knows about Penny, one would presume that Charles at least had a hand in raising her, though the last name “Milton” suggests that she was raised mostly by her mother, and the name is either hers or that of her husband. If, in fact, that Penny was actually her. Also, why was Desmond wearing a wedding ring on the plane when he makes it quite plain here that he's not married?
I knew we’d be seeing Daniel, Eloise and Charlie because it was leaked online, and by ABC itself, no less. While the first two weren’t a huge surprise, I was a bit taken aback by Charlie’s appearance. I was giddy with excitement over the idea of having Desmond, Charlie and Daniel all together in one place, and I’m sorry that didn’t happen, and that we weren’t treated to the musical mastery of Charlie and Daniel doing a duet. At the least, I think it would’ve been really cool for Daniel and Charlie to meet, considering that they never had the chance in the original timeline. It was wonderful to see Charlie again, and especially to hear him describe his “consciousness-altering” love for Claire, though he was awfully testy in this episode, and on the whole he reminded me of Simon running from the Feds in the spring opener of FlashForward.
My first thought about Eloise before we ever saw her: Charles is subservient to her. In this relationship, Eloise has the upper hand, and that seems consistent with what we’ve seen on the Island. My second thought was that seeing Desmond really freaked her out. From there, she proceeded to replicate the dynamics of her first conversation with Desmond, first appearing kind and conciliatory, then flipping out when Desmond tries to deviate from the script that has been written for him. She again comes across as very creepy, and it’s more unclear than ever how she knows so much. Her huffy insistence that Charlie’s, and perhaps Charles’, interference was a “violation” sounds very much like those Rules again. What’s especially interesting here is that Eloise and Daniel are directly opposing each other in how they are choosing to influence Desmond’s life.
I finally got that much-desired Daniel and Desmond scene, and it was worth the wait, just as beautiful in its own way as the interaction in The Constant, and even more overtly romantic. Desmond and Daniel are destined to be brothers-in-law. Each has one of the most epic love stories on LOST. Each has spent much of his life manipulated by Eloise and Charles. Daniel is responsible for the detonation of Jughead in 1977, while Desmond is responsible for the implosion of the hatch in 2004. These men are deeply linked, and Charlie, another fate-led martyr with an epic love story, appears to be deeply entwined as well. Sideways Daniel is no quantum physicist, but Island Daniel seems to be seeping in. Eerie. I love that Sideways Charlotte was eating chocolate when he saw her. Oh, and I was itching for Daniel to respond to Desmond’s ramblings about probably-imaginary Penny with, “No. She’s my sister.” So his answer earned a fist-pump from me, even though “half-sister” sounded a bit less poetic. Again, I wonder: Who is Penny’s mother?
And then of course, we got Desmond and Penny, with an iconic meeting that seemed to reference Man of Science, Man of Faith, Live Together, Die Alone, Catch-22 and The Constant all at once. I definitely did get the sense of Desmond falling in love at first sight, and given Penny’s goofy laughter following Desmond’s fainting spell, the feeling seems to have been mutual. And of course, Giacchino again hit it out of the park with his romantic score.
Along with the host of familiar characters in the sideways timeline, we had several snippets of dialogue that we’ve heard before. For instance, Charles tells Desmond, "The Island isn't done with you yet," the same thing Eloise told him. Desmond tells Charlie, “There’s always a choice, brother,” something we’ve heard both Jacob and Smokey say before. When Charlie offers him the choice in the car, Desmond responds with, “Why in God’s name would I wanna get out of the car,” reminiscent of his reaction when Penny asked him in Jughead to promise not to return to the Island. Eloise, of course, says “What happened, happened,” which has been said many times, mostly by Daniel, who here told Desmond, “We need to talk,” just as Jacob did to Richard just two episodes ago. Massive mythology download followed in both cases. And George questioning Desmond about whether he found what he was looking for reminded me of Sayid asking Desmond if the phone call that he facilitated had worked.
Yes, parallels flew fast and furious throughout this episode, and it sure was fun to point them out. And of course, I took notice of Desmond gazing at himself in the glass at the airport, seemingly quite lost in thought before Hurley snaps him out of it. Eloise clearly knows more than she should, and I’m starting to wonder whether she might be in league with Smokey. I wonder if Sideways Charles is similarly aware of other realities. Might he have brought Desmond to Los Angeles on that plane in hopes of triggering something? At every turn, he seems to be tossing Desmond into the path of someone else from his Island life. What if that’s really what this is all about - waking Desmond up to the reality of what he has to do to preserve the space-time continuum?
If we believe Daniel’s conclusion, it would appear that he made a big mistake when he put his bomb-exploding plan into action. It would seem that these timelines are running parallel to each other and that Sideways isn’t supposed to exist - that if it continues to exist, the universe will implode. Or maybe it’s less drastic than that. Maybe the two timelines just need to converge somehow. Will some from the Island timeline go to the Sideways timeline and some from Sideways go to the Island? Several of the Sideways characters seem to have some awareness that something is off, and Desmond, Daniel and Charlie are fully aware. They all “felt it”. But what is Desmond going to do, knock on the door of everyone on that flight manifest? And how is he going to “show” them what he needs to? Surely he won’t be resorting to something like Charlie did time and again? Maybe he hopes that just seeing each other’s names will trigger something. But what happens if he tracks everybody down and they all learn the truth? Then what?
I don’t think there will be a major catastrophic event in Sideways World. But maybe Charles intends to release all of the electromagnetic energy on the Island to somehow counteract what Daniel did, and that will somehow negate the other timeline, but he has to have the approval of the Sideways counterparts in order to proceed? There seemed to be a lot of emphasis on choice in this episode, and certainly that‘s what Jacob is all about. If Penny’s last name is actually Milton, are we supposed to be thinking Paradise Lost? And what would the implications of that be? Desmond and Penny have found each other in another life. Daniel knows where to find Charlotte and Charlie might just blunder upon Claire in his mad dash through the hospital. Each of them does seem on the verge of a “happily ever after”. But in the original timeline, Charlie and Daniel are dead, and perhaps Desmond soon will be too. Charles did speak of a sacrifice. What does he have in mind?
We didn’t spend much time back on the Island. As expected, when Desmond figured out what was going on, he was very angry. When Charles said, “I brought you back to the Island,” Desmond’s face was a quivering mass of fury. It looked like his head was about to explode. His rage was enough to overcome his weakened state; knocking something into Charles was a good substitute for actually beating him up. Incidentally, it seems like a lot of people have been sustaining injuries to the head this season. Any significance?
Jin was troubled to see Desmond and didn’t want anything to do with an experiment that would hurt his friend. I wonder just how much he really knows about these electromagnetic pockets? As mapper of the Island, he probably has the lay of the land better than just about anybody. Maybe he knows about spots on the Island that we’ve never seen yet.
I confess that Zoe still hasn’t really won me over, though I think she’s probably a good guy ultimately. Something about her just kinda grates on me. And her henchman seems rather useless, a big lug like Bram who is probably going to bite the dust soon because he doesn’t seem too bright. Or was he the one Sayid attacked at the end? I couldn’t tell. Sayid was creepy. I assume he let Zoe go so that she could go tell Widmore that Smokey had Desmond? He didn’t just let her leave, he told her to leave, and I’m thinking it wasn’t really an act of mercy. But what does he intend to do with Desmond, and why did Desmond agree to go with him so willingly? After his experience in the electromagnetic chamber, he was downright docile, ready to do whatever Charles asked of him. Does he have a plan for what he will do when he gets to where Sayid is taking him? Is he going to tell everyone about the other timeline?
Going into the electromagnetic chamber sent Desmond into Sideways World. Charlie crashing the car into the water brought memories of the original timeline flooding back, as did the MRI. Charlie wanted to make Desmond’s life flash before his eyes so he would experience what Charlie experienced. The MRI felt eerily like the hatch, where Desmond was trapped with only a button for company. Oh, and the assurance that somewhere out there in the world was a woman who loved him very much. The theme of this episode seems to be, “All you need is love.” It was all very romantic, and it seemed to be a lot less of a downer than I suspected it might be. Desmond was happy the last time we saw him in both timelines. At the moment, “happily ever after” seems less ironic than simply fitting. But can it last?
Next week we have Hurley. I loved his line from the preview: “People come back and yell at me after they die.” Aw, poor Hurley. People like Michael, apparently. I suppose one question we should be asking is if these people are actually dead or if Hurley, like Desmond, is able to tap into other timelines. But that would assume that all of these people he’s spoken to are self-aware in this other timeline. Which, I suppose, they could be, if Desmond clued them in. But I still don’t think that really works, especially for Jacob and Isabella. For now, then, I’m still going with the idea that these are actual ghosts. And I do think that Hurley is just as important as Desmond. Love seems to be key to the resolution of these timelines, and Hurley is love personified. Next week, we will see him in leader mode again. We will probably see him talk to Jacob, though with Michael in the mix, it’s possible we won’t. I really want more Hurley and Jacob, though.
The title is Everybody Loves Hugo, which is much more accurate than Everybody Hates Hugo. In the Sideways storyline, I imagine we’ll see many interactions, maybe even more than in Desmond’s, and it will all be Hurley doing little things to improve the lives of others. What we’ve already seen certainly seems to indicate that Sideways Hurley is happy, successful and helpful. Hurley episodes usually have a lot of warmth and a lot of humor, but there’s often an element of fear or sadness. Desmond’s episode wound up happier than I expected; here’s hoping Hurley’s luck will hold out. With the finale so close, I can’t help thinking we’re going to start losing major characters. My inclination has been to think that Hurley will survive the series. Indeed, if there is to be a new Jacob, I think he’s just as likely a Candidate as Jack. But they could pull a fast one on me. If they harm one hair on his curly head... I will not be pleased. So instead I will think happy thoughts. This was a beautiful episode, and next week’s should be just as exceptional.