What would you have said if you were told that 80% of this episode would be set in the Sideways universe? Would you have got angry or sad or disappointed? Well if ‘Ab Aeterno’ was a big piece in the jigsaw for the whole series then ‘Happily Ever After’ is the missing piece of the season 6 story arc. What exactly are these Sideways flashes? Many ideas have been posited; an alternate reality; an epilogue to the Island story; the result of Jughead; the result of killing Jacob; the result of the Man In Black getting free; the result of MIB staying on the Island. None of which appear totally accurate. But the clue to the mystery of the Sideways story was revealed in the title – it is meant to be a “Happily Ever After”. Except it’s not.
The episode starts with an eye opening – a common LOST beginning – but that image has more resonance when applied to Desmond; when his eyes open we don’t know if we are going to see a Flashback or Flashforward or FlashSideways or some other part of his consciousness. Desmond awakes to be greeted by Zoe and her boss – Desmond’s nemesis and Father-in-law, Charles Widmore. And he is greeted by the worst news possible (for him, of course; for us, it is awesome) – he is back on the Island. I loved how his face began twitch as he processed the news. The last time we saw Desmond fully alive and conscious he was handing out a beat down to Ben Linus and he picks up where he left off by delivering a drip-feed attack frenzy upon the bearer of bad news.
Desmond is here for a reason and the Island isn’t finished with him. No surprises there then. Widmore says there is no time to waste and the schedule goes out the window – “we need to fry Desmond Hume and we need to do it NOW”. The bunny in the cage knows what’s coming – he saw what happened to the last bunny in a cage on Hydra Island in ‘Every Man for Himself’. But ‘Angstrom’ (a clever shout out to John Updike and also a measurement of magnetism) is spared because Simmons gets BBQ’ed by an over eager member of Widmore’s team. Ooops. Charles insists on looking at the dead man and makes a mental note: “if I see you again you are probably the smoke monster or an island apparition from beyond the grave”. Next up is Des and he’s not keen on the charcoal look that Simmons is carrying. The purpose of this experiment is to see if he could survive another blast of fatal electromagnetism and then fulfill whatever plan Widmore has regarding the pockets of energy. Is Widmore set on a Faraday-like plan to blow up the Island….? Like father, like son I suppose.
Desmond awakes from his microwaving experience staring at his reflection in the baggage board for Flight 815 – but not after we have a strange, out of place shot of the clouds as viewed from the plane. Weird (I’m storing the thought of that shot for the future). He helps out bulging Claire and the ‘bleed’ between the realities continues to increase – he knows it’s going to be a boy. Then he is greeted by George Minkowski. I love the fact that Minkowski helped Desmond in ‘The Constant’ to stop his flashes and now he is helping him find the source of his new flashes. All of LOST’s characters are destined to connect, meet, fight and love no matter what reality they are in. Though in this world instead of being enemies, Desmond is Widmore’s right hand man; his most loyal employee. But the painting on Widmore’s wall – of the scales holding black and white stones, tells us that this Widmore is just as aware of the power games of the Island in this reality as he is in the other.
Desmond is charged by boss with babysitting Charlie Pace. Keeping him from harm is a task he tried to do before and we know how that ended in the ‘Looking Glass’. The conversation between Des and Charlie in the bar is, I believe, to be the most important yet of the Sideways story – matched only by Des’s meeting with Faraday later in the episode. Charlie tries to enlighten Desmond on the value of love; something the sideways Des knows nothing about. The ‘Happily Ever After’ of Desmond’s Sideways reality is called for the bluff it is. And Charlie seeks to enlighten the Scotsman by explaining the ‘Happily Ever After’ he has experienced, if for only a moment:
CHARLIE: “I’m talking about spectacular, conscious altering love.”
DESMOND: “I wasn’t aware love looked like anything”
CHARLIE: “I’ve seen it mate….. I see her. A woman. Blonde. Rapturously beautiful. And I know her. We’re together. It’s like we’ve always been and always will be. This feeling, this… love.”
This is LOST’s ‘Happily Ever After’. Love. And if Sayid is going to find it with Nadia and if Richard is going to find it with Isabella and if Hurley is to find it with Libby then, as Desmond once said to Charlie, “you’re going to have to die”.
Whilst on their way to the Faraday/Driveshaft collaboration event (so glad we didn’t have to hear that) death-wish-Charlie decides to show Desmond what he was talking about and plunges their car head first into the dock. Seeing Charlie in the water evoked all those emotions from the Season 3 finale and then WHAM! Desmond glimpses into the Island reality. A concrete connection between the realities for the first time. My heart was pounding when that happened. And this time Desmond was able to save Charlie.
The next scene starts with a close up of Desmond’s eye. But it is not opening like all the other close ups of eyes we’ve seen before – his eye is already open. He has seen a glimpse of the truth. A small hint of the destiny that has been altered – by who or what we still don’t know – but his eyes have been opened and the life he knows won’t be same again. Yet just as we and Des are still processing this information the good doctor throws us a curve ball – “How about hallucinations?” – at this point I’m desperate to yell “NOOOO!” – don’t explain it away; don’t forget the truth you’ve seen; don’t believe the scientific explanation – have faith!
Then off he goes to his MRI scan. This was a very clever scene – “You need the button… try not to panic or we’ll have to start over again all the way from the beginning” – a passing observer wouldn’t think nothing of this line of dialogue but for LOST obsessives this small line carries so many resonances – I’m enjoying how the writers are doing that loads this year. We get see another close up of Desmond’s open eyes and he sees into the other reality again; first of all Charlie and then Penny and then his son Charlie. Love breaks through the barriers of reality for Desmond as it broke through the barriers of time in ‘The Constant’. Penny and Des are meant to be – nothing can stop that. (And yes that makes me even more worried about Jin & Sun).
Des stops the MRI, desperate to find Charlie and lo & behold he bumps into Jack – who himself is already questioning the validity of the reality he sees. Then out of the magic box Charlie comes running down the corridor. Eventually Des catches him and Charlie tells him what’s what; don’t worry about me – you need to find Penny.
So off to break the bad news to Mrs. Widmore. I wasn’t surprised to see Eloise Hawking is actually Eloise Widmore – who else could it have been? Des drops the bombshell that wasn’t really a bombshell – everyone is happy that we don’t have to hear the “Chopin/You All Everybody” mashup. But as Desmond is walking away he catches the name Penny… Interestingly she has the surname ‘Milton’ – referencing John Milton the author of ‘Paradise Lost’ which, in his words, was written to “justify the ways of God to men” – a story full of religious imagery that delves into the topic of man’s free will versus divinely appointed destiny. Sound familiar?)
The first meeting of Des & Eloise in this reality was reminiscent of the first time they met during Desmond’s time travel in ‘Flashes Before Your Eyes’. Yet instead of Eloise pointing Des on to the course of his destiny she is trying to make sure that nothing here is altered, nothing is changed and there are no “violations’.(Amazing how one word of dialogue can send your brain theorizing!). Yet one thing is consistent between the two realities; Eloise is still trying to prevent Des and Penny being together and she takes great exception to his interest in the guest list and tells him in no uncertain terms to “stop looking”. She obviously knows something, maybe everything, about the different realities and she insists that Des should just enjoy his ‘Happily Ever After’. The most intriguing thing was that Eloise changed tack in her last words to Des – her instruction to stop was not one for forever – it was just that Desmond was “not ready yet”. What on earth does that mean? When will he be ready?
In to the limo and Des seeks solace where he has always found solace – in whiskey. But a knock at the window brings us the welcome return of Daniel Faraday. They talk about love – love at first sight. Daniel reaffirms to us that some people are meant to fall in love as he tells us the story of the woman with red hair who we know to be Charlotte. He also gives us more solid evidence of the bleed between the realities when he whips out his trusty journal to reveal pages of advanced quantum physics. When did this blurring of the realities begin? Straight after he fell for Charlotte. Love is the doorway between the worlds. It has power to open up our eyes to the truth. Once again Des needs to find his Constant – but not a Constant in time – a Constant in reality – a Constant in love.
“What if, this, all this, what if this wasn’t suppose to be our life? What if we had some other life and for some reason, we changed things?”
Daniel thinks he knows why this reality exists – he already set off a nuclear bomb. I’m still not sure if that is the definitive reason for the existence of this reality – I’m almost certain it will link more to the battle between Jacob and the MIB – yet how I don’t know.* Daniel knows where Penny can be found and he sends Des off to the stadium where he and Jack had a discussion about miracles and fate. Did we ever think “See you in another life brother” was going to be quite so literal?
One touch from Penny and Des faints – the connection with the other reality too much for his body and mind to handle. Back on the Island Des comes round and is now totally willing to go with Widmore’s plan. Though out of the dark of the jungle Sayid comes and entices the ‘secret weapon’ to hook up with Team MIB instead. A lot of people are saying ‘Why did he go with Sayid so easily?’ Well he did just kill two guys and he has a gun and he has no emotions and he is an ex-assasin and he is an ex-torturer and Des knows him and he asked nicely…. Do I need to go on?
When Des comes round in the Sideways he makes a date for coffee (where they’ll bump into Sawyer & Juliet going dutch – maybe) and he instructs George to find the manifest – but where in Season 1 we were concerned with who wasn’t on the manifest, now we are concerned with who was…. and Des is going to show them something…. love? Or truth? Or that “there’s always a choice brother”?
*One quick theory inspiring idea – we found out last week that MIB/Locke has an aversion to water and the first images of the Island this season were…. yep, submerged with water… Is this the only way for MIB to be killed… to drown him, and the Island, totally…. is that what the pocket of electromagnetism is for…. not to blow up the Island but to sink it??????