The story of Desmond has its own mythology. There is an order to the HumeVerse. There are things we can predict will happen.
Like lights flashing before eyes.
Unexpected magnetic side effects.
Alcohol consumption is much encouraged.
Preferably of McCutcheons – LOST’s very own fictional brand of antique Scotch whiskey that is as precious as liquid gold.
It wouldn’t be a DesBack without a big splashy appearance by that old battleax Charles Widmore.
And if an episode is about Desmond, then that can only mean one thing: Charlie is in trouble.
Of course, the most indispensable common element of all DesBacks is … Penny.
Who, as always, has a spectacularly consciousness altering effect on our Desmond.
It’s pretty typical for Desmond to end up splayed out unconscious in his episodes. In fact, I think it’s required that he spend a part of each of his episodes dead to the world.
Usually it’s because his consciousness is taking an unscheduled road trip. In Desmond centric episodes, time is typically telescoped, so that while Desmond spends only a few seconds or minutes passed out, his mind gets to take a very extensive trip into some very freaky territory. This episode was no different. As the White Witch of the Des-o-Sphere accurately described things, “It’s about Time.”
Sometimes, his consciousness travels back in time, as in Season Three’s Flashes Before Your Eyes, where he turned the failsafe key in the Swan Hatch.
Subjecting him to his first “catastrophic magnetic event”. Which he survived with flying colors.
He lost his clothes, but it was a small price to pay for the mind altering experience of taking a trip back to his 1996 self and learning new things about the life he’d already lived.
In The Constant, there was a different twist. This time Desmond’s 1996 consciousness came forward to the future … or the (then) present, however you prefer to look at it. Remember that?
It was extra added confusing. 1996 Desmond was living inside 2004 Desmond’s mind on the freighter and didn’t know WTF was going on until Daniel figured out 2004 Desmond could pay a visit to 1996 Daniel and together they managed to knit the two moments in time together and save Desmond’s mind from exploding.
All thanks to Desmond’s once and forever Constant.
In this episode, magically entitled Happily Ever After, Desmond’s consciousness really expanded. He is proving that in fact it’s true that “Only fools are enslaved by Time and Space.” – a clue that was right there for anyone to see, if only they’d known to reverse the audio on the brainwashing video and listen for it.
Desmond’s consciousness has been liberated. He’s no longer limited to traveling along the consciousness of his own life, in his own timeline, he can now transmigrate into the existence of a totally different version of himself, living a totally different life, in a totally different time and place than he ever lived before.
You may ask yourself, how do I work this?
You may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful house….
– Once in a Lifetime, Talking Heads
Desmond’s mind can now go anywhere. Anywhere in time. Anywhere in space. Anywhere in any reality or dimension. All he needs is the right kind of electromagnetic force field and he becomes the portal between worlds. It’s utterly groovy. What we’re watching, I think, is the Neo-fication of Desmond. Or maybe it’s the Birth of a Superhero. Desmond’s specialness is triggered by magnetic shitstorms, but only because a magnetic shitstorm is the thing that made Des special in the first place. This is what happens to normal people in the Hydra Island Chamber of EMF Horrors.
This is what happens to Desmond.
It’s in the long tradition of comic book heroes. Think “intrinsic field subtractor”, if you’re looking for a reference point.
Is Desmond the Dr. Manhattan of the LostVerse?
Desmond episodes have more than just their own mythology and cast of characters. They have a certain look and feel to them. Maybe it’s the higher density of Easter Eggishness that creates the unique aura. The great LOST pastime of playing polypopcultural I Spy reaches its apex in Des-centrics.
“I remember when I was a kid — my dad was a huge Beatles fan, as am I — looking at the album cover for ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,’ and seeing all the things that were in there,” says Lindelof, who thought “if you could do the same kind of thing for a television show — where people had to kind of pause it and say, ‘What do you think this meant?’ — that would be really cool.
Click on the album cover if you want to see where Darlton borrowed their egg hiding techniques from. The Beatles were nothing if not eclectic. You can find everyone from Shirley Temple to Snow White to Ghandi, Carl Jung, Lewis Carroll, Einstein, Lenny Bruce, Mae West, Lawrence of Arabia … and that’s just for starters. In Flashes Before Your Eyes, when Desmond first sat down in Widmore’s office, the painting behind him was also rich in cultural flotsam.
It makes me nostalgic for the old days when LOST still felt like an open book. When it still felt possible that something like Buddhist polar bears might be the key to it all. I guess it was inevitable that, as the series winds down, as an endpoint must be reached, our symbolic pool is being drained and we’re left with something a lot more cut and dried. Apparently, the last symbol standing will be … a scale.
A scale just like the Monster had in his cave. A scale balancing black stones with white stones.
If your head isn’t hurting from being pounded so hard with the Binary Stick, maybe this will convince you. On one side of Widmore’s office, the painting has a black frame.
On the other side, the painting appears again. With a white frame.
Do you get it? Can you miss it? A scale. Balancing Black and White. It’s getting harder and harder to ignore the cold, hard fact that all these many seasons of murky ambiguity were a set up to a denouement that may have been shoved in our face right in the Pilot, Part. 2.
As simple as that solution would be, we’re still blundering our way towards it, if that’s in fact where we’re headed. It’s all still about as clear as mud, but Season Six is starting to congeal into some kind of final form. We can all navigate the landscape now.
Phantom OtherTwins of each character populating the shadow world of OtherLOST.
Matthew Fox making his weekly quarter million dollar cameo. This week Jack dropped the funniest line of the night. Who woulda thunk that in Season Six Jack Shephard would become the comic relief?
“Hold on. He was on our plane? … And now he’s here? … In the hospital?”
I can’t help but notice that things do seem to be circling more and more around the hospital where Jack works. Sayid is there now visiting his brother, Nadia’s husband. Claire is presumably going to return shortly to pop out Aaron. Sun just got shot in the belly. And Charlie can’t have gotten very far without his pants. He’s probably still around there someplace.
St. Elsewhere was another show whose ending was highly anticipated and much debated. It was set in a hospital. I never really watched it, but I know one thing about it. It ended with the revelation that the whole story had happened inside a snowglobe being shaken by an autistic child who had been a minor character on the show.
It’s almost the prototype for a fuck-it style of ending a story. It’s just a way to shut the book without having to bother to write a real ending. I’m starting to wonder if this might not be the road LOST is also going to go down, although maybe not quite as abruptly. If you’re interested, you can follow my reasoning below, but be forewarned: I’m not paid to pimp out the greatness of LOST. I’m not trying to sell a book or a magazine about LOST. I’m just a fan like anyone else, trying to finish the puzzle that I started, trying to figure it out. I reserve the right to make my own judgments about the quality of the story they tell in the end. That’s where I’m coming from, dear readers. Take it or leave it, because you know what they say. There’s always a choice.
This week we learned that OtherDaniel – who has never been to the Island – “remembers” how he launched the plot to set off the bomb on the Island he’d never been to, creating the existence he is now living in, which he is only living because he never went to the Island where he set off the bomb. He is remembering a life he never lived but which had to have happened, because it created the life he is currently living. At least I think that’s what he was saying. It’s always difficult to say with LOST, but there’s been an element of strange loopiness ever since we started down the timespace traveling road.
“not a physical circuit but an abstract loop in which, in the series of stages that constitute the cycling-around, there is a shift from one level of abstraction (or structure) to another, which feels like an upwards movement in a hierarchy, and yet somehow the successive “upward” shifts turn out to give rise to a closed cycle. That is, despite one’s sense of departing ever further from one’s origin, one winds up, to one’s shock, exactly where one had started out. In short, a strange loop is a paradoxical level-crossing feedback loop.”
For a story that has been everchanging, the goal of a fixed ending is beginning to feel like an impossible dream. Every week it gets curiouser and curiouser, less tangible, less intelligible, more …
and really, really …
But we know that it will indeed end. Somehow. And soon. When it finally does end, Desmond – the character who is defined by his fixed and permanent Constant – will have to play a pivotal part.
Desmond is the only non Season One character that has ever captivated my imagination. Maybe that’s because technically he was a Season One character, if an offstage one.
The chapters in the book of his life are well known to us. He’s always been seeking something.
He’s tried everything. Praying.
He became one of the magical Island’s mythical prisoners.
He was LOST’s Odysseus, the man of the sea, having mind altering adventures all on his relentless journey home towards his constant – the faithful, longsuffering Penelope.
When Desmond and Penny’s story ended in Season Four, it felt premature. Since then, he has seemed a peripheral, nearly irrelevant figure within the everweaving tapestry of LOST. But with this episode, he returned to center stage.
In a way, Desmond Hume is an anomaly.It’s almost like he’s been a concurrent parallel reality the whole time he’s been in the story. He has not been involved in most of the major adventures in the story, didn’t crash in Flight 815, never met the Smoke Monster, wasn’t captured by the Others, didn’t live in Dharma, wasn’t an O6 celebrity. He has never physically time travelled. Except for his daytripping consciousness, hIs life has been on a linear path since the beginning. He has existed mostly on the fringes of the plot.
But in other ways, Desmond is a nexus for all of LOST’s most important themes and plotlines. Although he has not personally time travelled, the mysteries of time travel have been mostly revealed to us through him. He embodies the theme of romantic love at its most idealized and perfect. He bears the name of David Hume, the great Enlightenment philosopher who taught that fate and free will are not inconsistent with one another, but interdependent. And while he isn’t a candidate in the same sense as the six uncrossed names on the Monster’s cave, he is so exceptional that he may be far more vital than any of them in the end.
Of course we’ve got more than a mere Desmond to deal with now. We’ve also got to consider OtherDesmond. Like all of Season Six’s OtherPeople, he’s different but also the same as the Desmond we’ve known.
This version is a super successful globetrotting dealmaker for the great and powerful OtherWidmore. In Flashes Before Your Eyes, Charles Widmore used a bottle of McCutcheon’s scotch to demonstrate to Desmond just how little he thought of him.
He appeared to pour them each a drink, but ended up pouring only one and drinking it alone, explaining to Desmond that, no offense, but his existence was worth less to Widmore than a spitball of distilled barley mash. Charles Widmore made no secret of the fact that he held Desmond Hume in utter contempt.
Things are quite the opposite in OtherLOST. There Charles holds Desmond in high regard. He considers him indispensable.
A point is made to show that OtherDesmond not only gets his own glass of precious McCutcheon whiskey, he even gets a hug!
To complete the comparison, in case you were somehow missing it, OtherCharles loudly proclaims that “nothing’s too good” for OtherDesmond.
OtherDes may be a power player, but he still seems like a really nice guy. He’s polite, friendly and not at all condescending to his underlings, despite his elite social stature. Sure, he’s kind of a slave to Charles Widmore, but he seems satisfied with the perks.
When he meets up with OtherEloise, she reminds him that he now has the one thing he always wanted most – the respect of Charles Widmore. It’s a very odd thing to say, actually. Sure, Desmond and Widmore have always had a contentious relationship.
But how did Eloise know that? Isn’t she meeting Desmond for the very first time? With that remark, a window creaks open on the possibility that Lady Eloise may bear more responsibility for the existence of OtherLOST than we’ve imagined. She makes it sound like Desmond has been given some kind of reward. Like someone decided what it was he wanted most and then created a world where he could have it.
It’s true that Desmond once craved Widmore’s approval. In fact, as we saw in Flashes Before Your Eyes, Widmore’s contempt was what sent Desmond into the tailspin that landed him on the Island. But how could you create a wish fulfillment existence for Desmond and not include Penny? And why position him in a world where she’d be right under his nose the whole time and then expect him not to find her?
Eloise made it pretty clear she wanted Desmond nowhere near Penny. She was probably right in guessing that once these two crazy kids found each other again, something was going to kink up her little utopia. But why does Eloise think Desmond is “not ready yet”? Why is finding Penny, or even asking about her, a Violation? A violation of what code, what rulebook? Is this OtherWorld a kind of Matrix? Is Eloise the Oracle?
Neo: But if you already know, how can I make a choice?
The Oracle: Because you didn’t come here to make a choice, you’ve already made it. You’re here to try to understand why you made it.
Eloise is the Queen of Cryptic. She obviously knows far more than she’s letting on. And she’s a control freak par excellence. She knows all the rules.
She also seems to know that Desmond is “The One.” In 316, she told him that he might think he was free, but “The island isn’t done with you yet.”
In Happily Ever After, her OtherHubby Widmore tells Des the very same thing, word for word. This couple may not be any kind of advertisement for the glories of true love, but they sure do seem to have their fingers in every interdimensional pie.
We first met Eloise in Desmond’s centric, Flashes Before Your Eyes. She was the lady selling rings. Even then she was trying to keep Desmond and Penny apart. She told him he should not buy the ring, that he must not marry Penny. Instead he must plod back into the life he’d already lived, making no changes, until he landed back underground in the Swan Hatch, pushing that infernal button until his soul died inside him. With the now familiar apocalyptic warning: ” If you don’t do those things, Desmond David Hume, every single one of us is dead”, Mrs. Hawking had promised Desmond that the only great thing he would ever do was push that bloody button.
“You don’t do it because you choose to, Desmond. You do it because you’re supposed to.”
Des still has to do whatever he’s supposed to do, however unpleasant and even tragic it may be, because otherwise it means … Oblivion? Extinction? Armageddon? Dunno. It’s still not clear. But the point is that Desmond has to do what he has to do, or dire consequences are sure to ensue. That’s a constant. (Also, it rhymes.)
Now unbeknownst to Desmond, or to anyone else back in our original storyline, his two nemeses were inextricably linked. They were Others together back when they were just a couple of kids in love themselves. Eloise, who we’d previously seen wearing the pin of the Ouroboros
was seen in this episode wearing a flashy little bit of jewelry
that looked very much like the kind of thing the Others burned into Juliet’s back the time she “violated” their rules.
The most important thing about Widmore and Eloise’s connection was this guy. Their pride and joy, their only begotten son.
In OriginalLOST, Daniel was given the name of Faraday. Why? We will never know. It was probably a quickie way of cuing us to his electromagnetic purpose within the plot. But why did his Mom choose it? It wasn’t her name. It’s hard to get into the head of the woman we formerly knew as Eloise Hawking.
She’s the one that tore her budding piano genius away from his instrument and pushed him towards his brain frying mastery of quantum physics, apparently all so she could manipulate his life to the point where he could time travel back to when she was pregnant with him, so she could shoot him dead and kill him … and then go and give birth to him. Original Eloise made Mommy Dearest look like Mother Theresa.
But OtherEloise has been given – or has stolen – a second chance with her bouncing boy. She learned her lesson. In her alt reality lifeboat existence, she nurtured his musical gifts, she married his father, and their boy was allowed to thrive and grow into a coddled, pampered rich kid tickling the ivories while living in their swank gilded cage. It’s entirely possible that this entire universe of OtherLOST is nothing more than Eloise’s elaborate attempt to make up for all her wrongs and finally give her child the life she’d always wanted for him.
It was inevitable that Daniel and Desmond’s stories would collide. After their partnership in The Constant these two will be forever linked. Naturally, since they’re in Mirrorland, Daniel first appeared to Desmond as a reflection.
Although we were told OtherDaniel was a musician, he seemed remarkably unchanged. Same skinny tie and untucked shirt. Like a uniform. Only since he plays piano, now he gets a goofy hat!
Other icons of Daniel’s history were scattered about the episode. Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu – the piece we saw him practicing as a boy.
The same piece David Shephard played for his audition to conservatory.
A white lab animal. This one named Angstrom. (Book alert! See John Updike.)
Clever names for doomed test subjects are part of DesBacks. Who could forget Daniel Faraday’s dearly beloved Eloise?
OtherDaniel still carries his trusty notebook. He confessed he’d been spending time staring at a chocolate eating redhead at the museum – obviously the floozy known as Charlotte Lewis, last seen shagging Detective Ford’s brains out on a blind date – and just the sight of this ethereal creature had inspired him to an almost out of body experience, where he was able to scribble down this diagram proving …
that he, Daniel NotFaraday, had somehow invented a way to create a new universe through the miracle of nuclear fission! And they were all living in it now!
He’d prevented the still unexplained “catastrophic incident” by detonating a bomb to “release all the energy”. Sorry, but I still can’t tell if the creation of this brave new world is supposed to be a good thing or a bad thing. Hell, I don’t even know if the catastrophic incident was prevented and that’s why we have OtherLOST or whether we have OtherLOST because they failed to prevent the catastrophic incident! Come on, admit it. You don’t know either, right?
But I’m pretty sure, after OtherDaniel’s speech, that we are meant to think that what Daniel felt for OtherCharlotte was a blinding kind of pure distilled love, so powerful that he had a savant like flash and this brilliant dimension busting mathematical formula just splashed out of his head. At first I didn’t get this, because to be honest with you, the whole Daniel – Charlotte thing never seemed to be all that. For me, it was one of those dull side non-romances they scatter around on LOST, one of the devices whose primary purpose seemed to be killing off the extraneous womenfolk.
It seems a little over the top to call them one another’s “true love” or to credit them with Daniel’s momentary burst of inexplicable genius. It’s not like Charlotte is even Daniel’s constant, right? Because, we all know who that is.
And lord knows, OtherCharlotte does not seem to be pining for the geek who’s stalking her at the museum.
So what is Daniel talking about when he describes this mind altering love he feels for Charlotte? I think he’s talking about her.
The little girl who couldn’t eat chocolate before dinner, the child who grew up to die in Daniel’s arms, the child that inspired him to invent a way to link Imaginary Time with Real Space
so he could create a new timeline where she wouldn’t have to die. And now, even though his mind can’t connect the dots, OtherDaniel is remembering that the reason he found a way to blow up the world was the love he felt back then, in a time when he was someone else.
That brings us to the Constant part of every Desmond episode. The love part, the Penny part. As we know too well, Desmond and magnetic objects are not a good mix. Desmond being strapped into the claustrophobia chamber like Hannibal Lector may have been the scariest scene in the episode.
Once again, he was a prisoner trapped in a magnetically charged enclosed space, with nothing but a button to push.
“Magnetic events” are the catalysts for Desmond’s mind travel and this time his mind traveled, not in time or in space, but into another … dimension. Or something. Whatever separates parallel coexisting universes. I couldn’t find it on google, so I can’t say what they call it, but when Desmond’s mind is magnetized, it can topple even that barrier. The sequence of honey infused images that flashed before Desmond’s eyes in the MRI machine flooded his memory with Penny-ness.
How they met, loved, lost, found one another, how together they created a beautiful child. OtherDesmond was seeing Original Penny and little Charlie through Original Desmond’s eyes, and yet somehow it was as if he were remembering his own past experiences. Which he couldn’t have done, since he’s lived his entire life in OtherLOST.
That set him off on his quest to reconnect with his interdimensional constant. When he found Penny again, even though technically she wasn’t the woman in his memories at all, it was like the perfect eHarmony meet up. Just like they describe on the ads. They were already perfectly matched across all 29 Dimensions of Compatibility.
It was cool to see them return to the site of the famous stair jogging scene between Jack and Desmond in Man of Science, Man of Faith.
The place where we got our first ever glimpse of Desmond Hume.
We just have to accept that OtherPenny, despite being completely alone in a vast, dark football stadium, put out her hand to the stranger who surprised her, rather than, I don’t know, a police whistle or a canister of mace. Maybe that was also the power of Love. She felt his aura and knew he was “the one”.
Even the way he passed out like a sack of flour didn’t diminish his charm in her eyes. Most women would have gone for the cell phone panic button by this point, but Penny just waited patiently for him to resume consciousness and ask her out on a date. For coffee. Naturally. “Coffee” has become the new codespeak for “let’s hook up in OtherLOST.”
They arranged to meet in an hour at the corner of Sweetzer and Melrose. Just for the record, and as a pretty cute point of interest, it seems that there is no coffee shop at the corner of Sweetzer and Melrose in L.A. There is a little shop there, however. An antique shop. Named, oh so appropriately, Thanks for the Memories. I just want to say this is maybe my favorite Easter Egg of the season. Touche, Darlton. Very clever.
After finally finding the Penny that he didn’t know he was looking for, Desmond was a changed man. Right away, he got his man Minkowski on the job of locating the manifest of all Oceanic 815 passengers. You know, because that’s part of the standard job description for L.A. limo drivers.
Why does Desmond only want to show his big secret to the other passengers of Flight 815? How did he make that connection? And why does he want to show it to them, assuming of course that he’s able? What does he expect that to accomplish? Does he think this window into a concurrent reality is the kind of revelation all of them want to know about? Or has he had some other kind of epiphany that he is convinced they all need to know about?
That question brings us to the sequence that was, for me, the heart of the episode.
Both of the guys giving Desmond advice from the lovelorn in this episode were musicians. Like OtherDesmond, OtherCharlie seems to be much more successful at what he does. In Greatest Hits, Charlie remembered when he and Liam heard their song on the radio. It was one of the greatest moments of his life.
But in this episode, Charlie is jaded to success. In OtherLOST, Driveshaft isn’t a one hit wonder. They’ve hit the big time.
In the hierarchy of the DesmondVerse, Charlie’s role is Jester. However, of all the escorts Des ran into on his little timespace adventure this week, I think Charlie spoke the most truth.
“I am better than art thou. I am a fool, thou art nothing.” – King Lear
Charlie also spoke to Desmond about the power of love. He described a near beatific vision of a blonde whose very presence engulfed him in a state of pure rapturous bliss. I can see why Jeff Jensen got the sense he was talking about his heroin filled Virgin Marys, because it sure sounded more like a drug induced euphoria than like any kind of earthly love between human beings. But I’m pretty sure we were meant to assume he was talking about Claire
– who he never even noticed was right there on the same plane with him –
but the description he gave didn’t sound like he was describing a person. It sounded like he was describing … Nirvana.
NIRVANA:n. In the Buddhist religion, a state of pleasurable annihilation awarded to the wise, particularly to the wise enough to understand it. – Ambrose Bierce, Devil’s Dictionary
Charlie seemed to be describing a near death experience, a feeling so transcendant it doesn’t exist in this mortal realm.
And of course one of the things we need to remember about Charlie is that in the only reality we’ve ever really known him in, he is, in fact … quite DEAD.
Death is the actual endpoint of all of our journeys, a destination none of us are going to be able to avoid. The entire underwater sequence brought me back to Season Three in a big way. It really hit home to me, in a way the rest of the episode did not.
For one thing, the whole underwater experience seems like it’s going to become increasingly relevant. Underwater is where this whole thing seems to be headed.
But I also loved this sequence because it reminded me of how much LOST used to make me feel. I have to confess I’m one of those fans who has felt that, ever since Darlton began to write towards their end date, the show’s abandonment of its earlier character driven storylines sucked a lot of the heart out of the show for me. I’ve heard the endless crowing of the fanboys that Seasons 4 and 5 have represented a refined acme of all that is best about LOST. But sorry, I just can’t agree.
Watching the water crash through the windshield, just like it had crashed through the portal of the Looking Glass hatch …
reminded me of how much more emotional investment I had in the stories and the characters back then. When Charlie died, it felt real. It was a true loss, just like death is in the real world. Charlie’s death meant something. He died for love. He died a hero.
He made a choice to die. And he bore the consequence of his choice. The ultimate consequence. Death.
“Reality means you live until you die. The real truth is nobody wants reality.” – Chuck Palahniuk
Watching him play Frogger with the L.A. traffic, it looks like Charlie wants to get back to that state as soon as he possibly can.
But Desmond presents Charlie with a choice. He can keep drinking or he can leave the bar. Sounds simple enough. However, as Charlie says, and as is so typical of LOST, it’s not much of a choice. Charlie has the choice of a luxury hotel, piles of money and the undying gratitude of the ominpotent King Widmore … or he can just go to hell and try and score a fix on a corner somewhere. Seems like a no brainer. But that’s assuming that Fried Charlie still has a brain. Charlie scoffs at the idea of choice. And he’s actually got an excellent point.
One of the continuing frustrations of LOST for me is the disjointed and inconsistent way they’ve presented us with the idea of Choice. Free Will. How much choice did any of the characters ever have over their initial fate of being dumped out of the sky onto LOST Island? How much choice do they have even now, as an entire OtherWorld of different choicemaking swirls around them, just outside their dimensonal perceptions?
Charlie returns the favor to Desmond and presents him with an even more Hobsonian choice. He can get out of the car or he can be “shown” the thing that Charlie knows.
As he once asked Mrs. Hawking “Why would I ever go to an Island?”, Desmond asks Charlie “Why would I get out of the car?” Just as Charlie chooses to make his choice for him.
“You don’t do it because you choose to, Desmond. You do it because you’re supposed to.”
I think it all comes back to another old school LOST Easter Egg, one of those we’ve lost sight of over the years: Enlightenment Philosophers.
David Hume, 18th century Scottish philosopher, and namesake to our own Scottish timetravelling mascot, grappled with the dilemma of determinism vs. free will. Ultimately he decided that free will was not incompatible with a fate-based view of the universe, because in his view, the only way a person could make an actual “free” choice was if they knew ahead of time what the consequences would be. In other words, unless cause and effect were fixed and immutable, a person would be unable to evaluate the potential consequences of his actions and would therefore never have any basis on which to make a choice. In Hume’s philosophy, it’s the consequences of our choices that make them free. Without consequence, choice is meaningless.
This, I think, is the dilemma we are presented with by the alternate parallel reality of OtherLOST. The way I see it, there are two possible outcomes in front of us. Either the Sideways World is a false world, an illusion, as both Charlie and Daniel implied, and must be destroyed. Or the Sideways World will become the ultimate reality.
Let’s take the second possibility first. Perhaps OtherLOST is the clean slate we heard talked about as far back as Season One’s Tabula Rasa. Maybe all of them will die on the Island – which seems ever more likely each week – and thanks to Desmond’s discovery of the powers of “spectacular, consciousness altering love”, all of their consciousnesses will just time trip over to the fresh shiny new world where they can get a spectacular, consciousness altered do-over. They’ll be allowed to pack up only the schmoopiest of their memories, the ones drenched in honey colored memories of blissful, rapturous love, and armed with that battery pack of Twu Wuv, they’ll live out the rest of their existences in a better, happier place. A place without magical mystery Islands and course corrections and warring gods and tropical polar bears. A happy ever after befitting the fairy tale title of this episode. That would be nice I guess. A kind of bland, lifeless denouement to my way of thinking, but it fits with a St. Elsewhere snowglobe kind of ending. I think it’s possible. Anything’s possible with this freaking show.
But here’s the problem with it. It’s also a world without Consequence. It’s a world where it doesn’t matter that Sawyer killed an innocent shrimp seller. It doesn’t matter that Kate was the only mother Aaron ever knew. Or that Sayid shot a 12 year old kid for the crime of who he’d grow up to be. It doesn’t matter that Locke went on a mad odyssey sacrificing his life trying to be special. It doesn’t matter that Jack and his Dad crisscrossed time and space trying to hunt one another down and thrash out their daddy issues. Hurley’s numbers don’t matter. It doesn’t matter that Sun and Jin made a baby girl together, who is growing up somewhere in Korea, waiting for her mommy and daddy to come home. None of it matters. All the consequences of all the choices just get brushed into the trashpan and everyone starts over fresh, as new people, making new choices. But if consequence is an irrelevance, then what meaning will those new choices have? What is the point of Choice without Consequence?
Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.
– Philip K. Dick
Charlie tells Desmond that the vision he had of Claire was real. It was the truth. Is that so? Maybe it is, but maybe it’s not in the literal sense that we may be understanding it. As I noted, there was little in Charlie’s orgasmically ecstatic speech that sounded like human love the way we experience it here on earth.
It’s easy to idealize love, but the transcendent love Charlie is describing happens in the realm of deep Zen meditation, not in the bedrooms and kitchens and streets and parks of our workaday world.
The best that most of us can ever hope to experience in our human relationships is a love that transforms us, that makes us better people. The kind of love Charlie died for.
The kind that Sawyer felt when he jumped from the helicopter. The kind that Kate felt when she left Aaron behind to find his mother.
The kind of love that has consequences. The kind of love that has meaning precisely because of all the blood, sweat and tears that’s invested in it. The kind of love that requires sacrifices.
What sacrifice is Charles Widmore referring to when he says he intends to ask one of Desmond? Is he asking Desmond to help save the world that his little boy lives in? Or is he asking him to help destroy it – and little Charlie along with it – so they can all hop-skip over to OtherLOST?
I think I’m finally starting to figure out why children have always been such an important feature of the LOST story. By far the most striking difference betweeen this season’s two universes has been this one.
Some might argue that another Charlie Hume can be effortlessly conceived in an OtherLOST scenario. I think the science of genetics would beg to differ with that theory, but that’s beside the point. The creation of David Shephard is proof that not everything is interchangeable between our two worlds. There is no David in Original LOST and there never will be. And if OtherLOST is a false “reality” that must be collapsed, then the blue eyed prodigy is going to disappear instantly, in the blink of an eye. And if he lives, then Ji Yeon, Charlie Hume, even poor unwanted little Clementine … all get sucked into the vacuum of nonexistence. However this thing ends, there are consequences involved.
Perhaps David is the clue we need to keep our eyes on then. It forces us to ask ourselves what is the nature of our own reality? Of our existence as separate individuals, each of us a unique and irreplaceable human being. Are we just the inevitable cellular results of our own encoded DNA? Or is our essence contained in the sum total of our experiences? Of what we’ve thought and done. Of who we’ve loved, hated, lost, found. Most of all, can we ever be separated from the consequences of the choices we’ve made?
And the moral of that is: Be what you would seem to be, or if you’d like it put more simply: Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise. – The Duchess in Alice in Wonderland
In true reality, the kind we all have to live with, this isn’t a question. We never ever get the chance to escape the consequences of our choices. In point of fact, those consequences are what our existence is all about. It’s the only thing it’s about. We may all indulge in juvenile fantasies of erasing the past, but the option to escape reality is one none of us will ever have. Most of us spend our lives distracted by the simulacra of the material world, unable to see the underlying Truth behind our existence. Most of us spend our lives living in some self created version of Plato’s cave.
That’s why I think the metaphor of the Matrix is such a powerful one for this season of Lost.
But I believe that, as a species, human beings define their reality through suffering and misery. The perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from.
For all the fantasy of its setting, the Matrix presented us with a choice as profoundly real as the one the Buddha wrestled with in the years before time. Will we stay asleep in this world or will we awake to reality?
My friend, what are you?
Are you a god?”
“No”said the Buddha.
“Well, then, are you a wizard?”
“Are you a man?”
“Well, my friend, then what are you?”
The Buddha replied,
“I am awake.”
LOST is also a fantasy, and maybe in the end, that’s all it will be. Maybe fans will be satisfied with a synthetic and sentimental end, such as many interpreted this episode to be pointing at, an ending where “spectacular, consciousness altering love” – at least as experienced by the male halves of the three psuedo-couples in this episode – buys them a free pass out of reality and into an up and running OtherVerse where none of their misbegotten choices will ever haunt them again.
Hell, I’m ready for anything in these last few episodes. Certainly all doors are still open. There’s still time for ancient Egyptian sailors to disembark on Hydra Island. Or for unicorns to come flying in and carry all the Candidates away on their backs. Who knows? Eloise might pull off that hair helmet and reveal that underneath it all, she’s been an alien being all this time.
Or maybe they’ll just reveal that OtherLOST was nothing more than one last entertaining diversion. A place for everyone who doesn’t really exist to have one last curtain call. A Bohemian Rhapsody for the Zombie Season.
That might be fun, right? It would certainly be Spectacular! If slightly less than Consciousness Altering.
Nothing can stop each of us from having our own personal preferences. Speaking for myself, the only thing I ask from any fantasy is that it have a metaphor within it that I can apply somehow to the world as I know it. In The Matrix, Neo has a choice. He can take the blue pill and go back to sleep, or he can take the red pill and Morpheus will show him “how deep the rabbit-hole goes.” Personally, I’m hoping Desmond chooses to see how deep the rabbit hole goes.
As OtherWidmore tells him, he is a man without attachments. Were we meant to take the obvious implication from that, that poor OtherDesmond had no love in his life and was to be pitied for it? Should we be assuming that non-attachment is a bad thing? Both Christ and the Buddha taught that freedom from worldly attachents was the essential first step to any kind of enlightenment.
Widmore seems to be prepping Desmond for some final battle with the Smoke Monster, a battle that his magnetic superpowers make him uniquely qualified to wage. At the end of the episode we see that Desmond is more than willing now to cooperate. What has happened to him? What did that last gargantuan struggle with the EMF Beastie do to him?
There’s no saying, but he seems to have attained a Zen like state of Enlightenment. In both worlds. He agrees to work with Widmore.Then he turns around and leaves just as easily with the impassively murderous Sayid.
It’s like he knows now that there’s no point in reasoning any of this out, because he’s seen the ultimate truth.
OtherDesmond seems to have had the same revelation. He needs to find the other 815-ers, not to tell them anything, but to show them. This “show, not tell” mantra is repeated throughout the episode so many times that I think it’s wise for us to pay attention to it. But once everyone has understood the thing that Desmond is about to show them, what choices will that leave them? Will they choose to abandon the world of reality and hop aboard the spaceship of perpetual fantasy? Or will they stay put and discover the thing that is real, the thing that is true?
Make truth your island.
Make truth your refuge.
There is no other refuge.