Flashes Before Your Eyes (S3, ep. 8)

Desmond: I’ve tried, brother. I’ve tried twice to save you, but the universe has a way of course correcting and — and I can’t stop it forever. I’m sorry. I’m sorry because no matter what I try to do you’re going to die, Charlie.

Thoughts:

• Great Hurley/Charlie Exchange:

Hurley: “Dude, I don’t know about this.”
Charlie: “See, you’re looking this all wrong. He would want us to do this.”
Hurley: “He would want us to ransack his tent and take his stash? Yeah, that sounds exactly like Sawyer.”
Charlie: “Well, he stole all this in the first place. I mean, people need food. They need medical supplies. They need…shocking amounts of pornography.”

• Locke tells Charlie and Hurley that ‘the Island’ killed Eko. When Charlie asks what that means, Locke responds by saying “you know what that means.” Uh, actually, I suspect he doesn’t. I sure as hell don’t.

It’s still a verrry open question: is the Island sentient? Does it ‘think’? Does it have ‘plans’? Are the Smoke Monster and/or the MiB somehow extensions of the Island itself? I’ve theorized that this may be the case – that the person we know as the Man in Black, glimpsed only briefly in the finale for Season 5, is a personification of the Island’s power/intelligence. I’ve also suggested, in the alternate, that the Island and the MiB may metaphorically resemble the Gnostic conception of an Ultimate, Remote Deity and a corrupt-seeming Demiurge, respectively. But we’re a full season away from knowing the answer(s) to any of this, and your guess, frankly, is as good as mine.

• Needy Charlie really bothers me. I get it, and it works, but he still irritates me.

Hurley: “Locke doesn’t know about anything except knives and fishing.”

• That’s a pretty insightful observation from good ol’ Hurley, who tends to be very good at seeing the truth in people. It’s little wonder, given his gift in this area, that Hurley is also able to see Jacob’s cabin.

Desmond: “What kind of whiskey is that?”
Charlie: “It’s, uh — it just says MacCutcheon.”
Desmond: “Alright then, let’s have it. No, the bottle, brother. I mean, if you’ve come to drink, let’s drink.”

• First of all, I heartily agree with Desmond’s drinking philosophy. Secondly, I love the detail lathed onto this fictional whiskey during the course of this episode.

• More Hurley/Charlie(/Desmond) greatness:

Hurley: Hey, do you know any songs about drinking and fighting and girls with one leg?
Charlie: Well, girls with (Desmond joins in) one leg and a heart of gold!

• I’ve come to the conclusion that, as an audience member, I enjoy being fucked with. A perfect example of this: When Desmond turns the failsafe key and we suddenly see him lying in a pool of what looks like his own blood. Only it isn’t blood – its paint, and he’s….in an apartment with Penny?

And with that, Lost drops time travel straight into our laps. Desmond appears to ‘consciousness-travel’ in this episode – his mind slipping back into his past body in a manner similar to the way we’ll see consciousness-travel described and portrayed in later seasons.

• I love the way in which the ‘present’ reality of the Swan Station, with it’s 108 minute countdown and alarm, intrudes on the ‘past’ reality of Desmond’s experience with Penny.

• Widmore’s character has grown so much in importance both on a character level and on a show-mythology level that I can’t help but view his appearance here in a new light as well. For instance: Widmore openly displays a painting in his office which prominently features a polar bear, a Buddha and the word ‘Namaste’ scrawled backward. I’m not clear on when Widmore leaves the Island, but he’s around when Dharma establishes itself on the Island. Is this a hint? Was Widmore instrumental in bringing Dharma to the Island? Is that why Dharma was grudgingly tolerated by Richard and the Others?

• Desmond’s encounter with Widmore is a mirror of Jin’s similar encounter with Paik. Only, instead of eagerly agreeing to a job, Desmond simply steps up and asks for Widmore’s permission to marry his daughter. It’s a noble gesture, as Widmore notes, but…

Widmore: “This is a 60 year MacCutcheon, named after Anderson MacCutcheon, esteemed Admiral from the Royal Navy. He retired with more medals than any man before or since — moved to the highlands to see out his remaining years. Admiral MacCutcheon was a great man, Hume. This was his crowning achievement. This swallow is worth more than you could make in a month. To share it with you would be a waste, and a disgrace to the great man who made it — because you, Hume, will never be a great man.”
Desmond: “Mr. Widmore, I know I’m not…”
Widmore: “What you’re not, is worthy of drinking my whiskey. How could you ever be worthy of my daughter?”

Damn.

Just….damn.

But let’s consider something here – it’s possible that Widmore’s attitude toward Desmond is purely motivated by his disdain toward Des’ (lack of) social station. But it’s also possible, given what we’ll learn about Ms. Hawking in this episode, that Widmore is motivated by something else. More on this below.

Charlie (singing): “I said maybe, you’re gonna be the one who saves me…”

• That’s such a wonderful moment. Charlie, busking on the street, crooning a tune by the band Oasis – which was the ‘real world’ inspiration for Charlie’s eventual band, Driveshaft – that’s also, simultaneously, a big hint regarding Desmond and Charlie’s evolving Season 3 relationship.

Donovan: “Your thesis is a bit neat. The wild card part is unpredictability — run the same test ten times, you’ll get ten different outcomes. It’s what makes life so wonderfully…”

• Desmond’s physicist buddy Donovan may be addressing some random grad student in a bar, but his comment would seem to have some serious relevance to Lost’s storyline. Recall the opening scene from the Season 5 finale: Jacob, awaiting the arrival of a ship to the Island, and the MiB asking him why he bothers, because it always ends the same way. “It only ends once,” Jacob responds, “everything before that is just progress.” The unpredictability that Donovan obliquely refers to above is, I’d think, a large part of the reason for Jacob’s seemingly-optimistic statement. It’s also, I think, what Daniel was emphasizing at the end of Season 5 – the possibility of unpredictability within a deterministic system.

• During the game that Desmond watches, you can see ads for Apollo bars, Buttie diapers and the Hanso foundation.

Desmond: I don’t think my failure to impress your father is any occasion to celebrate. Penelope: Well, the occasion is I love you.
Desmond: Why? Why do you love me?
Penelope: Because you’re a good man. In my experience they’re pretty hard to come by.

• Maybe I’m just an irredeemable softie (I am), but that exchange is one of the sweetest bits of dialogue in the show as far as I’m concerned. It’s natural, I think, to feel unworthy of your partner’s love at times – I’ve certainly wondered to myself why it is that my wife chose me  instead of someone with, say, access to large yachts with built-in pools.  Penelope’s reassuring words here are the sort of words I think we all want to hear – that we’re loved because we love – because we try, over and over, to be good, to do right. And despite those reassurances, there’s still that nagging voice, whispering, telling you that, as Desmond claims, “Love’s not enough. Being a good man is not enough.”

MS. HAWKING: Well, I know your name as well as I know that you that don’t ask Penny to marry you. In fact, you break her heart. Well, breaking her heart is, of course, what drives you in a few short years from now to enter that sailing race — to prove her father wrong — which brings you to the island where you spend the next 3 years of your life entering numbers into the computer until you are forced to turn that failsafe key. And if you don’t do those things, Desmond David Hume, every single one of us is dead. So give me that sodding ring.

• Welcome aboard, Ms. Hawking, aka, Evil Angela Lansbury. It’ll be two seasons before we discover who your son is, but already Lost’s writers are laying the bricks down on this particular foundation. Hawking’s appearance here sort of blew my mind the first time I watched this episode, and revisiting it now with the knowledge of what’s to come makes some (but not all) things clearer. For instance, we now know (or suspect, at any rate) that Hawking’s awareness of Desmond’s importance is linked to her son’s conversations with Desmond (which hasn’t happened yet, but simultaneously has happened, as if things weren’t confusing enough) and that her knowledge of time travel shenanigans is due in part to the fact that she comes into possession of her son’s journal upon his death. But the specificity of knowledge that Hawking has about Desmond, about this particular day and these particular events, seems above and beyond what she could learn from that journal. How has she gotten this information?

I’m going to suggest that she’s gotten the information from Widmore, and that she and Widmore have conspired to send Desmond on to the Island at all costs. Whether this is because he wants Des out of his daughter’s life, or because he’s aware that it is Desmond’s ‘destiny’ to go to the Island isn’t clear – but we’ll find out that Widmore has Hawking’s contact info, and he’d certainly be in a better position to inform Hawking about Desmond’s activities during this time period. On top of this, we’ve watched Widmore emphatically underline to Desmond that he isn’t a ‘great man’ like Admiral MacCutcheon – and what is it that Hawking claims?:

Ms. Hawking: You may not like your path, Desmond, but pushing that button is the only truly great thing that you will ever do.

• Two other things worth noting about this conversation: (1) Desmond’s full name is Desmond David Hume. David Hume was a Scottish philosopher and historian who counted John Locke among his major influences. Hume was, famously, a compatibilist – he believed that determinism and free will were compatible, that our free will is shaped by what we’ve already experienced, and this stance is arguably what Lost has settled on in terms of its own storyline. Hume believed that liberty and necessity (free will and determinism) were dependant on one another to give the other meaning; that, like the black and white of the Dharma bagua or the Yin/Yang, the two seemingly-opposing concepts were symbiotic. (2) When Hawking claims that ‘every single one of us is dead,’ I believe she’s referring not to the entirety of humanity (though that’s certainly possible) but to those people who have been, or will be, on the Island.

Ms. Hawking: The universe, unfortunately, has a way of course correcting. That man was supposed to die. That was his path just as it’s your path to go to the island. You don’t do it because you choose to, Desmond. You do it because you’re supposed to.

• On another equally important note: Hawking sets up the basic rules of ‘course correction’ here – the idea that events in time aren’t really malleable – that ‘whatever happened, happened.’ This basic deterministic concept will carry forward into the remaining seasons and bloom fully in Season 5. But the idea of course correction, and the way in which Desmond is shown altering events in an attempt to keep Charlie from dying, also serves as a basic primer on free will and the ability of determined people to change some events in the time stream (even if the ultimate result ends up the same). Lost’s concept of time, as mentioned, appears to be a compatibilist one.

• The pin that Ms. Hawking wears during her scenes appears to be an Ouroboros, an ancient symbol representing the cyclical nature of things, and the concept of an ‘eternal return.’ Gnostic belief holds the symbol’s meaning as ‘eternity,’ and/or ‘the soul of the world.’ Only, this particular pin appears to be a modified Ouroboros, where the snake has let it’s own tail go. A symbol, perhaps, of disunity? Of the breaking of eternity? We still don’t know where Hawking’s allegiances truly lie…and she’s instrumental in getting Jack and Co. to bring Locke’s body back to the Island…

• The shot of Desmond’s ring being dropped into the water is really nice.

• As the episode ends, we learn Desmond’s secret, and the terrible truth – Charlie is scheduled to die, just like those damned teenagers in a Final Destination film, and Desmond’s attempts to save his life may simply be prolonging the inevitable. Lost may be advocating for a compatibilist view of time overall, but Charlie’s ultimate fate looms just over the horizon like a yawning, waiting coffin, putting lie to all these fancy notions of free will, of hope, of escape.

*****

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Season 3

• Not In Portland (S3 ep. 07)
• I Do (S3 ep. 06)
• The Cost of Living (S3 ep. 05)
• Every Man for himself (S3 ep. 04)
• Further Instructions (S3 ep. 03)
• The Glass Ballerina (S3 ep. 02)
• Season 3 Premiere

Season 2

• 
Season 2 finale
• Three Minutes (S2 ep. 22)
• ? (S2 ep. 21)
• Two for The Road (S2 ep. 20)
• S.O.S. (S2 ep. 19)
• Dave (S2 ep. 18)
• Lockdown (S2 ep. 17)
• The Whole Truth (S2 ep. 16)
• Maternity Leave (S2 ep. 15)
One of Them (S2 ep. 14)
The Long Con (S2 ep. 13)
Fire + Water (S2 ep. 12)
The Hunting Party (S2 ep 11)
The 23rd Psalm (S2, ep. 10)
What Kate Did (S2, ep. 9)
Collision (S2, ep. 8)
The Other 48 Days (S2, ep. 7)