Flashes Before Your Eyes

Many moments in this episode made me sit back, gasp, smile in wonder. But for all the mythology revealed to us in “Flashes Before Your Eyes,” I most savored the sight of our old friends. Charlie, Hurley, Locke, Sayid, Sun… I didn’t even know how much I missed them until I saw them on screen again. And when Charlie asks, “What happened?” I actually needed Locke’s cryptic response to catch me up on the main island storyline. Alas, we only see the gang briefly before diving into Desmond’s flashback (if that’s what it was)… but there was more than enough story and clues and easter eggs to fill the hour.

Even though I count myself more a fan of the characters than the “mystery” of the show, “Flashes Before Your Eyes” gave one of the most satisfying, mystifying servings of mythology in seemingly ages. The questions this episode raise go much deeper than who the Others are, and get straight to the fundamentals: choice or destiny, coincidence or fate, free will or futility. Does what Desmond experience prove that the ultimate outcome is predetermined? Or is it actually our first glimpse of the courage needed to change things?The mysterious old lady (with the unspoken but telling name of “Ms. Hawking,” played by the elegantly eerie Fionnula Flanagan) pierces our little “LOST” tableau with a blizzard of assertions. “The universe unfortunately has a way of course-correcting,” says she. “You don’t do it because you choose to, you do it because you’re supposed to.” Desmond, initially and naturally defiant, suddenly comes to believe her, “reminded” of the future by the simple photograph. But he changes his mind twice more: in the aftermath of the hatch implosion, he begs for another chance to change things. Caught up to “real time,” though, he tells Charlie he’s more sure than ever that he can’t.

So which is it? My head hurts. We’re going to have to watch that again, indeed.

Penny sending Desmond to seek a job from her powerful father carried shades of Sun and Jin. But Desmond doesn’t grovel, and Mr. Widmore quite elegantly articulates his contempt for his daughter’s suitor. The humiliation was obviously key to the Desmond we now know… joining the military, racing around the world, seeking to do something important (even if it is pushing a button). I’m not sure whether Desmond ever did have those conversations with Ms. Hawking, but even when we first meet Desmond in the hatch, he’s conflicted about whether he’s saving the world or not. As are we all.

Jen’s theory? The failure to input the numbers resets time. Perhaps they’ll find the balloon again, says she. My theory? The exact opposite. That there has been a time loop of some kind, a distortion at least, but that the failsafe “broke the spell,” as it were. And “LOST” will ultimately be the story of people able to change their destiny who had come to believe they couldn’t.

What if Ms. Hawking is Penny Widmore? Her annoyance at Desmond’s belief that he was going to change, that he was going to propose, sure seemed a little… personal.

But that could just be the whiskey talking.

Both Desmond and Charlie are told they are good people. It’s been a while since we’ve had one of those categorical declarations. And then there’s the red. The half-painted red walls in Desmond’s “rat trap” (“Future” brand paint, in fact). The red shoes of the ill-fated pedestrian. The… well, it was important, anyway.

Even with all the… puzzles (“mindfucks,” suggests Jen), tonight’s episode also brought us lots to smile about. Jen enjoyed the drunken beach scene with Desmond, Charlie and Hurley. “He’s wankered,” Charlie determines. Hurley does nickname duties with “Desmondo.” The football game was sponsored by Apollo bars. Mr. Widmore’s office was dominated by a painting of a polar bear. And his office is 815… a number that was, of course, as familiar to Desmond as it was to us.

That picture of Desmond and Penny at the marina — which goes back to the start of Season 2 — raises an interesting question… if it’s not a continuity error. Desmond apparently cherished that photo, taken on the pier, and kept it with him since that painful day. But if there was only one copy, how exactly did Penny have a copy on her nightstand at the end of Season 2, when we first meet her in “real time”? Or — brain freeze! — was it?

“LOST” Locations: There were a lot of location shoots for this episode. Ms. Hawking’s antique store was the McClain’s Auctions space at 1 N. King (a.k.a. Locke’s Walkabout travel agency). The Widmore lobby was 1132 Bishop Street. The Widmore headquarters was the Bank of Hawaii building on Fort Street, which itself became London (with its London Underground entrance).
The “Research Library” where Desmond found his friend Donovan was Aliiolani Hale, home of the Hawaii Supreme Court. The pub was O’Toole’s on Nuuanu Ave., which is where Desmond later spots the military recruiting poster. And the pier with the souvenir photographer? Bishop Museum, of all places… a landmark that’s far, far inland.

  • The return of “Make Your Own Kind of Music” had me beaming. And Charlie’s performance of “Wonderwall,” Jen notes, gives us a convenient time frame (after October 1995).
  • The bartender that doesn’t get hit with a cricket bat is Michael Titterton, president and general manager of KHPR, the local public radio station. Locals know that British accent anywhere.
  • Claire has bangs now? And speaking of Claire… did you spot Hayden Panettiere (cheerleader Claire on “Heroes”) in the commercial for Neutrogena?
  • Desmond in the rain: Shawshank Redemption? Ring tossed in the ocean: Lord of the Rings?

62 Responses to “Flashes Before Your Eyes”

  1. Pat says:

    What if Desmond isn’t really phisicaly time travelling or just because of
    the Hatch explosion gain some ability of time perception which is beyond abilities of a normal person?What if Ms.Hawkins whas right about the whole idea of destiny but the Hatch explosion somehow changed this situation?

  2. Dave says:

    Wow. Lots of good food for thought.

    John above made an interesting connection to a puzzle, wherein Desmond keeps repeating in a loop until he gets things “right.” Sounds a lot like the cage Sawyer was in trying to get the fish biscuit. Maybe Desmond’s life is a big “Skinner box.”

    And Hobbs above asks, “If Des really has relived this ‘loop’ over, and over and has picked up on things, and has come to the realization that he is stuck in this continual loop…why then was he so surprised when he realized that it was him who may have brought down the plane on 9/22/2004? Or why was he so surprised to hear Locke banging his head against the hatch the night he nearly killed himself?” I guess by the same logic, it’s not that he’s precognisant of everything. He continues to press the buttons out of the understanding that that’s the way to “solve” the island, much like Sawyer keeps pressing the button in the cage. You can’t know exactly which steps to go through.

    However… and this is my big beef with this episode… the continual theme of the show is not to mistake FATE for COINCIDENCE. It’s essentially a question of free will. This episode seems to argue that Desmond does not have free will, and what will be, will be… it’s his fate. Yet it may just be coincidence. It’s similar to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle (or for you non-scientists, Back to the Future), where simply the act of measuring a particle affects its being and alters it. You can NEVER say, “if Desmond hadn’t done [X], then [Y] wouldn’t have happened, because we live in a realm of linear time. Even if hypothetically there were a loop, you still only live linearly.

    And I suppose from a philosophical perspective (I never studied philosophy), one could argue that it is a uniquely human behavior to delude ourselves into thinking that time is non-linear, because it’s a construct only in our minds. Even if other people agree with you, and you decide this is part of a shared reality, literally everything that exists could be a construct of your mind’s eye. Maybe Desmond imagined this whole thing. Maybe he’s insane.

    The entire episode reminds me of the Hurley flashback with Dave. Was it a cool episode? Yup. Did it get into the mythology? Sure, I guess so. But ultimately it was a cop-out and didn’t “answer” any questions. I’m a bit surprised to see how overwhelmingly glowingly everyone saw this when the “Dave” episode last season was not as well-received.

    One neat thought I had… we still haven’t learned what happened to Desmond between when he ran away last season and then reappeared out of nowhere. Perhaps some of these flashbacks from this episode relate to the time missing… hole in the time-space continuuum… too much McCutcheon’s… a sampling of Locke’s trippy poi… a swift beating with a cricket bat… who knows.

    Two other minor points, don’t know if anyone has any thoughts:
    1) This is the first episode to occur exclusively “off island” and in flashbacks aside from the open and close. Very different framework. Wonder if the writers are getting fatigued or if there was a subtle point they were trying to make.
    2) Clearly, the Dharma people are powerful. While their role as to getting the Losties on the plane, etc, is debatable (fate vs coincidence again), it seems VERY clear that they orchestrated Juliet’s ex-husband being hit by a bus. Is it that much of a stretch to think that they could have shown a football match on a TV in a crowded bar and had someone beat Des about the head with a cricket bat?

  3. Dave says:

    PS — SHOCKED that nobody mentioned anything about the trailer for this week’s episode! SHOCKED! The “good people” (aka the abductees) are BACK!

  4. Dave says:

    Although now I think about it. Maybe it was coincidence that Dr Burke was hit by a bus and that was what made Juliet join the Others. Think about the unbelievable string of coincidences that caused human life to evolve. (Though I suppose some might argue it wasn’t coincidence at all…)

  5. MontaukJimbo says:

    Okay I have been Outta this Loop for a Bit.
    B U T >> Charlie has Died at least THREE TIMES Maybe FOUR if you include the Crash
    1-He got Hung by Ethan
    2-Lightning
    3-Drowned
    –1 A Crash in the Toilet Day
    –1 B How many times in Past has he O-Ded on Horse
    –1 C Hatch Explosion
    –1 D Locke almost Beat him to Death
    –1 E Polar Bear almost Ate him Twice
    —in Jungle
    —when Locke went to rescue Eko.
    I may have gilded the Lilly a bit but
    Seems like everyBody is Saving young Charles from the Great Beyond.

  6. Tawl says:

    Is Desmond slowly realizing that he is in a time-loop with each complete pass of events in the loop. And after each repeat of the loop, he remembers just a little bit more than he did last time. (Deju vu?).

    I faintly remember someone telling me that Lost is really a love story about Desmond and Penny? (or maybe this is my Deju vu?).

    “Red” was a symbolic color used in the movie “Sixth Sense.” Each time the color red appeared, a significant event or change was about to take place.

    Have you noticed that after each successive copy that you make of something on a copy machine, more and more details are “Lost” than were found in the original? This time-loop could be like a copy machine, which explains why the world has and is continuing to shrink and hold less details and “reality.” This could also be why the Lost characters have been showing up in other flashbacks, whereas this might not have been the case when the past was actually lived for the first time.

    With each cycle of the time-loop, the world is becoming a smaller place, a “Snow Globe” where reality will continue to diminish unless the time-loop can be broken.

  7. eros says:

    What if Desmond’s mind gets reset (timewarped) everytime Charlie dies. Desmond has obviously lived his life at least 5 times or he would not know how Charlie dies each time. When Charlie died in the hatch was the first time Desmond starting having the ‘power to foretell the futre” or so it seemed. If you watch the start of this episode and the end of the episode when Desmond attacks Charlie……they are different. At the start of the show Desmond attacks and Hurley lays there on his stomach and just says ‘dude’. The time Desmond attacks at the end of the show Hurley actually gets him off Charlie. I believe that Desmond actually killed Charlie at the start of the show which sent him back to one of his mind resets. He relived the events up to when he killed Charlie except this time he doesn’t kill Charlie for either choice or because Hurley pushes him off. Charlie dying resets Desmonds mind for some reason.

  8. Kathleen says:

    I’m gonna be really really mad if they kill Charlie! I think Desmond can save him…and he better or he will very quickly become my least favorite character 😐

  9. HPolSixe says:

    Ah the old time travel schtick. HG Wells set the framework when his time traveller can’t save his girl. Star Trek TNG had a similar plot episode, the E is going thru a loop and the crew slowly builds up the deja vu. It sure looks like the Lost writers keep adding to the stew, making it up as we go?

  10. Fernando says:

    I was dissapointed as well. I keep it clear in my mind that the producers say “there is a scientific explanation for everything happening on the island. And when it is revealed, it is going to blow everyone away”. Well, time travel IS NOT part of a sicentific explanation. so????

  11. Pat says:

    Don’t know we people keep talking about the timeloop stuff while there’s no real clues to confirm that theory.

  12. Bill says:

    If this really is a story about time-looping, I just hope it doesn’t get as hard to understand or as inane as “Back to the Future II”. Advice to writers – Keep it real.

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