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?