Prior to last night, my favorite episode of "Lost" all-time was probably "The Constant", and my favorite episode this season was "Ab Aeterno". As you may notice, those were both episodes that focused entirely on a non-central character while giving us a lot of answers, at least indirectly.
Last night's episode, "Happily Ever After", now tops both of those lists, and definitely fits the above description.
The episode started on the island, with one of "Lost"'s trademark one-eye shots. This time it was Desmond waking up from his submarine sedation, as Widmore's people prepared him for something. Upon finding out that Widmore has brought him back to the island, Desmond freaks out (understandably so, given his history with that place). While this is going on, Jin heads over to some huge building (no idea where that came from, but we'll let it slide, since we didn't really see much of Hydra Island back in Season 3), where Widmore's people are trying to get some kind of experiment going -- and the bunny in the room should have been a dead giveaway as to what they were trying to do. Their first attempt fails, so one of the guys -- let's call him "Red Shirt" -- goes down to the shed, where there are two huge electromagnets. These things looked like giant versions of the base of Tony Stark's chest plate in "Iron Man", which made sense, since they're both electromagnetic technology. Back in the big building, someone figures out that the reason the experiment didn't work is that some power switch wasn't turned on. He flips it, and Red Shirt gets fried while the monitors blink out, freaking everyone out. They go down to the shed to find Red Shirt's body all crispified, which pisses off Widmore for a second, but he's more concerned about getting the room ready for Desmond.
Of course, Widmore doesn't want to fry Desmond, he wants to repeat the event that caused Desmond's consciousness to shift the first time -- the electromagnetic explosion of the Hatch at the end of Season 2, the result of which was seen in Season 3's "Flashes Before Your Eyes". Widmore is very cryptic about why he's doing this, but, then again, that's to be expected. Jin demands to know what's going on. Widmore goes over the whole "catastrophic electromagnetic event" thing, then says. "I need to know that he can do it again. Or we all die." They turn on the machine and Desmond goes through some kind of Dr. Manhattan-esque phasing and passes out.
Flash-sideways through some fluffy clouds (symbolism, much?) and Desmond is staring at an Oceanic Airlines arrival board. Hurley walks by and tells him what carousel their baggage is at, and Desmond heads over there. He meets Claire and helps her get her luggage off the carousel, and they share a little moment, before heading their separate ways (completely random thought here, but I really like Emilie de Ravin when she's not doing the crazy Claire thing. Even in her pregnancy outfit, she's very cute). As they part, Desmond guesses that Claire's baby will be a boy, a little nod to Desmond's brief ability to see the future -- particularly as it related to Claire and Aaron -- in Season 3.
Desmond meets up with his driver, and, hey look: it's Minkowski, the communications officer on Widmore's freighter who died from the time-travel side effects that nearly killed Desmond (and eventually did kill Charlotte). I'm starting to love these flash-sideways connections, particularly when they make sense with what we've seen in the past "Lost" universe. When they get to the limo, Minkowski offers to find Desmond some "companionship" while he's in LA, but Desmond says "I'm not looking for any companionship. I'm here to work." It's our first glimpse into just how different LA-verse Desmond is.
Given that Minkowski was working for Widmore it in the Lost-verse, it should come as no surprise that he's working for him again in the LA-verse. The show tries to make it seem like this surprising reveal that George and Desmond's boss is Widmore, but I have to be honest, I completely saw that coming. What I didn't anticipate was their subsequent embrace and just how close they were. It turns out in this world, Desmond has devoted his life to working for Widmore and making the boss happy.
At this point, it should be pretty obvious to anyone watching the show that certain pairings are destined to happen no matter what the circumstances are. Desmond and Charlie were important to each other in the Lost-verse, and they end up being critically important to each other's lives here.
Once he's been bailed out, Charlie immediately walks across the street -- with no regard for his safety -- and heads into a bar. Desmond meets him inside and Charlie tells him about what happened to him on Flight 815. He tells Desmond about how he saw a cop on the plan (the marshal with Kate) and went into the bathroom to swallow his stash. At that moment, the plane hit turbulence and he began to choke on his heroin. Then, Charlie details probably the most important piece of information we've received about the flash-sideways universe to this point
"Everything starts to go dark. I'm slipping into the abyss, and then ... 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."I don't know exactly what Desmond thought Charlie was seeing, but it's pretty clear to me -- and any long-time "Lost" fan -- that Charlie got a glimpse of his on-island life with Claire.
Desmond and Charlie leave the bar, and Charlie can tell Desmond still doesn't believe him, so he concocts a plan to get Desmond on board -- he forces Desmond to drive their car off a pier into the Pacific Ocean. The scene with them both trapped under water was so full of "Lost" symbolism that it was amazing. Desmond desperately tries to save Charlie, before escaping himself and getting some air. He goes back in after Charlie, and a Charlie puts his hand up against the window -- just like in "Through the Looking Glass" (another of my favorite episodes). Right then, Desmond goes through the looking glass in his own way, getting a glimpse of Lost-verse Charlie and the words "Not Penny's Boat". He freaks out for a second, which is all Charlie needed to see. Charlie sits back, and Desmond manages to save him.
The next scene starts with ANOTHER eye shot, this time with Desmond in the hospital. When the nurse starts asking Desmond if he's experiencing any symptoms, he denies having hallucinations. She schedules him for an MRI, and in the MRI room, the technician asks many of the same questions that Widmore's people asked Desmond before locking him in the electromagnet room. He also tells Desmond, "you need the button." Desmond asks "button?". Sure it's only the MRI's panic button, but it's another nod to Desmond's Lost-verse life. Once in the machine, Desmond begins to have visions of his life with Penny, and freaks out. He realizes he needs to find Charlie, because Charlie has the answers.
"This doesn't matter. None of this matters. All that matters is that we felt it."Charlie goes off on his own, but not before telling Desmond to start looking for Penny. Desmond tries to explain the situation to Widmore, but he's pissed, and he tells Desmond he has to tell Mrs. Widmore directly why Driveshaft won't be playing with their son. Of course, in this universe, Mrs. Widmore is the woman we know as Eloise Hawking, and she's just as mysterious here as she is in the Lost-verse. Immediately upon seeing Desmond, she seems a little startled, like she wasn't expecting to meet him. At first, she's fine with Charlie and Driveshaft not being available, casually explaining that "what happened, happened."
Desmond walks off, then overhears someone going over that night's guest list, mentioning someone named "Penny". He starts asking all kinds of questions, which catches Mrs. Widmore's attention. She pulls him aside and goes into her "I know more than I'm telling routine", telling Desmond:
"I want you to stop. Someone has clearly affected the way you see things. This is a serious problem. It is, in fact, a violation. So whatever you're doing, whatever it is you think you're looking for, you need to stop looking for it."Have I mentioned lately how much I love this show? Because I do. I was actually cheering when Eloise gave that little speech last night, because it was real confirmation that there are people -- and Eloise would absolutely be one of them -- who know about the multiple universes.
The scene ends with Desmond demanding to see the list again, and Eloise telling him "you're not ready yet". At this point, Desmond heads back to the limo, defeated, and is ready to ride off, when he's interrupted by Widmore's son -- Daniel Faraday (though, in the LA-verse, he's Daniel Widmore).
It turns out that just like Charlie and Desmond, Daniel's had his own experience crossing over to the Lost-verse. He describes his encounter with Charlotte, who he saw once in a museum and immediately knew he loved her. He then shows Desmond a page from his journal, which he wrote the same night as his encounter with Charlotte, full of all sorts of quantum mechanics.
As Daniel explains, he's a musician, so he has no idea what the page means, but his friend at Cal Tech said the equations were so advanced that only someone who'd been studying physics his whole life (say, Lost-verse Faraday) could do them. That leads to this:
Daniel: Imagine something terrible is about to happen, something catastrophic. And the only way to stop it from happening is by releasing a huge amount of energy, like setting off a nuclear bomb.Holy crap. Just, holy crap. Finally, we've got some connection between the LA-verse and the Lost-verse. If this episode had come much earlier in the season, I think some of the animosity toward the flash-sideways scenes would have been lessened, but this episode wouldn't have come across as powerfully. Again, we should all just trust that the creators of "Lost" know what they're doing.
Desmond: You want to set off a nuclear bomb?
Daniel: Just listen. What if this, all this, wasn't supposed to be our life? What if we had some other life. For some reason, we changed things? I don't want to set off a nuclear bomb, Mr. Hume. I think I already did.
Desmond's still skeptical, but Daniel gets him to start believing by telling him who Penny is -- his half-sister -- and where to find her. This leads Desmond to a stadium, where Penny is (of course) running the stairs (another random thought here, but somehow Sonya Walger looks WAY better on "Lost" than she does on "FlashForward". Maybe it's because I actually love her character here, whereas I hate Olivia Benford, but even all sweaty and in workout clothes, she was sexy here). They swap introductions and shake hands and ... SCENE.
Back on the island, Desmond wakes up, and has a new calm about him. He doesn't attack Widmore, instead agreeing to help him. He doesn't even need an explanation from Widmore, which is mildly annoying, since I'm pretty sure Widmore would have given us all the explanation we needed. Widmore's people take Desmond out into the jungle, where they're ambushed by Sayid, who does his Sayid badassery, but allows Zoe to run away. He tells Desmond "these people are extremely dangerous. We need to go, right now." Desmond still has an eerie calm about him when he agrees to go with Sayid.
That's where the episode ended, and it was at that moment that I realized I'd just seen not only the best episode of "Lost", but probably the most important one too. This episode set the stage for the convergence of the sideways universe and the island universe. It established that the connections between the characters that we've seen in the LA-verse aren't just a cosmic coincidence, but part of something much bigger.
Also, I've always thought the best love story on the show wasn't any of the Jack-Kate-Sawyer-Juliet quadrangle or even Claire-Charlie. No, that honor belongs to Desmond and Penny, and to see them re-united in the flash-sideways verse, after spending their whole lives not knowing each other, was sweet.
Now, we've got only 5 episodes left before the series finale, and there's still a lot of ground to be covered, but at least there appears to be a defined road now.