"Lost" Season Six, Episode Ten: "Happily Ever After" Television Review

4/07/2010 Posted by Admin

Television Review

"Lost" Season Six, Episode Ten: "Happily Ever After"

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

"Happily Ever After" is the kind of episode that makes "Lost" one of the best shows on television. No surprise it's an episode focusing on Desmond Hume, easily one of the greatest characters on the show (if not the greatest altogether). It effortlessly joins the ranks of the series' best, including fellow Desmond-centrics "The Constant" and "Flashes Before Your Eyes," and it does so by not only giving us some of the very best character work this season, but also by giving this season's arc the power and edge that it desperately needed to remain intriguing.

Spoilers herein.

In the episode last week, we learned Charles Widmore is on the island to accomplish some sort of task to prevent the Man in Black from escaping and turning the world upside-down. We found out at the end of the episode that the eponymous "package" was none other than Desmond, brought back to the island by Widmore to accomplish that task. So this episode could've gone in any sort of direction--crazy mythology stuff, endless exposition, too sloppy a balance between the different plots in order to make up for the time Desmond has been off the show--but no, instead we slow down significantly and are given a Desmond story worthy of his best, as well as the first solid explanation of the flash-sideways so far this season.

The episode begins with Widmore explaining to Desmond that he's been brought back to the island. For what reason we aren't sure, because before giving poor confused Des an explanation he plops him in a room with two giant Froot Loop looking conductors and he releases an immense amount of electromagnetic energy on him. It's here that we flip from the normal timeline to the alternate timeline, where the last time we saw Desmond was on Oceanic 815. This also marks the first (and potentially last) extended flash-sideways. Like "Flashes Before Your Eyes," the flashes here take up most of the episode without flashing back to the regular timeline.

Desmond's life is probably the most different of any of the main characters in this timeline (other than Ben, perhaps). Working as the right hand man of Charles Widmore, he lives his life mostly alone and wealthy, travelling the world and living without knowledge of the life he might have had with Penny, who he's never met. And, of course, the primary difference is that he hasn't spent three years of his life on the island pushing a button to "save the world."

Arriving back in Los Angeles, Widmore tasks Desmond with escorting the recently released Charlie to a concert benefit his son (yes, Daniel Faraday) is co-headlining. So this continues the flash-sideways tendency to connect each character to their more crucial relationships from the regular timeline. Even here Desmond has to prevent Charlie from dying.

But something pretty interesting happens--Charlie explains to Desmond that upon nearly choking to death on the flight back to Los Angeles, he saw a vision of himself with Claire (though he doesn't know her name here), and he described it as "seeing true love." This baffles Desmond. Despite his struggle for love in the regular timeline, he is a different man here. Bizarre, really--every other character has gotten what they've always wanted in this timeline, but Desmond is different. Is success really all he cares about?

Well, we know it isn't. It's Penny. And we finally get a grasp at what these flashes are in one of the most exciting moments of the episode, where Charlie takes the wheel of Desmond's car and sends it crashing into the ocean. As Desmond attempts to pull Charlie out, he gets a brief flash of the moment in "Through the Looking Glass" where Charlie held up his hand to the glass. Desmond sees Penny's name, and as he returns to reality and pulls Charlie out of the water, his entire understanding of his life starts crashing down, as does our understand of the flash-sideways. Finally we get confirmation that they're completely connected to the regular timeline. How we don't know, but we do know these characters have retained their memories from before.

The rest of the episode follows Desmond's attempts to understand what's happening. He starts with a visit to Mrs. Widmore. Yes, in this timeline Eloise Hawking is still around and now she's actually married her former hubby Charles, and she's the one running the benefit at which Daniel will be performing. Des explains that Charlie won't be able to perform--he's escaped from the hospital following the crash--her reaction is a lot more somber than expected, but when he asks to see the guest list when a "Penny" is mentioned, Eloise is less than thrilled. She takes him aside and, in her typical mysterious way, she explains that Desmond doesn't want to find Penny. He doesn't know what he's looking for, and he should just forget about it. As always, Eloise is in the know when everyone else is completely clueless. There's one thing that hasn't changed.

Before our defeated Desmond can take off, though, good old Daniel Faraday (Daniel Widmore, now) pops up and informs Desmond that he's not out of his mind--things aren't as they seem. He tells Des that one night we woke up from a dream and wrote an extremely complex quantum mechanics equation on a pad of paper--certainly something Daniel would do, right? But in this timeline he's a pianist, not a physicist, and so he suggests to Desmond that it's possible he was a physicist and he just doesn't remember it. He suggests that what's happening now isn't what is supposed to be happening, it's a twisted wish-fulfillment reality that was created after a release of an immense amount of energy--he suggests the explosion of a nuclear bomb. So, did Jughead create the timeline? Well, possibly, but who's to say what Widmore wants Desmond to do on the island isn't a similar release of energy? Perhaps to prevent the Man in Black from leaving the island, Widmore is going to make Desmond sacrifice his life to create this cataclysmic energy and create this alternate timeline.

Whatever the case, Daniel tells Desmond that Penny is his sister and that he knows how he can meet her. Before the two get a chance to chat, though, Desmond all of a sudden awakes in the room with the Froot Loop thingamajigs and it turns out only seconds have passed. We don't really know whether or not Desmond is aware of what's taking place in the flash-sideways, but he is definitely changed--he's willing to go along with whatever Widmore wants.

In one final scene in the sideways, though, we see that alt-Des also finds himself on a mission. He tells his driver (George Minkowski of "The Constant," by the way) to get him the flight manifest for his Sydney flight. Why? He has to "show them something."

So, what does "Happily Ever After" tell us? For one, we now have an idea of what these flashes are. How they came to be, not quite yet, but it's a start. But the episode succeeds so much more than just as a mythology-based episode. Like every Desmond-centric, it works so incredibly well as a self-contained story about this man desperate to find meaning in his life, and finding that meaning through love. Desmond has always been so far removed from the rest of the story because his quest is so much more universal, but also so much more interesting and mysterious. Say what you will about Jack, Locke, Kate, or Hurley--Desmond continues to prove himself as the most relatable and the most crucial character in the entire history of the series, and his little self-contained tales act as a means to express themes much more powerful than the good versus evil plot the main story gives us. Henry Ian Cusick himself continues to give one of the show's best performances here, but the return of characters like Charlie, Daniel and Minkowski are also perfectly implemented.

Overall, it doesn't quite match the utter brilliance of "The Constant," but producers/writers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have given us another series classic, and despite all signs pointing otherwise, an episode that somehow manages to trump Ab Aeterno as the season's triumph. "Happily Ever After" is without a doubt a "Lost" classic.

Grade: A+

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