Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Lost 6.11: "Happily Ever After"

“I just need to show them something.”


Since “Happily Ever After” was a Desmond-centric episode, I was pretty sure I would love it. Really, the only Desmond episode that isn’t among my favorite Lost episodes is “Jughead.” Whatever problems may be going on in his personal life, Henry Ian Cusick always gives a fantastic performance with nuances that can only be truly appreciated after several viewings. “Happily Ever After” was no exception. I wouldn’t say it’s overtaken “The Constant” as my favorite episode of all time, or even “Dr. Linus” as my favorite episode this season, but it’s still up there among Lost’s greatest episodes, certainly on par with “Flashes Before Your Eyes.” It raised the stakes for the series’ endgame, helped clarify what is happening to our characters, and most importantly, it had heart. This episode was really all heart.

The episode, like many classic episodes of “Lost,” opens on an eye. This time it’s Desmond’s eye as he’s waking up in the Hydra infirmary. He’s understandably disoriented, but Zoe tells him that he’s been taken from the hospital. Charles Widmore soon steps in to explain that Penny and Charlie are safely back on the mainland, and Desmond is on the Island. Des was starting to get a bit twitchy- literally (a wonderful, understated acting choice by Cusick)- and as soon as he hears “Island,” he snaps. He starts wailing on Widmore with his IV stand, and I’m pretty sure I started cheering. Widmore tells Desmond that the Island isn’t done with him yet.

Once rescued from his (much deserved) beatdown by his lackeys, Widmore orders that “the test” is to be moved up. Zoe hurries to a room in the Hydra that houses an old generator. Other scientists are busily preparing things there, but they aren’t ready yet. They haven’t even run a test. Zoe says a test needs to happen immediately so that the “test” with Desmond can happen soon after. While the team is prepping some really scary looking device for Angstrom the rabbit, things start going south, and one of the scientists pretty much gets fried. This is what Desmond sees when he arrives (after being dragged against his will) at the generator.

Widmore tells Desmond that he’s doing this because he needs for Desmond to see something. Desmond is going to have to make a sacrifice, and what is about to happen will explain why. Desmond is strapped into a chair inside a makeshift room that looks an awful lot like the interior of Jacob’s cabin. Des manages to free himself from the chair, but he can’t free himself from the energy racing from the generator. He screams for someone to help him as we fade to white and the picture turns to a sky with clouds.

We see sideways Desmond looking at the Oceanic Airlines arrival board. Hurley tells him that their luggage is at carousel 4. I think this is the first time that one of the Numbers has been used in the sideways-verse. Usually it’s a number similar, but not quite the same, like 3 or 24. At the carousel, Desmond runs into Claire, and he helps her with her luggage and offers her a ride. It was a nice little nod to how protective Desmond was of Claire and Charlie early in Season 3. Desmond asks Claire if she’s having a boy or a girl. Claire says she doesn’t know, but Des guesses it’s a boy.

Des, now a successful international businessman, has a hired car and driver to take him around LA. And the driver is none other than one George Minkowski, his fellow unstuck-in-time communications officer aboard the Kahana. It seems like an effort was really made in this episode to include all the characters that have been important to Desmond in the past. As a Desmond and Desmond-centric episode fan, I really appreciated this attention to detail. Minkowski drives Desmond to the LA office of his company, where it is revealed that Desmond’s boss is none other than Charles Widmore himself. They greet each other warmly, and it kind of creeps me out. There’s also the matter of a very interesting painting in Widmore’s office. It’s a scale with a black rock on one side, and a white rock on the other. Sound familiar?

Widmore has a new assignment for Desmond, who had originally come to LA to celebrate closing a big deal in Sydney (yet another big difference in the sideways-verse, by the way- Widmore is in London, not LA in the original universe). Widmore’s musician son has come up with the idea to perform with Driveshaft for one of his mother’s charity events. We all know that one Charlie Pace, Driveshaft’s bassist, was arrested following his drug overdose on Flight 815, so Widmore wants Des to keep an eye on Charlie and make sure he gets to where he’s supposed to be. Even though babysitting seems below his pay grade, Des happily obliges. Widmore rewards him with a bit of the 60-year-old Scotch he refused to let Desmond touch in “Flashes Before Your Eyes.”

The job ends up being a lot more than Desmond bargained for. Charlie, for starters, seems to have a death wish. No sooner does Des introduce himself than Charlie walks across a busy street, barely avoiding being hit by multiple moving cars. Des looks up and sees that Charlie has gone into a bar, and he follows. Thus begins the portion of the episode that I like to call the “Des and Charlie Show,” which is just fine by me. I missed their Season 3 dynamic, and it’s nice to have it sort-of recaptured here for a little while. Desmond tells Charlie he can have one drink, then it’s time to go. Charlie asks Des if he’s happy and if he’s ever been in love. When Des waffles in his response, Charlie tells him the story of the “consciousness-altering love” he experienced while near-death thanks to his heroin overdose aboard Oceanic 815. Before Jack revived him, he was experiencing a vision of Claire.

As he’s driving Charlie to his hotel, Desmond passes the marina where the kind-of-epic Ben/Des smackdown over Ben’s quest to kill Penny took place. Seconds later, Charlie takes the wheel of the car and drives them right into the water. He wants Desmond to understand what he was talking about earlier. Charlie was on the right track, because as Des is trying to rescue Charlie, who is unconscious and trapped in the car, he flashes to the moments before Charlie’s death in “Through the Looking Glass” where Charlie gives Des a warning by writing “Not Penny’s Boat” on his hand and holding it up to the window. A very confused Desmond succeeds in rescuing Charlie and exhausted, waits for rescue while holding on to a dock with one arm and Charlie with the other.

At the hospital, a doctor tells Desmond he needs to have an MRI. Since electromagnetism has interesting effects on our favorite Scotsman, it’s pretty obvious something’s going to happen. And happen it does. The technician gives Desmond a (panic) button to push, which was quite amusing. As the very scary looking and sounding machine whirs to life, Desmond suddenly flashes on all the highlights of his original universe life with Penny, including the birth of their son Charlie. He freaks out, pushes the panic button, and runs off in search of Charlie (Pace, not Hume).

While in shearch of Charlie, Des runs into Jack and tries to enlist his help. Jack barely has time to recover from his mind being blown over the fact that two fellow Oceanic 815 passengers are in his hospital right now (is that really so hard to believe?) before Charlie comes running by in a dressing gown. This was absolutely hilarious. Apparently Domenic Monaghan has comedy chops. Who knew? Charlie tells Des in no uncertain terms that he will absolutely not be performing at the charity event.

Charles Widmore is pissed that Des failed in his mission, and he tells Des he has to go tell Mrs. Widmore what happened. We actually know “Mrs. Widmore” as Eloise Hawking in the original universe, and she’s super nice to Des, even though he sort of messed up her charity event. That is, she’s nice until he hears some of the staff reading the guest list and including the name “Penny.” Eloise tells Desmond that he needs to stop whatever he thinks he’s doing. Knowing that there’s another reality out there is “a violation.”

Des is pretty devastated, but he gets a little enlightenment from one Daniel Widmore (aka Daniel Faraday). Dan has also had a transformative experience due to love recently. He saw Charlotte, of course, and it changed everything. He randomly started writing down quantum mechanics equations. He thinks that something he did in the other universe (setting off the nuclear bomb) needs to be reversed. He also offers to tell Des where to find Penny, who happens to be his half sister.

Des finds Penny running in the stadium where Des first met Jack in the original timeline oh so long ago. She’s just finished a run. Des walks up and introduces himself, which would normally be kind of creepy, but Penny’s not phased by it. Probably because like Dan, Des, and Charlie, she knows that this feels right. Desmond goes to shake her hand, and suddenly he wakes up back in the middle of Widmore’s freaky experiment. He’s not putting up a fight anymore. He says he understands, and he wants to get to work. This goes from interesting to kind of bizarre and confusing quickly. An armed team including Zoe is leading Desmond through the woods when Sayid ambushes them. He kills everyone but Des and Zoe, and he tells Zoe to leave. Des is still as Zen as he was back in the electromagnetism chamber, and is just perfectly happy to follow Sayid now.

Over in the sideways-verse, Desmond is just recovering from fainting. He asks Penny to coffee. She’s sweaty and gross, he just fainted in front of her. It’s adorably perfect, and that’s exactly why I’ve always been a huge fan of their story. Before having his date with Penny, though, Des has a little work to do. He asks Minkowski to get him the Oceanic 815 manifest. He has something he needs to show his fellow passengers.

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