Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Top Ten Episodes #1: 3.08 "Flashes Before Your Eyes"

I know your name as well as I know that you don't ask Penny to marry you. In fact, you break her heart. Well, breaking her heart, of course, is what drives you in a few short years from now to enter that sailing race to prove her father wrong. Which brings you to the island where you spend the next 3 years of your life entering numbers into the computer...until you are forced to turn that failsafe key. And if you don't do those things, Desmond David Hume, every single one of US is dead. So give me that sodding ring!

TV.com Rating: 9.2 (#28 overall)

Brief Recap: Desmond and Locke return and tell Hurley and Charlie that Eko is dead. :(

Desmond starts acting bonkers and going running off for the beach. Turns out, Claire is in the water and she's drowning. Charlie naturally freaks out, Desmond runs into the water "Baywatch" style and saves her. Charlie gives him the evil Hobbit eye, asked him how he knew she was drowning. Quoth the Hurley:
"I'll tell you how he knew. That guy...sees the future, dude.
Later on, Hurley and Charlie raid Sawyer's stash for a bottle of MacCutcheon Scotch in an attempt to get Desmond drunk and press him about his new ability. It works, they get sloshed, Charlie calls Desmond a coward. Des freaks, jumps all over Charlie:
"You don't want to know what happened to me when I turned that key! You don't want to know!"
And then the fun begins. We go back to the moment when Desmond turned the key and watch him as he travels back in time. He wakes up in his flat. Penny's there, having just moved in. Des is befuddled, but happy.

Desmond goes to see Penny's father, Charles Widmore, under the pretense of asking him for a job. However, he really just wanted to ask him for Penny's hand in marriage. Charles deftly swipes the Most Evil Father In The Lost Universe mantle away from Sun's dad by telling Desmond in no uncertain terms that he's a piece of garbage, unworthy of his daughter. Desmond's heart makes the sound of ultimate suffering. He exits, meets Charlie Hieronymus Pace on the street, recognizes him and realizes he's lived all this before. He predicts it will start to rain and it does.

Desmond goes to see a physicist friend of his to ask him about time travel. His friend thinks he's crazy. Desmond predicts something will happen in the soccer game, it doesn't. That night, Desmond realizes he has a chance to do everything over and decides to ask Penny to marry him anyway.

The next day, Desmond heads to an antique store to buy a ring. He asks the shopwoman, Ms. Hawking, to look at a ring and agrees to buy it. Ms. Hawking laughs and asks for it back. Desmond looks perplexed. Ms. Hawking then blows Desmond's mind with the speech above. Trippy cool.

Ms. Hawking then explains to Desmond, using a poor schmuck with bad taste in footwear as an example, that pushing the button is his fate and the universe has a way of "course correcting" should things go awry. Desmond refuses to believe her.

The next day, Des and Penny are walking along the street. A photographer stops them and takes their picture against a marina backdrop - the photo Desmond's been carrying around the world with him. Penny pays, Desmond freaks out, tells her he can't marry her. Desmond throws the ring into the river in a very, overly dramatic, "Lord of the Rings" way. (As an aside here, how much you want to bet we're going to see that ring again)

Later that day, Desmond's back in the pub. A soccer game is on and the team scores just like he predicted it would before. Desmond realizes he had wrong day and that he really is in the past. Much like Scrooge, he realizes that maybe he can change things... and then he gets whacked and ends up back on the island.

Back on the beach, Desmond's still strangling Charlie. He unfortunately stops, but then utters one of the greatest closing lines of any episode that ever aired on television:
"I'm sorry because...no matter what I try to do. You're going to die, Charlie."

Why it's the best episode of LOST:

1. The "wrinkle"

Do you remember how you felt when it slowly dawned on you that Desmond's "flashback" might be real? I remember the episode was aired again the following week (right before "Stranger in a Strange Land" - how much of a downer was that) and I sat there watching every second, utterly fascinated as if I was seeing it for the first time.

Desmond's newfound abilities opened up so many cool theories on what's going on in the show. First off, to me, it opened up a potential explanation as to how all of these coincidences and connections happened on the show and how all these people with intertwined histories end up on the same island together: someone went back in time and arranged the whole thing. Time travel is the deus ex machina to end all deus ex machinas need an explanation as to how Jack and his half-sister both end up on the same flight back to L.A. together? Simple. Someone goes back in time and hires a fake psychic to put her on the plane. Need to correct something horrible that's going to happen in the future? Simple. Go back in time and make sure it never happens.

Maybe that's a bit of a cop out to some, but if used properly it can set up all sorts of wonderful plot lines, like what they did with Charlie last season. Not to mention, after several clunker flashbacks from the mini-series at the beginning of the season, Desmond's trip through time was a wonderful twist on the formula. Best to come along until the finale, anyway. :)

2. The best scene with the best evil father on the show

DesmondUh, with all due respect sir. I haven't come here to interview for a position in your company.
Charles WidmoreYou haven't?
DesmondNo sir. I came here to ask for your daughter's hand in marriage. We've been together...2 years now and...Pen's moving in. And...I love her. Your permission would mean everything to me.
Charles WidmoreI'm impressed Hume. What a noble gesture.

[Widmore gets up and crosses over to a wet bar by the wall]
Charles WidmoreYou know anything about whiskey?
DesmondUh, no I'm afraid not sir.
Charles WidmoreThis is a 60 year MacCutcheon. Named after Anderson MacCutcheon, esteemed Admiral from the Royal Navy. He retired with more medals than any man before or since.

[Widmore gets 2 glasses and the bottle of whiskey and goes back to his desk]
Charles WidmoreMoved to the highlands to see out his remaining years. Admiral MacCutcheon was a great man, Hume.

[Widmore places the 2 glasses side by side on his desk and opens the bottle of whiskey]
Charles WidmoreThis was his crowning achievement.

[Widmore pours a finger of whiskey into only one glass]
Charles WidmoreThis swallow is worth more than you could make in a month.

[Widmore drinks the whiskey]
Charles WidmoreAnd to share it with you would be a waste. And a disgrace to the great man who made it. Because you, Hume, will never be a great man.
DesmondMr. Widmore. I know I'm not...
Charles WidmoreWhat you're not...is worthy of drinking my whiskey. How could you ever be worthy of my daughter?

This scene is one of my favorites of the entire show.

Charles Widmore has currently usurped both Christian Shepherd and Mr. Paik in my book as the "father most likely to bring about the destruction of life as we know it." All three men are rich and powerful, with considerable influence. In one of my earliest theories, I thought Christian was still alive and orchestrating everything behind the scenes. We now know that isn't true (well, sorta) and that his body has likely been absorbed by the Monster (like it probably did to some others).

And while there are parallels between Charles Widmore's treatment of Desmond and Mr. Paik's treatment of Jin (both men look down on their daughter's choice of a lower class man), Paik's his motivations appear to stem more from business rather than spite. And Mr. Paik at least gave Jin his blessing to marry his daughter and gave him a position of responsibility within his organization. Charles Widmore has simply done everything humanly possible to destroy Desmond's life. You have to wonder if he was responsible for Desmond getting thrown into military prison too.

Now if you clicked on that third theory link I posted above, you know that there is thought going around that Charles Widmore is a course corrector. In other words, the only reason he's being so harsh with Desmond is to make damn sure he ends up on the island. Especially since he could have easily sent Penny to pick up the wine from the monastery so she'd meet Desmond for the first time.

While part of me could kind of see this, I'm more inclined to think he really is a bastard, and that innate quality is what the real course correctors were counting on. Regardless, in the two short scenes we've seen him, Charles Widmore has simply owned the screen. He's not quite Cigarette Smoking Man, but the potential is certainly there.

3. Ms. Hawking

DesmondYou're here to...to talk me out of marrying Penny. Well, it won't bloody work!
Ms. HawkingOh yes it will.
DesmondNo! There is no island. There is no...button. It's madness! I love her, she loves me. I'm going to spend the rest of my life with her!
Ms. HawkingNo, Desmond. You're not.

[The scaffolding from the construction site suddenly collapses, burying the man with the red sneakers and killing him instantly]
DesmondOh my God!

[Desmond turns and looks at Ms. Hawking]
DesmondYou knew that was going to happen, didn't you!

[Ms. Hawking silently nods her head yes]
DesmondThen why didn't you stop it! Why didn't you do anything!
Ms. HawkingBecause it wouldn't matter. Had I warned him about the scaffolding, tomorrow he'd be hit by a taxi. If I warned him about the taxi, he'd fall in the shower and break his neck. The universe, unfortunately, has a way of...course correcting. That man was supposed to die. That was his path. Just as it's your path to go to the island. You don't do it because you choose to, Desmond. You do it because you are supposed to.
DesmondI'm going to meet Penny in an hour. I've got a ring. She'll say yes. I can choose whatever I want.
Ms. HawkingYou may not like your path, Desmond. But, pushing that button is the only truly great thing that you will ever do.
DesmondHow much for the ring?

Another of my favorite overall scenes. That's two in one episode.

The real question regarding this scene to me, and I've pondered this before, is if Desmond really has a choice or not? On one hand, as Mr. Red Shoes and Charlie seem to indicate, you can't escape your fate, especially if your fate is to die (of course, in that regard we ALL can't escape our fate). However, judging from Ms. Hawking's reaction in the shop it seemed like to me that Desmond certainly did have a choice, otherwise Ms. Hawking wouldn't have had to try and talk him out of it.

Desmond, of course, is a special situation. I imagine most course correctors simply have to nudge the proper people into place at the proper time, like when Desmond met Penny outside the monastery. But what happens when someone you worked so hard to get to the proper place suddenly gets a chance to do it all over again? Do the same fate rules still apply? Ms. Hawking certainly seemed to go out of her way to convince Desmond to leave Penny as he did before. After all, if he was truly fated to end up on the island, Ms. Hawking shouldn't have had to do anything - fate would have taken care of it for her, right?

I think Desmond had a choice. He could have destroyed the world if he wanted to, but instead...

4. Desmond's choice... and heartbreak

Please...let me go back! Let me go back one more time. I'll do it right! I'll do it right this time! I'm sorry Penny! [beginning to cry] I'll change it! I'll change it...

...he had his heart broken all over again. This scene was the second most emotional of the season for me, right behind Locke's first encounter with his wheelchair.

One of the things though that still puzzles me about this scene is how the time travel actually worked. It seems like Desmond's consciousness is what traveled into the past, triggered each time by a traumatic event (Hatch exploding - getting whacked with a bat). Of course, this is very similar to Days of Future Past, which I've talked about before in regards to the finale.

Regardless though, by heart broke along with Desmond watching this scene.

5. The best ending

"When I saw the lightning hit the roof...you were electrocuted. And when you heard Claire was in the water...you, you drowned trying to save her. I dove in myself so you never went in. I...I've tried brother! I've tried twice to save you but...the universe has a way of course correcting and...and I can't stop it forever. I'm sorry. I'm sorry because...no matter what I try to do. You're going to die, Charlie."
Daniel over at The Lost Diary often likes to say that Lost episodes should end "right." That is, when the big black screen with L O S T comes up at the end and the drum sounds, we should be shellshocked, jaws open, blown away and left begging for more. The entire first season did this pretty well, but season two, while there were some good episodes - "Lockdown" and "Man of Science" in particular - largely failed in this regard. Same thing with the season 3 mini-series; the "I Do" cliffhanger was simply awful.

But "Flashes" had the best ending of any episode on the show. Kudos to Dominic and Henry who simply knocked themselves out on the scene. And I simply can't deny that the fact Charlie was the one who was going to die held an incredible amount of evil pleasure for me.

But at that point, being promised Charlie's death was simply icing on the tastiest LOST cake of them all. Mmmm... DHARMA cake... *drool*

Summary: When I initially scratched out my list, this episode was #2 behind "The 23rd Psalm." But as I thought about it more and more, Eko's death in "The Cost of Living" bothered me. It made Eko's utterly incredible past basically seem shallow and meaningless. It made his seemingly genuine attempts at redemption feel false. And ultimately it dropped "23" down to #2.

And that's because everything I felt in "The 23rd Psalm" the first time I saw it, I felt tenfold in "Flashes." Desmond is a tragic character. He's flawed, but he has good intentions. And he's desperately in love with a woman that he ended up running away from rather than fighting for.

So what happens? He's given a second chance to do it all over again, a second chance to right the greatest mistake he ever made in his life. And he seizes it, he's going to do it. Going to do it right this time.

And then he's told that if he takes that chance, if he marries the love of his life, the world as we know it would end. And that he has no choice but to make the same mistake he made all those years ago over again.

So he sacrifices the only thing he loves, the only thing in his life that's ever bought him happiness, to save us all. L O S T

Best. Episode. Evar.

Whatcha think?

(As always, thanks to The Lost Hatch for their excellent episode transcripts)

Previous Reviews:
#10: White Rabbit
The Man From Tallahassee
Man of Science, Man of Faith
#4: The Pilot
#3: Walkabout

#2: The 23rd Psalm


Jay said...

As a quick note, my thesis defense is next Wednesday, the 23rd. I might slip in a quick post between now and then but I'll be stressed and busy until it's over.

After that though, I'm back, baby! Lost 24/7! :D

Carla said...

You have convinced me. Good argument Jay.

Paula Abdul Alhazred said...


Good luck with your thesis. I agree with you that "Flashes Before Your Eyes" is probably the best episode so far (and this is coming from someone who likes every episode). Please check out my blog for a discussion about the time travel concept and whether or not Desmond really had a choice. Anyway, I think this episode really changes the show in some major ways, and only in retrospect will we really see how important it was. Great review!

As you know, I don't agree with your opinion of Eko's death nor the cliffhanger of "I Do," but that's what makes this so fun. "To each his own," right? Anyway, let us all know about your thesis defense! Again, good luck.

Yessifer said...

Hope your thesis defense went well.

About "Flashes" I couldn't agree more. I loved this episode so much. You wrote a great review.