"It's okay. I understand. When do we start?"
(Thanks to Dark UFO for all the screencaps).
If there was ever an episode in need of a second watchthrough, it's this one. I loved it from start to finish, but I'm still not 100% sure of what I just saw. We certainly learned a few things about the Alt, but I can't quite figure out how all the pieces fit together. So what do we now know for certain?
1) All the Flight 815ers in the Alt have buried memories of the original timeline and it seems they can be brought out spontaneously with a traumatic event (Charlie choking to death, Desmond nearly drowning) or through dreams (Daniel).
2) Seems many of the Flight 815ers have been given "the thing they wanted more than anything," as Eloise said to Desmond. Jack's a good father, Hurley's lucky and everyone likes him, Locke has Helen (and possibly a relationship with his dad), Sawyer's a cop instead of a criminal, Desmond has Charles' approval. Even Eloise has it pretty good - married to Charles with Daniel alive again. More on that last one later.
3) Desmond seems able to mind shift between the Alt like he did in Flashes Before Your Eyes. And I think it's neat that he flashed back at the moment he ran into his constant.
In fact, this entire episode was really just an alternate reality echo of Flashes Before Your Eyes, but in Flashes, didn't Eloise say that time has a way of "course correcting?" This is clearly not how things were meant to be and it seems that everyone regaining their memories is the key to setting everything on its proper course again.
This review was probably the hardest one for me to write so quickly. I might do a follow-up review in a few days after it's had time to marinate a bit more in my brain.
1) So what exactly is the Alt Universe?
All of a sudden the Alt looks a lot less like an alternate timeline and more like a pocket universe to me. The difference? An alternate timeline is where something changes at a critical juncture in time creating a branch in the time stream. Think Back to the Future when Marty saves his Dad from getting hit by the car. But the bottom line is that alternate timelines are usually connected at some early point. Up until now, this is what I thought the Alt was, but now it seems more like a combination of that and a pocket universe.
A pocket universe doesn't necessarily have to be part of the original timeline at some branch point - it can be a totally separate entity, existing in its own rules. The best illustration of this is in Marvel Comics' Age of Apocalypse and Onslaught storylines. But one of the most common characteristics of a pocket universe is that the latter often can be created by a separate (powerful) entity and used as a prison to contain people in a way so that they don't realize they're being contained. Kind of like the Matrix and Liddleville from the Fantastic Four comics, but in this case the Losties don't just have their memories transported - they are in the pocket universe, at least that's what Jack's appendix scar and cut on his neck seem to suggest.
Doesn't it strike you as odd that the Alt universe is so... comfortable for so many of the Losties? As I mentioned before, Eloise pointed out that Desmond was given the thing he desired the most, Charles Widmore's approval. In fact, just about everyone was given lives that make them relatively content and free of the angst that plague them in the regular universe. Yes, they still have problems - Charlie's still a druggie, Kate's still a fugitive, Sayid's still a killer, but they're all in lives that seem to keep them docile and contained. This really suggests to me that Smokey is using the Alt to prevent things from changing back and prevent the time stream from course correcting itself like it normally would.
So what is the Alt, how was it created, where does it exist and what is its relationship to the regular universe? Here's my current theory - Remember that Juliet detonated the bomb on the Island in 1977. In doing so, it seems the Island was destroyed, likely freeing Smokey to wreak havoc upon the world. But the universe doesn't want the bomb to go off - ideally it wants the Incident to happen so that the Swan is created and Flight 815 crashes, but it doesn't want to destroy the Island. So the way to correct all this is to send all the time travelers to 2007 present day timeline before Juliet detonates the bomb. But let's say that Smokey, at that moment, somehow created a pocket universe to contain all the time travelers, altering their memories and preventing them from reaching 2007. They still have memories of the normal timeline buried deep down, but they're buried as long as they're kept happy and content.
So what happens now? I think the time travelers will eventually escape from the pocket universe with the help of Desmond and will end up in the present day. Thus when we saw them all in LA X at the destroyed Swan site, they basically had just emerged from the pocket universe. Yes, this would mean that the sideways flashes are actually flashbacks if we take them in chronological order. None of the present day time travelers have any memory of the pocket universe anymore, but I think the Alt storyline is going to end with all the time travelers (meaning Jack, Kate, Hurley, Jin, Sawyer, Miles, Sayid and Juliet) returning to 2007. Obviously Smokey would prefer to keep the pocket universe intact - that way there's no risk of one of the candidates becoming the new Jacob. However, at least Smokey has his loophole as a backup plan in the present day timeline.
And it's also possible that the only way to collapse the pocket universe is for all the time travelers to choose to come back. This may be a very difficult thing for many of them to do, especially since one 1) it would mean many people who are alive in the Alt - (Charlie, Daniel, Charlotte, Nadia, Alex, Helen and possibly Juliet, who I still think is Jack's ex-wife) would die again and 2) it would mean returning to the misery of their former lives. But I think many of them would still choose to do so, even if their lives are less "perfect."
Is this right? I have no idea. I think I'm going to have to reserve the right to revise this theory after another viewing and some sleep and caffeine. :)
2) Did the two Desmonds mind-switch? Do both of them have all their memories?
Given that Alt Desmond fainted in the stadium, it seems almost certain that Desmond mind-switched with his Alt counterpart, but his reaction when he returned to the present day universe was odd. I still don't quite understand why Desmond simply ran off with Sayid (or why Sayid let the Tina Fey clone live for that matter). Seems to me that the Hydra Island experiment sent Desmond's mind into his Alt counterpart where he experienced everything in the episode then returned. That's fine.
But if he has clarity about what the Alt universe is now, why would he go with Sayid so willingly? The only thing I can think of is that he knows what he has to do to change things back and he can accomplish it by going to see Smokey.
Why spend the effort searching him out when Dark Minion Sayid would gladly lead the way? :)
3) Is Eloise working for Smokey?
At first glance, it certainly seems Eloise has no desire to upset the status quo in the Alt, but does this mean she's in cahoots with Smokey? I don't think she's exactly working for him, per se, but I do think she has a vested interest in keeping the Alt intact. After all, of all the people we've seen in the Alt, she has pretty much has the best life of them all. She's married to her one true love, who happens to be the most one of the most powerful men in the world while her son, Daniel, is still alive (instead of dead by her hand) and is a talented classical pianist. What more could anyone ask for?
I think Eloise is simply looking out for herself, an dark twist given how tirelessly she worked to keep the normal, traumatic timeline (where she shoots Daniel and sends Desmond to the Island) in place. Smokey gave her everything she ever wanted in the Alt. All she has to do in return is help keep it intact, which brings us to...
4) Why would Desmond regaining his memories be a "violation?"
I think it's a violation of the agreement Smokey made with Eloise. I think he gave her everything she wanted in exchange for helping keep all the Losties in check. That's why she didn't blast Desmond for losing Charlie - she wants to keep him placated and happy.
Question now is, what happens when Alt Smokey finds out the Losties are regaining their memories and that Desmond is actively helping them do so? Will he step in and take matters into his own hands? I've been expecting this for several episodes now - I do hope this was the breaking point that will draw him out into the open.
5) What's the sacrifice Desmond's going to have to make?
Desmond can survive "catastrophic EM events." I'm guessing Charles needs him to release another pocket (or pockets) of EM energy on the Island because he's the only one that can do it. But I'm also guessing that, like the Donkey Wheel and the Failsafe Key, there's a side effect of releasing the energy. And maybe that side effect is that Desmond gets sent though a wormhole to another time and/or place where he never gets to see Penny and Charlie ever again, but he also can take comfort in knowing that they will be alive and safe.
I wonder if Charles has an extra copy of "Our Mutual Friend" lying around anywhere? :)
- I loved all the warped nods to previous episodes we got. My favorites:
1) Desmond saves Charlie from drowning, a successful version of "Through the Looking Glass"- Got two eye shots of Desmond this episode - both right, I believe.
2) Charles shares his MacCutcheon whiskey with Desmond after denying him a taste in "Flashes Before Your Eyes"
3) Daniel becomes a classical pianist, instead of Eloise pushing him into science ala "The Variable"
4) Eloise basically tries to prevent Desmond from fulfilling his destiny in "Flashes Before Your Eyes
- Flight 815's luggage was on Carousel 4.
- The rabbit was named "Angstrom," a unit of atomic measurement and a nifty literature reference to boot.
- Penny's last name is Milton? Paradise Lost anyone? Think this is a subtle hint that Desmond and Penny are really Adam and Eve? Don't know how Penny would get back in time though at this point, unless she comes out of the Magic Box.
- Great seeing George Minkowski again too. Hope we get more of him.
- Desmond did seem to have a wedding band in LA X, a blooper, it seems. Thus I think that's why the writers went out of their way to have George point out that Desmond wasn't wearing one here.
- Loved the Watchmen reference (to Dr. Manhattan's creation) when Desmond was trapped in the velociraptor crate.
- Loved the pic of the scales in Alt Widmore's office. Is it a Jack Bender original?
- I've never been a big Charlie fan, but I did enjoy Dominic's performance here - seemed like he was having a lot of fun with the role. It was funny seeing him run around in that hospital gown too.
After Season 3 ended, my #1 favorite episode was Flashes Before Your Eyes. If I did my Top 10 list today, I think it would be The Constant. Is "Happily Ever After" better than either of those? I don't think so at this point, but this might well be an episode that looks even better in retrospect after the season is over. Either way, it's the most thought provoking episode we've had this season. 4.5/5