Oh Sideways Reality, you’re actually starting to matter! Where the Richard episode two weeks ago was a mostly linear flashback, this week’s all-Desmond episode, “Happily Ever After,” is a mostly linear, mostly mind-melting Sideways episode, where the two worlds collide in spectacularly confusing fashion. Let’s break it down…
Mystery #1: Why is Desmond on the island? Start with what we know: Charles Widmore kidnaps Desmond and brings him over on a submarine. Poor Desmond has been kept unconscious for three days; before that, he was in the hospital suffering from a gunshot wound inflicted by Ben. Before that, he was a happy pop sailing around the world with his adorable wife Penny and adorable son Charlie. Basically, things got bad really quickly. So when Desmond wakes up and discovers he’s back on the island, he has a rage attack and clubs old Widmore over the head with an IV stand. To which Widmore calmly replies: “The island’s not done with you yet.” No Widdy, you’re not done with him yet, and I remembered last night why we’re supposed to hate you. You’re evil! You construct a box with giant magnetic conductors—that looks suspiciously like the Velociraptor container from Jurassic Park—and aren’t bothered by the fact that it just fried Worker #1 during a test run. Now you’re sticking Desmond in it to see if he survives. Thankfully, he does, but what are you doing?
“I need you to make a sacrifice,” Widmore tells Desmond. Then as an aside, he adds: “He’s the only one who survived a catastrophic electromagnetic event. I need to know that he can do it again—or we all die.”
So Widmore’s planning for another explosion—perhaps the implosion of the island, or the great escape of the Man in Black/Locke-ness Monster. What does that make Desmond, the messiah?
Or is Widmore planning another explosion? Didn’t his lady friend Eloise send the castaways back to the island to set off the nuclear bomb in the first place? Are they trying to alter reality again, and with what intention?
Mystery #2: Why does this Sideways Reality matter? This is where things get crazy. In this episode, Desmond isn’t married to Penny (just like Sayid isn’t married to Nadia, and Jin isn’t married to Sun, and Jack’s alone, and Kate’s alone, and Claire’s alone, and Sawyer’s alone…see a pattern?). In fact, he’s never met Penny—but he’s Widmore’s right-hand man, his fix-it guy. They hug and share scotch. It’s gross. Desmond flies to LA to meet Widmore face to face for the first time (strange they’ve never met before), and Widdy sends D on an errand: Pick up the heroine junkie who’s supposed to play a concert with my son from jail. Charlie! We missed Charlie. Too bad they gave him such terrible dialogue; he ends up sounding like a drunk poet during a particularly forced exchange with Desmond, when Charlie asks icebreakers like “Are you happy?” and “Have you ever been in love?”
Like the writers got together and said, “Damn, we only have eight episodes left, we need to make out point now.” It sets up an (also) contrived drowning scene, where Desmond has a flash to another reality: He sees Charlie holding up his hand with “Not Penny’s Boat” written on his palm. Desmond has started having flashes again—remember, he has the ability to see the future and the past, but now, he’s seeing sideways. Charlie and Daniel—dead in one reality, alive and well here—can also see sideways; Charlie has flashes of Claire, Daniel of physics and Charlotte—all true loves. Is this starting to sound like Harry Potter to you, or an Eagles song? Love will keep us alive?
Enter Eloise Widmore—yup, she’s married to Charles—who turns very cryptic, and tells Desmond he’s not ready to meet Penny, to find love. Why do she and Charles seem to know so much? Why are they the only couple, other than Locke, to have love in this world? Is this a love-less world, where the Man In Black reigns supreme? Did C & E orchestrate the destruction of the island to reverse their own poor decisions, i.e. to save Daniel and keep Penny close to Charles? If so, what the hell are they doing on the island now?
This is where my head started to hurt.
Final thoughts Are C & E good or evil? Are they trying to save the island, or their own hides? Will Desmond have to turn the dial of the island? Set off an explosion? Battle MIB to the death? He’s not even a candidate! He’s Charles’s candidate, thrown into the ring at the last minute. I feel like I don’t know a damn thing anymore…except that I love not knowing anything. It makes me want more.