Friday, April 09, 2010

"Happily Ever After" Analysis!

“You can’t always get what you want – but if you try, sometimes you just might find – you get what you need.” – Rusted Root… covering the Rolling Stones.

This week’s episode, “Happily Ever After”, didn’t play out like I was expecting. Although some portions of the episode matched my pre-episode expectations - Faraday espousing wacky and confusing theories, Eloise Hawking being mysterious and all-knowing, Desmond and Penny potentially finding love in the Flash Sideways, – I was shocked that a good 95% of the episode took place in the Flash Sideways world. Given the distaste that so many people have for the Flash Sideways (myself somewhat included), this could have meant disaster for the episode, breaking the streak of every Desmond-centric episode being totally awesome.

Turns out, the episode was still fantastic. But more importantly, this episode was exactly what we needed.

Flash Sideways. For the first time all season, the Flash Sideways storyline gained some tangible importance. We saw that there was indeed a connection between Reality #1 (on the Island) and Reality #2 (in LA X). Heck, we even had characters being aware of the Flash Sideways world itself:

CHARLIE: “I've seen something real, I've seen the truth.”

CHARLIE: “I feel sorry for you, mate. You think you're happy. You think you've got it all - this, your life. But, you don't.”

CHARLIE: “This doesn't matter. None of this matters. All that matters is that we felt it.”

ELOISE: “Someone has clearly affected the way you see things. This is a serious problem. It is, in fact, a violation. So, whatever you’re doing, whatever it is you think you’re looking for...You need to stop looking for it.”

DANIEL: “Just listen, what if, this, all this, what if this wasn't supposed to be our life? What if we had some other life and for some reason, we changed things? I don't want to set off a nuclear bomb, Mr. Hume. I think I already did.”

This is huge.

When you put all these comments together, a few things become very clear:

  1. The Flash Sideways world isn’t how things are “supposed to be” for these characters. I won’t go so far as to say it isn’t “real”, but that is a distinct possibility as well. Whatever the Flash Sideways world is, our characters were brought into it via unnatural means – and some are becoming aware of that. They “belong” in Reality #1.
  2. It’s curious that we only have proof of three characters coming to this realization – Desmond, who is “special” - and two characters who are dead in Reality #1 – Faraday and Charlie. Charlie had his epiphany during a near-death experience, but Faraday had his simply by seeing Charlotte. It makes one wonder about the connection between the characters in Reality #1 and #2. If a character dies in one reality, does it throw things out of balance and make that person more aware of the fact that things aren’t right? Or is this just a coincidence of this episode at this point? After all, we didn’t hear any of this talk from Charlotte – although maybe she hasn’t had her epiphany yet since Sawyer wasn’t exactly her soul mate? (Note: from this point forward, I’m going to call the realization that there is a second reality out there an “epiphany”.)
  3. Eloise continues to be all-knowing. She seems to see the big picture of everything within the space-time continuum and has knowledge of both realities… yet we know that she was a normal person who grew up on the Island from 1954 to at least 1977. How did she go from a semi-leader of the Others to the keeper of the space-time continuum? Was this the “wish” that Jacob / Anti-Jacob granted her, similar to making Alpert live forever? She would have knowledge of everything that would happen, but would be forced to ensure that things stayed in balance? Or could it be that the truly enlightened Others are “special”? They have a deep connection to the Island, which might be the nexus of both realities – and therefore might have some dual-reality citizenship, so to speak.
  4. One could also debate that Charles Widmore fits into this category as well since he knows precisely what Desmond needs to do in Reality #1 to keep the world from falling apart. So we have Widmore in Reality #1 and Eloise in Reality #2 both trying to influence Desmond’s actions. Are they on the same side? Opposing sides?

We’ll come back to that. Based on these assumptions, what does it all mean?

If the Flash Sideways were simply some “dreamlike state” that our Survivors all entered after the Jughead explosion, it would explain how familiar characters keep re-appearing and interacting… and why a lot of it seems to be a version of “happily ever after” for most of our Survivors. But if this were the case, I don’t think Eloise would be so concerned about violating the “rules” of Reality #2… and it would mean the writers wasted a hell of a lot of the final season of Lost on a “dream”.

Likewise, the fact that we have living, thinking characters like Charlie and Faraday – characters who were dead before the Jughead explosion – attempting to influence the other Survivors to see “the truth” eliminates a lot of the theories about the Flash Sideways being the result of a “Deal with the Devil” or being an “Epilogue” to the Lost storyline after the On-Island action concludes. If this were a new reality given to our Survivors in the end, it wouldn’t be “fake” – and seeing the truth wouldn’t do our Survivors any good.

There are clearly two opposing forces at play in the Flash Sideways. On one side is Eloise, on the other is Desmond / Charlie / Faraday.

Hmmm – two opposing forces at play? Perhaps one light, and one dark? A “balance” of sorts? Where have we heard this before?


Time to get crazy.

I’m not sure how – or why – but could it be that what we are seeing in the Flash Sideways world is some sort of “battle” for the very souls of our Survivors between Jacob and Anti-Jacob? On the one side you have Anti-Jacob giving them everything that he thinks they need… but is demonstrating how little he understands them and their human condition by not getting it quite right. (Note: this is really where the whole “Deal with the Devil” theory came from in the first place – the fact that in each Flash Sideways, there is a twinge of sadness mixed in with an otherwise, overall, very positive existence for our characters.)

On the other side, you have Jacob (perhaps manifesting himself through the dead characters in Reality #2, just like Anti-Jacob does in Reality #1) trying to shake our Survivors out of it, to tell them that this isn’t what they are supposed to be doing! These lives may be nice, but they are fake… and once they experience something that touches upon the core of their soul – a near-death experience, true love, their first taste of Skyline Chili, they see Reality #2 for the fraud it is.

I’m not really sure how this makes sense, as it seems to require that all our Survivors on the Island fall into some sort of coma or “spell” to be experiencing Reality #2, but that didn’t seem to be the case with Desmond this week. The two realities seem to be happening concurrently. I also don’t quite see how “enlightening” the characters in Reality #2 would that help the current situation on the Island. But this is one of those situations where I have more of a general feeling for what’s going on than the hard facts sorted out in my head.

Earlier today, I commented to my Hot Wife Kate that one of the reasons that the Flash Sideways haven’t been very interesting to me is because of the lack of an overall conflict. The stories carry no real weight. Sure, there are individual character struggles and problems – but since none of the characters really know each other, these individual dramas don’t carry a lot of importance. If Sun dies from being shot in the stomach, Jin would be sad – but no one else in the Flash Sideways would care. They don’t know her… or at least they don’t know that they know her. So who cares?

But by introducing this larger “battle” between two opposing sides in the Flash Sideways, you introduce some much needed conflict. You’ll have characters taking sides and making important decisions that affect everyone. It would also offer a nice parallel to exactly what is going on in Reality #1 on the Island.

I still don’t know if the end game involves one reality “surviving” while the other disappears, the two realities merging, or something in between – but it could be that Widmore’s comment two episodes ago about “ceasing to exist” may have been a hint that there are going to be two wars going on – one in each reality, but both with the same players. The winners continue on. The losers vanish forever.

Or could it be that each character will have to make their own choice? Take the fake, happy reality of Reality #2, or take the real, sometimes brutally painful world of Reality #1? I don’t think there will need to be any sort of “group consensus” on the matter since it’s pretty clear that some characters are far better off in one Reality vs. the other (especially those who are dead).

The real question is – why is any of this necessary? Why is it important? Regardless of who or what created Reality #2, why is it important to the viewer that so much of Season Six has focused on it?

Here’s what I’m thinking. Back in Season One, one of the central themes on Lost was that the Island gave people the chance to start over. Their pasts didn’t matter. They had the chance to do good on the Island, make something of themselves, and earn redemption. Well, here we are five seasons later and what do we have? A Flash Sideways world where the characters are presented with a similar opportunity. It’s a “reset” of the characters lives’, free from all the death and drama that happened once they set foot on the Island. It’s a world without the Island, and they have the chance to determine if their lives would really be better off without it – or if their experiences there actually made them who they were supposed to be… even if it meant dying in the process.

It’s been important to establish the storylines for each character in the Flash Sideways world so that we’ll understand the heavy decisions they might have to make in regards to staying in Reality #2 or going back to Reality #1. Is it better to have loved and lost, or never to have loved at all? Is it better to have done something great with your life and die in the process, or live a long, simple life without any profound meaning? These are some super heavy questions that typically require about half a bottle of whiskey to fully debate – so it makes sense that a show as super-intellectual as Lost would attempt to tackle them with its final season.


To recap, we might see the final seven episodes of Lost dealing with a war for the Island in Reality #1, and war between realities in Reality #2, and potentially an entire world (or both) hanging in the balance depending on the decisions of our Survivors.

Yeah, I’d say that’s a pretty worthwhile storyline.

Okay – enough crazy. I’m sure that came out like gibberish, but I promise it makes sense in my head. Tell me why this theory sucks in the Comments and I’ll do my best to explain it in a different way.

Desmond. The only other thing I wanted to touch on this week was Desmond himself. In Reality #1, Widmore told him “the Island isn't done with you yet", that he’ll have “to make a sacrifice”, and if Desmond can’t survive another catastrophic electromagnetic event, “we all die”. Needless to say, this would make anyone freak out a little bit – and Desmond did just that. But after a little reality-jumping, Desmond returned to the Island seemingly totally enlightened. He calmly tells Widmore that he understands his mission and keeps the same cool demeanor after being pseudo-kidnapped by Sayid. It’s as if he has accepted his fate and is marching on to meet his destiny, even though it might result in his death / eternal imprisonment on the Island.

My first thought was “okay, this makes sense. Desmond is sacrificing himself in Reality #1 so that he can be with Penny in Reality #2”. But that makes no sense. Desmond, more than anyone else, has realized that Reality #2 is a fraud. It’s not where he is supposed to be. In fact, he may be working to destroy Reality #2 by showing the other Survivors of Oceanic 815 the truth. Yet he goes on setting up a date with Penny in this reality.

This would make it appear as though Desmond is laying the foundation for a long life in Reality #2, after his mission in Reality #1 is complete. Yet I’m almost 100% certain that if there was only going to be one “surviving reality” in the end, it would be Reality #1. We’ve spent way too much time there to have it cease to exist, and it would render all the action on the Island, all the Candidate talk, and even all the Jacob and Anti-Jacob stuff moot. I don’t see that happening. So then why is Desmond, the only person on (or watching) Lost that seems to understand it all, acting in a way that would indicate that Reality #2 is going to be where he ends up?


It seems to add some weight to the theory that both realities will continue to exist, and that characters will get to choose where they end up. Perhaps Desmond is going to be the sacrificial lamb to “save” everyone in Reality #1 (including Penny and his son Charlie), but once he has completed his mission will jump into some electromagnetic storm that will whisk him away to Reality #2 where his consciousness will live “happily ever after” and start a new life, one where he not only has Penny, but also the respect of her father, Charles Widmore.

Okay – I think that’s enough crazy talk for one week. Be prepared for these theories to be blown out of the water next week, in what may be a recurring theme until the finale, when it is revealed that all of Lost was just a dream inside Vincent’s head, and we’ve all wasted the past seven years of our lives obsessing over it.



Jack Elder said...

If Sayid gets Desmond to SmokeLocke then how does SmokeLocke deal with him?

timcourtois said...

Man... this show is brilliant. This close to the end, and it's still compelling, yet still completely mysterious:

A reasonable case can be made for either Jacob or Anti-Jacob being responsible for reality #2; A reasonable case can be made for Desmond, Widmore, Eloise, Jacob or Anti-Jacob being both in favor or against reality #2.

(Faraday said this "wasn't supposed to be our life" - but that doesn't mean it's "wrong" or "fake". It could mean they succeeded in fixing what was wrong and defeating evil...)

Brilliant. I am captured and mystified.

p.s., People seem to think Ji-Yeon is doomed in reality #2 b/c Sun got shot... I think her "stubborn tomato" was intended as a direct hint that Sun's "fruit" is persistent and will survive just about anything...

timcourtois said...

p.s. Doc Jensen over at (whose articles I usually find to be frustrating and more about fluff than LOST) wrote a great article today arguing that reality #2 actually is the final destination of everybody on the show... I think he won me over.

Brian said...

Jack Elder - that will be a question for next week's episode preview. Stay tuned.

timcourtois - at your suggestion, I went over and (attempted to) read the latest Doc Jensen article. Man, I don't know how people get through those things. I'm not the most "proper writer" in the world, but getting through one of his sentences requires reading it twice and then subconsciously cutting out half the crap within it.

But I digress.

The big problem with the LA X Reality being the "final destination" is that it cheats you out of everything that happened for the past five seasons. Charlie and Faraday are alive. All the relationships that were developed are gone. Even if our characters somehow "carried over" their memories from the past five seasons, I can't get over allowing dead characters to come back to life as a "thank you" for a job well done on the Island.

But we'll see...

Anonymous said...

Theory: Have you ever been dissatisfied with your life, thinking that you were destined for better things? Probably, but you still wake up and go to work. You might even drink to forget about it and/or veg out in front of the TV for hours. This is Reality 2: the land were self-actualization and fulfillment are fleeting dreams only seen in glimpses. It's kinda like The Matrix: it seems real, we go through the motions, but we're not serving a higher purpose (except to feed the machines in this case). Reality 1 will "win" when the characters realize that escape from the Island is in fact "escapism" of another sort. It's going back to that comfortable place where we are plugged into the Matrix, eating cake, and paying taxes; but we're not experiencing life. The island represents a 2nd chance, and that is the chance to experience life to its fullest.

Unknown said...

Juliet also had an epiphany, when she died in Sawyer's arms. And then she "told" Miles: "it worked"...

To me, this means that in fact the Jughead did trigger something... and that her epiphany was also triggered by love. And she is also dead in R1.


Unknown said...

The only two characters in the alternate time line who have been shown as figuring out that something is not right in their world on their own are dead, as has been mentioned. Will the death of Jacob, and his statement that this will make him more powerful than MIB could imagine have something to do with this? Maybe he would be unable to communicate w/ the other world alive, but being dead can somehow interact w/ people who are dead in the original world; and knowing that Hurley can see dead people he knew he could still influence the original world when needed.

Brian Leonard said...

Brian, no gibberish at all in your analysis/theories. I like it very much--in fact, this may be your best analysis ever, because you/we are now dealing with so many possibilities. And I agree completely with you over Doc J.--the FlashSideways cannot be the final destination for everyone. Maybe some.

Unknown said...

I'm not convinced that the sideways world is fake, nor do I see the problem with the show resolving in the sideways world if the characters all achieve the Desmond type connection between their two selves. Re the first point, haven't we heard a lot of characters describe the island reality as "not real"? Most recently it was Richard, but there have been others. Could go either way for me, maybe both are equally fake and real.

Finally, "you can't always get what you want" should never be attributed to Rusted Root covering the Stones, that's just crazy.

mark said...

brian, i don't understand how both realities could possibly be occurring at the same time. the survivors of reality 1 spent 108 days on the island, then 3 years back in the real world. the survivors of reality 2 and the stories we're viewing now are only a few days after oceanic 815 lands.

desmond's mind must be travelling back and forth between realities, but also through time.

oh, and i have to agree with tim's comments about doc jensen's articles. i read his column regularly for a season or two and then gave up. his column reminds me of some of my university textbooks. full of a lot of unnecessarily big words used to sound intelligent and sophisticated, but hard to decipher and understand without reading 3 times.

another LOST blog i enjoy reading if people haven't discovered it yet is:

read the episode recaps by vozzek69. some great stuff.

Unknown said...

could it be jacob has a dual reality too?

Hope said...

If we have two realities going on I wonder if since Sun was shot in Reality #2 if she will be the one that gets shot in the boat in Reality #1.

JP said...

one theory thats out there is that Eloise kick started these events to alter the reality to save Faraday.

Anonymous said...

Brian: I like your idea that the alternate reality will be used as a kind of testing ground for our characters. But let me offer a tweak : rather than being a battleground where MIB and Jacob fight over the survivor's souls, maybe the alt-reality is a place to stage "the game" without Jacob's or MIB's interference.

Let me explain/speculate:

As I understand it, Jacob is trying to show humanity's value to MIB by bringing groups to the island and having them do ... well, something. However, these demonstrations/games have not been successful, in large part because MIB tends to kill and/or corrupt the people involved.

And, I'm guessing that MIB is skeptical of the whole endeavor, since Jacob interferes with the people's lives in order to get them to the island. Jacob's participation has tainted the results, so to speak.

Solution? Stage the game/demonstration in an alternate reality where Jacob and MIB don't exist.

But there's a few complications to Jacob's plan:

1) MIB killed Jacob before the alt-reality demo/game was done.
2) The alt-reality's existence is fragile. You have to press a button every 108 minutes to prevent the realities from colliding/merging/destroying each other ( I read this theory over at DarkUFO. Sounded good to me.)

So when Eloise Widmore described Desmond's search for answers as a "violation", well, maybe it's her job to keep R2 as separate from R1 as possible.

There's also an Internet theory that MIB is a living embodiment/container of EM energy, which also sounds OK to me. So why does Charles Widmore warn that everything we know and love ceases to be if MIB escapes?

On a sci-fi reading, if MIB leaves, the island EM energy goes crazy, R2 collides/merges with R1, and at least one reality gets obliterated.

On a religious/spiritual reading, if MIB leaves, then Jacob's failed to demonstrate humanity's worth to him. There's no purpose to maintaining 2 separate realities anymore, so at least one will face an apocalypse.

Anyways, sorry for the stupid long post. I'm just rambling on a Saturday night.

jack said...

Noteworthy too that Faraday, in reality #2, is a musician who somehow gained insights to write in his journal complex geophysics principals of some sort.

Bea said...

If there is one consistent theme on Lost, it is inter-generational conflict: nearly every main character has been betrayed and majorly screwed up by a parental figure.

To me, Jacob and Anti-Jacob are just another set of parents who lie, manipulate, and try to control the main characters' lives. They are ruthless; they serve their own agendas and reveal very little of the truth to the people they are manipulating. I can't imagine any satisfying conclusion that involves our survivors following Jacob, Widmore, OR Anti-Jacob ... what we need is to see our survivors (along with Faraday, Desmond, etc.) come up with their own solution to the dilemma posed by the parallel universes.

The only time we've really seen our survivors behaving proactively (instead of as pawns of Jacob, Widmore, or Anti-Jacob) was last season when they blew up Jughead. Yes, Eloise had a fair bit to do with that, but the originator of the plan was Daniel. If the alt-reality is merely a trap or an illusion, then last season was just a blind alley, and the moral of the story will be that our survivors should just follow whatever genocidal father-figure seems to know most about what's going on. It will be so much more satisfying if in the end it is the younger generation who decide what to do, not Widmore or Eloise, and certainly not Jacob of MIB.

Uff said...

I miss Walt...that being said...What if Jacob is alive in reality #2? what would that mean?

Uff said...

Just hit me...Walt was known "to be at places or get to places he wasn't supposed to". He also had weird electro/magnetic issues, causing tons of birds to die either directly or indirectly (they never explained if he just did killed them or attracted them and they ran into a wall and died). What is he was able to jump from imaginary time to real time at will? What I'm getting at is that this adds more to the theory that Walt was eventually taken over by Desmond, by the Lost writes, I mean.

Dave Harty said...

I do think it is interesting that 2 of the people most tuned into the different timelines are dead in one.

I can see that Hawking had a reason to prefer the LA X timeline, she still has her son, maybe that is what she is trying to maintain.

But unless Desmond saw that he was going to have to give up Penny and Charlie in timeline #1, I don't see why he'd prefer the LA X timeline where he is just getting to know Penny and there is no Charlie (their son).

Khmer Rouge said...

I agree with Bea: the "purpose" of Lost's story is to get the main characters (the 815'ers and the sundry others we've met along the way) to finally ACT ON THEIR OWN and not at the behest of people who claim to know everything, and who actually know very little but are out for their own agenda. The Reality One survivors need to break away from this "parental control" as Bea called it, and make their own choices.

Intriguingly, so far the only characters who really understand this are in Reality Two - and dead in Reality One. Charlie, Faraday, Locke, and I'm counting Juliet in advance as well, because I'm certain she'll pop up again before the end.

On the Island, "dead is dead." In the FlashSideways, everyone is alive (eternally, perhaps, a la Richard Alpert?), but there's a sense of falseness, a sense of "destiny NOT found," to tweak ABC's catch phrase for this season. The Reality One characters must come to the same realization, through life, that the Reality Two characters have come to through death.

I firmly believe that for the purposes of Lost, there is only one "true" reality, and that the ultimate goal is the preservation of that reality. This reality is not all roses and sunshine, some people have to die, some people have to lose the loves of their lives, but it is the RIGHT one.

The Reality Two characters that have realized this - Charlie being the perfect example - know that things can only turn out one way, and accepting that is the happiest solution. Charlie realized on the Island that he had to die for a greater purpose (Claire) and accepted it. He still knows this (more intuitively, but it still relates to Claire) in Reality Two, and wants to die, because it fulfills his purpose, it's the right thing to do. Think of how cool, calm and collected the Charlie that "visited" Hurley at the mental hospital was. This is the same cool, calm, and collected demeanor that Desmond has just adopted - the realization of a higher purpose.

I've just had the biggest renewal of faith in Lost I think I've ever had. :)

Unknown said...

I was with you that Desmond had an epiphany during his "magnetic experience" as he did seem very calm and to understand what Widmore expected of him. But, when Sayid kidnapped him and he really didn't react at all, it made me reconsider.

His lack of reaction to Sayid was more like that of someone who knows he cannot have any impact on this crazy island and he's just along for the ride. I mean if he understood what the sacrifice that Whitmore required of him was, and was willing to do it, don't you think he'd have been at least somewhat upset when Sayid moved to take him away from that whole plan?

We will see, but I did not like the way Desmond seemed so unemotional at the end of the episode, he seemed more like the "claimed" Sayid than a man who had just seen a way to possibly fix his world.

Jay said...

I'll try to get this out. The loophole IS the blending of the consciousness. Sinking the island does not resolve the conflict; the island must stay where it was, is and will be. The characters will not choose Reality #2, though consciousness is transcending space-time, Reality 1 and 2 are separate. The "violation" that Eloise refers to is Desmond's consciousness leaking in from Reality #1; it is not that Desmond is "not ready yet" to meet Penny. I think what we can expect to see in Reality 2 is all our characters making a choice to do something (fly in a plane over the island?) that will allow the loophole to be closed.

Jay said...

Jacob and Anti-Jacob are a redherring as far as "who is responsible". I believe the Anti-Jacob is saying that it wants to "go home" meaning, more or less, to die, to stop being trapped. What Anti-Jacob doesn't realize or doesn't care about, is that to do this required starting a loophole that has blended consciousness across realities and will eventually collapse them all into oblivion. Perhaps the way to avoid this to for someone else to take the place of the current Anti-Jacob, but perhaps Anti-Jacob will just never be allowed to be un-trapped. Either way, it's not about God versus the Devil, it's about duality and the necessity for duality to exist for this world to continue to exist.

Jay said...

Although Jacob and MiB are a level removed from the humans, seemingly with more knowledge and at odds with eachother, doesn't make their conflict any more relevant or important. They are agents of the island, serving the needs of the island as the common reference point of parallel realities. Upsetting the delicate balance of Jacob/Anti-Jacob (black/white) (male/female) is the threat, not any action by Jacob or Anti-Jacob.

Jay said...

Why is Desmond so calm? Desmond is special because his consciousness moves so easily across realities. I think that's why the episode was nearly all flash-sideways, because unlike other people, he can move and stay there. I suspect that Desmond will be the lynchpin of closing the loophole because he can be in the middle of a catastrophic electromagnetic event and his consciousness can move between both realities to take necessary actions. Going even farther out on a limb here, but Desmond may make a physical sacrifice in Reality #1 while his consciousness slips into Reality #2 to rekindle his love with Penny.

Khmer Rouge said...

As I've mentioned here before, Desmond already has used his abilities to alter events in one timeframe so as to produce results in another - in "The Constant," where he reunited with Penny.

He's the only one who can do this, and he's about to do it again, only this time the stakes are much, much higher.