"Flashes Before Your Eyes" Initial Thoughts
Wow, what a mind-blowing episode.
Okay, so apparently Damon Lindelof wasn't serious (or at least hadn't developed Desmond's plot line yet) when he said during the filming of Season 1 that "there isn't any time travel" on LOST. Maybe there wasn't any time travel back then, but there sure seems to be now. It's a bit frustrating that even the executive producers' formal statements about the show can't be taken seriously as a rule. Still, I have to say that I enjoyed this episode in spite of having been misled by Lindelof. Perhaps it's time to revisit possible connections between LOST and the 2004 book The Time Traveler's Wife, such as the fact that Desmond woke up in the jungle naked, a similar predicament to that of the time traveler in the book.
So it wasn't Claire that Desmond was really trying to save—it was Charlie. Who knew? Well, apparently actor Michael Emerson (who plans Ben) knew. As I mentioned previously, in a recent podcast interview Emerson gave his opinion that Charlie might be the next to die, and then quickly realized that he was discussing something that hadn't been revealed yet on the show. Before "Flashes Before Your Eyes" aired, based on scenes from the LOST Moments and last week's preview clip of Desmond telling someone that he or she would die, I was torn between whether Claire or Charlie was the one who was doomed. The whole episode I kept thinking it was Claire, right up until Desmond started talking to Charlie at the end of the episode (Claire's near-drowning was an excellent diversion).
Can Desmond change the future? If the mysterious white-haired lady, Ms. Hawking, is to be believed, then no matter what Desmond does he will not be able to save Charlie forever. However, Desmond has been able to successfully save Charlie twice so far, even putting his own life at risk to do so. Will they both end up dead? Or is it possible that Desmond can break "the universe's course-correcting"? After all, as we learned from one of the Easter eggs in last week's episode, "only fools are enslaved by time and space."
In one sense, Ms. Hawking herself seemed to have been a master of time and space since she knew Desmond's destiny; however, she seemed simultaneously enslaved by time and space because she accepted as an incontrovertible fact that it would have been impossible for her to save the man with the red shoes.
Based on the A Brief History of Time Easter egg in Not In Portland, one may speculate that when Desmond turned the fail safe key it caused him to travel through a black hole. According to HowStuffWorks, a Kerr black hole could theoretically be used to travel through time or even through parallel universes, which might explain why Desmond experienced many strange things such as the microwave making the hatch's four-minute countdown sound. Wikipedia lists several theoretical means of traveling to the past based on real physics, including travel by way of black holes. Professor Ronald Mallett's theory about traveling to the past is that it would be impossible for one to travel back in time and change history because "In a sense, time travel means that you're traveling both in time and into other universes. If you go back into the past, you'll go into another universe. As soon as you arrive at the past, you're making a choice and there'll be a split. Our universe will not be affected by what you do in your visit to the past." [source] This may explain why Desmond was unable to change any significant events in his past.
Of course, it may also be possible that Desmond dreamed the whole thing, although that would be rather uninteresting and a grand cop-out, and wouldn't explain how he can currently see the future.
For that matter, how can Desmond see the future? When he returned from his apparent time traveling experience, he was back in the present, so he apparently has not personally experienced any future events. How would it be possible for him to be seeing "flashes" of the future? Desmond's involuntary visit to the past doesn't seem to explain the oddity of his future sight, by any means.
Two Otherly white-haired women? No, not quite. [Minor spoiler ahead.] I recently mentioned that in one of the LOST Moments, we saw a white-haired woman who read Jack's tattoo aloud in Chinese. After reviewing this LOST Moment, it appears that this woman's hair may actually be platinum blond. The actress is different as well, for what it's worth. The Chinese speaking woman, whose name is Isabel, will be played by actress Diana Scarwid, while Ms. Hawking from Desmond's flashback is played by actress Fionnula Flanagan. This is another instance of LOST characters who look similar at first glance; when the Season 3 premiere began with a Juliet flashback, many people thought she was Sarah Shephard at first, particularly since the episode was supposed to contain Jack flashbacks.