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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

"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 saveā€”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.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

"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."

How is this uninteresting or a cop out? Desmond could possibly be having a lucid dream wherein he either personally adds artifacts from future events or he, knowing future events, sees cosmic significance in previously mundane situations. If you were lucid dreaming about your past, this is probably what would happen. Everything would "seem" to point to a definite conclusion, but, in reality, all of those things we would see as significant were in reality contingent on a large number of factors. Desmond is searching for meaning in his cowardice, his failings, and his inability to grasp what he really wants. Therefore he reconstructs history to make it seem inevitable. This is something people do when they fail. They say it was out of their hands, inevitable. This is also not an uncommon story telling device. This was the central conceit in the David Lynch film Mulholland Drive.
It avoids the muddled time travel speculation, and it relates quite neatly to Desmond's Philosopher counterpart, David Hume, who DENIED all the things that our friend Desmond is using to fool himself, (causality, logical induction from past events, and a notion of the self as a persistent, immutable entity).

How can Desmond see future events? How could Locke foresee Boone's death? People on the Island have visions. We needn't speculate that Locke is a time traveler.

Okay, if Desmond DID go back in time, then why would the woman (Ms. Hawking) be aware of this? Are you willing to grant that Desmond AND a random woman are both "unstuck" in time, able to realize that they are living an irrevocable cosmic cycle?

Besides, Desmond's ability to save Claire and Charlie implies that he has lived through all of this before. If that's the case, then why did he not recognize Jack and Locke when he first met them? Why did he run away in terror? Why did he try to escape? We would have to concede that Desmond was willingly playing a part in those instances, willingly missing when he tried to shoot Jack.

I think that the time travel stuff is a total red herring designed to designed to spur debate among the hardcore fans.

Thursday, February 15, 2007 8:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think when Desmond says to Ms Hawking, "You're my conscience talking", this sums it all up. The whole thing is just Desmond going through his past decisions, Mulholland Drive-style.

Of course none of this explains why Desmond sees the future, but nobody said it would. I think the episode is just about Desmond's break-up with Penny and how he feels bad about it, and that#s pretty much it.

Sunday, February 18, 2007 2:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a question about the part charlie was singing "becasue maybe, your going to be the one that saves me" is that an actual song or something because i think i have heard it before

Wednesday, May 16, 2007 11:20:00 PM  
Blogger Josh Long said...

The song is "Wonderwall" by Oasis.

Regarding the posts about Desmond not traveling through time, the Official LOST Podcast following "Flashes" revealed that Desmond did, in fact, time-travel. Damon Lindelof (the show's co-creator and an executive producer) also restated this fact in a more recent Official Podcast.

Thursday, May 17, 2007 10:49:00 AM  

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