Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Review: Lost 3.8: Flashes Before Your Eyes

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Desmond does this face a lot in this episode. It's
Henry Ian Cuisick's "future!" face. From Wikia
Lost - Season Three, Episode Eight - Flashes Before Your Eyes
Written 2/3/14

If there's one aspect of science fiction that I can't get enough of, it's Time Travel. It's what got me into the genre with Doctor Who, and it's been something that I've been fascinated with ever since I was a kid. I even wrote an article about it last year. (That link contains some spoilers to the rest of the show, as will most of this article.) Time Travel on Lost has always been pretty interesting, as it provides a bona fide example of an immutable timeline - which, of course, the writers will always twist into destiny and fate etc. . Although it wasn't that apparent at the time, Flashes Before Your Eyes sets down Lost's time-travel philosophy in a way that, while not that important now, would shape the mechanics of the next two seasons in ridiculously amazing ways.
     This episode is the first of a few in the show to present its flashback as a continuous stream in the middle of the ep. instead of cutting back and forth between the two plotlines, and this was very appropriate, as we saw Desmond reliving a short segment of his life before the Island as a direct consequence of turning the Hatch Failsafe Key. Back in 1996, Desmond is living with girlfriend Penny when he suddenly starts getting flash-forwards to the Island. After he is dismissed entirely by Penny's father Charles Widmore, his flashes start troubling him and, on the way to buying Penny's engagement ring, he meets Eloise Hawking. (Mother of Daniel Faraday from Seasons 4-6, who is quite knowledgable about Time Travel due to her son's self-paradox.) She tells him that all of his visions are true, and that while he may avoid breaking Penny's heart, he will always end up at the Island, as even with knowledge of his future he cannot change his path.
     This fits in very well with the show's later use of immutable timelines, except this time was slightly more flexibility between fixed events and quibbleable details. I assume that certain aspects of Desmond's knowledge were forgotten by the time he set off on his adventures, as they might have affected things quite considerably. It also fell into one of the episode's biggest quibbles for me - the fact that there was a quite easy way to work around Desmond's problem, but Hawking's pushing of the immutable timeline model as "fate" and "your true path" made him fuck up. That would later happen in Season Five and if you've ever read those reviews, you know how much it pissed me off. In this case, the convoluted path of "Desmond breaks Penny's heart, joins the army, joins a sailing race and then makes it to the Island to save the world" could have just as easily been turned into "Desmond spends five lovely years with Penny and then tells her that he's going away for three years, travelling to the Island and saving the world."
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Luckily, Eloise doesn't appear again until Season 5. So no
more of this destiny bs until then, eh? From Wikia
      This episode also revealed that Desmond's recent premonitions all concern Charlie's inevitable death, setting up his story for this season. We were let to believe that Desmond was trying to save Claire, and I kinda ship Desmond/Claire so I was giggling there. But Charlie's stories really took a tumble last season what with all the outrageous jealousy (or Neelix moments as I might as well call them) for Locke of all people, the dip back into drug-hoarding and the assault on Sun on Sawyer's behalf. Don't worry, that'll get addressed this season. Ultimately I don't know whether knowing about Charlie's death this early in the season made it easier or harder to handle when it actually did happen - although I'd probably argue for the latter, as in the end it became Charlie's decision.
     Charlie's inevitable death at the end of the season marks a quite pivotal point in Lost history - the end of the long seasons, the beginning of more time-travel and sci-fi themes and a series of format changes that would re-define what Lost meant. It's somewhat appropriate to this episode's themes that it manages to predict all of those changes in a way which still manages to feel right in the context of the present goings on. Desmond centrics are always brilliant, and this introduction of a time-travel theme (continued in Season Four's The Constant) just makes it that much better for me. Last week I said I didn't like Flashes Before Your Eyes - and quite frankly, with an episode as perfect as this, I'm not sure why.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: We return to Jack and Juliet shenanigans in what is the worst episode of the show - the episode that drove the show's producers to set a limit to the number of episodes they had left to produce. Asking the burning questions that no-body wanted to know about, it's Stranger In A Strange Land.

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