“How did you know she was drowning?” – Charlie Pace
“I’ll tell you how he knew. That guy sees the future, dude.” – Hurley Reyes
Summary: Desmond declines to tell anyone what happened to him after the Dharma Swan Station blew up, probably because it involves weird consciousness-shifting time travel. He does, however, predict Charlie’s impending death.
The Best Bit: Charlie’s middle name is Hieronymous. Charlie Hieronymous Fucking Pace. No wonder he was so screwed up.
The Real Best Bit: Well, well. So Lost is a time travel show, is it? That was a bit unexpected. Desmond’s adventure in his own past is a disorienting flashback-within-a-flashback, but inceptionized time travel aside, the *really real* best bit is Fionnula Flanagan’s terrific guest appearance as Eloise Hawking. Eloise is a pawn broker who not only knows an unsettling amount about Desmond’s past, present and future, but is also perfectly aware that he is currently time travelling and is only there to make sure he does everything he’s supposed to. “And if you don’t do those things, Desmond David Hume, then every single one of us is dead. So give me that sodding ring!”
Eloise is great, is what I’m saying.
In a series that does its best to throw absolutely mystifying curveballs at its characters every so often, this is the mid-series pivot on a par with replacing the entire cast with animated cats.
The Worst Bit: I felt bad for Desmond Hume. Alan Dale’s guest appearance as Des’ prospective father-in-law Charles Whidmore is an almost comically villainous turn, as he conspicuously declines to pour Des a glass of stupidly expensive Scotch, and instead serves him some brutal classist shade. Whidmore is a huge jerk.
The Real Worst Bit: Look, the framing scene with Charlie and Hurley deciding to get Desmond drunk so he’ll reveal his ESP secrets is necessary, but that doesn’t make it good. Though I’ll grant that Des’ final declaration is a pretty (and upsetting) great character moment: “I wasn’t saving Claire, Charlie. I was saving you. You dove in after her. You tried to save her. You drowned. When I saw the lightning hit the roof, you were electrocuted. I tried twice to save you but the universe has a way of course correcting and I can’t stop it forever. No matter what I try to do, you’re gonna die, Charlie.”
The Mythology: “Flashes before Your Eyes” is an unsettling glimpse at the middle of some other story (one that won’t be cleared up for a while yet) and throws the whole Island mystery firmly back into the foreground. What *is* this place? Who are these people who seem to be able to go anywhere and do whatever they like with a clear picture of what should and/or will happen. Why is *everything* connected? Example: Whidmore’s office has a painting with a polar bear and the word “Namaste” written on it that I guarantee you won’t spot without freezing the image.
And when Desmond arrives back in the past, the Numbers show up again. Here they seem like spontaneous harbingers of Island weirdness – a side-effect rather than significant in themselves. The difference here is that Desmond, who spent three years typing the Numbers into a computer, recognises their presence and is suitably wigged out by them.
The Episode: I remember being riveted by “Flashes before Your Eyes” when I first saw it. It changes the tenor of the show in ways that both heighten the wonder and – I don’t doubt – deepen the frustration for any viewer who just wants everything to make sense. It doesn’t yet, and instead “Flashes” doubles down on the bewildering mystery. As a first time viewer, I was absolutely on board for Lost expanding its weirdness borders into time travel territory.
In retrospect though, this episode is all setup for stuff that won’t pay off for ages. It advances the plot a half-step at most, from “he sees the future” to “he sees Charlie die in the future”. Bad news for Charlie, but the episode is 100% leaning on Henry Ian Cusick’s befuddled charm to carry the audience through what is, when seen in isolation, a nonsense plot. He’s up for it – as of this episode he became one of my favourite actors on the show – but it’s a risky balancing act.
It’s an interesting artefact of the show in retrospect – an absolute lynchpin in terms of orienting the series towards its ending – but it doesn’t move the story forward in any meaningful sense. It’s almost pure infrastructure, wrapped in a charming Scots accent.
Call it six Mancunian buskers belting out Oasis covers out of ten.