Sunday, March 2, 2008
The Spice Girls Were Desmond's Second Choice For His Constant
You remember that scene in Saving Private Ryan when Tom Hank's character gives a monologue about the importance of finding Ryan to him? That it was a way home to his wife; that amid the horror and brutality of France's northern coast, there was a very humane, heartfelt reason behind these GIs' actions. It was merely an end to a personal means. Desmond is the embodiment of that speech to LOST, serving the exact same purpose. At the tail end of LOST's most scientifically trippy and fanciful episode, Desmond's call to Penny re-grounded the show in what differentiates it from other shows in the "science fiction" genre - The X-Files, Star Trek, even Heroes - if you can even make the claim LOST belongs in the same category. LOST, at its core, is about basic human emotions with the focus on the characters and their personal struggles rather than the mysterious island playground they find themselves on. If the characters didn't elicit some emotion, we'd never watch the show. Answers about the Island come too infrequently to sustain viewers. We have to be invested in the characters and be reminded that the shows strength lies in the 815 survivors, the Others, and the Freighter Foursome, not with the Black Smoke nor the Four-Toed Statue. And Desmond, more than any other character, serves of a reminder of the character's importance to the audience and the narrative. The audience will be able to swallow wormholes and time traveling consciouses if at the end the payoff is something as primal as finding the one you love. Desmond is a noble Odysseus, firmly planting the airy-fairy back into the realm of personal relationships. Like Odysseus, Desmond is completing an arduous journey back to a Penelope who has been faithfully waiting against the wishes of those surrounding her until her man can reclaim that which he left - except our Odysseus doesn't fail from the same ethical shortcomings as Homer's. Homer's Odysseus would sleep with Kate, Claire, Juliet, the stewardess, Rose and Sun if he thought it would help him off the Island, but that is neither here nor there.
Desmond is truly the only one who has something to get back to. Kate believes she's looking at jail. Jack has nothing. Hurley still has ghosts to wrestle with. Sun and Jin face an overzealous father. Claire - single motherhood. Desmond has Penelope. And ever since the end of season two, when we were told that Penny was looking desperately for the Island, the show's arch has been instilled with a subtle sense of the epic love story. Love is the constant. And while it hasn't been reduced to the lowest common, sappy denominator, the audience needs that reminder every once in a while, especially during episodes where we are asked to make huge narrative leaps that require high scientific understanding. Desmond serves that purpose and serves it well. A few more observations about that episode...
Desmond's Time Traveling Consciousness
So this is what I gather from the time-traveling consciousness: If someone is exposed to high levels of radiation or electro-magnetism and then comes in contact with the Island without following specific directions for getting to the Island, then they will have Desmond's jumping consciousness problem. Without that combination, you are OK We know Desmond was exposed to the electro-magnetism when he turned the fail-safe key at the end of season two and that the helicopter was knocked slightly off course when they flew to the freighter. Desmond lost it at that point. That logic train says if Locke, Charlie and Eko (who were in the Hatch when it exploded) were on the helicopter, they would have experienced the same problem as it pulls into the station. My guess is that we will find out that Minkowski at some point was also exposed to radiation and that when he left the freighter and went to look for the Island, he lost it. (We also know now why he couldn't make it to the phone in previous episodes...)
If you believe that, then it explains why Farraday hasn't flipped out when he arrived even though he had radiation exposure. The helicopter followed the exact right path on their approach to the Island. And since the pilot and Sayid hadn't had the radiation exposure, they didn't loose it on the helicopter when the copter was knocked off course.
As for Desmond and his flashes about Charlie's death, this is all I have: Desmond has slight conscious distortion while on the Island that allows/forces him to see a few hours/days into the future or past because of the Island's strange surrounding environment exacerbated by the turning of the failsafe key. As he leaves the Island, the environmental distortion further disorients his sense of surroundings and enables a conscious jump that is measured in years, not days.
We are also getting into issues with the time-travelers paradox...that someone from the future goes back in time to change the course of the future yet what happens to the world the time traveler comes from and to the memory of the people he visits. This was an issue during Back to the Future. But I think Terminator better illustrates these issues. The future still exists in the Terminator series and the people still exist but the course of the future can be changed. Kyle Reese still exists in the future, but in a different capacity. The better parallel with Terminator is the relationship between fate and free will. John and Sarah Conner can keep Judgement Day/SkyNet activation from happening for a certain period of time, but ultimately they are powerless to stop Judgement Day (see T3)...they can merely delay it. They can make choices to push it into the indeterminate future, but fate at some point always takes over. Sound familiar? It should. The relationship between Desmond and Charlie with regards to the latter's death is exactly like this. Desmond could only protect Charlie for so long. Fate and free will can coexist...and they do coexist on the Island, as illustrated by by Charlie's death. His fate was sealed, but Charlie made a conscious choice to fulfill that fate by not trying to swim from the Looking Glass after the Island's Rasputin blew open the port window. My guess is that this will be a stronger theme in the coming episodes and seasons.
That's all I have on that. My only question is why exactly does Farraday need a constant? And why would he choose Desmond if Desmond in 2004 was going to be on a deserted Island and isolated on the freighter? What if Farraday ended up in Aug. 2004 and Desmond was alone on the Island? How would Farraday get a hold of his constant?
The Black Rock Auction
It was reassuring to see Marisa Nicol's grandfather back on the show, bidding on a Black Rock log from our favorite ill-fated slave ship. I think it is important to remember that the contents of the journal had not been released to the public and were known only to the Hanso family - the same family who began the DHARMA Initiative. This lends further support to the idea that Mr. Widmore (and Penny's dad) is very interested in and aware of the Island, has bought the first mate's journal in an attempt to locate the Island and exploit it for some purpose. We can pretty safely conclude that there are four groups of people with a vested interest in the Island: 1) the Hanso family, who for some reason has given up on the Island and the DHARMA Initiative; 2) the Others, also known as the Island's original inhabitants and who are being lead by an overzealous and protecting Ben; and 3) The Widmore Corportation, headed by Penny's dad, with Mr. Widmore behind (and perhaps even on) the freighter...I'd guess we'll see him before the end of the season again in some capacity and 4) Penny who is using her resources to look for the Island, apart from her father's efforts and maybe without his knowledge. Mr. W uses the journal to locate the approximate position of the Black Rock when the last entry was made and search for the Island from there.
After the Oceanic 6 make it off the Island, Groups 2 and 3 battle it out for control of the Island, with Ben using Sayid to eliminate people in group 3 to protect the Island. Those are your main players...
Two other quick things. I don't think we have seen the end of Desmond and Penny in flashbacks. We still don't know why Desmond ended up in military prison and Desmond wrote frequently to Penny during his time in the clink (although all his letters were intercepted by Mr. W). The way it was left at the end of "The Constant" made it seem like Desmond had no interest in calling Penny until Christmas Eve 2004.
And speaking of Christmas Eve...why does Jack think it is right around Christmas (in "The Economist" when he is speaking with the pilot) and it is in fact Christmas Eve on the freighter? Shouldn't there be some time delay? If there is a 30 minute time difference on the beacon that is sent from the freighter to the Island, shouldn't the cumulative time difference over the course of 3 months be substantial? Doc Jensen says that maybe the time difference isn't a constant, that it flickers, much like Jacob's one cabin shanty town. I don't totally buy it and think this should (and will be) more fully explained later. That's all I've got for this week. Let me know what you think.