That was awesome.
If you’ve ever found yourself on the Contributors’ page here at Den Of Geek, you’ll have realised that I have a man-crush on one Desmond David Hume: former soldier, hard drinker, endless romantic, tortured time traveller. Last night’s episode only strengthened that belief in the man – hell, it strengthened my belief in Lost being the richest and most daring series on television (not that that hasn’t happened at all this season).
Dude, that was awesome!
In “The Constant”, scribes (and daddies of Lost) Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse laid down the rules of time travel within the show, a motif that I believe will become increasingly important as we enter the final stretch of episodes. Time, and how it can be bent, has always been important in Lost due to the flashback/flashforward structure, so the emergence of time travel isn’t really as massive a shock as one may think. That’s not to say that “The Constant” wasn’t surprising: as a matter of fact, it pieced together a bunch of the things I love about Lost – intrigue, expansion of mythology, complex-yet-simple structuring, a big beating heart and an OMFG-worthy cliffhanger. So let’s dive into it!
We were back in Frank Lapidus’ helicopter with Desmond and Sayid, the former fawning over a photo of him and Penny, the latter asking what he expected to find on the freighter. “Answers,” Des answered, yet another example of the characters speaking for the audience yet again. What the Scot found, however, was his bunk in a military base north of Glasgow… in 1996. Figures that Lapidus’ helicopter drifted from the 305 heading that Daniel was so defiant in saying they should remain on – something Daniel was visibly not pleased about back on the island.
The side-effects of Desmond’s flashes had been heightened by intense measures of electromagnetism – giving us an idea of how the hatch implosion sent him flying back to the past in “Flashes Before Your Eyes”. The missed bearings, along with the whole real-time/island-time paradox, must have only made his flashes increasingly more erratic.
Back in 1996, Desmond met Daniel – then a professor of physics at Oxford and conducting time experiments on a mouse – who advised him to find a constant i.e. “something familiar in both times”. If he didn’t, he would find it harder to tell the difference between past and future with each brain fart and possibly die, just like Daniel’s mouse in the experiment and Minkowski on the ship, who simply couldn’t make it back to 2004. Desmond’s constant? Estranged girlfriend Penelope Widmore.
This whole time travel malarkey points to a principle by the name of the “predestination paradox”. (Keep up with me now, my physics isn’t that great.) There is the famous example of the “grandfather paradox”: if someone travels back in time, finds their grandfather before their parents are born and kills him, then their existence is in direct jeopardy.
The predestination paradox, however, is almost a self-fulfilling paradox in which things have to be established for the future timeline as we know it to work out. Think of the moment in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure where Bill and Ted have to return to Earth so they can tell their past selves the task at hand (i.e. “sixty-nine, dudes!”) If they didn’t show up, they wouldn’t have gotten Napoleon and Atilla the Hun etc. to travel forward in time to help out with their history report so they could pass and all that stuff – you’ve all seen Excellent Adventure a million times, so I won’t go into every little detail.
When Desmond received Penny’s number after a whole lot of begging, he had planted the seeds for his future phonecall – however, without that phonecall, Desmond would not have recollected his memories post-1996 and may have headed the way of Minkowski. (And who’s to say he couldn’t? Shudder.) What I wonder about is whether or not Desmond’s time travelling unravels certain aspects of the island. Could his battle to uphold the past (and, let’s not forget, the future) fail in certain aspects, allowing the Oceanic Six to leave the island? Even though he made contact with Penny on Christmas Eve 2004, does he not require to constantly keep in contact with her? This is all awesome stuff, but if I think too long and hard about it, my brain starts to mush as if Lance Reddick just walked on screen.
For me, the best scene of the episode was when Desmond finally got in contact with his “constant” (who had been supposedly contacting the freighter, only for her calls to stay unanswered “under strict orders”) after a good three years. Since the season two finale, we’ve known just how much this couple misses and feels for one another – and while this I guess is by no means the final payoff regarding this storyline, the minute-long phonecall was both sweet and totally satisfactory.
However, our old crackly enemy, static (remember that whole “we’re the survivors/there were no survivors of Oceanic 815” controversy from season one?), reigned throughout the phonecall – I do believe that when Penny said she had been researching the island only to be interrupted by static, there was a few nuggets of information to look out for. Maybe not – it’s easy enough to just enjoy that scene for what it was: a tearjerker. (Even though I didn’t cry. Well, almost.)
But that cliffhanger… Desmond is Daniel’s constant? He’s a time traveller too?! Well colour me purple, I did not see that coming. And as much as I like taking pleasure in having figured out plot twists before others (ha ha, I totally knew Kate’s baby was Aaron before you did, ha ha!), it was awesome to close the episode on such a doozy. Was he assigned by Matthew Abbaddon for his prior knowledge of the island via Desmond? Is it more than pure fate that his constant is on the island? Did Daniel become “a headcase” – as Naomi called him – due to his obsession with finding the island that Desmond spoke of? Fellow Den Of Geek’r Carl England told me that he believes Daniel didn’t know he was crying because… okay, this theory needs a new paragraph as it refers to that pesky predestination paradox yet again.
Desmond’s flashes usually jump from future to past, causing disorientation when he returns from the past at the start of the episode. However, through learning from Daniel the need to find a constant, he is able to anchor himself. Past-Faraday (as he is in his flashback from “Confirmed Dead”) is a man without an anchor; Future-Faraday (the man we see now) is a man who has finally relocated his anchor. Future-Faraday is a man in the know, a man who is bewildered and jittery but has put his knowledge from the past in Oxford (for example) to good use on the freighter and on the island. However, back in the real world, this mystical island and the fractures of time and space that Faraday has discovered (along with his severe prolonged exposure to radiation) has left him unable to function properly – his obsession with this information leading him to lose his job as a physics professor and also need a caretaker to manage (not his wife as I claimed in another recap). Future-Faraday is still one raisin short of a granola bar, but he has found an environment to properly use all this information. Past-Faraday is a bank of information with no chance of a withdrawal. Hence, where Desmond carries information from island to off-island, Daniel is carrying information via time-travelling in the opposite direction. What do you think?
After a while I begin to get muddled in theories, so on with the other stuff then. Sayid asked Frank the burning question as to why the helicopter took off at dusk yet arrived at midday. Frank, as he did in the previous episode after Daniel’s experiment, made no remark on the matter and moved swiftly on. I think that it’s fair to say that Frank’s letting on a hell of a lot more than he knows. Why do I get the feeling he’s going to just kill someone? Jeff Fahey has the crazy eyes for it, I’ll tell you that.
We came back into contact with our good friend Charles Widmore in one of Desmond’s flashes, aggressively bidding on auction items as only an aggressive auctioneer can. The item at hand? The journal of the first mate of the Black Rock i.e. the big frakking ship that was marooned on the island. The journal was sold by none other than a Tovard Hanso (son to the elusive Alvar if I’m not mistaken), with much of its real past glossed over. The Black Rock as we know it was a slave ship; the auctioneer said it was on a “trading mission”, which sounds a lot nicer. The journal was apparently found by pirates and never published – who wants to place a guess that the Hansos got their hands on it before anybody else could? Do they have familial links to the Black Rock?
Widmore won the auction, which gave the impression it was all for show – let’s not forget, Widmore Industries are affiliated with the almighty Hanso Foundation. Is Widmore valuable enough to know to keep his mouth shut when it comes to Hanso secrets? And it set sail in the year 1845? Maybe that’s a fabrication too. If not… you know what I mean. It’s actually pretty cool to see the Black Rock addressed again without the need for dynamite. Maybe we’ll find out more – in the most recent Lost podcast, Lindelof and Cuse confirmed that we will be seeing more of the Widmores this season. Eeep!
And I think that should be me for this week. Some of the usual questions before I head on my way: was Penelope wearing a ring during her phonecall or was that just me? What would you get the Losties for Christmas (which I mistakenly said happened last week, although all the time paradox business leaves that up in the air)? Did you find this episode as awesome as I did? And was Desmond’s yells of “I’m not here, this isn’t happening” a reference to Radiohead’s “How To Disappear Completely” or just me? How long is it until someone concocts a Radiohead Theory to match the show?
Until next week, I’m Lost (and everything is in its right place).