I have a strange history with Lost; I watched the first half of the pilot with my family in 2005 (Channel 7 are very good at promoting new shows during the Australian Open), but they didn’t really like it very much, so I stopped watching it. I have no idea what time it was on, but I didn’t like it enough to keep watching at the time. While it was airing, I saw a few episodes, but found it impossible to keep up because I didn’t have an income. The other episodes I saw were “Tabula Rasa”, “Numbers”, “Every Man For Himself” and “Flashes Before Your Eyes”. As it turns out, “Numbers” and “Flashes” were important episodes in relation to Lost’s mythology, but I didn’t know about it at the time. I knew there were numbers, and that was about it. At that stage I didn’t know that the Island was a mystery, but I did find out that there was more than one island. So when I found out that The A.V. Club was going to be covering Lost as part of the “TV Club Classic”, I was thrilled. Finally I had a chance to catch up on this show that was apparently great but also disappointed a lot of people with its ending. It wasn’t like I hadn’t had an opportunity before, but being able to follow along with reviews is something I like to do.
Back when I first saw “Flashes Before Your Eyes”, I didn’t know who Desmond was. I’d seen Charlie and Claire before, but the only characters whose names I knew were Jack, Kate and Sawyer. I’d heard something about red shoes (I think it was part of the advertising for the episode), and I knew that Desmond (even though I didn’t know his name) had been seeing flashes of someone on the Island die. So watching this episode again was a delight, mostly because I could understand what was going on. We’ve only had one Desmond flashback episode before this one; this is a necessity based on the fact that Desmond wasn’t introduced until the second season premiere, but all of Kate and Jack’s flashbacks so far could have been condensed into two episodes per character and they wouldn’t have been as interesting as Desmond. What we see is not a straight flashback, but Desmond reliving the day he asked Penny’s father for her hand in marriage.
The most devastating part of this episode isn’t that Charlie’s going to die, but that Desmond is forced to relive the most humiliating time of his life and he’s not able to change any of the mistakes he made, despite how much he wants to. He buys the ring, but the owner of the antique shop tells him that he’s not supposed to buy it, he’s supposed to break Penny’s heart and end up on The Island. Because pushing the button in the hatch is the most important thing he’ll do. Sure, failing to press the button means that he’ll cause Oceanic Flight 815 to crash and then he’ll have to blow up the hatch in order to save the world (I still don’t know what the button is for, don’t spoil me), but he’ll be alone.
The most fascinating aspect of this show is how similar Desmond and Penny’s story seems to Jin and Sun’s, until it isn’t. Jin swallowed his pride and worked for his wife’s father as an enforcer, and Desmond is ruined by his. He doesn’t go to Penny’s father asking for a job, he uses a job interview as a way to get into see Alan Dale, who after offering him an okay job, tears him apart after finding out that he wants to marry Penny. If there’s anything I’ve learned from Breaking Bad, or even Pride and Prejudice, it’s that pride (and stubbornness and hubris) can lead to you making some of the worst mistakes of your life. Look at The Good Wife. Sure, Alicia Florrick is privileged and entitled, but her husband was arrested, so she went back to work as a lawyer and started as a junior associate. If Desmond had spent some time working for Penny’s father, he could have earned his respect, but that’s not what happened and it’s led to where we are now at this point in Lost, for better or for worse.