Since the viewers first met Desmond he has always been a VERY important character in the Lost universe. At the end of season one everyone wanted to know what was in the hatch? It turned out that it was Desmond and he was living in the hatch for 3 years pushing a button every 108 minutes to save the world. As we now know the first time he stalled pushing the button an electro magnetic charge released and IT is what actually crashed Oceanic Flight 815 and brought all of the Losties to the island. For all of the talk these days of Jacob bringing everyone to the island the simple fact is that regardless of it was Jacob’s will or not it was Desmond who crashed the plane on the island. When Locke convinced him for a second time to not push the button, Desmond realized at the last moment that everyone would die because of this and therefore he climbed down into the depths of the station and turned the the safety release switch with they key that only he had to release the energy which ultimately imploded the swan station/hatch. Desmond having the key to save everyone was actually a great through line to this week’s episode and to his character’s arch throughout the show as he is the key to saving the world.
Desmond single handedly changed the entire scope of the show. He was the first character ever to time travel and foreshadow a lot of the elements that would actually end up being the building blocks of the show. It’s revealed in Season 3 that after Desmond turned the key he actually time traveled back to 1996 and begins to relive his life with Penny from that point on. He visits with Widmore who offers him a job but he tells Widmore that he’s there to ask for Penny’s hand in marriage. Widmore takes out two glasses but only pours one glass of MacCutcheon Whisky telling Desmond that one gulp costs more than Desmond will make in a month and he won’t waste it on him because he will never be a great man and is not worthy to marry his daughter. Later on Desmond goes ring shopping and is helped by Eloise Hawking making her first appearance ever on the show. When Desmond tries to buy the ring Eloise tells him no because he’s not supposed to buy the ring as it will alter his original fate and if that changes then, “every single one of us is dead”. Obviously Desmond doesn’t take this news well and so Eloise takes him outside and points to a man with red shoes. Moments later a scaffolding falls on the man with the red shoes. Desmond states that Eloise knew what was going to happen and asks why wouldn’t she stop it? She tells him that even if someone momentarily stalls fate it will always find a way to course correct itself and then place that person back on their path. Desmond rejects all of this and says that he will not be a slave to the universe.
Later as Desmond is about to propose to Penny they begin to take a picture from a street vendor. As Penny settles on the background and the picutre is taken, Desmond looks at the picture. This moment makes him flash back to the island and realize this is the picture he carries around of her while on the island. Out of fear he breaks off their relationship and throws his ring into the River Thames.
For every person that has ever claimed that the writers do not know what they are doing or do not have an end game I offer up the above recap from Season 3’s Flashes before the Eyes episode as complete proof that the whole show has been mapped out to some extent. If you don’t believe please allow me to continue to make my case.
Up until this episode the show had been solely about flashbacks. It was never about time travel. This episode introduced the possibility of time travel and brought Eloise Hawking in as it’s guide or temporal policeman. After this episode Desmond begins to see flashes of the future which show Charlie dying. Desmond manages to save Charlie’s life many times until ultimately Charlie dies in the under water swan station just as he reveals that the boat they think is Penny’s boat is indeed not and that Desmond should keep his guard up. This of course is all foreshadowing for the big shocker which is at the end of Season 3 the flash forward happens and people are left gasping as Jack tells Kate, “We have to go back” changing the structure of the show and tying back into the flash forwards that Desmond has been seeing. Season 4 then becomes about Flash Forwards with one exception, the episode the Constant showcases Desmond once again flashing back in time to 1996.
This major time travel themed episode shows us that Daniel Faraday is the main time traveling mastermind on the island. Daniel tells Desmond as he’s traveling back in time to visit him in Oxford in 1996. As the episode progresses Desmond eventually finds Daniel which leads him to Penny in 1996. He actually finds her shortly after he breaks it off with her at the pier (from the Season 3 episode) and she wants nothing to do with him. He pleads with her and convinces her that no matter what he needs to call her in 8 years and needs her phone number. She gives her his phone number and he then travels back forward in time and ends up using the number 8 years later on the freightor to reach Penny and stabalize his time traveling and fractured ego.
Now this is where we are going to get a little crazy and place this history lesson back into context. Daniel Faraday calls Desmond his constant. Regardless of the timeline or whatever year it is Daniel Faraday is always taking notes in his diary. As the show progresses the rest of Season 4 continues to use the flash forwards until we reach Season 5 which is all about time travel. During that Season’s episode titled the Constant, Daniel Faraday arrives at the Others camp where Eloise Hawking and Charles Widmore are the leaders of the Others. As Faraday fires two warning shots into the air he is shot and killed by Eloise from behind. As he is dying he informs her that he is her son. We can now extrapolate that Eloise knows to tell Desmond in his 1996 flashback timeline (Season 3 episode again) which could also be considered his sideways timeline all about time travel as she began to learn all about it and Desmond’s importance from her dead son’s diary which she acquired in 1977 after killing him.
All of this now comes full circle back to this week’s episode. Widmore has brought the man he deemed a loser and unworthy of marrying his daughter back to the island to save humanity. The man who wasn’t even worth a swig of Scotch is now the most important man in the world. Desmond has proven time and time again that he can handle tremendous feats like withstanding an electro magnetic blast (re-proven this week) and surviving the mental rigors of time travel. We know that the MIB when in Smoke form often crackles with some sort of energy and that the pylons (which could be electro magnetic) keep him at bay. Somehow Desmond’s ability can make an impact on the MIB but we aren’t quite sure how yet. However what we do know is as the others in the flash sideways universe are beginning to see cracks between the timelines, Desmond is the one man that can bring it all together or maybe even more poignantly bring it all crashing down. It’s no coincidence that it is Charlie in the sideways universe that allows Desmond to see the fissures in the timeline just as it is no coincidence that Daniel Faraday is their to explain it to him and Eloise Hawking is there to try and guide him or more pointedly not guide him as she believe he’s not ready. Everything that is happening in the sideways timeline is occurring just as Eloise predicted it would when she told Desmond so very long ago…you can’t change destiny as it will ultimately course correct itself. The last 3 years of Lost can all now be traced back to that one episode as a foreshadowing of what some of the major themes of the show would inevitably become and some of the groundwork was laid for how the show will ultimately resolve and what themes will be utilized to showcase everyone’s faith.
The one thing that we know for certain now is that the writers have always had a plan and that their plan has always had Desmond is the key to the Lost Universe.