Scene of the Week 6: Desmond & Ms. Hawking - Flashes Before Your Eyes
Desmond Buys Penny's Engagement Ring
MS HAWKING: "Never done this before, have you?"
DESMOND: "Is it that obvious?"
MS HAWKING: "I can always tell the first timers. Well, then... may I ask your price range?"
DESMOND: "I'm not a man of means..."
MS HAWKING: "Oh..."
Desmond's ring-shop conversation with Ms. Hawking was a pivotal moment in LOST's overall story. Here, during one of the show's greatest episodes, both sides of a very vague battlefield were finally solidified. Destiny was waging full-blown war against Free Will, with the fate of the entire world hanging in the balance. After Flashes Before Your Eyes, LOST would never be the same.
The scene starts off innocently enough, which might be why it ended with such fantastic impact. Desmond's pleasant exchange with the ring-shop lady seemed to reinforce his decision to marry Penny. For a guy who'd just traveled backward into his own past, it looked like Desmond was readjusting nicely.
Just how much of his on-island existance did Desmond remember? That's hard to say. But the fact that he has vague memories of Charlie, the hatch, and anything else to do with the island shows us one very important thing: Desmond's not just seeing the past here... he's seeing it for at least the second time around.
With help of his trusty failsafe key, Des inherently knows the mistakes he'd make if he'd left Penny right now. He also knows the regret and loneliness that would follow. Heading back to the island for daily injections, yellow hazmat suits, and really bad sleep patterns? That's just not happening for him. Not this time, anyway.
DESMOND: "I hope to... one day..."
MS HAWKING: "I have just the thing. This won't blind any queens, to be sure, but still has the sparkle of life."
The ring Hawking hands to Desmond suits his character perfectly. It's simple, modest, and handsome. And while most rings are unbroken circles without a beginning or an end, this is an engagement ring. Its band is eventually interrupted by a shimmering diamond - perhaps indicitive or even a metaphor for the way Desmond interrupted the show's circular, looping timeline by crashing Flight 815 or turning the failsafe key.
And after the tongue-lashing Charles Widmore just gave him, the ring also makes a more elegant statement: the ring itself doesn't matter so much. What matters is that, in Desmond's eyes at least, he's meant to change things this time around. He's been given this precious second chance at living his life because he's meant to be with Penny.
DESMOND: "I'll take it."
MS HAWKING: "I'm sorry?"
DESMOND: It's perfect. I'll take it."
MS HAWKING: "No you won't. Give me the ring. Give it here."
DESMOND: "I don't understand."
MS. HAWKING: "This is wrong. You don't buy the ring. You have second thoughts... you walk right out that door. So come on, let's have it."
As is so often the case with LOST, we're suddenly smashed over the head with HUGE revelations. And like always, they come when we least expect them: during the most innocent and innocous scenes.
DESMOND: "I don't know what you're on about."
MS HAWKING: "You don't buy the ring, Desmond."
DESMOND: "How do you know my name?"
MS HAWKING: "Well, I know your name as well as I know that you that don't ask Penny to marry you. In fact, you break her heart. Well, breaking her heart is, of course, what drives you in a few short years from now to enter that sailing race - to prove her father wrong - which brings you to the island where you spend the next 3 years of your life entering numbers into the computer until you are forced to turn that failsafe key. And if you don't do those things, Desmond David Hume, every single one of us is dead. So give me that sodding ring."
I have to say, this was a hell of a time for the writers to slap us with a commercial break. As that creepy girl from Progressive insurance giggled her away across my screen (or whatever advertisement happened to be on), I was busy looking for something to throw at the television. The only thing that stopped me of course, was the urgent need to know what happened next.
As it turns out, Desmond has been here before. Probably not just once before, either. The woman behind the counter knows who he is, why he's there, and what he's going to do for the next three years. This isn't just any old lady, this is Eloise Hawking, bona-fide member of the Destiny police force.
Hawking punched her timecard at the ring-shop this morning because it happens to be the day Desmond shows up to buy Penny's ring. But today, Eloise Hawking has a pretty big problem: Desmond has no plans of entering the sailing race this time around. In this iteration of his past life, Desmond now values a future together with Penny over her father's meaningless approval.
MS HAWKING: "Oh, you're going to be difficult about this, I can see."
DESMOND: "Who are you?"
MS HAWKING: "Do you like chestnuts?"
What follows next is a scene in which Hawking must convince Desmond to do the 'right' thing. She enlists the powers of destiny by taking him outside, giving him a first-hand lesson on why, in reality, none of the choices he makes are even his to begin with.
Even cooler, this scene parallels near identical scenes from The Matrix trilogy. Hawking and Desmond stand amongst crowds of people walking through the streets of London, much like the first time Morpheus leads Neo through a computer simulation of The Matrix.
In both cases, the people themselves are meaningless - they're nothing but background noise as the main characters carry on their conversation. And just as The Matrix had the woman in the red dress, Hawking points out the man in the red Converse shoes.
MS HAWKING: "That man over there is wearing red shoes."
DESMOND: "So, what then?"
MS HAWKING: "Just thought it was a bold fashion choice worth noting."
Eloise Hawking also bears strong connections to another more matriarchal character from all three Matrix movies - The Oracle. In fact, watching her sit down on that bench in the middle of such an urban setting reminded me sharply of the 2nd Matrix movie in which the same thing happened. Was destiny discussed there too? You bet your ass it was.
DESMOND: "This isn't really happening, is it?"
MS HAWKING: "Sorry?"
DESMOND: "I've had a concussion. You're my subconscious."
MS HAWKING: "Am I?"
Desmond begins denying reality here. His strange memories, coupled with the fact that this woman couldn't possibly know him, have started to convince Des that he's only dreaming. This is not only interesting, it's even amusing to Ms. Hawking.
But then Desmond gets it. He realizes Hawking is there to set his life back on the path that led to him being so miserable. He's already decided to do things differently, but this woman is here to talk him out of it. And understandably, Desmond wants no part of that.
DESMOND: "You're here to talk me out of marrying Penny. Well, it won't bloody work."
MS HAWKING: "Oh, yes it will."
DESMOND: "No, there is no island. There is no button. It's madness. I love her. She loves me. I'm going to spend the rest of my life with her."
MS HAWKING: "No, Desmond, you're not."
And with that, the man in the red shoes is crushed to death. Was this always his destiny, set and unchangeable from the very moment he was born? Or was he nothing more than another sacrifice the island demanded? A pawn used only to nudge Desmond into believing Ms. Hawking, right here and right now?
DESMOND: "Oh, my God. You knew that was going to happen, didn't you? Then why didn't you stop it? Why didn't you do anything?"
MS HAWKING: "Because it wouldn't matter. Had I warned him about the scaffolding tomorrow he'd be hit by a taxi. If I warned him about the taxi, he'd fall in the shower and break his neck. The universe, unfortunately, has a way of... course correcting."
MS HAWKING: "That man was supposed to die. That was his path just as it's your path to go to the island. You don't do it because you choose to, Desmond. You do it because you're supposed to."
Right here, back in the middle of season three, these words kicked off the whole Destiny vs. Free Will argument.
Up until now it had been Science vs. Faith. Suddenly however, viewers of LOST had to wonder if everything our main characters did (or didn't do) really mattered at all. If nothing was of their own design, was anyone really making decisions? And with everything already determined, were we just watching a re-run how things always played out... or was change still somehow possible?
DESMOND: "I'm going to meet Penny in an hour. I've got the ring - she'll say yes - I can choose whatever I want."
MS HAWKING: "You may not like your path, Desmond, but pushing that button is the only truly great thing that you will ever do."
DESMOND: "How much for the ring?"
The look Hawking gives Desmond at the end is very telling: the same type of look you'd give a young child when you're about to really, really disappoint them. She feels genuinely sorry for Desmond here, and I think it really made her character stand out. As fiercely dedicated to her duties as Ms. Hawking is, she's also wholly sympathetic for what she knows Desmond must go through.... and maybe even for how many times he has to go through it, too.
One big thing to take away from this scene: something did change. When Desmond showed up to see her, Ms. Hawking was pleasant and happy and ready for him to chicken out of buying Penny's ring. But when he didn't? Hawking's whole demeanor instantly changed. She seemed anxious, urgent, and desperate to persuade him back on a path that would lead him to the island. Through all her quick thinking, what happened here was something she definitely didn't expect.
Yet at the same time, you could argue that course correction did, in fact, take over. Desmond does go back to the island. He throws Penny's ring away and enters the sailing race. Although walking away with the ring in hand is something Hawking hasn't seen him do before, the overall end result is achieved: 'Destiny' gets exactly what it wants.
Ironically, the very existance of Ms. Hawking in that ring shop seems to shoot down her own definition of how destiny works. If everything that happens is already predetermined, no additional action needs to be taken at all. There's no need for Oracles, guides, destiny-police, or anyone like Ms. Hawking. Yet here she is, trying to keep things on the right path - despite the fact that such a path is already (allegedly) etched in stone.
Desmond might've made ripples in the pond here, but they weren't big enough - in a Jughead type way - to change the course of the existing timeline. But an even bigger question to answer? Exactly what timeline we were looking at?