Season 4 of Lost was a turning point for the show, chances were taken, new angles explored and characters killed. Giving the show an endpoint (season 6) reinvigorated the story, and gave light to many new mysteries. In fact, in my opinion Lost season 4 had just about the best Lost episode ever: “The Constant”. This episode captured my imagination, and provided new insight into the island and its long time inhabitant, Desmond Hume. Desmond, as any lost fan knows, was stuck on the island pushing the infamous “button” every 108 minutes to keep some sort of unspeakable event from occurring. After Desmond meets up with and joins the survivors, it is revealed in the episode “Flashes Before Your Eyes” that he has the ability to seemingly travel through time. This idea is expanded in “The Constant” when Desmond is transported back to 1996 from the present. He continues to “flash” between the two times until he finds a constant between the two, which gives him a sense of stability and grounds him in reality. The episode is truly a testament to the ingenious writing of showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, and should be seen by everyone, even non-Lost fans.
While watching this episode for the first time though, I was struck by the similarities that it shares with the Kurt Vonnegut novel, Slaughterhouse-five. In the novel the main character Billy Pilgrim is unstuck from time, and continually flashes between the moments in his life out of order. Sound familiar? The Character of Daniel Faraday on Lost goes as far as to call Desmond’s perplexing situation as “Unstuck from time”, the same terminology that Vonnegut uses in the novel. The similarities don’t end there though, as Billy Pilgrim and Desmond’s characters both experience these time flashes while in a military setting, with their fellow soldiers shunning them because of their strange behavior. One of Desmond’s squad mates is even called Billy.
When Billy is first unstuck from time he sees a strange bright violet light. This can be traced back to the end of season 2 when the button didn’t get pushed, and the castaways witnessed a blinding violet light. This event led to Desmond’s initial time travel experience in “Flashes Before Your Eyes”.
In a more bizarre section of Slaughterhouse-five Billy comes across aliens that keep him captive. These aliens do not perceive time in the same way that humans do, and experience all events- past, present and future- all at once. They explain to Billy that because of this non-linear view of time and space, they know how the universe will end. They tell Billy that the universe will end with the accidental push of a button. This can be seen simply as being referenced in Lost by the aforementioned button that Desmond must push, but a deeper inference can be drawn as well. When Billy asks the aliens why they do not stop this event from occurring and ending the universe they respond: “He has always pressed it, and he always will. We always let him and we always will let him. The moment is structured that way.” This can be traced back to the conversation that Desmond has in the episode “Flashes Before Your Eyes” with the character Eloise Hawking. Here is the scene:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGauAyUWUas
Some really interesting similarities can be seen here, with many of Eloise Hawking’s lines seeming like direct quotations.
also for laughs: