TV Enthusiast’s number one episode of LOST is a prime example of what made the show great, and is arguably the best hour of television ever produced. The episode takes a standard storytelling tool of LOST and turns it on it’s head. In case you are somehow unfamiliar, LOST centers on a group of survivors stranded on an island. The show normally features “flashbacks” showing the various character’s lives before the island, which helps to flesh out the characters and explain their motivations.
The Constant focuses on the character of Desmond Hume, a man who was trapped on the island, and forced to press a button to keep it from blowing up. What makes this episode different is that instead of just flashing back to Desmond’s past for the audience, Desmond himself literally flashes back to relive his past. Yes, he time travels back and forth, which causes him all kinds of confusion. If he can’t find a way to stop it, it could potentially lead to his own death. To that end he needs to find the titular “constant”, something he loves that exists in both times. He tries to reconnect with Penny, the girl he left to join the military, and that’s where the episode’s emotional core lies.
The Constant isn’t so much about time travel as it is about regret and dealing with the mistakes we’ve made in our lives. Desmond’s mistake was running out on the love of his life. Out of necessity, he is forced to deal with his choices, and make it right. Unfortunately, Penny hates him. She has cut off all contact, so he has no choice but to confront her father Charles Widmore who, after a brief discussion, gives Desmond her address. Desmond confronts Penny at her new home where he begs her to give him her number with a promise to call in eight years. Penny agrees, on the caveat that Desmond leave her alone.
Back in the present, Desmond keeps his promise and calls Penny, who reveals to him that she had been searching for him for the last 3 years. Desmond is relieved by this, it seems that he has manged to solve both his time jumping dilemma, and fixed the big mistake of his past. Penny is no longer angry with Desmond.
This was certainly a defining episode for LOST and the episodes central character Desmond, It introduced the concept of time travel to LOST‘s mythology, making it even more complex. It also cemented Desmond as one of the show’s best characters, Henry Ian Cusick’s brilliant performance certainly helped as well. The concept of time travel would later be revisited when it is revealed that the island itself is somewhat of a time machine and the castaways are transported to the 1970’s.
The Constant is simply the best episode of LOST produced. It surprised us with a twist on a familiar concept, and used it to create an emotional character based story that anyone could relate to. That’s the mark of great television.