I'll be straight with you: I've never shared the love for Desmond-centric episodes that most other Lost fans do. I mean, I thought Live Together, Die Alone was awesome, but Catch 22 kind of bored me (remember Hawking in the photo with Brother Campbell?) and The Constant? Overrated. (Bring out the pitchforks...) Don't get me wrong, the episodes are good, and Flashes Before Your Eyes is served better after repeat viewings, but Desmond episodes for me does not automatically equal perfection like it does for so many others. So consider this a disclaimer. I always thought after he reunited with Penny, his story should have been over and I think, for fan service, the writers trip over themselves trying to write him back into the show. Desmond is one of the most panicky and desperate characters I've ever known. Except for trying to save Charlie, for the most part he has come off as a bit selfish or cowardly to me, the best example being in S4 when Sayid left the freighter to save the people on island, and Desmond refused to go. But his love story with Penny is epic and well told, and I found those elements to be the only strengths of Happily Ever After. Whidmore brought Des back to the island for an unknown purpose; Jin didn't have much to do but stand around and ask questions, but we soon discover, as many speculated, that Desmond's purpose is directly linked to the fact that he survived the huge electromagnetic anomaly back in S2, and Charles needs to see if he can do it again. Whidmore took a big risk in tossing Desmond in that chamber and flipping the switch; if Desmond had died, that would have been one of the dickest moves in LOST history, lol. But Desmond did survive, and like Flashes and the Constant, his consciousness seems to have flashed into the "Sideways" world. Here, he's a sort of 'fix it' man for Whidmore, and he and Charles have a pretty good relationship- Break out the MacCutcheon whisky! George Minkowsky (Des old mind travel buddy) returns as the limo driver, and we also tie up why and how Desmond ended up on flight 815 back in LA X.
A little more odd was the weird plot of the episode, which saw Desmond playing escort to out of control rocker Charlie Pace (!) so that Driveshaft could make a concert for the sake of Eloise, and musician son Daniel Fara- Whidmore (!). What's noteworthy is Charlie is mentally completely off the map; he doesn't care about the hit band, or if he dies, and insists that he is supposed to be...someplace else. We get a bit of a heavy-handed speech about true love (Chuck mentions a blonde love that he was almost united with- Claire?), and later after their car takes a swan dive into the pier, there is a heavy-handed callback to Charlie's dying drowning moments: "Not Penny's Boat."
Still, It was great to see Charlie and Desmond together again- so much of their core character development came from working with each other in the second half of S3, and I think the episode did a good job of bringing their relationship back around with the series at an end. Charlie's behavior sets Desmond on his search for this mysterious Penny, and he gets another ominous scene with Eloise, who seems to know that something isn't right Desmond, and he may alter the universe and mess everything up. End of the series or not, I've always been annoyed with the vagueness of Eloise Hawking, and all her mega-implications, and things were no different here. Daniel Fara-Whidmore popped up again and had a chat with Desmond about what he may be experiencing. It was fun to listen to his quantum physics jargon again, and I loved that he entertains the notion that he may have already set off the time-altering bomb (theorists debate!)
The best scene comes at the stadium, where Penelope is running, and Desmond (re)introduces himself to her. These two always kill it with the onscreen chemistry, and like the last part of Catch 22, this moment basically saves an episode that just wasn't really working for me. Desmond flashes back, and is now totally willing to comply with whatever is asked of him. I thought maybe he was clear on what he needs to do, but after Sayid attacked Zoe and the rest of Whidmore's crew, Desmond just as easily went along with him, lol! Des is in a totally passive state now, but he may be confused (or not care?) as to what exactly it is he needs to do, and who for. Happily Ever After was an interesting episode overall, and the connections between Otherverse and the Island are starting to come together.