If the size of the post-thud headache is a reliable metric in evaluating the quality of an episode, “The Variable” may take top prize for Season 5. Jen and I are still trying to sort out the possibilities and impossibilities presented tonight. The man who preached emphatically that you can’t change the past finally returns, now emphatic that you can. Even our characters recognize the insanity of undoing everything that’s happened (essentially erasing the entirety of “LOST” to date). But just as Daniel Faraday gets rolling, he’s shot dead. By his mom. A mother who knew, in 2007, that he was sending his memory-addled son to that very fate.
My theory, such as it is? Faraday’s Jughead plan was doomed to failure, and will ultimately not change anything. But his death, his mother’s sacrifice, will instead be the key, the real “incident” that sets everything else in motion.
Why is Faraday wrong? Because he ended up telling Charlotte to leave the island, even though he didn’t want to, thereby closing the loop on one of his own “whatever happened, happened” moments. Because his supposedly radical conclusion that people, and free will, are the key variables is undercut by the fact that we’ve been shown that the meddling of our Losties in 1957 and 1977 were always part of the island’s history. And because, I think, we see him realize, with his last breath, what his mother was up to. He was never meant to go to the island to be healed or to save anyone. He simply had to die.
He simply had to die… for the first time. I’m struck by Eloise Hawking’s conversation with Penny, where she says with an obvious sense of wonder, “For the first time in a long time, I don’t know what’s going to happen next.” And she later tells Charles Widmore about sacrifice, about how she sent her son to the island knowing full well he would be killed (by her). Sacrificing her son, it seems, was something she only just barely found the strength to do. Something she’d never done before, which somehow allowed her to always know the future.
Yes, it’s still an attempt to change history, or change destiny, and I’m still not convinced it can be done. But if I ever suspected that Widmore and Hawking were playing at a wholly different level than any of the other characters, I’m convinced of it now. I only hope that whatever Hawking wants to change, it’s not erasing everything we’ve spent the last five years dissecting. That might be a bold move for the end of Season 5, but one that would ultimately be disheartening.
No question, the big questions raised in “The Variable” are worthy of a long conversation. But character wise, story wise, plot wise, it was… merely a good episode. One of those “set up” or “bridge” episodes, if you’ll pardon the expression. It brought a mix of reveals and confirmations, as we suspected Widmore might be Faraday’s father, and that Widmore planted the fake wreckage (meaning Miles’ chat with the dead guy in “Some Like It Hoth” was a fake out). The dramatic stakes were raised, once again via the separation of our Losties into two groups. We see things spiraling out of control, Faraday’s “four hour” countdown conveniently making the rest of the season a near real-time experience.
I was mostly disappointed in Faraday’s story. It simply felt rushed. We flew through his life, from his youth (torn away from the piano) to his graduation, through his experiments and expulsion from Oxford, to deciding to getting on the freighter. Theresa was but a mere blip, and the whole “Memento”-esque memory condition seemed awkwardly shoehorned in. (We did get our hint last season, though, via his memory test with Charlotte.) I mean, this is not the first time we’ve had an intriguing character with some key knowledge and connections… who ends up dying just when their significance begins to emerge (and at the end of a paint-by-numbers flashback episode).
Jen doesn’t want Faraday to be dead, but frankly, he better be. Another Ben-like resurrection at this point would be downright comical. I’d like to think we’ll still learn more about Faraday and his experiments (perhaps in flashbacks for Hawking or Widmore). His still unexplained tears at the sight of the fake wreckage suggests to me that, in true “Constant” fashion, a part of Miles’ scrambled brain was already in touch with his future self.
Notes and Notions:
- Jaters rejoice? Sawyer asks “Freckles” to come with him to the beach to start over, and Juliet immediately gives up the code to the sonic fence. Sawyer asks if Juliet still has his back, and her response is only to ask if he’s got her back. If they’re going to go back down that path, I only hope they save it for Season 6.
- I liked how young piano-playing Faraday told his mother that he could “make time.” Or how he, back on the island, knew when Dr. Chang would arrive at The Orchid, “right on time.”
- We still haven’t seen Jack’s “moment,” but it was amusing how he noted that it was lucky he was a janitor when they suddenly needed the keys to the gun safe. As one of our listeners noted weeks ago, maybe that was always Sawyer’s plan.
- Speaking of moments, Jack’s little speech to Kate about hers was pretty anvilicious. We know the both of them have yet to fulfill some grand plan, but to have that spelled out so melodramatically was jarring.
- Tonight brought a great reminder that some of our Losties spent some time in the 1950s, with Hurley’s line, “Like, Fonzie time?”
- Sawyer’s still got it in the nickname department. “Twitchy” suits frantic Faraday just fine. Bonus points for the straight-faced delivery of the line, “Your mother is an Other?”
- Not to be outdone, Miles tells Faraday, “I thought you’d gotten rich inventing the DVD or something.”
- Any numerologists want to sort out the significance of 141717?
- Locations: Oxford was, again, St. Andrew’s in downtown Honolulu. The Indian restaurant where Daniel got his notebook was Grand Cafe on Pauahi St. Can’t place the “Marina Medical Center.”
We definitely need help untangling this 100th episode of “LOST.” Please comment below, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the LostLine at (808) 356-0127.