The grim reaper stopped by one of his favorite hang outs last night, ABC’s LOST, to take quirky fan favorite Daniel Faraday (Jeremy Davies) for his final ride, but not before the string-bean of a physicist spilled everything he knew about the island, though. ‘The Variable’was LOST‘s 100th episode, and the writers marked the occasion by making the Daniel centric episode a symbolic paradigm shift for the penultimate fifth season.
While the protracted time-travel shenanigans, and the unrepentant fatalism of the LOST time-travel mantra ‘ėwhatever happened, happened’provided episode-after-episode of bemusement for even the most hardcore fans, ‘The Variable’easily swept away the arguments of self consistency and paradox for a theme that falls more squarely within the realm of human drama: We may not be able to change time itself, but as beasts of free will, we can alter our destinies within it. Faraday’s earlier metaphor of time being like a stream now includes kayaks, motorboats, and, of course, nuclear submarines.
As an internal character piece, ‘The Variable’was not so much a great ending for Faraday. We brushed up against many key events and people ó Theresa, Daniel’s ‘ėnurse’, the Widmore and Eloise parental connection, etc. ó but these forays into the geniuses’ past events were more to thread Faraday through the plot than to establish their connection to who Faraday truly was.
The most clearly defined character trait of Daniel’s was his motivations in life; tendencies that were ó as it seems ó cultivated since childhood by an overbearing mother, and exploited by an absent father. Eloise raised Daniel to believe that only one thing would make his mother proud: Achievement in science. Hooking up with a hot, young, blonde; graduating from Oxford; tickling the ivories as a toddler ó none of this appealed to Mrs. Hawking. His entire life seemed to be molded to end up both an expert on time and space mechanics, and to eventually board a certain freighter. It was as if he were raised by the Pavlovian handbook to eat Widmore’s chow every time the industrialist rang a bell, and old Charles knew just when to ring it.
Since Faraday winds up serving as a vessel of sorts, it makes sense that he would fulfill his purpose and perish, leaving his master plan to change the future in the hands of our heroes. Buying it at the end of his mother’s gun rang out as the last great irony of LOST‘s oblique time-travel sojourn ó as Daniel passed, he clung to self consistency and admonished his murderous mom ‘You always knew…’
Faraday’s legacy on the LOST storyscape is his master plan: To detonate a bomb and change the future. Why? Because from here, ‘the incident’happens, the Swan station is built, Oceanic 815 crashes, wash, rinse, and repeat. Jack was not meant to come back because to do so is to play into a game of cosmic ring-around-the-rosies. It is the return of the great central theme of Lost: Fate vs. destiny. Recalling a secret message from Lost’s third season, ‘Only Fools are Enslaved by Time and Space,’the LOST-a-ways now know that they are prisoners of human decision making; trapped in an infinite loop.
The previews for next week’s Lost,’Follow the Leader’show Dr. Jack preparing to take up the reins and follow Faraday’s destructive prescription. Suddenly, the proposition the writers have pawed at relentlessly ó can you change the future? ó is front and center, and, with all likelihood, about to be answered. In at least one aspect, the answer is predictable: Would it really make for an interesting endgame if the LOSTies merely waited out a return to zero? Things will change, but in what weird and thrilling way?