Recap: 'Lost' #514 'The Variable'
In an episode written by Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz, "Lost" reaches the first of the pinnacles of the season, conclusively (to my mind) answering one of the season's biggest questions. They do it in a way that is cruel and sad and absolutely in keeping with the show's history. And it caught me off-guard. And it did it playing fair and square.
What's odd is that this special hundredth episode of this show, this heavily promoted milestone, is really fairly simple, if you're just talking about what happens. Daniel Faraday decided to change things after all. For all of his talk of "constants," Faraday gives in to the idea that he can change things, and from the moment he arrives back on the island, everything he does is toward that one goal... change the future.
Daniel Faraday has always been a sad and sketchy figure on the show. His reaction in "Confirmed Dead" when the plane showed up at the bottom of the ocean was a vintage Jeremy Davies moment. This actor's had the market on twitchy, thoughtful young men sewn up since his debut in "Spanking the Monkey" and his breakout role in "Saving Private Ryan," and for many actors like Davis, having a persona as recognizable as his, as stylized and extreme as his, might be a trap. But Davies continues to wring new life out of what he does, and he came out swinging last night in an episode that seemed to exist primarily to set him up as a prime example of hubris in motion. In order to make his destruction most potent, the episode takes its time setting all of its tragic clockwork into motion.
When Daniel Faraday showed up at the end of the last episode, number ninety-nine for the series, it was a welcome sting to an episode, because it held a promise. Faraday had to have a purpose showing up again, and sure enough, he's on a mission from the moment he steps off that sub at the start of this episode. And considering Sawyer's got his security guy stashed in a closet and it's just a matter of time before the Oceanic survivors are revealed to be infiltrators, Faraday really couldn't pick a worse moment to show up and start spreading the crazy.
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One thing he did that pays off some of what happened in "Some Like It Hoth" two weeks ago, and which lays the groundwork for what has to happen in one of the three remaining hours of the season, is warn Dr. Chang about the impending incident, and more specifically, telling him that Miles is his son, come back from the future. When Miles confirms that this is indeed true, it's going to lead Chang to send his wife and son off-island to safety.
They tried to wring a little suspense out of Desmond's fate following his run-in with Ben at the marina, and they really milk his reunion with Penny, but it feels like a throwaway this week, and the only real purpose the entire subplot serves this week is that moment outside the hospital, as Eloise Hawking leaves from her visit and runs into Charles Widmore. Their conversation is a crucial piece of exposition, and it sets up the gut-wrenching coda for the week, when Faraday realizes that everything he's done, ever move he's made in an effort to alter the timeline, has simply resulted in exactly what has always been.
Here's the thing: what happened, happened. And you go through the time stream in a personal straight line. And you might roll backwards or forwards in other time streams, but yours... straight line. And where it ends, it ends. Daniel Faraday died in 1977. But not the Daniel Faraday that would become a professor in 1996. Instead, the one who has already been a professor in 1996. And it always happened that way.
And Faraday's belief that humans are variables in the equation is not incorrect... it's just inconsequential. The formula allows for those variables, counts on them, and so what happened, happened. I have a feeling the rest of the season is going to unfold like fatalistic quicksand, the Oceanic survivors desperate to change things even as they realize more and more that it's impossible.
I'm glad the hydrogen bomb is back on the table. Its role in the incident that has to happen in these last three episodes is still unclear, but I'm fairly sure it's involved, and I get the feeling this "fork in the socket" or whatever they're calling the year's big final event, is going to be an intense one.
From the moment they see the hostiles, I knew the episode was going to end the way it did, generally speaking. Faraday basically condemned himself at the fence when he told Jack "Any one of us can die at any time." His one exchange of dialogue with his mother-to-be is just piercing, though, and well-played, so even if you have a sense of what's coming, the actual reveal carries a pretty hefty punch.
Kitsis and Horowitz, by the way, the guys who wrote tonight's episode? Also wrote Disney's new "Tron 2.0." Which I would looooooove to read. Hint. Hint.
One more regular season episode next week, and then the double-header two-parter to wrap up the year the week after that. I can't believe I'm almost done recapping my first season of "Lost." It's been a real pleasure, and it's helped me really savor this next-to-last season as each episode has aired.
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