When you work a puzzle, it seems like the best strategy is to look at the picture on the box and fill in the border first. Frame the foundation and then build in the middle. “Lost” is an über puzzle . . . except there’s no picture for viewers to work from. And we’re being totally manipulated by the show’s writers, who gleefully spent the first four seasons slowly piecing the border together and now are finally filling in the middle. The best part, of course, is the middle, kind of like a chocolate-covered eclair or a Hostess cupcake.
In this fifth season we’ve been blessed with character-centric episodes that wonderfully move the storyline along as we anticipate next year’s final episodes. Last night’s “Lost” added even more fuel to the fire, especially with its trademark, end-of-episode OMG moment: The shooting of physicist Daniel Faraday in 1977 by his mother, Eloise (Ellie back then) Hawking. Is he dead or will he be brought back to life by the mysterious, never-aging Richard Alpert, who was aghast that Ellie shot him? Daniel is one of my favorite characters, so I hope he isn’t dead.
The episode was titled “The Variable.” I did start to quake in my sandals when I first read what it was called, because I’m not a math-science person. But my favorite television physicist put it all in perspective during the episode. Daniel has come back to the island to try to prevent the catastrophic accident that eventually causes Oceanic 815 to crash. Dr. Pierre Chang and his Dharma Initiative are about to drill into a pocket of electromagnetic energy, which will then force them to cement the area, install the hatch on top of it, and command someone (eventually Desmond Hume) to push a button every 108 minutes to keep the magnetic force at bay. Until Desmond doesn’t push the button, and 815 is pulled apart in the air. Chilling stuff.
Daniel was led to believe that what happened in the past happened; no one can change their destiny. But then he realized that there actually was a variable in this equation: People. Which meant that he could try to rewrite history.
As usual, the episode flashes back and forth all over time. We see Daniel as a young, brilliantly gifted pianist who is told by his Mommy Dearest that he can only pursue math and science, because that’s his true destiny. Later Eloise reinforces this scientific destiny to her son when he graduates from Oxford. He tells her that he has been given a large research grant . . . from none other than Charles Widmore. Mom gives Daniel the gift of a journal, the same one that we see him use that’s filled with equations and time-travel observations. Inside she has inscribed: Daniel, no matter what, remember I will always love you. Mother.
Yes, even if I eventually shoot you in the back.
Eloise as she leaves: “Good luck, Daniel. And I do hope you know that I mean that.”
As I’ve observed in a past blog post, most of the main “Lost” characters have father issues. Daniel is “fortunate” enough to have mommy and daddy issues. His mom is cold and almost a dictator who he spends his life trying to please. As for his dad? Son of a gun . . . it’s Charles Widmore! Remember that Ellie and Charles were on the island together back in 1954 when Daniel told Richard Alpert to bury the hydrogen bomb that was there. Yes, it’s all coming together nicely.
In a nutshell, Daniel becomes severely memory damaged by his time traveling. Widmore wants him to return to the island for further research and to heal his mind. Eloise agrees. At first, Daniel doesn’t want to go, but he decides to pack his bags when his mom tells him it would make her proud of him. And give her the chance to shoot him in the back! You can see how pained Eloise is that she knows sending Daniel back to the island probably will kill him by her hand. Yet she does it anyway! Cruel stuff.
Later in the episode Eloise goes to the hospital where the present-day Desmond is recovering after surgery to repair the shots he took from Ben Linus’ gun (guess that carton of milk wasn’t bulletproof) and talks to Penny.
Eloise: “I came, Penelope, to apologize. Your husband has become a casualty in a conflict that’s bigger than him, that’s bigger than all of us.
“For the first time in a long time, I don’t know what’s going to happen next.”
But the 2007 Eloise did know that the 1977 Ellie was going to shoot Daniel. And her son realized it in his potentially final words to his mom on the island:
“You knew. You always knew. You knew this was going to happen, and you sent me here anyway.”
Mommy Dearest indeed! Eloise Hawking is a bad mother!