The more you think about this episode the harder your brain hurts. I had that nagging sense once it ended, that the prospect of getting into the analysis was going to be problematic. And indeed it is. Fundamentally, when it comes to the matter of Faraday and his ‘variable theory’, he was either absolutely wrong or incredibly right.
We have to consider whether this episode, and Dan’s actions, merely served to emphasise the ‘whatever happened, happened’ idea, or whether it presented opportunity for this notion to be bucked. Fuelling Dan with a belief that he could change the past for a ‘better’ future – one where Charlotte lives and Oceanic 815 doesn’t crash – both we, the audience, and Dan were given hope that was literally shot down in dreadfully ironic circumstances.
In 1977 Eloise Hawking unwittingly shot her own son. She later gives birth to Dan and pushes him towards a life of mathematics, away from any creative or romantic interests he may nurture (she significantly stopped him playing the piano twice in this episode to underline this point - and the first time she seemed visibly upset about it: she either learned something just before she stopped Young Dan from playing, or just the act of tearing him away from his passion broke her heart).
Throughout Dan’s upbringing Eloise knows she is destined to push her son towards growing up to go back in time and be killed by her. This is very curious. I mean, if history cannot be changed and course correction exists then why does Eloise see reason for interference? If Dan is always going to be the brilliant scientist on the Island then stopping him from playing the piano, or seeing Theresa, shouldn’t change any of that from happening, right? If whatever happened, happened then Eloise is technically powerless to prevent any of it, right?
Seems to me, in fact, that Eloise wasn’t trying to fulfil destiny at all. She wasn’t letting course correction take hold. Seems to me that she was actually trying to change history. One way of looking at it is to consider her repression of Dan’s creative and romantic interests. It wasn’t mathematics that drove him to return to the Island in the 1970s and march into The Others camp and wind up getting shot. Faraday did all that because he wanted to change the past (getting creative with variables) to prevent Charlotte’s death (and rescue his romantic interest).
Somewhat perversely, by trying to focus Dan’s mind purely on numbers, to avoid distractions, Eloise may have been trying to prevent him from exercising what proved to be his undoing. That’s one way of looking at it. As we saw, however, this failed. Maybe that was the tragedy at work here, that we have seen before with Desmond in Flashes Before Your Eyes and Charlie’s death – no matter how much you try and change things, even when you know what’s coming, destiny cannot be averted.
And yet. . . does that feel right to you? It doesn’t sit right with me. Why did Eloise constantly tell Dan how much she loved him? Why get him the notebook and inscribe it with how much she cared?
When Eloise was confronted by Widmore she slapped him across the face when he stated he was Dan’s father (insert lack of surprise here), and expressed her sinking sense of doom about how Dan had been sent back to be, as she knew, shot and killed. Her reaction didn’t suggest a woman that had coldly reconciled her part in her son’s life, and death. Her reaction expressed dismay. And yet she did remark about how, for the first time in a long time, she wasn’t sure about what was going to happen next. This may not be a line to overlook.
A brief interjection here to state two things.
1. Widmore’s admission to Faraday about how he was responsible for the fake Oceanic wreckage was risky: a faulty memory doesn’t stop Faraday picking up a pen and writing it down!
2. Loved how Faraday’s rubbish memory was repaired, slowly, by being brought back to the Island. How come he was crying at the television? Presumably his experiments on himself (that had made Theresa catatonic as shown in Jughead) had loosened up his consciousness and given him his own ‘flashes of the future’ that his Swiss-cheesed brain can’t remember, but his emotional unconscious still holds onto.
When we first met Ms. Hawking – or Eloise as I am now more affectionately calling her – it was during the episode Flashes Before Your Eyes. There she met Desmond and possessed knowledge of the future. She knew Desmond was destined to go to the Island and press a button. She knew about the man with the red shoes that was going to be killed. The pertinent question is: How?
When we first met Eloise we could speculate that she was some kind of ‘super temporal being’ to know all these impossible-to-know future events, but now we know better. She was once a young woman on the Island, she had a son that she raised, she was a human being! So how come she had knowledge of the future? Unless there is some time travelling business going on that we have yet to learn about then I suspect Eloise had the same ability as Desmond exhibited – to receive glimpses of the future. Potentially she got this skill when she was on the Island and carried it with her. As such, she catches glimpses of future events, and then works to make sure they are fulfilled in the name of “destiny” – like getting Jack and co on Ajira 316.
And what’s interesting to me is her claim of how she can no longer see the future. Why? What’s changed? That, I feel, may be the question. Something changed, some variable took effect, and the remainder of this season, leading up to ‘the incident’, is what I predict is going to be revealed. So now the question is: What changed?
Rather than dance around the matter let me just lay out my prediction about what I think might happen. (My predictions have a habit of being spectacularly way off, especially towards a season finale, but what the hell.) We saw Dan tell Pierre Chang about how he was from the future. Whilst Chang may have been initially cynical I am sure he’s not going to easily let that one slide (particularly in light of the gunfight at The Barracks). Dan may be dead (that’s a big “may”, by the way!) but Miles was also incorporated as part of the group.
So Chang goes to Miles, perhaps, and finds out about the rest of the Oceanic people and comes to believe they really are from the future. Chang believes in this major accident that is due to occur at The Swan and orders an evacuation where certain people (like Chang’s wife with Miles, and Charlotte) all get off the Island. This then leaves Chang behind, to try and prevent the catastrophic accident at The Swan – but he fails, and the result is ‘the incident’.
‘The incident’ will, on one hand, produce the electromagnetic discharge provoking the requirement for a button to be pushed every 108 minutes to vent the build-up. That much we know. What we don’t know is the flipside of ‘the incident’ or, more pertinently, how it effects those from the future. . .
Remember when Ben turned the donkey wheel, and the Island moved? The Island was bathed in white light and some people were dislodged from time. I think ‘the incident’ will produce a similar event. That first time The Others did not get dislodged in time. They remained with the Island. In effect, they were Constants. The Oceanic people, meanwhile, became Variables and bounced around decades for a little while. I believe ‘the incident’ will retain Dharma on the Island (Constants) and once more knock these Variables (the Oceanic people, and Juliet and Miles) out of their current time – probably to 2007, where Locke, Sun and the Ajira survivors are.
Obviously there are massive unknowns in all of this. What was Dan doing at Ann Arbor for those years? I suggested above that he only “may” be dead. Why? Because if there’s some way to change history, to skew and twist and maybe break timelines, then potentially there’s some way for him to exist in a timeframe where he didn’t die. The very nature of the Island, of being ‘lost’, may completely hinge around the concept of being out of time completely. ‘The incident’ might produce a means by which Faraday, from some time, some place, survives!
“I can make time,” Young Dan Faraday said to his mother. Lowly Eloise replied, “If only you could.”
When Faraday was telling Jack and Kate about how ‘the incident’ was directly responsible for crashing their plane, and about how stopping that would prevent the crash from ever happening, they didn’t ask the obvious question: What would happen to Jack and Kate if he succeeded? If he succeeded then Oceanic 815 would take off from Sydney and land in L.A. and Jack would hold the funeral for his father, and Kate would be in the custody of the FBI. . .
The fundamental question would be, if history was changed, would Jack and Kate on the Island cease to exist? I have to come to believe they wouldn’t. I believe they would become ultimate Variables, existing in the one place where people who have become dislodged from time can survive: the Island. And I believe we already know one man that has fallen into this state already.
The look on Faraday’s face when he saw Alpert was a picture. I think it was because Faraday recognised him from the 50s and, seeing him in the 70s, realised this was a man that had become a complete Variable – displaced from time and space and never aging. Living proof of Faraday’s own ideas against ‘whatever happened, happened’. Proof that people, with their choices and volatile emotions, can change history and survive into a new future they have no logical right to survive in.
Just a few episodes remain to, apparently, cover just six hours of Island time before ‘the incident’. All this and I haven’t even mentioned the man who may prove to be the biggest Variable of them all.