Not quite as good as its companion episode, “The Constant” from season 4, but “The Variable” certainly had me engaged from start to finish this evening. It did feel a bit more like a “gap-filling” episode than a mind=blowing wizbang-a-thon that would shake the very foundations of our Lost understanding. That’s probably a good thing, because it’s been a long day and I’m not sure I can manage more than 16 paragraphs on this before I pass out. That said, we should probably try and pin down the Faraday Rules of Time that seemed to have been explained clearly and logically enough tonight…or were they?
As Miles and Hurley discussed a few episodes back, the overall timeline of our castaways doesn’t flow the same way it does for everyone else. For everyone else, the years pass on by in sequential order. 1954 comes before 1977 comes before 2007. For the castaways, it doesn’t work that way. Their present day is 1977. That means everything that’s taken place on the show up to this point is the past. In the castaways’ timeline, 2004-2007 took place in their past. Thus, one tenet of Faraday’s theory holds true: whatever happened, happened, and the past can’t be changed. But the future can be–the castaways can try and prevent events in the future of their timeline; the Incident at the under-construction Swan Station, for example.
BUT, here’s where the simmering stew of paradoxical insanity might come into play. Faraday wants to prevent the Incident at Swan Station which will, in turn, prevent 815 from crashing in 2004. But how do we view 2004? It’s part of the castaways’ past, AND part of their future, right? Well, maybe not; we don’t have to assume they’ll suddenly pull a Marty McFly and start vanishing if they prevent the Incident at The Swan. Because of the way their timeline is flowing, they’d just keep on living out the remainder of their lives from 1977 onward. Whatever version of 2004 they eventually reach, it won’t be the same as the 2004 that took place in their past. Their timeline would flow like this: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, ’78-’03, 2004 version 2, 2005v2, 2006v2, and so on. 2004 v2 wouldn’t be the same as the original 2004 in the past.
Just go ahead and read that paragraph eight more times. If you unfocus your eyes after the 7th time, it’ll suddenly reveal its wondrous, greater purpose. Like one of those magic eye drawings. Wait, those drawings give me an aneurysm every time I try to decipher the hidden image. Nevermind.
Alright, so let’s say all this hypothesizing has some logic to it. What might throw a monkey wrench into the proceedings is that fickle biznatch called Destiny. Are the castaways all truly variables capable of free will and the ability to choose any number of infinite paths through the coming future? Or are they all actually on set paths that have been preordained by whatever forces are responsible for the voodoo witchcraft occurring on the Island? If the latter, then you can throw Faraday’s rules out the window. The past can’t be changed, and neither can the future. All of what’s happened, will happen, and is happening was meant to occur just as it has. Eloise Hawking sent her son to the Island to eventually be shot by, well, herself.
Daniel had a destiny to be shot. But then again, his mother ensured it would happen that way. Had Daniel known, would he have been able to change things? Maybe. Maybe it’s too soon to think we know all there is to know about the Island Rules of Time at this point. Faraday’s rules could be right after all. I’m essentially giving up and saying my sleep-deprived brain has lost all higher functions and is about to shut down. Better get on to the bullet points.