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Lost Review: "The Variable" (Episode 5.14)

April 30, 2009  |  11:15am
<em>Lost</em> Review: "The Variable" (Episode 5.14)
This week's episode of Lost revealed a whole different side of Daniel Faraday. We've oscillated before about the true nature of the physicist to no avail. We decided he's mostly a decent guy, barring the whole experimenting-on-his-girlfriend-then-running-away-when-her-brain-turned-to-mush thing. In the past, he's just seemed lost and confused, and since he has those big, earnest puppy eyes we decided to forgive him.

But "The Variable" showed us the dynamic at the heart of Faraday's stuttering vulnerability. Like all broken superheroes and Freudian beings, the man has mommy issues. This week we dove inside the relationship between Daniel and Mrs. Faraday (or, as we know her, Mrs. Hawking) growing up.


It's a story as old as time, the parent pushing their child toward a narrowly-carved out "Destiny" that is to be their only niche in life. In a series of flashbacks, we see little Daniel struggling to play the piano and older Daniel (sporting some academia chic with those flowing locks) trying to have a relationship with his girlfriend. But Mrs. Hawking discourages anything that isn't geared toward the lab and chalkboard. We get the feeling (and we get it often with Mrs. Hawking) that she has some apocalyptic foreknowledge which drives her every action. Her words to Ben, from the first episode ("God help us all!") indicate the woman's feeling of imminent doom if history doesn't run smoothly into the present and future along a line guided by her equation-scribbling hand. 

Her gifted son, of course, is to be her successor, and she needs his brilliance to hold off whatever future destruction she foretells. So it's no wonder she's harsh with him, and you see the sympathy in her eyes when she asks, "Do you know what destiny is?" But her need for him obviously equals her maternal love. This is why, later in the episode, as she stands over him with a gun in her hand and pulls the trigger, we can't tell if the remorse on her face is because she's lost her son or been robbed of her scientific tool.

Such a mixture of love's motives could, if Marvel and DC have taught us anything, surely lead to Daniel being a tragi-hero of momentous proportions. When he tells Kate and Co. gleefully that he can, in fact, change the past because human beings are "the variables," he's pushing himself into that dangerous place between the Supermans and Lex Luthors of the world. The megalomanic complex is not a healthy one, and Daniel's itch to dig up the H-Bomb does not bode well for the island. 

But you never know. As Entertainment Weekly recently pointed out, Lost's brilliance lies in its ability to mold even the most mentally deranged of characters into its heroes. So perhaps the Luthor side of Daniel can save the day. That is, if he survives his mother's gunshot.

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