Well, they didn’t give us long to enjoy the return of Daniel, did they?
First off: is Daniel dead?
I want to say no, but I’ll have to stick with probably, but maybe not. He seems to have died, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. However, Eloise did look very sad as she told Daniel that he should accept the job offered by Widmore, and when Widmore mentioned his sacrifices, her reply was “I had to send my son back to the island, knowing full well that…” before she was interrupted. It could be that Daniel didn’t die – maybe the shooting would ruin any mother-son relationship that they could have, and that saddened her. Or maybe he received the same treatment as the wounded Ben – maybe Jacob chose to heal Daniel, thus changing him from the person that he was. Eloise could have caused the event that would have changed Daniel from the son that she knew.
But, as much as I hate to admit it, he’s probably dead. Or will be soon.
Now on to variables, and the bigger question: is Daniel right? Can the past be changed.
The short answer: no. It can’t.
Daniel stated that people had free will and that they have the power to change their destinies.This is true, but there’s a catch. Daniel, Jack, and the other future-ites have free real because they are existing in their own present – therefore they can make their own choices. However, they are existing in the island’s, and therefore the world/universe’s, past. So the decisions that they make in their present have already occurred in the universe’s past. When 815 went down in 2004, their free-will-based decisions (though they hadn’t made them yet) had already been chosen, and their impact felt. Basically, the free will of the time travelers had already shaped past events.
Whatever happened, happened – and their free will in the 1970s had cemented itself in the timeline, making the choices of the time-travelers a part of their destiny. Their destiny was partially created by themselves. Yeah, it’s complicated, and it might hurt the brain a little, but I’m convinced that this is the case.
Daniel gave some evidence in favor of this. In spite of his insistence that he would not talk to young Charlotte, he does so anyway, because “I didn’t think I could change things, but maybe I can.” By trying to change the past, he fulfilled his destiny, giving Charlotte all the fuel she needs to tell Daniel, in her own future, about the creepy guy who told her not to come back.
It seems that Jack might carry on with Daniel’s plan to stop the incident, thus performing the very actions that lead to the incident taking place. Daniel was wrong: Jack and the gang were supposed to go back to 1977 – if not, why would the island have taken them? Why not leave them in 2007 with Sun and Locke? Jack was supposed to go back because his actions are necessary to set in motion the events that lead to the crash of 815. It’s Daniel’s attempt to prevent these events that cause them to occur.
A few questions remain. Why does Daniel believe that 1977 Eloise can get them back to when they were supposed to be? When confronted by Locke and Jim, Richard didn’t seem to be familiar with time travel – why would Eloise be? Daniel told Dr. Chang that the incident at the Swan would occur six hours from the time of their conversation. How could he know this? If he was stuck in the 1970s, with access to 1970s information, how could he know the time of the incident? Maybe future Eloise does know a bit about time travel and somehow travelled back to her past to give Daniel some information. But that seems a little far-fetched.
And now for the upcoming war. Or, more specifically, the sides in this war.
I’m convinced that there are two sides to this war, and Ben, Eloise, and Widmore are all on the same side.
It was Widmore’s actions that brought Desmond to the island in the first place, and, in “Flashes Before Your Eyes,” Eloise ensured that Desmond kept to his destiny. Widmore offered Daniel the job that would get him to the island, and Eloise encouraged Daniel to take it. It also seemed that both Ben and Widmore wanted the Oceanic 6 to be on Ajira 316. They weren’t working together, but their separate attempts got everyone (except maybe Hurley) onto the plane.
My guess is that they are on the same side, though they’re not very happy about it. Ben and Widmore’s war could have been for control of the Others – for leadership in the real war to come. Perhaps this scuffle is why the island chose Locke to be the new leader. If Widmore returns to the island (and I believe that he might,) he and Ben won’t have to fight over who’s in charge, because the island has made it fairly clear that it’s John Locke. Not that Ben and Charles will ever get along, though they will likely reluctantly work together for the greater good.
It seems that Ben and Charles Widmore have been working toward the same goals, while remaining willing to attack and kill each other’s operatives in the process.
The other side in this war? The Children of Dharma. Ilana, Bram, and others who were on flight 316. Their goal just could be to make the island visible to their associates, who can then arrive so that the real war can begin!
I’m thinking that there’s a hierarchy to the Others that extends beyond our sight. Ben was clearly in charge of the Others on the island, but was he truly the only one that could see or hear Jacob? Eloise was off island and seemingly working on her own, though was still involved with business pertaining to the island. There seems to be Others in various parts of the world – Jill was in the butcher shop in California, Greta and Bonnie (though secretly stationed in the Looking Glass) were thought to be in Canada. There’s a lot to the Others that we haven’t seen. If Jacob is the leader on the island, does he have an off-island counterpart? Does he exist simultaneously on and off-island?
We subtly entered a new chapter in this episode. Eloise Hawking confided to Penny, “For the first time in a long time, I don’t know what’s going to happen next.” So far, someone had some kind of control – some knowledge of what’s really going on. Now it seems that everything is up in the air. Eloise has reached the point where her knowledge of events has run out, and now anything can happen. Maybe “The Variable” refers to this new stage, where events have stopped being predetermined and the island can truly be won or lost.