Join us for our Fringe Summer re-watch, where we review every episode of Fringe during the summer hiatus. Comments are welcome as we dig into the connections made over three seasons.
The Ghost Network continues the building of the Fringe universe. There is a lot more to this episode than one can see at first glance. Placed in the perspective of three seasons, I'm amazed at all the things that I can pick out and make connections for.
The first thing that I took note of when re-watching this episode was the tolling church bells as Roy McComb goes to confession. Ringing bells are a common Fringe theme.
Fringe may be a show mainly about science, but the show is not afraid to explore religious themes. Here, Roy McComb asked if the priest believes that God speaks to people. In Season 2, Walter thought that God sent him the sign he was looking for; “a white tulip.” In Season 3, Astrid told Walter that God helps those who help themselves. One of the most powerful scenes took place when Walter begged God to spare the world.
The priest told Roy McComb that “God speaks to those that are willing to listen.”
In the Season 3 episode Stowaway, Bellivia told Peter, “Now as a scientist, I like to believe that nothing just happens, that every event has some meaning. Some sort of message. You just have to be able to listen closely enough to hear it. (church bells ring) See?”
Ever the cynic, Peter said, “It's a church bell. So tell me, what's the meaning?”
I’m really not certain if this connection is going anywhere, but I found it interesting.
However, Roy was concerned that if God can talk to a person, then maybe so can the Devil.
Roy saw disturbing things that made him question being a good man. Being a “good man” is another theme found often in Fringe.
“Be a better man than your father.”
“Peter, you’re a good man, Olivia knows this.”
“He wasn't that unlike you. He was honorable, committed. He feared for his family, for their future.”
Several more examples are present.
But even good men can do bad things given the right circumstances. For instance, Walter eventually saw that Walternate was not just an evil man bent on power, but a man forced to make hard choices. Walter came to grips with accepting that he is not evil for saving Peter's life. Also, Peter went rogue in frustration and fear, when he killed shape-shifters and didn't tell Olivia or Walter.
Roy left behind a drawing in the church, a call for help, because he didn’t like what he had become. Walter had parts of his brain removed because he didn’t like what he was becoming. Peter was frightened in Reciprocity because of Walter's insistence that he was not being himself, that the machine was changing him.
Given the idea of multiple time-lines occurring at once, a viewer can take on a whole new perspective of Roy’s visions and drawings. Roy may have been able to “hear” plans over the Ghost Network, but I think that his visions and drawings were way too detailed for that to have been all there was to it. I wonder if Roy had a perceptive skill to see events that may have occurred in a simultaneous time-line.
While the case unfolded, Olivia attended John Scott’s funeral, which happened to be closed-casket. Olivia tried to remain calm and stoic, a difficult feat considering the circumstances of John's betrayal and the FBI's reluctance to make it public. Plus, she had to deal with looking at Agent Scott's mother. Charlie tries his hand at making her laugh, and she does. But Olivia has always been good at pretending to be "fine." However, her line to Charlie concerning John's mother looking at her like Olivia was responsible for John's death makes me wonder, is she? In Subject 13, it was revealed that Olivia flashed over to Walternate's office in the other universe, and that she left the picture that she had drawn of herself and Peter. This alerted him to his son's location and set many things into motion.
This episode also shows the first occurrence of Peter being stalked by someone. Just what did Peter do, and who was he running from? Why was this made such a big deal, and then it was dropped? I know the producers say it isn't important to the story now, but why bother telling us at all. A simple explanation from Peter would have been nice at some point, maybe showing a moment of vulnerability with Olivia. It would be interesting to contemplate how Peter's past shady business dealings affected others.
Of the most importance to the Fringe mythology is the introduction of the substance, Amber. In this episode, Amber kills those that are trapped in it. However, in S3’s Amber 31422, a man rescued his twin brother alive.
Roy was shown drawing the events that he saw in his mind. In Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, Olivia drew “the man that is going to kill her.”
Olivia asked Peter about his mother, and Peter told her "that’s a story for another time.” Knowing what we now know, Peter’s fake smile is so sad.
Peter delved into why Olivia chose law enforcement as a career. He was surprised that she has wanted to do it since she was nine years old. Of course, we later find out Olivia’s story about her step-father.
Walter told Peter that his “lack of commitment was always his problem,” and that is probably why he hadn’t chosen a profession. However, when Peter committed himself to finding out more about the Machine in Season 3, Walter tried to discourage Peter and refused to help him at first.
Peter sarcastically told Walter that maybe he should have followed in his footsteps, because Walter’s work had “brought such joy to the world.” Of course at this point, Peter doesn’t know the half of it. By S3, Walter had come to grips with the damage of his hubris.
Walter: I came in this morning and found your little project.
Peter: And what project would that be?
Walter: You know very well what project. You are continuing to work on this infernal device-- The one depicted in the blueprints.
Peter: That's correct. I'm running diagnostics.
Walter: I thought I made my -- You have no idea what it does. You might as well be building a nuclear bomb in my lab.
Peter: I don't think that's entirely fair.
Walter: Do you? Well, fine. If you end up breaking the universe, this time, it's on your head!
Walter's last line is one of my favorites, but it does have a sad double-edge to what seems to be a hilarious outburst. Peter does follow in his footsteps in a way. Walter sent back the machine and set the process of destroying the alternate universe into reality. But then Peter had a second chance... an opportunity to "fix" the damage done. Peter chose to find a way to heal both worlds; to repair the broken universes.
Other Small Matters
Peter also became disgusted with the fact the Roy McComb was one of Walter’s test subjects. Little did he know that Walter experimented on children, including himself and Olivia.
The metallic element iridium makes an appearance in The Arrival, as the material used to construct the beacon.
Nina Sharp suggested to Olivia that because so many of the Fringe incidents occur “right in her own backyard,” that Olivia might have something to do with them. Once again, it was young Olive that alerted Walternate to his son's location, which led to efforts to infiltrate this world.
Nina showed personal interest in Olivia, more than just wanting her for an employee, it seems. I’ve always wondered why Nina was so personally interested in both Olivia AND Peter.
The discs found in the hands of John Scott and the DEA agent have a season three parallel in the shape-shifter discs. Nina looked for a way to crack the data encryption. In Os, Peter goes through similar trials with the shape-shifter discs.
- Who was really after Peter, and why?
- What information was on the discs?
- Where is John Scott’s body now
- What exactly is/was the relationship between Nina Sharp and Philip Broyles?
- Did Nina know that Olivia was a former Cortexiphan subject?
- Even if Nina did not know of Olivia’s status, why was she so interested in having her work for Massive Dynamic, and why did she say that she “only wants the best for her.”
- Was the Amber a test by Walternate's minions or another faction? Was John Scott and the DA agent aware of them? Why did they want the discs?
If Peter Bishop Never Existed:
- Would The Pattern still take place?
- Would Amber even exist at all?
- Would Walter still own the house in Cambridge and still be with Elizabeth?
- Since Olivia shot her step-father after Peter encouraged her to step up for herself in Subject 13, would she have still have found the courage to have done so
- If not, what was her motivation for becoming a law-enforcement agent?