Join us for our Fringe Summer Rewatch, where we review every episode of Fringe during the summer hiatus. Comments are welcome as we dig into the connections made over three seasons.
Ability is one of the key episodes to the Fringe mythology, and the episode specifically builds upon the background of Olivia Dunham. It’s often cited as a favorite episode, and for good reason. I feel this is where Fringe gripped me for the long haul.
Viewers return to Germany and Wissenschaft Prison for a visit with Mr. Jones. Jones uses Walter's technology to escape from prison by teleportation.
Walter’s discussion of Dis-Re made me think of a few things. Although Jones just used it as a teleportation device, Walter said that it’s intended purpose was to travel through time. Peter’s present consciousness was ported to the future in The Day We Died. Did Walter at some point actually use the Dis-Re to visit the future or past?
Olivia’s meeting with Mitchell Loeb drops a few more bread crumbs. This is where the phrase “what was written will come to pass” was introduced. Nick Lane would use this phrase later in Bad Dreams. After Season 3, I wonder if Jones and his group knew that time-lines were being altered, and set out to stop it.
The ZFT manifesto was introduced here as well. One of Peter’s 'weird connections' reoccurs several times in the series. The rare and used book seller, Markham, was able to find the rare ZFT manuscript in a short amount of time. He obviously had several dealings with Peter. Markham even owned a copy of the First People’s book. How did he even get a copy?
When Olivia speaks to Jones after the raid, one sentence sticks out to me:
“Don’t worry, Ms. Dunham. If I wanted to hurt you, I would have… long ago…”
The ZFT excerpts are of great interest going into the fourth season. At first, I thought that the ZFT section read by Walter was describing the parallel (red) universe. But his mention that the beings' history is slightly beyond ours doesn’t make sense. The Observers may be these beings? Or the First People? (Walter? Peter? Ella? Astrid?)
We think we understand reality. But our universe is only one of many. The unknown truth is that the way to travel between them has already been discovered - by beings, much like us, but whose history is slightly ahead of our own. The negative aspect of such visitation will be irreversible both to our world and to theirs. It will begin with a series of unquantifiable natural occurrences - difficult to notice at first - but growing, not unlike a cancer, until a simple fact becomes undeniable. Only one world will survive. It will either be us - or them.
Olivia’s first try at the light box test was mirrored in The Last Sam Weiss when she tried to use the quantum entangled typewriter.
Olivia: So, I am supposed to just turn these lights off by looking at them. (Ability)
Olivia: No, it’s ridiculous, and even if it was possible, manipulating a light is nothing compared to manipulating the machine. (The Last Sam Weiss)
It is striking that Jones knew about Olivia’s treatment with Cortexiphan. Of course, Olivia is the most reluctant “recruit” of them all.
Jones is so happy to see Dr. Bishop. Later it is discovered that he despised Dr. Bell (There is More Than One of Everything) I wonder if something happened between Walter and William Bell that may have provoked Bell to remove parts of Walter’s brain…
After Olivia was successful in diffusing the bomb, Jones was happy and called her “My girl.” I’m one of the fans that has the suspicion that Jones may be someone important to Olivia, possibly even her real father.
Of course, the biggest thing to note here is when Peter came back as Olivia was trying to diffuse the light-box bomb. He could have died along with Olivia, but he did not abandon her. With Peter present, Olivia was able to turn off the light box.
It has not been explicitly stated on the show, but several occurrences over the series have led to the belief that Peter must be present for Olivia’s abilities to work, in addition to heightened emotion such as fear and love.
Examples include, the Jacksonville “almost kiss," Peter/the apartment glowing in 6B, the typewriter in The Last Sam Weiss, and also Olivia's telepathy used in The Day We Died.
Some fans, including myself, believe that Walternate had to separate Peter from Olivia in order to kill her. Otherwise, she could have used her abilities to stop the bullet or to remove the gun from his hand.
- Who is Olivia to Mr. Jones?
- How long has Jones been keeping tabs on Olivia?
- Was Sanford Harris’s group at odds with those that Jones was involved with?
- Did Sanford Harris send Olivia on the raid to prevent her from helping Jones?
- Who is the ZFT really describing?
- Who devised the box of tests? Walter or someone else?
- What were the symbols on the cards found in the box?
- How did Jones and his people know about the Cortexiphan drug trials?
- Did Jones know that Olivia would be needed as the "crow-bar" that could turn off the vacuum machine?
- What exactly were the effects of the Dis-Re on Jones, who exhibited superhuman strength to escape from the hospital?
If Peter Does Not Exist?
It seems this war between worlds was in the making long before Walter stole Peter from the other universe.
- Olivia was treated with Cortexiphan at age three, before Walter crossed into the red universe and stole their Peter Bishop. Bell supposedly discontinued the trials. If Walter had no need to try and return Peter to his world, would Olivia have gone on in life without any further notice of the Cortexiphan?
- Since there is seemingly a grounding/activating link between Olivia and Peter, could Olivia even use her abilities at all without him?
- The ZFT manuscript was retrieved as a result of Peter's weird connection. Would there still be a way to find a copy?
- Would there even be a reason for the light box test, without Peter and the machine?