Fringe Summer Rewatch: #114 "Ability" ~ Fringe Television - Fan Site for the FOX TV Series Fringe

Fringe Summer Rewatch: #114 "Ability"

      Email Post       7/31/2011 12:30:00 AM      

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.

Unanswered Questions
  • 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?


Anonymous said...

Is David Robert Jones actually from the other side? "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." This exert could be a reference to Over Here and Walter crossing over? Is ZFT actually a group composed of people from the other side and/or shapeshifters and is their manifesto the same one Walternate wrote? Maybe William Bell helped him write it...

Ju Berlie said...

but, if the olivia's powers only work with peter, what to say in the episode 119, the road not taken, when tecnicaly she "goes" to the other side?

fringeobsessed said...

Very nice, Aimee.

What I find most intersting about "Ability" is how the ZFT section that Walters reads aloud to Astrid and Peter sounds different after the first time you hear it in Season 1 compared to after you watch episodes 222 and 223.

When you watch Walter read the ZFT excerpts in "Ability" (without having seen any other seasons), you think it's someone from the Blue Universe narrating, BUT after you hear Walternate say in 222 that he wrote the ZFT, if you rewatch "Ability" and listen to Walter read the ZFT excerpts, NOW you realize Walternate from Over There could be the narrator. That realization gave me goosebumps.

I also ascribe to the theory that Walternate had to get our Liv away from Peter in order to kill her. I still think it was only after Peter returned to the lightbox scene that Olivia was able to start to turn out the lights. Aimee gave other examples of P/O power that I agree with. P/O, I believe, is some kind of combined power source. Did that start in their childhood when she made it snow in Jacksonville? We may never know, or will we?

Unknown said...

@Ju Berlie: You are correct that Olivia can travel between worlds without Peter present. Although I am not sure if Olivia actually slipped into the red universe, or if she was perceiving a converging time-line in this episode.

However, it does seem that Peter somehow needs to be close in order for her telekinetic abilities to work.

@FringeObsessed Yeah, now that you mention it... *shivers*

Unknown said...

I'll be posting my observations for "The Road Not Taken" on August 5. After the third season, the exact nature of what Olivia experienced is questionable.

fringeobsessed said...

Yeah I'm a little confused who really wrote that ZFT manifesto. Walter said it was Bell, and yet Walternate says in 322 he wrote it, so I'm still out on that one.

As far as DRJones being from Over There? It is possible(remember this IS 'Fringe' we're talking about!) All I know is I really want to see Jared Harris back on the show again.

Unknown said...

The ZFT seems to differ in several ways between universes. Over Here, it is a rare manuscript that was not widely published, printed in German, and a terrorist organization used it as their guide. Over There, it seems to be a bestseller authored by Walternate for the purpose of propaganda.

Anonymous said...

A few more questions/theories.. I think we can all agree that a "Walternate" wrote the ZFT (also strengthened by the fact that he is the only one who has knowledge of Henry's existence...I'm assuming that refers to the section about cross-pollination) and seems to imply that a universe with a "Walter" did not. So how did a copy of Walternate's ZFT get to the blue universe? Unless Bell brought it over from over there and claimed he wrote it.

Another somewhat related observation about the symbols appearing on the breaks before the commercials (flower, hand, apple, etc). The meanings change depending on where the light dot appears. Just reminds of the parallels between the universes and how the same things can have different meanings elsewhere.

One more thought-provoking comment.. ZFT mentions multi-verses. Has anyone ever thought of the possibility that whenever anyone crosses over and crosses back, they NEVER cross to and from the same universe? It is always a different universe that they cross to? How did Walter even know how to find and enter the correct universe to grab Peter? It just so happens that another universe also had a dying Peter (or maybe all universes have dying Peters) and it may not be the same Peter he had been observing from his "observing glass thingy" in "Peter"?

Anonymous said...

Just thought of one more thing.. for the sake of argument, what if a "Walter" did write ZFT in reference to BOTH the red universe AND the observers.

"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." -- refers to the Observers.

"The negative aspect of such visitation (refers to the Observers crossing over and intervening with Peter's cure) will be irreversible both to our world and to theirs." -- "theirs" may refer to Walternate's world and not necessarily the Observer's world.

**Sidenote: Did anyone notice September moving out of the way at the beginning of the episode when the newspaper guy was hit with the toxic powder?

What if Walter's future self wrote ZFT and sent it back in time through the wormhole (322) along with the doomsday device to warn himself/P/O of what's to come and what already happened?

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