The Sign Of The Four, Why You Can't See Peter Bishop, And The Last Great Storm Revealed ~ Fringe Television - Fan Site for the FOX TV Series Fringe

The Sign Of The Four, Why You Can't See Peter Bishop, And The Last Great Storm Revealed

      Email Post       8/17/2011 08:26:00 AM      

"What if the team member fated to die doesn’t actually die but merely disappears? Perhaps after the time-deck is reshuffled, they become someone who simply was never born…"

Or so we guessed in the piece we wrote shortly before the season finale aired (“I Love An Apocalypse!”), but then we stuffed that thing with so many guesses that one of them was bound to stick to the wall. So we’re going to stop short of claiming any powers of clairvoyance. After all, looking into the future can be a dangerous business…

At any rate, you can never say that FRINGE doesn’t give you any clues as to what they’re on about. When the show namechecked “The Schrödinger Hotel” early in the proceedings of 6B, I doubt it fazed any longtime viewers. FRINGE fans have been discussing the relevance of the paradoxical thought experiment known as “Schrödinger’s Cat” since its first season. Even viewers who aren’t terribly well versed in the concepts surrounding quantum mechanics are probably familiar with it:

"A cat is placed in a box, together with a radioactive atom. If the atom decays and the geiger-counter detects an alpha particle, the hammer hits a flask of prussic acid (HCN), killing the cat. The paradox lies in the clever coupling of quantum and classical domains. Before the observer opens the box, the cat's fate is tied to the wave function of the atom, which is itself in a superposition of decayed and undecayed states. Thus, said Schrödinger, the cat must itself be in a superposition of dead and alive states before the observer opens the box, “observes” the cat, and “collapses” its wave function."

In other words, the cat is both alive and dead until the moment it has been observed.

"The most commonly held interpretation of quantum mechanics is the Copenhagen interpretation. In the Copenhagen interpretation, a system stops being a superposition of states and becomes either one or the other when an observation takes place."
- Wikipedia

Perhaps even more interesting:

"Other interpretations resolve the apparent paradoxes from experimental results in other ways. For instance, the many-worlds interpretation posits the existence of multiple universes in which an observed system displays all possible states to all possible observers. In this model, observation of a system does not change the behavior of the system—it simply answers the question of which universe the observer is located in."
- Wikipedia

The idea that observing an event changes it, that two worlds can exist at once, etc., are so much a part of FRINGE that one might say that the shadow of this particular cat has been draped over the show from Day One. The difference here is that the writers have finally made the concept of Schrödinger’s Cat a literal and physical one. In the last moments of the finale, we are left with a Schrödinger box created by Peter in which two states exist simultaneously and which is surrounded by “observers.” It’s a wonderful, wonderful joke.

It was Schrödinger, also, who conceived of the idea of “quantum entanglement” that Walter mentions and which I suspect may become even more important as the story proceeds. You might also want to do some reading up on “Bell’s Theorem” (honest!) if you really want to impress your friends!

“Oh, that’s fantastic news!” – Walter Bishop

There was another moment in that last episode, however, that struck me as intimately familiar and with the release of the “Where Is Peter Bishop?” teasers, I now have to wonder if I’m not seeing something of an intentional campaign to bring something in particular to mind.

I’m talking about the scene where Olivia reunites with Walter after he’s been released. A box of delicate equipment appears to be headed to the floor when it halts in midair, as if by magic. Olivia has used her powers of telekinesis to prevent it from being damaged and explains to Walter that she’s learned to control it.

And this thing is bugging me, as if I’ve seen it before, practically grown up with it: a young woman with long blond hair creating a force field, a scientific genius with salt and pepper hair. What was it?

Then they showed us the Four. And I remembered. Are there any sci-fi or comic book fans who don’t recognize this four?

I can’t imagine there are, especially with the film versions having come out. It’s the logo of the Fantastic Four, the flagship title for Marvel Comics and “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine!” if one was to believe the banner that appeared at the top of each issue’s cover.

The FF set the tone for the revolution Marvel was about to visit upon the comic book industry, something they called “superheroes with human problems.” As the series went on and more titles appeared, the template became clear. Marvel Comics would be as much soap operas as super sagas, continuing storylines from issue to issue and loading their characters down with everyday problems just as much as cosmic ones. To readers who had grown up with DC Comics, whose stories had neat beginnings, middles, and ends and usually tied things up unambiguously in favor of the good guys, this was a huge shock to the system.

More than most, the FF were an actual dysfunctional family of sorts who had to juggle their emotional relationships inbetween tussling with villains of the month intent on their destruction. Linked together by the strange powers they returned to Earth with after a mission in outer space, they were:

Reed Richards (“Mr. Fantastic”), team leader possessed of salt and pepper hair and an almost unchartable intellect that allowed him to conduct experiments in the furthest regions of science. His ability consisted of being able to stretch his body like a rubber band.

Sue Storm (“The Invisible Girl”), now a telekinetic prodigy with the ability to project protective force fields as well as the ability to turn invisible, Sue would eventually marry Reed and become Sue Richards (as well as change her professional name to the long overdue “Invisible Woman”) and was the sister of…

Johnny Storm (“The Human Torch”), the young hotheaded member of the team who (after shouting his traditional “Flame On!”) could become, well, an actual human torch who could fly and manipulate fire and whose favorite party trick was creating a flaming “4” in the sky.

Ben Grimm (“The Thing”), whose powers of tremendous strength were offset by the fact that he was now fated to live in a body that resembled nothing so much as a cobbled together collection of orange rock. Luckily for Ben, he found himself a girlfriend who was a blind sculptress and who loved him for the person he was inside.

So not to put too fine a point on it, but Reed makes as good a Walter as Sue and Johnny Storm make an Olivia and Peter, setting aside the obviously different personal relationships. The important thing is that we are, in both cases, discussing a family dynamic. What, however, should we make of the lack of a Ben Grimm, or is that trying too hard?

“Apparently, you have the ability to turn off the force field that’s keeping Peter out…” – Walter Bishop

So do I think the FF refs are intentional? Well, consider this: there wasn’t an article about FRINGE early on that, when broaching the subject of The Observer, didn’t bring up this fellow:

As any loyal comic fan knows, this is The Watcher, fated to ever observe the machinations of humanity and the universe, but forever forbidden to meddle in our affairs (much like The Observers, too, that rule seemed to become more and more elastic as time went by). In fact, it seemed to become an accepted truth from the first few episodes that The Observer was an homage to The Watcher, so why in the world wouldn’t there be other similarities waiting to be discovered?

So what does it all mean?

Well, you take these things with a pinch of salt and use according to taste, I suppose, depending on the viewer. FRINGE is, of course, telling its own story and its occasional homages may mean nothing more than a wink to the audience. But I do think there’s a case to be made for some borrowings being more important than that and possibly becoming the warp and woof of the story under construction.

For example, the FF has two characters named Storm. Now read this line in light of that:

There is a storm coming…

Now the family relationships are obviously very different, but we’ve already determined that Peter and Olivia together are much greater than the sum of their individual selves. So what if the storm that’s coming isn’t The War Between The Universes at all? What if it’s the single force created when FRINGE’s analogues of Sue and Johnny Storm pool their powers together? What if they’re The Last Great Storm(s)?

“You’re going to need him by your side.” – William Bell

Want more?

Between Sue and Johnny, we have three remarkable abilities, more or less: the ability to move things with the mind, the ability to manipulate fire, and the ability to turn invisible.

They’ve given Olivia two of these already. That leaves one.

Why can’t you see Peter Bishop?

He’s invisible.

Just how he is invisible has to do with time, I think, and how he now moves within it. I say this partly because I think the room he's created is a nod to another famous sci-fi program.

Not the one it owes the most to, but another one. More on this later.

Oh, one other thing. Remember who said this?

“Well, I didn't say I didn't get my bell rung.”

More to come.

"Wigner’s Friend is a variant on the (Schrödinger) experiment with two external observers: the first opens and inspects the box and then communicates his observations to a second observer. The issue here is, does the wave function "collapse" when the first observer opens the box, or only when the second observer is informed of the first observer's observations?"
- Wikipedia


fakehater said...


Ali said...

This is a fantastic and mind-boggling idea.

cortexifan said...

That is awesome. You've put into words what is trapped in my mind (at least some of it) and have not been able to formulate so it makes any sense.
I also have a theory on why Bell told Peter he's holding up better than he thought but I don't know how to put it down on paper yet.

“Well, I didn't say I didn't get my bell rung.”

I noticed that sentence as well and was wondering if there is a deeper meaning to it.

Ali said...

Yeah, I've always wondered what that dialogue meant. Peter thought Bell was referring to traveling between universes, but Bell replied, "That's not what I meant."

Is there something (else) we should know about Peter?

Count Screwloose said...

Thanks! I wish I'd found a simpler way to summarize Schrödinger's Cat, but I'm quantum challenged as it is. The gist of it for me is purely that nothing can be quantified until it is observed and Peter is now Schrödinger's Cat, neither dead nor alive until he is "observed." I think he's slipped through the cracks for the time being.

I should have been clearer in pointing out that The Watcher originated in FF comics, which is why I think the "4" business is more than coincidence. I can remember reading reviews of the show from time to time in which the confused reviewer actually referred to The Observer as The Watcher!

It also occurs to me now that we spent last season watching people from Over There run around with patches that sort of read "FF."

Very, very curious about what Bell meant, too.

birdandbear said...

Wow, fantastic article! Nice job! :D

FringeFrogee said...

I always wondered if Bell meant Walter's "cure" for Peter.

Was it really a cure, or just postponing the illness; did the cure come with side effects; or did the cure plus traveling between universes caused side effects Bell and Walter knew about but have been keeping quiet? The later theory does seem to tie in very nicely to the Fantastic Four gaining their powers.

FringeFrogee said...

Maybe Peter is more Ben Grimm now, and Johnny Storm is still to come (Ella or Lincoln) or been already (John Scott or even Bell).

tankadin said...

When you speak of Peter being in a box in two states. Peter is physically in two literal states as well... New Jersey and New York. Liberty Island itself (at least the part above water) belongs to New York, but it's located entirely within the state boundaries of New Jersey. More info...

cortexifan said...

Okay, so here is my theory on what Bell meant when he said to Peter: “Haven’t seen you in many years. You’re holding up better than I would have thought.”

I’m not sure if I’m going to making sense. It sounds a lot better in my head. And I don’t mind being completely wrong about this either, so…

Here are the components of my theory:

-In 2.04 Momentum Deferred Bell says to Olivia: “I’ve seen history repeat itself enough times to know a war is coming, just as we predicted, Walter and I, years ago.”

- In 2.21 Over There part 1, Olivia shows Nina the drawing of Peter in the machine and Nina says: “This is Williams design but we didn’t build it.”

-In the finale Peter said that they were the First People, Walter, Astrid maybe Ella. And that Walter sent the machine back through time.

-Walter and Bell worked together and he knew about Peter.

So now let me try to put it together:

Bell built the machine, it’s his design, and Walter hid the machine by sending it back through time.
Bell says he’s seen history repeat itself enough times. What if this was not the first time Peter has been in the machine? What if Bell has seen Peter go through this before, activating the machine, changing the future or a time line? What if going into the machine has consequences that we are not aware of yet? What if Bell was talking about that?

Any thoughts?

Old Darth said...

A tip of my virtual hat to you Count. Wonderful article.

Much akin to Dave Bowman when he beheld the Monolith near Jupiter and exclaimed, 'My God, it's full of stars,' Fringe is poised with a near infinite number of story possibilities going into the fourth season.

I like the concept of Peter being invisible because he has slipped in between cracks of time. Doubtful it will play out in the show that way.

As for Observers they are likely to become Participators this season.

birdandbear said...

@cortexifan - I love this theory! Bell explained that his atoms were ready to split apart at the slightest provocation because of the number of times he'd traveled between universes, but what if he was misleading a little bit. Maybe his atoms were ready to explode because he'd travelled through universes of time many times. I like it!

And I can totally buy the idea of Peter being metaphorically invisible - much as the Observers are. Someone your eyes just kind of slide off of, because they don't really belong in your world.

Although....this is Fringe, literal invisibility is certainly a possibility! ;)

Count Screwloose said...

I had no idea two states were involved! It's certainly interesting how iconic the Statue has become on the show (also on Peter's coins). It's also, getting back to the FF, literally a "human torch." There's some nice symmetry there last season, too, with Olivia escaping from Liberty Island at the start (Over There) and Peter returning to it (Over Here) at the end, and tying both ends together.

As for Peter having gone through all this before, it's certainly possible. I've often thought that much of this could be tied into trying to prevent (or create) a timeline that we haven't begun to understand yet. And these recent remarks about "the true meaning" of the show have certainly started me wondering where its ultimate aim is exactly.

I don't think Peter's disappearance will play out exactly as I've described, either, but I do think he will be experiencing time in a different way. As Old Darth points out, absolutely anything is possible, this season more than any other!

Actually, it's Olivia who becomes The Human Torch in that last episode, isn't it?

Ali said...


Another mind-boggling but brilliant idea.

Ali said...


To add to your theory:

Like you said, what if Peter had been in the machine before, to change the timeline? What if Walter and Bell had once used Peter to try to prevent the war from coming, but that failed and instead we got our present timeline?

It's interesting that the parts of the machine are in both universes; that seems to suggest that the moment when both universes separated/diverged from one universe happened after the parts of the machine were implanted in the past. But the timeloop (Walter sends the machine back, they use the machine, Walter sends it back) can only happen when the universe survives in time for Walter to send the parts back. In other words, that timeloop could only happen in our universe, not the alternate one, because only in our universe did Walter have the chance to send the parts back. And what about the new timeline? Since the future in "The Day We Died" no longer exists, does that mean the timeloop is broken (since Walter never send the parts of the machine back) and the machine doesn't exist? Or does it not exist because Peter doesn't exist?

I got really off topic and started rambling, but this is why I love Fringe. It really makes you THINK.

cortexifan said...

@birdandbear, Count Screwloose, and Ali

Thanks for your added ideas. That's why I love Fringe as well. "The Impossibilities are Endless".

fringeobsessed said...

One day it hit me on the head that all of Fringe is one giant "White Tulip," and that Dr. Peck and Peter have very much in common.
I do think Peter's been in many timelines(maybe all 3 of them have?)

What if in all these previous episodes Peter's job was to save the girl(Olivia)? After all Peter chose "Someone To Watch Over Me" to pay for her on the piano.

Dr. Peck was unable untimately to save his girl, will Peter fair better as the series moves along?

Unknown said...

That's why I love White Tulip. I once told someone that it captured the essence of Fringe in a nutshell.

Fringie6989 said...

WOW. Awesome observations from all of you! I'm not gonna say that I understand every word that I just read, but this is exactly why I love Fringe so much. What other show has inspired fans worldwide to become informed of things like quantum mechanics, the paradox of time, etc etc? I'm amazed at what I have learned from watching this show, no only from the show itself, but the theories from fans like ourselves. Bravo guys. I'm honored to be in this group of fandom.

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