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 Observers played a significant role in the later part of season three, setting up events in an experiment to determine if Walter would be willing to let go of Peter. The producers have stated that they will play a significant role in season four. Bits and pieces about “The Observer” (September) were dropped in The Arrival, The Road Not Taken, and There is More Than One of Everything.
In the second season, the Fringe team finds out that there is more than one of everything… including Observers. And that they do more than Observe.
My Own Observing
As August waited for Christine Hollis, there were several things of note. Of particular interest was the black notebook that he used to take notes in a strange, cryptic language. He was taken aback when a veteran engaged him in friendly conversation, starting with a compliment concerning his binocular-like gadget. He told the veteran that the object is “from far way.” With as little as we still know about the Observers, what does this mean? Far is word for a measure of distance. Or does August just use this as simple explanation for an idea that is very complicated? The veteran gave him a flag pin, and August looked like he did’t know what to make of a kind gesture. Humans and our quirks must have been interesting to him.
They Just Watch?
In physics, there is a well-known principle called the “observer effect.” This states that the results of an experiment are affected by the act of observation.
So, while the Observers claim to not get involved, they still can change events by merely watching. This was taken to the literal extreme when September interrupted Walternate, keeping him from seeing that he was successful in finding a cure for his dying son. Hence, a whole new chain of events was started.
In this episode, August left his notebook on a park bench, knowing that Walter Bishop would eventually break the code and help him. Thus, setting a new path into motion. The Observers have weapons, which means that they get involved more often then they’d like, I’m sure. As a security guard fired his weapon, it didn’t seem to phase August, and we later learn that he caught the bullets in mid-air. September was able to do this in The Firefly. Both can start vehicles using electrical impulses from their fingers. The Observers appear to be able to slightly bend the laws of physics.
While investigating, Olivia and Peter enlist the help of Massive Dynamic’s Brandon Fayette, who happens to have a geeky interest in the Observer’s appearances and the origin of their writing. He explains the fluid nature of time; how everything occurs at once. Yet the Observers can sit back and watch it at any point. But time is not linear in one direction, it branches like a tree with new possibilities for every new decision path.
September told Walter in The Firefly:
Various possible futures are happening simultaneously. I can tell you all of them, but I cannot tell you which one of them will come to pass. Because every action causes ripples, consequences both obvious and... unforeseen.
Memory and Objects
After all these years, August kept Christine’s teddy bear. Just like Walter kept his Peter’s silver coin. A reminder of someone they love. Humans use physical objects in order to help them remember. Walter even used food in order to jog his memories and make connections. For instance, Walter was on a quest for the perfect strawberry milkshake in this episode. But after season 3, there is no reminder of Peter. As far as we know, anyway. However, Walter once called the human brain an amazing organ, and it never forgets experiences. When Olivia was trapped Over There in The Plateau, her projection of Peter told her that he was a part of her that she had to hold on to. That she could not forget him. Walter also said that if anything went wrong when Peter chose to go back to our current time with knowledge of the future, that Olivia would be their fail safe. I’m counting on one or the other to “remember” Peter somehow in season 4. As a fan of Dune, I’d like to think that memory transcends life-times. So maybe it can transverse time-lines as well.
No One Special
Fringe often questions the nature of “special.”
Agent Broyles briefed Olivia about Christine’s background, saying that “As far as we can tell, she’s no one special.”
Peter asked about Christine Hollis: “What is so special about her? Why save her?"
Olivia also found nothing “special about her” when she was reviewing information about the girl.
One could ask what is so special about Olivia? To Peter, she was his everything.
To Walter, Olive was special to him (Subject 13.)
August explained that he had observed Christine for all of her life, and that she was unique. At the Asian restaurant in the episode, September reminded August that humans “are all unique.” This fact alone was not enough to keep her from her fate, that she was meant to die in an airplane crash.
Is there a difference between “special” and “important?” The Observers might say that they see no future for someone, but one change in a decision from someone else could alter things toward a new outcome. It could cause those ripples that September spoke about. In The Plateau, we saw Milo Stanfield literally get away with murder, as he set up a string of events that just seemed random. But Olivia acted in a manner that he did account for in his calculations. Peter had remarked early in season one that random events happen all the time that seem linked, but that doesn’t mean that there is any significance to them. Then he changed his tune by the time of The Arrival. One could say that Olivia had no future when she was killed, but Peter would not accept that fate.
August chose to meet with Walter because Walter would not accept no for an answer. He chose to do whatever it took to bring his son back. Walter’s advice:
Well, in that case, if you cannot persuade the others of your conviction, then you must do something to prove it. You must make her important. And of course whatever you do, you must be prepared to face the consequences.
- Walter’s consequences were the destruction of two universes, plus the pain of watching his son crumble.
- August’s consequence was dying for a woman that he fell in love with. September said,“You made her important. She is responsible for the death of one of us."
- Peter’s consequence was to erase himself from existence so that his love, Olivia, would live.
Peter Searches for Answers
What are they looking for? We're looking for them, but they're looking for something too. That's why they keep on showing up. So what are they looking for? - PeterAugust made it a point to hand Peter his gun, and it appeared as if he communicated telepathically to Peter. Peter was astounded that he was able to fire the weapon. Peter once stated that he could “bring anything mechanical back from the dead.” Is his ability to easily use and fix technology more than just because of his IQ?
Peter asked Walter if the Observer ever told him why he saved them both. Walter’s face suggested that he knew more than he was telling. Of course, Peter did not know where he came from at this point. At some point, Walter must have spoken in detail with September. We do know that Walter was warned to never allow Peter to return to the other side. Did Walter know why? Walter also begged August when they met to not take his son. Over several interactions with Observers, Walter is very frightened about them taking Peter from him. He told August that he had made “an arrangement” with September. Did he tell Walter that his time with Peter was limited?
Peter: They have the answers. I know they do.
Walter: Don't worry, son. You will get your answer.
So maybe in Season 4, we’ll finally get the answer Peter has been seeking.
At the end of this scene, Walter cups Peter’s face, just like he did when they decided to cheat time in The Day We Died…
It was nice to see Olivia laughing and trying to live a normal life, as she took care of her niece, Ella. Ella was not afraid of roller-coasters, and she giggled because her brave aunt was frightened of them. When they had to put their plans on hold, Ella said, “It’s OK, Aunt Liv. I know that you have an important job.” I never would have guessed that Ella would be doing that job in the future, and that she’d be one of the First People.
At this point in the series, I now know that Observers standing around at the end of an episode can only mean bad things for our heroes. As they observed Olivia and Ella on a roller-coaster, December remarked to September:
It is a shame things are going to get so hard for her.
The first time I saw this episode, I remember perking up on the edge of my seat and saying “What? No, you bald @#$*% had better leave poor Livy alone!”
Just as Olivia went out on a limb and went out of her comfort zone, everything went crazy. Metaphorically, Olivia’s life became an emotional roller-coaster from this point out. In Grey Matters, she found that she had become very attached to the Bishops. In What Lies Below, I think we get the first glimpse of the fact that she had confused feelings for Peter, as she was shaken-up over the thought of him dying from the virus. The discovery of her ability to see objects from the other side in Jacksonville, led to her seeing Peter glimmer, and to hearing Walter’s story of his grand deception in Peter. Then she had the terrible secret she was keeping from Peter, which he found out any way, and he left this universe in a hurt and confused state of mind.
Risking life and limb to get him back, she told him how much he meant to her. But then she became trapped and her alternate slipped into her life back home, and Peter bought into the alt’s deception. I felt so bad for the both of them in Marionette. Peter loved Olivia for so long, and really thought she was opening up to him, only to have to crush his Olivia with the news that he was deceived. Olivia came to see herself as her own person, that her alternate is not better, and to live her life with the people that she loves. So, she and Peter marry, but their world was still disintegrating and children are out of the question for her because of this bleak future. Walternate eventually kills her. Very hard for her indeed. Luckily, Walter and Peter stepped in:
“Give Him the keys and save the girl.”So now, we get to see life without the ripples caused by Peter. Will it be better? Maybe in some ways. But I have a feeling life without Peter will be much worse than the future we saw in The Day We Died.
Where are the Observers from, and why do they care about events in the world, but distance themselves from individual humans?
Why could Walter decipher the Observer’s language?
Just how much does Walter know about the Observers and their plan for Peter?
Why can Peter use the Observer’s gun?
Who was Donald Long? He did not appear to be an Observer, but he had some interesting capabilities, especially when he found August’s hotel hideout in the phonebook.
If Peter Did Not Exist
August was emboldened by Walter’s act of love in saving Peter. Without Peter, he probably wouldn’t have tried to save Christine Hollis.
Donald Long may have killed Olivia since Peter would not have been there to stop him.