Fringe 406 Review: And Those We've Left Behind ~ Fringe Television - Fan Site for the FOX TV Series Fringe

Fringe 406 Review: And Those We've Left Behind

      Email Post       11/14/2011 02:05:00 AM      

He is a fringe event.”

The Golden Ratio, or phi, finds mathematical symmetry in nature and likely-unplanned symmetry in art. From the shells of the nautilus to Dalí paintings and rabbit reproduction, phi describes the relationship of spatial objects, mathematical figures—not quite life, the universe, and everything, but quite nearly.

The chaos of the time-jumps adhered to the naturally beautiful spiral of phi even though they had symptoms of “not appearing in nature,” as Peter said. What appeared to be random, in other words, adhered to a law beyond that understood or intended by the people who created that disorder. This isn’t semi-mystical course-correction, but rather a portrayal of the orderliness underlying what appears to be random or even entropic.

The people who created that apparent chaos didn’t know what they were doing (anymore than Peter knew he was appearing in visions and dreams to Walter and Olivia). Husband Raymond jury-rigged a sort of time machine thingamabob based on his wife’s equations, but he needed the time machine in order to provide her with the opportunity to create the equations…all of which is a complicated loop, and I’ll leave it at that.

Wife Kate’s early-onset Alzheimer’s pushed Raymond into creating the time bubble. Unable to let go of the person he used to know, he refused to move past the time in which he still had her. He lived in the present only as long as he needed to in order to re-create an ever-changing past.

Stephen Root and Romy Rosemont did an incredible job portraying the couple, and I wasn’t surprised to read online that they are married in real life. I especially loved the wife’s distracted affection: her 2007-self didn’t know that moment was so important, and the off-handed reminders clearly had acquired a near-ritual status for Raymond. Kate’s decision to destroy the equations was beautiful, and both the most loving and most painful thing she could have done for Raymond.

That was all well and good, to say the least. But I am just not sure what to make of its relevance to the larger plot. A lot of my confusion is really just resistance—how much are we supposed to agree with Peter’s assessment that he has popped back into the wrong world? That these are not his people, and this is not his Olivia?

Peter and Olivia—not to mention Peter, Olivia, Lincoln Lee, and Walter—had moments of communion, but also numerous moments in which they clearly weren’t on the same page. Peter’s comment about Oppenheimer, for instance: Olivia misunderstood, Peter had to backtrack. The easy familiarity of their relationship, built over three seasons, is gone.

We know, as well, that Olivia’s and Walter’s pasts were radically altered by Peter’s death in both worlds. In that sense, these aren’t the same people. But is Peter giving up too quickly? He is dreaming of his Olivia…but this Olivia (“the other version,” in her words) is dreaming of him. The dreams are just different.

Or, are we like Raymond, living in a past that’s long gone? Raymond had to be pushed by Peter and his wife to move beyond what he had lost. Does he stand in for Peter, struggling to realize that he’s holding on to people that aren’t the same any more, and relationships that will never be what they were or what they promised to be? Or does he stand in for us, unable to accept that these people are not our people?

But, aren’t they? Our people don’t exist anymore: the paradox of the third-season finale changed them radically when it altered the past. We’ve more or less accepted that, with varying degrees of comfort—but I doubt I’m alone when I’ve assumed that this defamiliarization was temporary. Something would re-set. Peter, somehow, would re-set it. But he doesn’t know what we know: he created these new circumstances, back in the future in which he went back to the past.

Like, Groundhog Day?:

• Walter: “It’s a wonderful device, nonetheless, despite the poorly written instruction manual.” Nice to know the other side and/or Massive Dynamics still haven’t figured out how to create intelligible gadget booklets.

• Peter: “Too many variables and not enough constants.”

• Peter: “This is gonna start getting annoying.”

• Olivia: “You’re a stranger.”

• Walter: “I know what a Faraday cage is. A baboon would.”

• Walter: “I think it’s in my Spiderman fanny pack.” Because where else would the rubber cement be?

• Peter: “Now I’ve just got to figure out how to get home.”

• Peter: “Where would I run to?”

• Olivia: “I hope you get back to her.”

• Interested in the Golden Ratio, aka phi, aka “The Fibonacci Sequence” aka “Fibonacci’s Golden Spiral”? I recommend Mario Livio’s The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, The World’s Most Astonishing Number.

• It drove me a little crazy that Peter just eyeballed the map when drawing the spiral. Also, Lincoln Lee and all the other Boston commuters standing in the tunnel just to get a video to post on YouTube when they were about to drown.

• 47 minutes, the Red Sox, the Faraday cage. Did I miss any?

Usually, a show tells us what to root for (a hero, a goal, a quest object, a coupling) or against (a villain, an impending disaster). Sometimes the best shows undermine the easiness of this strategy, and guide us towards changing our affiliations—from one couple to another, for instance, or towards a realization that what looked like a goal was actually a trap.

Fringe has refused to tell us what to think this season. We know more about some things, like the future and one version of the past, than the characters do. They, on the other hand, have entire backstories that we don’t know anymore. It’s rather like metaphorical Alzheimer’s: the world we’re inhabiting is not the same one we’re used to. The people we know are not the people we think they are. It’s a frakking gigantic risk, on the part of the show’s producers and writers. But as a watcher and reviewer, I’m struggling to understand what it is that I’m supposed to want to happen.

For now, I’m just going to assume that, like phi, there’s an underlying order to the chaos.

Three and a half out of four Snails!

(Like a little math with your regularly scheduled TV? Check out my reviews of The Vampire Diaries and Game of Thrones at


Elliot said...

The producers have told us explicitly that the viewers are with Peter, seeing from his perspective, rooting for him to set things right. Which I certainly am; they've also promised more than once that they won't rip us off by making the first three years invalid, a relief to me amidst all this season's demolishment of the Fringe I've loved from the very first episode. I'm not interested in this iteration being permanent, in having to give the original Olivia and Walter up for dead. Like Peter, I fell for them and don't want pale substitutes.

LC_07 said...

This episode was very interesting, and the case of the week got me hooked better then the bigger plot.

I too don't want the pale substitutes, but I can't see the new Olivia and new Walter and everybody else as other people. For me they are the same people, Peter IS home already, it's a just different from when he left it. Or else, why would this Olivia dream about Peter? You could say that Walter might have a special link to Peter, because he's a version of his son. But what about Olivia?
And if the original Olivia e Walter are still out there, does that mean that the blue and red universes are still there too? And all that is happening in these new universes don't change the way things were and both universes are still dying?! All the observes actually did was create 2 peter-less universes? Only the machine has the power do to that, right? Or the observers can do it too? I don't think that seems right. I'm so confused!

For me, Peter is already back with his Olivia, she is the one that needs to comeback to him.

And how come that in this timeline Walter owns a house on campus, that is the same house that the FBI bought for him and Peter in the first (or was it on second?) season?

And the thing that puzzles me is why didn't September erase Peter completely? He did built the little machine, but didn't go throught with it.

Well, one thing is for sure, I agree with this review in terms of I don't know who to root for, I don't even know what I wish it would happen. I am kinda pissed at the observers, because they are the ones that keep creating all te mess that hurts our beloved characters. I still wanna see Polivia back, and a big part of me thinks it should be THIS Olivia, but I can't be too sure. The one thing I do want, is to UNDERSTAND why everything is happening! lol. This is difficult, because the reason we love the show is the mistery and twist and turns of the plot, but it also can drive you crazy! =)

Diana said...

the solution must be Olivia, like always. They just need to discover that. In this world Olivia don't have the ability to travel between universes? If she does, or does not, it doesn't matter, because Walter just have to wake it.

Anonymous said...

LC_07, I totally agree with you that Peter IS home. I know people have been able to see these iterations of our characters as different people, but I'm just not able to do so.

I trust that the writers will make sense of all of this craziness. I agree, I love this show because it is complicated, but it drives me totally bonkers! :-)

Anonymous said...

Thank-you for your review. You put into words what I have been unable to.
I feel exactly like you wrote!!!

Anonymous said...

Remember Walter in the future said, that if anything goes wrong Olivia will be our failsafe.
She just needs to remember. Maybe it's time for her to have a headache or seven. Time for a rush of memories!!!

Janis said...

Question: Where is Sam Weiss? Is he a key player to again guide Olivia to self-realization and her pivitol role in restoring balance and harmony?

Janis said...

Another thought: Remember the Peter Weller episode? Wasn't he, in fact, the first to create the time bubble? I think Peter has to remember there was another before him.

LC_07 said...

Another thought: how come there's a huge LCD TV in the house the Walter owns? He hasn't lived there for decades.
How come in this timeline, Walter owns this house? (in the OT, the FBI rented for the Bishops to live in). And there's such a modern TV in it?! Maybe both timelines are intertwined already, in ways that we don't understand yet.

Janis said...

I agree - just as Peter's dream combined the two Oliva's from both time lines. Also, this Olivia has Nina's influence written all over her. Still haven't figured out Nina.

Anonymous said...

That's a fine review.. I think that right now only the Fringe writers and producers can really know what's going on.. we can make just an educated guess.. I believe that Peter is in the right universe and the real problem is how to make those he care for getting back to those common memories.. I hope he will find a way, maybe with Walter and Olivia help.. that's the only way I believe will make me thinking of not have wasted the time I've spent watching the first 3 seasons.. sure they will have to relate them to the current one.. not living in the Usa I have a question about the Fall break.. is it normal, does it happen to others tv shows? I really don't understand it.. is it a tradition? Are they stopping filming too..over there in Vancouver? Thank you for your help..

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