Fringe Review: Wallflower ~ Fringe Television - Fan Site for the FOX TV Series Fringe

Fringe Review: Wallflower

      Email Post       11/27/2011 02:40:00 PM      

“You understand right now how important it is to be seen.”

In one of the most famous passages of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, geist encounters another, and the interchange between the two results in geist evolving into a more mature being through the encounter and the struggle for dominance it creates.* No man, as Donne says, is an island. We must be recognized to recognize ourselves. We must recognize others in order to understand our relation to them and to the world we inhabit.

While geist doesn’t really refer to the English ghost in Hegel’s use of it, it’s hard not to see the polysemic possibilities when we apply Hegel’s ideas to “Wallflower.” Eugene is still in the early stages of emotional development—a ghost who can watch others but cannot be seen by them. Unable to engage in a dialect struggle, he is stuck in neutral, development-wise. His attempts to become visible are attempts to fully join the world in all of its interpersonal strife.

Eugene’s story was bittersweet. He got what he wanted: a place in the world validated by other’s experience of him. It’s both an epic, universal struggle and a deeply personal journey towards that simplest of desire—to interact with a beloved, to be recognized and to have one’s desire validated through that recognition. That final elevator scene was beautifully simple, and the score was incredible.

However, “Wallflower” was not meant to be the Fringe mid-season finale, and that World Series scheduling snafu makes this episode rather difficult to assess: it is clearly setting up something, but just what, and how we’re supposed to understand it, will remain undetermined until January.

Obviously, though, we’re meant to see a variety of parallels: Eugene, as the victim of a long experiment, doesn’t fit into society, just as Olivia feels as though her reactions to the bizarre are not as pronounced as those of her colleagues. Eugene is also struggling to make himself visible, rather like Peter’s gradual re-emergence in the early part of the season. Olivia and Lincoln are bonding, which reminds me of both Olivia’s much slower flirtation with Peter in the first three seasons, as well as Fauxlivia’s and Other L.L.’s ill-fated love. Eugene’s affection for the elevator even reminded me of Olivia’s journey Over There all those years ago—he’s trying to inhabit a changed world, changed by his presence.

All of those ideas are just glimmers of possibilities. We saw Peter toying with the machine blueprints: is he going to re-set the world yet again? What part will Olivia play, especially now that we know Nina Sharp has been messing with her mind? Is Olivia doomed to never, ever have a happy relationship? I’m rather unlucky in love, but even I don’t wind up getting kidnapped/shanghaied/moved to an alternate universe after every flirtation. What does it mean that Peter supports Lincoln Lee’s flirtation? Peter fully believes that these are not his people…but I won’t go into how disorienting that is again.

I will mention that the reveal that Nina Sharp isn’t as kind-hearted as she has seemed in this re-boot wasn’t much of a shocker to me: we’ve never trusted her. Olivia did, in this new world (if that’s what it is). But while that’s an interpersonal disaster and terrible betrayal for Olivia, it’s not for us. Again, I won’t reiterate the disorientation. I’m just going to trust that all of these questions will be answered, or at least clarified, after we return in January.

Science Has No Price Tag:

• Lincoln Lee: “There are basic truths that I thought were…true.”

• Peter: “You know, I’ve been investigating fringe events for three years. I never thought I’d become one.”

• Peter: “That’s not my Olivia.”

• Walter: “Leprechauns are possible.” I knew it!

• Astrid is in therapy.

• Eugene’s tokens: a symbol of holding onto something we can’t have? Is that another message to the viewer, like last week’s story?

• My apologies for such a late review. Please blame my mother, not me: she held the massive family-reunion Thanksgiving this year, and I am her loyal servant and dedicated line cook, pastry chef, and errand-runner.)

Three and a half (?) out of four Octopi.

*I haven’t read Hegel in years, and I didn’t have the energy or time to make sure this is the most accurate explanation of that passage. (Plus, every time I do read that passage, I get Depeche Mode’s “Master and Servant” stuck in my head.) Feel free to read some German phenomenology on your own and leave corrections in the comments!


dana said...

Nice review! Very thoughtful/thought-provoking, and not all the negativity I've been seeing everywhere else! I liked the episode, and thought you expressed it very well. :)

Sharon said...

Good review, thanks, worth the wait. Good for you for helping your mom!! :-)

Matthew M said...

I somewhat related to Eugene. Most of my life from Junior high school on, I have felt invisible to most everyone around me. They look but don't see. I don't do German philosophers especially Hegel so I can't relate. The ending was bittersweet. I felt joy that he was finally 'seen' and that fulfilled him but sad that he died.
Some of your comments about the various relationships I don't agree with. A matter of perspective perhaps. I am not convinced that the Nina we saw at the end was Olivia's Nina. We shall see.

Anonymous said...

Great review. Glad I found this site several episodes ago.

For this episode, the moment I saw them injecting something into Olivia that she doesn't know is happening (and is presumably the cause of her migraines), I had a momentary idea that perhaps this IS still Peter's normal reality, but select people are being given altered memories to make him feel like he's not in his normal reality - which is why he's not allowed to interact with anyone. That way they can ditch this reality quite easily at some point where everyone 'wakes up'. But ... that's a bit far-fetched to think Broyles, LL, Astro, Walter etc are all betting drugged like Olivia but without the side-effects.

I do worry though - the more they put into this reality the harder to will be to simply ditch it so they can go back to 'normal'.

Kit said...

A really lovely review(I wish it was longer though).

I think a lot of people had a hard time with this episode, bench warmers especially! But I loved the tragedy of it.

One of the interesting changes in Olivia this season is how she relates to the "monsters". In previous seasons she has reacted with extreme prejudice against them but the changes to her this season - remembering the cortexiphan trials, killing her father - makes her see them quite differently.

She can see that they are just like her, just pushed further, more damaged. She wants to save them despite what they have done.

Some people have said they feel no sympathy for Eugene because he is a killer but then I think about the thousands of people Walter has killed in the Altverse and the fact Eugene was made into a weapon and I can see how horrifying his life must be.

He lives his life as a shade, no one to talk to or see him. I can definitely see the similarities in Olivia who has been running Fringe division on her on for the last three years in this timeline.

In my opinion Lincoln's sweetness and care for Olivia is a much better fit than Peter in this timeline. She is so much more sad and ground down than old Olivia and Peter has too much baggage from the past. I too can't see us going back to the old timeline - but I don't have a problem with it.

September said...

Did anyone notice that one of the posters in the diner place in the first act where Olivia and Lincoln are talking, one of the posters on the wall is of the Daisy Glyph.

CuriousGirl said...

I am so glad I found this site! I very much enjoyed Wallflower and am not only pleased to find people with whom I can discuss Fringe, but am pretty humbled by all the meaningful clues placed in episodes to which I'd been obivious.

Despite Peter's protestations, I do believe he's in the correct timeline... the Observer was supposed to erase him in this season's premiere and chose not to, and Walter and Olivia had dreams/visions of him. I think somehow writers will honor the fact that his timeline was 'erased,' but that he still HAD to exist for both universes to get to where we are now. Reconciling that (somehow... I'm still wrapping my brain around him being erased... no Fauxlivia baby!? Did the Red Universe cross over to the Blue to abduct Olivia because she could cross-over universes easily... because the ORIGINAL reason Olivia went over was to get Peter!? Have y'all already discussed this stuff and I need to go back and see!?) will probably be my favorite plotline of the season.

I, too can't wait to see who the true enemy is. I suspect once that is revealed, both universes will start working together.

Anonymous said...

Fade into you...

All I have to say is every single Fringe episode this season (though brilliant in all capacities) is making me sadder and sadder.. This is becoming a very bleak season. Olivia is still tortured maybe even worse than previously. Walter is also tortured but by fear. Poor Peter comes back to a world without his loved ones. AND I don't believe the writers will send him back to his world (blue verse). I don't think he will ever get back to his Olivia and his Walter. What kind of storyline could they make out of him going backwards? I just don't see it.

I have a feeling that everything that the first 3 seasons worked for has been forever lost. I don't know how the writers think they will redeem it, but it better be satisfying as hell. AND Peter and Olivia better end up together! Not just for my pure enjoyment, they, as characters, just deserve to be happy.

Some questions I'd like answered please:

1) Why didn't September permanently erase Peter (with his homemade gadget thing)?

2) Why DID Peter come back instead of staying erased?

3) Why didn't the Observers/the machine/Peter reset the timeline from the time when Sept. intervened Walternate while he was discovering the cure for Peter's illness? (They reset it from the time when Sept. pulled Peter out of the lake.) What makes that interference different from his first interference? HENCE, Peter could have and was meant to live all along!!

4) Assuming the blue verse still exists, why did Peter materialize into this orange verse that is almost a replica of the blue verse? (Unless the orange verse replaced the blue verse. Hence the blue verse no longer exists. Hence, there is nothing for Peter to go back to!! : [ )

5) What happened in Olivia's dreams about Peter?


Anonymous said...

One last question...forgot..

6) Where are Rachael and Ella? I hope they are alive in this new verse...

seedoubleyou said...

In terms of Nina, whether nice or naughty, I must reminded you that in the fourth episode this season,"Subject 9," we see Nina addressing a staff meeting at Massive Dynamic in which she talks about the inherent danger of nano-technology. She says, "This is not Massive Dynamic's concern. We create technology. How it is used is not our concern. We just own the patents." So to discover that Nina has had ulterior motives when it comes to Olivia's "wild gifts," well that doesn't surprise me at all. (To be honest, after watching the "Brown Betty" episode from season two, I've always had the suspicion that even the original timeline's Nina might not be as trustworthy as we've been led to believe).

Anonymous said...

There's a desperation and vulnerability in September that I find appealing. My big question is why this Observer is willing to risk his existence for Peter? Can't imagine what the writers have in store...and that's a Good Thing!

45 said...

Kit, yeah and yeah, Lincoln is a PERFECT HUMAN BEING while Peter is an awful, no good, ugly person right?????????

45 said...

Why did they have to bring in Lincoln lee??????? HE IS MAKING EVERYONE HATE PETER!!!!!!!!

Kit said...

"Kit, yeah and yeah, Lincoln is a PERFECT HUMAN BEING while Peter is an awful, no good, ugly person right?????????"

No, this isn't how I feel about them at all. Just because I like one better as a romantic partner to a particular version of Olivia doesn't mean I like the other one less, that would be ridiculous. Why would I watch a show where I hated a lead character?

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