Fringe Review: A Better Human Being ~ Fringe Television - Fan Site for the FOX TV Series Fringe

Fringe Review: A Better Human Being

      Email Post       2/23/2012 03:03:00 AM      

“I remember everything.”

There are two ways to approach this episode: as a vital part of the overarching mythology of Fringe and a turning point in the more controversial aspects of this season’s story that happens to have a freak-of-the-week, or as a freak-of-the-week that happens to contain a few short minutes of vitally important material. How satisfying you found this episode likely depends on your perspective.

First time ‘round, I got antsy. I got antsier when it became clear that the Sean plot was going to just disappear: as Sean lost access to the voices of his half-brothers, the story shut down. Completely. Weird as that was, it made some sense: we only met the half-brothers through Sean’s mind and through Olivia’s and Peter’s experience at the storage facility. That is, we only saw what the rules of limited omniscience allowed us to see.

[Questions of perspective and our limited access to full knowledge are one of the most important themes on Fringe.Think of Jones, and how confusing it was when we first met him—for the most part, we only knew what our characters could know. Indeed, this show started off as an inquiry into the unknown and possibly unknowable. The conflict between Over Here and Over There was, for a long while, one of perception: Over There thought Over Here was attacking them. Over Here was, except for Walter and Bell, ignorant of Over There’s existence. Those misapprehensions caused an awful lot of conflict.]

And Sean’s struggle to incorporate (and disincorporate) his mysterious connection to people he has never met has thematic resonance, as well. It evoked Olivia’s struggles in past seasons with other Cortexiphan kids, as well as the tension in this episode between Olivia and Peter. Olivia was certain her new/old memories were true; Peter was worried they were false. Sean was convinced the voices were real; the mental health industry, and his parents, disagreed. They had an understandably limited perspective.

By the end of the episode, most of that antsiness has dissipated. Olivia has regained her memories—I’m willing to accept that idea at face value. Of course, Peter and Olivia are more star-crossed than any other people in the history of existence, so it seemed obvious that Olivia would die, be kidnapped, or get turned into a zombie. Luckily, the one reversible scenario is what occurred: kidnapped. Specifically, kidnapped with Nina somewhere, either somehere or somethere. Jones, perhaps?

But now a new antsiness has occurred. How much does Olivia remember—she remembered Walter, so does she remember that other version of her childhood? How will that affect her relationship with Nina? Will Walter regain his memories? Will Astrid? What about the barista who knows Peter’s drink at his local coffee house, or the FBI accountant who processed his hiring paperwork? Will everyone regain their memories of Peter? And what else will they regain? I’m thinking specifically of baby Henry. Will he bloop back into existence?

At the beginning of this season, I was waiting for everyone to “remember” Peter. The past is only alive in memories, after all. But as I became acclimated to the idea of a new timeline, I started to see the merit in that choice, however much it made me feel like we were wasting our time with strangers. Now, I’ve gotten what I thought I wanted, at least in part—and all I can think of are the potential problems this will create, both Over Here and Over There. And I mean “problems” in terms of plot holes (boo!), but mostly I mean “problems” in terms of fringy-sciency goodness (hooray!).

And, we can’t forget about the Machine. As Chekov famously said, a time-traveling, world-altering piece of tech that appears in numerous episodes simply can’t be forgotten (that’s a rough translation from the Russian). Surely it will be important, but how?


• Walter: “That’s a lovely planet.”

• Walter’s recipe for a cuppa seems to include half of a honey-bear.

• Genetic engineering. It’s always creepy, isn’t it?

• I loved Lincoln Lee and Walter working as partners in nearly-perfect sync.

• I assume bound-Nina is the real Nina, and the Nina we’ve spent time with, who has been Cortexiphaning Olivia, is a shape-shifter.

I’m going to beg off rating this episode. Too much is too up in the air, and I don’t quite feel like I have a solid perspective on any of it yet. So I’m tossing the ball into your court (to mix my metaphors):

How many cases of psychological symbiosis out of four?

(Josie Kafka reviews episodes of Fringe, Vampire Diaries, and Game of Thrones for


Zepp said...

Very good. I really liked your reflections Josie Kafka. I for my part, I see and feel now, like watching a real "dance-of-memories". And my reference point, is Olivia, of course. It seems that everything in Fringe, moving around the past memories of Olivia. When you lack some or all of these memories of her, Fringe, just change the timeline, dramatically, the story line are from other worlds. Olivia changes, transforms itself into another person with another personality, and thereby also changing the realities of the universe. And Peter, keep it, adapting as things happen, watching and interacting in these changing contexts. I see that it's pretty hard these two, Olivia and Peter, stay together, because when they get in a single moment of affection in a car, and Olivia says, you need to go to the toilet(!), and everything returns back to point zero. Peter is alone at a gas station, thoughtfully. And Olivia? I do not know where is Olivia! It is the dance of memories of Olivia leading, again, the actions of Fringe.

Count Screwloose said...

The story shut down so drastically, in fact, that it felt either like poor story construction or something done intentionally. Dr. Frank (wink wink) was obviously a gloss on Walter (and mad scientists everywhere), but the finish of this side of the episode still felt abrupt. I'm leaning towards thinking that the idea of a hive mind will return, if not specifically this hive. Perhaps there's a Queen Bee we've already met?

Heading into the next break, I do suspect that last week's glyph is going to be extremely important. Anyone remember when Doc Brown showed up again at the end of Back To The Future?

Marty: Wait a minute, Doc... What are you talking about? What happens to us in the future? What, do we become assholes or something?

Doc Brown: No, Marty, it's your kids! Something's got to be done about your kids!

I get the feeling that after tomorrow night, this:

They can never know the boy lived to be a man.

is going to read a whole lot differently than it does right now and Future Boy is going to be nothing but trouble.

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