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

Fringe Review: Making Angels

      Email Post       2/06/2012 07:33:00 PM      

“Everything happens right now.”

Fringe’s best episodes always make me think of those paper chains we used to make in grade school, or to decorate a Christmas tree. Each slip of paper makes a closed circle that links to other loops, and the result is a chain that can make on larger circle. Interlocking, in other words, while still distinct.

“Making Angels” is among the best of Fringe episodes for precisely that reason. It is horribly reductive, although not incorrect, to say that the Theme of the Week is parents. Giving characters a difficult childhood, or feelings of parental rejection, has become a real go-to technique on TV recently, and I’ve started to become quite bored by it. (Can’t we ever have non-childhood trauma?) But the way the writers dealt with this thorny issue, the way they let each character deal with it individually, and the beauty of Jasika Nicole’s performance as Astrid and (as the internet has dubbed her) Austrid, took my breath away.

In other words, I cried. Did you cry?

I cried because Austrid’s difficulty with social conventions and personal connections somehow made her grief all the more poignant. It took her the entire episode to reveal the root of her grief: not just her father’s death, but the loss of opportunity to truly connect with him, to gain his approval, and to be the daughter she imagines that he wanted. She came to see Astrid for clarity about her own grief, but also to ask the most difficult of questions, however obliquely: would Austrid’s father have loved Astrid more?

I cried for Astrid, too. It seems she lied to Austrid: Astrid’s relationship with her father seems easy and strong, but I wonder if she needed reassurance that it was as strong as she’d imagined. Did Astrid’s father love her unconditionally, or only for those qualities that she has and Austrid doesn’t? Is Astrid wondering if her father would still love her if she were Austrid?

The thematic loops keep looping, though. Walter outright rejected Peter, mentioning that he preferred Lincoln (aka “the other one”) to the man who looks like a grown-up version of his dead son. For all of Walter’s scientific training, he has always led with his heart: as Austrid pointed out, anger and love are often conjoined, particularly when that anger is the rage that comes with desperate loss.

Walter and Bolivia’s relationship, while not strictly a parent-child relationship, can be considered in those terms. Walter is currently grappling with a man that is not his son; previously, he grappled with his real Olivia (with whom he has been quite close and quite paternal) being replaced by the not-Olivia “double.” Walter seemed to come to a détente with Bolivia this week, admitting that he did like her. Can he do the same for his not-son Peter?

Neil’s motivation for making himself into an angel and saving others from lifetimes of future misery was, itself, motivated by feelings of parental rejection. Astrid and Austrid, Olivia and Bolivia, Peter and the dead young Peter, Neil and his twin Alex: each of the doubles looks at his or her counterpart and feels what is lacking in him or herself.

Mythologically, this episode raised a lot of questions. Neil found September’s timey-whimey device at Reiden Lake and became obsessed with the leveling of space and time, the ability to “see past, present, and future simultaneously.” But was it fate or coincidence that the device was found by a man capable of generating those equations? Is there a hand of God manipulating even an Observer’s mistakes? Is Reiden Lake more than a doorway or thin spot between universes—is it a place where the universe adjusts itself? And, on a more quotidian plane: was that Walter’s lake house, back in the old universe we used to know? I couldn’t tell.

A Genius Piece of Spy Tech:

• Those of you streaming this episode may have missed the previously on, which recapped the introduction of the word “vagenda” to the English language. It’s a little weird to over-think the recaps, though, as technically they involve other characters that we haven’t seen since Season Three. If that theory is correct. Oh, who cares? Vagenda!

• When Walter mentioned Ebola, nobody freaked out. I would have freaked out.

• The phrase deus ex machina does not mean the hand of God. Not even a little bit. I was far more disturbed by this than I should have been, because a number of people must have read the script before it reached my TV screen, and I don’t understand how not a single one of them could have noticed the mistake.

• It’s twice now, since Olivia learned of her “inevitable” death, that our team has encountered people who know the future only to watch them die.

• Astrid: “Eek!”
Olivia: “I’ve always wondered why nobody does that.”

• Walter: “Kirk out!”

• Walter: “A sinister communication device? Some kind of devious encoder?”

• Bolivia: “Turns out, I like the nice guys.” I don’t know what to make of this statement. It almost feels like Bolivia is breaking the fourth wall.

• Austrid: “Coffee. I understand that has quite an interesting flavor.”

Four out of four vagendas. Josie out!

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


Count Screwloose said...

You've touched on one of the things I like about the show as well, Josie. Like ripples in a pond is how I like to think of it. Maybe on a certain lake...

The definition of deus ex machina threw me a little, too. But if it certainly isn't literal, I think it reflects the idea of it. I'm figuring either the phrase hand of God is going to grow in meaning soon, or they don't want us to reflect too much on what it literally means - at least for now.

Zepp said...
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Zepp said...
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Zepp said...

(Sorry, problems with language)

I also found this episode very emotional, and one of the best. When he started, I thought it was kind of a stand-alone episode, but gradually things were heading for the Fringe mythology. And not only mythological, as with strong emotional appeal, the characters. Neil, with distorted beliefs, due to previous preferences of his mother by her brother, adopted a stance of "angel of death", using an apparatus of the Observers. Neil, adopts this position, seems to feel lonely, unloved one, and saw these attitudes one way to put yourself in the world, perhaps adopting a better posture in the eyes of God. I see then, that loneliness, he did so. With the alt-Astrid, I more or less the same thing happened to Neil: the feeling of loneliness. The alt-Astrid, crosses the universes, and goes straight to the Walter lab, possibly in order to meet its "copy", the Astrid.

But at some point, a situation happens Fringe. Begin to arrive, also other people in the lab. Olivia, Peter, Astrid, and even to Bolivia! It looked like a family reunion, a corner Walter, working with Peter, the two Astrid talking elsewhere, and were in a small room next to, nothing more, nothing less, that Olivia and Bolivia, chatting amiably, as if they were two sisters, twins! I honestly could not believe that scene, almost of a meeting between friends and family. A beautiful moment in Fringe, really. At this point is that the alt-Astrid, begins to speak with your copy, Astrid. She speaks of her father, who had already died, but when they did not live a good understanding, and Astrid, saying that his father was alive, but was very similar to hers, and she also felt the same loneliness . With this, Astrid, even lying, she comforts your copy, alt-Astrid. That is, not only discord, mysteries and creatures, also love, friendship and understanding, it also is Fringe!

Kelly said...

I'm curious to know what your translation of dues ex machina is! Because every time I've heard it used it's in the same way as on 'Making Angels.' =) It's from ancient latin/greek and it refers to when divine intervention is being introduced to a story.

CT said...

I also think this is one of the best Fringe episodes ever, right up there with "White Tulip". Simply fantastic writing and acting.

(Maybe in alt-universe dues ex machina has a slightly different meaning?)

6586EB56A30DE87EA said...

Deus Ex Machina literally means "god out of the machine" and is figuratively used when a seemingly unsolvable problem is abruptly solved. Neil's Observer device did exactly that by combining chemicals that had seemed impossible. Though the translation was a bit off, the intended meaning of the phrase was used correctly.

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