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

Fringe Review: The Recordist

      Email Post       10/13/2012 11:43:00 PM      

“It’s not that I can’t remember. It’s that I can’t forget.”

One of the most memorable scenes in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 doesn’t involve book-burning at all, but rather book-remembering. Wandering intellectuals have taken it upon themselves to remember the best books, the most important books, so that not all will be lost, and there will be some hope for humanity.

That scene has always stuck with me: the choices the men had to make in terms of what to remember and what to dismiss; the conviction it must take to remember everything; and the simplicity of the act: remembering and recording are, in their own way, revolutionary activities. Anyone who has read 1984 knows that. Knowledge is power; memory is understanding.

Because those are ideals I believe in, I wound up getting angry at Edwin for choosing to sacrifice himself and dig out the quartz crystals. Don’t get me wrong: I understand what he did, why he did it, and how his act of heroism can mean possible victory for humanity. But the selfish part of me wanted to shout, “Ask someone else to do it! Your role is important, too! Surely there’s a lay-about who hangs around camp, sponging off everyone else?”

But that’s part of the point, isn’t it? Fringe doesn’t make it easy. Heroism often means loss, and all losses are equally bad. No one person is lose-able, and the best we can do it hope that a death has meaning beyond that of loss. Edwin’s will, I hope: unless Fringe decides to end on a really, really depressing note, our team will succeed. There will be losses, there will be death, but there will—I hope—be victory, too.

It’s not as simple as a quest, though. River, Edwin’s son, showed us just how much the world has “moved on,” to steal a phrase from Stephen King. For him, the return of the Fringe Division is like the return of Arthur to Britain—heroes from another age come to put things right. But defeating the Observers and re-taking the planet won’t be enough. People must fix all the problems that have occurred since the invasion: the lack of coffee and real apples, the fungus growth, the development of small communities attempting to operate outside of the government-run cities. How does humanity rebuild after something like that?

Part of that question is its smaller corollary: how does one human rebuild after destruction? Olivia’s conversation with Peter about her conviction that Etta was dead shows us just how painful loss can be. Olivia was certain Etta was dead, and now she can’t bear to remember that time of lost hope. The fungus is a sort of metaphor for the residual effects of loss—it’s removable, until it isn’t. Then the loss is just a part of who we are, because we can’t forget it. And forgetting it would be losing a piece of who we are.

It Was Medicinal:

• Olivia: “When we lost her, it felt like that was my punishment. My punishment, for being too conflicted to appreciate her when we had her.”

• Walter: “Now this is a ride.”

• I wish the Astrid/Walter mime/mine conversation had taken a bit longer. Really, I wish there had been some actual miming going on. Because every dystopia needs a good mime scene.

• Speaking of apples…wait, we weren’t speaking of apples? Well, we are now. It’s honeycrisp season, and if your area has access to honeycrisp apples, please go find and eat one right now. They’re the best apples in the entire world. They’re the platonic ideal of apples. They’re the apples other apples want to be. And the Observers have taken them away from us.

• The Resistance is well-connected, isn’t it? They seem to be an active organization with many members. I’m excited to learn more about them.

Four out of four wicked tree dwarfs.

(Josie Kafka reviews Fringe, The Vampire Diaries, and Game of Thrones for She likes apples.)


Briar said...

"Surely there’s a lay-about who hangs around camp, sponging off everyone else?" The point about Edwin was that he chose to sacrifice himself (believing as he does in values which I am sure we share). I don't think forcing some poor loser to do the digging against his will would fit in with those ideals. And if he chose to do it, then the judgment that he was a worthless scrounger would have to be challenged too. Valuing books and knowledge shouldn't mean devaluing people, and dismissing anyone as dispensible. Of course, the tough truth about people who act on good values and sacrifice themselves is that they then leave behind the selfish and greedy who would gladly sacrifice others for their gain, and who as a result rule the world we have now, from their corporate towers, funding a comprehensive propaganda machine that labels people on "welfare" as "scroungers".
I must say, I am deeply unconvinced by this rewriting of the Observers as Nazis, and if it is going to feed into Tea Party paranoia about evil, socialist "government" and survivalist fantasies about small communities in the countryside maintaining "the American way", my unease will only grow.

Lccf said...

Thank for this review that somehow redeems an episode I felt quite mediocre( Peter and Olivia scenes aside ) : yes, the parts about recording history were interesting, but not developed enough. And you could say the same about that subplot involving how the world sees the Fringe team as legends. Instead we had that boring fungus thing, and the writers didn't even botherto explain where it came from ... but the way you see it as a metaphor could make me reconsider my judgment on the episode.
I don't think Edwin endangered the welfare of his community by sacrificing himself : if the final scene is any indication, others, like River, are ready to continue his work. The community probably won't fall apart.
Anyway, I disagree about one of your comments : I found the "mime" dialogue absolutely heavy-handed and awful. I usually appreciate the show's humor, but this time ...

Anonymous said...

First, I loved the review as always. You always make me step back and take another look at the episode.

With that said, I do agree with Briar in terms of the whole political bent (if one is to look at it from that perspective). Also, the 'find the town 'do nothing' who sponges off of the community,' kind of reminded ne of what a certain presidental candidate said about 47% of Americans. I know it was not the intention of your comment, as I understood what you were saying; however it did make me cringe ever so slightly.

All in all, I enjoyed the episode very much after a second watch. I look forward to reading your reviews this season. Peter/Olivia are really delivery this season. I just love them.

Anonymous said...

I’m not sure how I feel about Friday’s episode of Fringe. I say that because there seemed to be more of an expansion of side stories where I feel like the show should focus solely on the Observers and defeating them. My coworker at DISH, who is a much bigger Fringe fan, says he loved the episode; so maybe I just don’t appreciate what they’re doing with the story. Either way, I have the season recording to my Hopper so I’ll have the last season to watch whenever. The great thing is with PrimeTime Anytime on my Hopper I don’t have to remember to set a timer for Fringe in order for it to be recorded. I can’t wait to see how we defeat the Observers.

Zepp said...

Without a doubt, I also felt all that heavy atmosphere of "Fahrenheit 451," this episode "The Recordist." That "forest people", even depleted by a mysterious illness, acts as if they were the trustees of the last memories of humanity, those times where we still individual freedom and arbitration. Give to realize that these new times of empire Observer dictators, are very hard, dark and dangerous to live, where the sense of hope is suppressed daily, drawn from each individual, so incessant. Everything is controlled and directed by the Observers, who are always on the lookout for any demonstration or activity of human origin, to soon begin a process of elimination, retaliation. And beside all this tragedy, the boy River Massey, an expert in team activities Fringe, is an example of the struggle for freedom of expression and resistance to the "status quo" of now. This kid River, as part of that lost "forest people", provides with its magazines illustrated with drawings he created, handmade and published a ransom to the memory of all suppressed by the nefarious actions of Observers. I see that this is the new sign of those arduous times of 2036, where a boy, takes the place of his father who was listed in this fight, the difficult task, from now on, continue to collect data, organize and archive concerning the memories of humanity. These details in this episode, lead me to the motto of those hard days of Fringe, which is to fight, resist and survive. Then what? Well, then restart the resumption of everything.

"The Recordist" gives us the perfect idea, that where there is struggle, perseverance and selflessness, there will always be remnants of hope.

Anonymous said...

This could have been an interesting episode if they had been given a full season, but with a shortened one, it feels like they're treading water, when they promised there wouldn't be standalones. "In Absentia" had some interesting scenes and a good character study on Etta. That's the only reason I forgave that they didn't advance the plot and spent the time talking in close quarters and not precisely about defeating the enemy.

This episode changed that, I'm just getting more and more annoyed by the slow pace, the convenient ineptitude of the Observers and the unlikely scavenger hunt they've set up, to replace the case of the week. The promo for the next episode looks exciting and I'm looking forward to it. I'm willing to wait and see that the remainder of the season is more like that promo than the last couple of episodes.

The story needs to get going, Peter and Olivia need to talk to Etta, not just about her, and they have to stop spreading those pivotal scenes throughout several episodes to fill some pre established emotional quota per episode.

Anonymous said...

Briar and Anonymous, thank you for your comments. I included that section in the review to emphasize that I, too, was uncomfortable with my own visceral reaction. I certainly don't think "lazy" people (much less disadvantaged people, which is a completely different category) deserve to die, and I tried to make that clear in the following paragraph with the statement that no one is "lose-able."

I absolutely don't think that 47% of Americans are lazy mooches who ruin it for everyone else. Especially since I'm firmly in that same 47%. :-)

I also wanted to mention that I really appreciate the tone both of you took: rereading my review, I see how this could have turned into a violent battle between liberals and conservatives, with everyone morphing into a troll. Instead, you both took a really thoughtful approach that made me re-think how I'd presented my reaction. What a delight to find that on the internet!


seedoubleyou said...

It still feels to me that whatever story they mean to tell has not yet begun. Also, I find myself starting to worry that this season is echoing the last season of Lost, in which it became clear that the writers --despite all their protestations otherwise-- really hadn't thought this far ahead and they really didn't have much left for the characters to do.

It seems to me that there are a lot of Fringe story arc strands that have been left hanging. Will any of this all eventually have something to do with the other universe? Where is Sam Weiss? Will William Bell make a final curtain call?

I watch and wait… hopefully.

Anonymous said...

I was very interested by this episode. I understand what the writers are trying to do trying to build. I think I heard JH Wyman say they wanna make it like a movie. The Peter and Olivia scene was fantastic. I really just wanna know what happened to Etta.

Anonymous said...

Yes We are so far too kept in the dark, and just burdened by this poor Peter and Olivia couple without energy, I would love to know what was Etta's life before mummy and daddy poped back. I personnaly can't get involved if I don't have any idea of the characters background. Something else, maybe I missed it and you know, did we ever talk about Olivia's father, is he still alive ? how did he let her daughter being experienced with cortexiphan ?

Lee said...

Anyone else notice that Olivia gave the team the wrong coordinates? Walter said "49 degrees, 20 minutes, 2 seconds North, 79 degrees, 12 minutes, 32 seconds West" (somewhere in Eastern Canada) but Olivia told the team 41 degrees, 20 minutes, 2 seconds. I'm curious if anyone has any theories as to why she would do this?

DocH said...

I can't believe any real Fringe fan would dislike this episode. A real fan knows that we are in complete overall mytharc mode. This season is a single episode... granted, a real long one. Just wait and see how two or three elements from this week are pivotal before the final curtain in February.

As for the coordinates, in the video, Walter is pointing to a map of the place he is talking about in NW Penn. Olivia is a numbers and map/coord savant. Remember her solving the "Pattern" on a map. Why would she say 49N when Walter is pointing to 41N. That's called expertise taking the stumble stone out of the path so nobody else has to trip over it. Besides, she may have already known/remembered the coordinates from 21 years earlier... the video was just a memory jogger.

Who says the archive is just Massey's project. Everyone in camp was committed to that mission. We saw techs down below ground on consoles. Massey is just the lead archivist (nepotism).

My biggest issue is with Paul McGillion (Dead Ed Massey) - I can't get use to him not having the Scots accent he had in Stargate: Atlantis. Maybe that is why they barked up his face... less recognizable. [8^)

Anonymous said...

Didn't the observers have the ability to travel through time and then to catch the Fringe team before they even intent to do something...Dispite of that tehy send loyalists using cars ! Weak weak isn't it, far too unbelievable. FS1

Anonymous said...

Fringe never did anything with Olivias backstory, we do not even know the name of her father, she never talkes about her mother,

This we all already know about Etta.

They should have spent some time with the family, instead of so much on treepeople,

When Fringe started, the pilot, Olivia Dunham was set up as the central character, all things set up like an uncle, like Nina and Broyles having an interest in her, etc.

Thanks to Pinkner we got all the backstory and storylines for Jackson and Noble for 2 seasons, and
o dear a part of season 3 for Anna,

not to much as superstar Josh complained, and John Noble needs his Emmy,

So from Firefly onwards we were back at the Bishops central, in season 4
they just used Olivia for Peter to find the one he wants,
and for Walter to be a hero,

This season looks like Peter gets all the special one storylines again, and Walter gets all the clever and funny Walter storylines again,

with Olivia reduced to teh go-between again.

Season 5 should have been finally about the Olivia we were promised we would get to know in the pilot.

Olivia has no story arc growth in 4 seasons, only some episodes dealing with being Over There and brainwashed, and getting memories back.

The rest was serving the Bishop boys.

But once again the Jackson fans are everywhere targetting Anna,
they should target Noble, he gets all the writing.
and that Jackson was out of some episodes in S4,
his choice, shooting films in Fringe time.

Anonymous said...

Last anonymous AKA Engriff

Fringe has done everything about Olivia's backstory.

You know who Etta's father and mother are, because they are the main characters of the show (you can't be this obtuse!).

Olivia has talked about her mother.

Nina and Broyles have always been interested in her. That has only changed to have them show even a greater interest.

You are as delusional as 45.

What special storylines did Peter get? It's been all about Olivia and to a lesser degree about Etta.

It would wonderful if you and 45 cancelled each other in explosion of insanity.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the previous anonymous, Olivia's character is meaningless since season 3, because as far as this character is fictionnal, I always doubted she would forgive Peter for not noticing he was living with the wrong Olivia, (at least so fast) and as she has this deep feeling of not deserving a normal life, so why would she start a relationship under so bad circumstances, that doesn't look like her.
It's the same for Faux, I've bee, so desappointed that the so exciting perspective of discovering a new verse and new characters, was summerized to a Vagenda as they say, and almost ended like social services help to abandoned mothers (preposterous). For season 4 it's true that Olivia is only almost back in episode 13, and really back in episode 15, and after that we don't see her, in episode 17, 18 and 19. There is also something I noticed, Joshua Jackson always says a lot of nice things about his partner John Noble, but never a word about Anna Torv, that's weird, maybe they really don't like each other, and it's sad to say that, but we clearly see that there is no spark when they have a scene together, they don't seem to play it like they have desire for each other, even in the bed scene in episode 12 season 4, I was worried they would fall asleep before they end what they were doing, there is no energy, no sensuality, they look like kissing machines. And now in season 5 they are separated, maybe it's better this way...FS1

Anonymous said...

They look like kissing machines? If only! That would mean they have some chemistry. Olivia looks like a tear machine, always sad, and Peter looks like a hug machine, always comforting her. That can never be sexy.

Jack said...

you people must be watching a different

Anonymous said...

To Jack, then watch closely ... The problem is that you can't believe in a love story if intimate moments are so flat,and the guy tells things like his dream is to have a coffee with you while reading a paper, so thrilling !!! And above all the real rooting story in Fringe is about this special family, and of course about Peter and Olivia, so you can't make a show about something without showing it or make it believable, I mean in your guts, something you can't tell, but that you feel.FS1

Anonymous said...

please, like anna torv ever said something about joshua jackson. She also only talks about john noble in interviews.

Anonymous said...

in the kissing scenes, it's always josh who pulls anna towards him, hugs her, gives her eskimo kisses,...
anna torv just stands there. so annoying!!

Anonymous said...

ALL the actors in Fringe talk about each other.
Every single one of them.

Anonymous said...

Olivia's immutable sour face is hardly conductive to think about sex. Remember that beautiful waitress flirting with Peter in season two? Their chemistry was off the roof!

Anonymous said...

You forgot about season 1 then, don't remember how she is teasing Peter in episode 102 when he comes to see her to say he want to leave, and at the end of 103 in the hospital scene etc etc etc...

Anonymous said...

As I was reading some of these posts I kind of got annoyed; if you want to watch flirting and people acting in sexual ways then there are many better shows for that on television, i.e. The Bachelor and such. Fringe is about people that have been hurt a lot in their lives, none more then Olivia so there is plenty of reasons for her to be not that flirtatious and forward sexually.

Anonymous said...

Just continuing from my previous post for me Olivia's and Peter's interactions are very believable knowing all the horrible things that they have gone through in their lives. They definitely haven't had the easiest of lives!

Unknown said...

Interesting comments I think the writers have on purpose made sure some scenes are left up to our imagination to concentrate on the story line. I think they rather build this up in key episodes. I thought Liv and Peters scene in welcome to Westfield was pretty racy and the emotion when Liv told Peter they were having Etta was very emotion charged.

panda said...

I agree with the last 3 comments.

eeek said...

Wow, haters everywhere! IMO, there is good chemistry between JJ and AT especially in S1. I am a fan of AT and there is no reason for me to say anything mean about JJ. They make Fringe a great show that's the important thing. Attacking the actors is not cool..

The recordist, to me, is the weakest episode this season so far. Because they went back to MOTW format and the MOTW was not as compelling. I am wondering if it's one of those stories that will be better once the whole season's done.

Unknown said...

I agree Eeek i want to talk about the story line and people's theories. All the actors are brilliant!! I am torn with my opinion of the Recordist as you say might be better once the whole story plays out. I am becoming anxious as there is only 10 episodes left and I am hoping all my answers are solved including ending in a good way.

eeek said...

I think I read somewhere that the final season will be like a 13-part narrative so that must be it. I'm sure the recordist will make more sense once Fringe is over (aaaww.)

But not taking into account how the episode would tie up to the whole story, I guess I didn't like how they explained the tree people.

The incompetence of the Loyalists are kinda annoying too, which leads back to the question of how powerful the BadServers really are. I'm beginning to doubt their superiority this season (I mean why send the Loyalists after the Fringe team if they can appear out of thin air?) so I hope something mind-blowing is coming up.

Like Etta is actually infiltrating the team to make sure that they destroy Walter's plan for good. Or that William Bell is in cohorts with the BadServers.

LittleWing said...

Thanks for this great review. Honeycrisp apples are the best! I'm going to eat one in honor of the poor Fringe Division that can't.

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