Fringe Review/Analysis 5 x 05: What We Now Know… and Don’t ~ Fringe Television - Fan Site for the FOX TV Series Fringe

Fringe Review/Analysis 5 x 05: What We Now Know… and Don’t

      Email Post       11/05/2012 06:12:00 AM      

“More human than human" is our motto. -Dr. Eldon Tyrell, Blade Runner

It was a rough week waiting to see our characters react to the loss of Etta. The Bullet that Saved the World was discussed far and wide right up until Friday night’s airing of An Origin Story. This episode had me even more excited.

As the first act opens, I can’t help but think that this is something that a father should never have to do—pack up the belongings of a deceased child. Sadly, he is not the only Bishop man who has experienced it. At least his counterpart from this universe had a memorial; a gravestone; a physical place for Walter to visit and reflect. All he has left now of his dear child are pictures and a few personal effects. He picks up Etta's identification badge for Fringe Division with a shaky reverence, a sense of great pride swelling the shattered pieces of his heart.

Once again, Fringe is using objects as a catalyst for memory. Each item that Peter touches elicits emotional responses from him in various degrees. It’s quite eventful that the jewelry box has a false button that he notices giving him access to Etta’s secret cache of weapons hidden behind a framed picture of an old Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade Pilgrim balloon float. The picture seems a little out of place, but in my mind I perceive two reasons for its selection. As a holiday tradition, the parade symbolizes a more innocent time in American life with its character balloons, floats and Santa Claus. On the other hand, I remarked about the Manifest Destiny graffiti easter egg last week. Thanksgiving is controversial in some historical circles becomes technically it’s a celebration of the European foothold on the United States,  marking the beginning of the end for Native American tribes.

The “Bluebell Soap” is another nice touch. Does it mean anything? Or are we looking for meaning in things that have no meaning?  ;)

Exhausted Olivia awakens and tells Peter:

“I keep waking up thinking that I’m dreaming this terrible thing… and then I realize it’s not a dream.”

"It's like living a Beautiful Dream Inside of a Horrible Nightmare."

We’ve heard this grief—induced dream-wish-turned-nightmare sentiment before, from Walternate in The Day We Died.

Do you know what it's like... to wake up and just for a moment... think that everything is as it was? And then to realize it's not... that the nightmare you had was real.

Olivia asks a question for which her equally grieving husband has no answer. “Why did we get her back just to lose her again?” Fans have asked this same question all week long. It seems so incredibly cruel to make this couple confront yet another tragedy. However, I have always known that Walter’s “you don’t know what it’s like to lose a child” would come back and bite Olivia in the butt. Plus, Peter would have his temptation of going off the deep rail for a child. I’m not too thrilled about it; even sarcastically joked with friends that we just had to clamor for a season five when we could have the happy family “Peter I’m pregnant ending.” But heck, I’m a glutton for emotional punishment, and I have faith that Etta’s death was more than a trope to encourage certain behaviors in the remaining characters. Fringe is never that simple.

To see Olivia weep into Peter’s chest, while holding onto his forearms for dear life, as he cried muffles tears into hair while stroking her back… They had been avoiding contact with each other, but this was their magnet.

Olivia picks up a framed picture of Etta with an unknown woman. “Soon, all you will have left is pictures,” comes to mind (The Bishop Revival). Will we ever know how Etta was raised and how she found out about her parents?

The Observers are using strange technical devices to bring materials from their future timeline to this one.
Olivia gathers the last of Etta’s things in a box, as Peter—separated from her by a wall—calls for Walter. Walter asks if he can keep a vial of Etta’s perfume because the smell awakens his memories. At this point, I note that Peter used touch on Etta’s hairbrush, Olivia used sight with her picture, and Walter used smell—all of these senses combined with objects to aid in memory recall.

Anil makes contact with the team as they are bugging out of Etta’s apartment. They agree to meet with him; after all, Astrid’s going to be dealing with TAPEQuest2036 for the next few days. Anil offers his condolences to Olivia, and lets the team know just how much Etta meant to the resistance.  It turns out that Manifest Destiny does have a role in this episode. The Baldies are shipping air degradation equipment for their Central Park complex, and plan on installing these behemoths on every continent, therefore accomplishing eventual extermination of the Natives in full force, on a global scale.

Go Ask Alice -- "Through the Looking Glass and What Walter Found There."

The resistance had a good run the previous day, as they not only acquired an Observer log and some tech, but an Observer as well. Peter wants to learn more about the cube tech because he wants to strike a heavier blow to the Observer’s plan. Olivia tries to talk some caution into him, and even enlists Walter, but Peter is decisive and will not budge on the issue. Anil gives him the old Chinese proverb that a man on a quest for revenge needs to dig not only a grave for his enemy, but one for himself. What Peter says shows just how far he has slipped: “I’m not afraid of being destroyed.” Peter was always searching for the right way and was always hopeful in some pretty futile situations, so this is a shock to those that care for the character. Plus, it has hints of the conversation that Walter had with Dr. Carla Warren when she tried to tell him the consequences of crossing into another universe. Walter refused and mocked her for quoting Oppenheimer’s “I have become Death, Destroyer of Worlds” to him. If Peter really feels that way… can anything bring him back from the brink? 

So, he sets off to play with a giant Hellraiser Cube… which reminds me… Observers are scary enough, but imagine them with zillions of pins coming out of their shiny, bald heads… *Shiver* Astrid and Olivia set to work on the Observer manifest. It’s so sweet that Astrid offers her understanding to Olivia, but Olivia reacts to the pain like she always does—she attempts to work through it. But this time, it’s not working.
When Walter checks on Peter’s progress with the cube, I’m reminded of how Walter was vehemently against Peter experimenting with the machine in the old timeline. (Prompting one of my fave Walterisms: “Fine! If you break the universe, this time it’s on YOUR head!” It took a lot for Walter to agree to help Peter with that device, but he’s quick to help here. Together, they devise a plan to create a black hole in the Observer’s reality.

Olivia lets him know that she is worried about him, but Peter is dead set to strike while the iron is hot. He wants Olivia’s support in this. He’s confident, and I think a bit energized by her talking with him about it. Maybe this is partly because before they were ambered, it was the one time that he was not by her side. Peter always let Olivia know that she was not alone, but it eventually happened.

What follows is some of the best work that I have ever had the privilege to see on this show.
Peter’s interrogation scene with the Observer was nothing short of brilliant in my book. Joshua Jackson’s intensity matched that of the captured Observer right on. The interaction between them had me barely blinking. It was really nice to see Peter’s skillset in action as he constructed the cube, going toe-to-toe with the Observer’s retorts, including the ant colony analogy. This scene was augmented by skillful filming and Chris Tilton’s hair-raising score.

 Wake up! Time to die!  

“Whatever the closest thing there is to fear that you can feel, I know that you are feeling it right now.” Eep!
The interrogation scene between Holden and Leon in Blade Runner is comparable to this scene due the use of eye scanning devices. It also is familiar to the interrogation scene in The Bullet That Saved the World.

After this awesome scene, we see Olivia running Etta’s necklace through her hands as Walter comes out with a tape. Not one of the plan tapes, but a family movie of Etta’s birthday. He admits that he heard the whole exchange between her and Peter. He wants them to watch this tape to remember their love and family. I had mentioned that I felt Walter was callous in the last episode for telling Peter they had to go because Etta was gone… Well, his wisdom given to Olivia more than makes up for it. You can see the shaky recognition in Walter’s eyes when he looks at Peter, and he is trusting Olivia to keep him grounded and sane. But as she said, she’s holding on by a thread herself and the tape gets set aside.

Olivia was not happy with how Etta interrogated the Loyalist in “In Absentia,” so I’m glad that she did see Peter’s “way” with the Observer. But he gets the job done, and they proceed with their plan. Just when they think they scored a victory, it turns out that the plan didn’t work.

Throughout the episode, Olivia stares at Observer “Future in Order” posters. Then she sees posters all over with Etta’s face and the word, RESIST. Do you think she was “seeing what she needed to see” or that she just didn’t notice them?

Peter is livid and goes back to get answers from the captive. This scene is one of the most disturbing things ever to come from Peter. Forget smashing coffee cups over fingers, this rage-fueled asphyxiation shows what he is truly capable of. But as the Observer taunts, “You don’t even know what you don’t know.” As Peter shakes, the Observer claims emotions are a downfall, and that Peter gave meaning to things that have no meaning.

The doomed Observer’s words seemed to apply to those of us in the Fringe fandom that love to speculate about every little color, piece of graffiti, or another perceived breadcrumb’s relevance to the show and its mythology. In these Fringe analysis pieces or people’s reviews, the authors see what they want to see in order to make sense of the show based on their needs. Or maybe I am grasping at straws with this idea, and I’m searching for meaning in things that have no meaning (“Northwest Passage”).
As soon as Peter says “I would be ten times what you are if I had that tech in my head,” it is easy to figure out where this is going. Would he?

He does. The Observer has thoroughly pissed him off by reducing Etta to nothing, as if her being was of no consequence.

Olivia finally comes to her senses (yay!) and watches the tape. Being a big softie, there are tears here. Just a happy family celebrating a child’s birth.

As this is happening, Peter rips that small implant out with a little bit more precision than when he removed the shape shifter’s memory discs in “Reciprocity.” There are two other parallels; he doesn’t consider the Observers human, and he doesn’t feel what he is doing is wrong. Of all things said in this episode, this is the most scary but heart-wrenching. I FEEL this man’s loss and pain.

“Can you feel that? The pain of a piece of you being torn out? That’s the pain a father feels when he loses a child.”

I’ve seen a lot of moments in Fringe that just stick with me, but nothing compares to this scene’s raw, visual and emotional power. The dripping blood. Bloody footprints leading to Peter as he inserts the device into his neck… Olivia begging him to come home, and telling him she loves him. Peter’s moment of realization that there is no turning back when he tells her he loves her too.

And his scowl at the end should make any Observer go seek a wig…

Has Peter’s destiny manifested? Will he tell Walter and Olivia about what he did, since “it’s not wrong” and he and Olivia once agreed upon “Full disclosure?” 

I don’t think that Peter is the first Observer, but he is certainly more human than human. I don’t think the implant will make him emotionless or lose his hair. In my mind, the loss of emotions is an “evolved” trait, and the hair issue the result of a poisoned world.

Ultimately, I see Fringe setting up a tables-are-turned scenario for Olivia and Peter. 

She has learned to embrace dealing with the loss of a child that has died for certain. Her biggest issue was fear of what she might find—here she has closure, which is similar to the differences in attitude between the Walternate of this timeline versus the Walternate of the old timeline.  Olivia is coming full circle emotionally, and this will be her strongest ability. Olivia never needed Cortexiphan powers to be amazing.

Peter was driven to find his lost little girl, to the exclusion of everything and everyone else because he was not certain of Etta’s fate. With no hope, Peter is seemingly now on a singular mission. Yes, destroying the Observers was always part of the plan, but now he wants so much more, and will do anything to achieve it as fast as possible. He is becoming his father’s son—Walternate. He wants the Observers to FEEL pain and loss like he has, and it is driving him crazy that they just don’t register emotions.

To feel is like a double-edged sword. On one side, it’s the best part of being human. There is nothing like love. But on the other swing, emotions hurt like nothing else. Having experienced it, I know that the loss of a loved one—especially at a young age— is the most miserable experience of being human. It can cripple and make one want to live no longer. Or anger is a way to deal with this overwhelming rush. Some rail at God. Others seek closure if there is none. Others lash out with a vengeance.

All can consume a person and bring down everyone around them.

OK... Am I giving meaning to things with no meaning? Swear I see "Peter Lake" the main character from the book, Winter's Tale.


Unknown said...

Beautiful... yet so sad..

Roneo said...

Excellent review, as it's a superb episode. It's funny the parallelism between that ant colony and us fringe fandom. But so accurate .... :). We don't even know what we don't know. But we're waiting to.
I'd like that the plot will fully go on with Peter's dark path. It's been a bold step, one worth to be carried to the very last extent. Not that I want anything irreparable happens to Peter; but is such an strong development to just be lost in a soft run away.....

milostanfield said...

THANK YOU(!) for the catch with "Arlette's Place" and the "White Tulip" callback. Didn't see that. Peck's motivation in "White Tulip" was to recover his lost love by tampering with the underlying structure of reality and thus fate itself. Walter went down a similar path at Reiden Lake, and now his son is as well. You can add "And Those We've Left Behind" and Raymond Green's attempt to do the same. There are even similarities in the effects, the "circular bubble burns" in three of these events.

I love how Fringe is embracing the ambiguity of our desire to control and steer what we perceive to be our "fate". That is a very dangerous and also very human thing to do. There is no "THIS is right and THAT is wrong" here. And by mapping Peter's very volatile emotions onto this idea, they have brilliantly given raw emotional life to this question.

I am very ambivalent about the path Peter has taken. Part of me wants to embrace it with him, sharing his anger. And part of me fears the unforeseen consequences, the blowback, which will inevitably happen. Remember Walter's journey. Remember "The Firefly".

I think the Invaders are due for some blowback as well, and Peter will be a part of that. They don't understand what our emotions are and how they bind us as well as tear us apart. They don't understand what they have lost, and that will doom their effort to eradicate the Natives. Manifest Destiny my ass!

Also loved your thoughts about how we tend to see what we want to see in complex phenomena. Thanks for the peek inside Schrodinger's Box.

milostanfield said...

@ Aimee

Re: your comment on the last grafitti "Peter Lake" pic. Are you thinking this is a hint for Etta's return, like when Peter returned by coming up out of Reiden Lake? Or am I just seeing what I want to see? ;)

Zepp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zepp said...

Thanks Aimeé Long, for his share these interesting, clear and insightful thoughts here with us. I watching this 5th season, often the images of the episodes of past seasons, now come into my head and I start thinking, remembering, once in a while, that sentence of September: "The boy is important”. And now seeing Peter, about to be become a kind of Human-Observer, with that power to eliminate them, also come a question: Would not September, along with other observers with names of months of the year, a dissident group of conspirators, antagonists, this group of Badservers that there is? If perhaps those Observers who have seen the episodes of previous seasons, were members of a group of observers’ dissidents, then this whole story of Fringe really is or should be another, is not it? But that's just the idea of a possibility that occurred to me.

If I start to analyze more carefully, I soon come the questions. What is now the largest Fringe team motivation to fight now? Was it a kind of revenge for the death of Etta? It would be to liquidate the Badservers? Or is it...? I honestly do not know. What I do know is that this year, 2036, the entire planet into chaos on chaos. The entire planet is invaded by these beings of the future, there is the human world, now there is only "another world", with another atmosphere, other beings, other habits, all in open social change for the good of those invaders. It is like a sort of "Planet of the Apes", as opposed to instead! The human being on this planet Fringe in 2036 is almost something rare, hunted and in hiding. Anyway, the other planet is not ours anymore. Definitely, these are years that nobody would want to remember them.

Even now, we have the possibility of having a Peter superhuman, or that Walter can organize your video tapes, or even that Olivia starts to cross universes, I think that all this is now occurring in these dangerous current universes, is leading the final scenes of Fringe, for a large action, or twist of a "Palimpsest", or to great effect like "White Tulip", or even a return in time for the entire team of the Fringe, I think. Why such things are now, globally speaking, I do not see how this could end well for our side. Also in this context that there is, I feel that is missing a vital character to help "arrange" it all: the Observer September!

Anonymous said...

The episode was really good and everyone did a great job but I do worry about how Walter and Olivia will react to peters "observer" development. I worry that the moment will mirror "marionette" and have Olivia bashing Peter while Peter is silent and doesn't say a word. It is clear that Olivia does not seem to care about peters pain at all.

Unknown said...

Hey Aimee, thanks for another wonderful review! What an absolutely phenomenal episode, my favorite of this season so far. I mentioned Peter being the original Observer at my blog because of the episode title "An Origin Story." Perhaps he's simply a NEW kind of Observer? I do wonder what became of the original team of Observers we were familiar with (monthly code names... September, December etc) and if this new Peter is somehow connected to them. That could explain September's obsession with the Bishops and why the boy was always important to them. I guess we will find out soon enough right? Anyway, as always thanks for sharing your thoughts/theories with us.


panda said...

Once again great review Aimee. Superb episode with outstanding performances from all the actors.

Unknown said...

My guess is that September is Peter from the future.

Anonymous said...

My guess is that September is from Windmark's future. Not from 2609. September and the month crew, are from beyond the time of the invasion forces. The mission of September isn't just to keep us on the straight and narrow, as far as pivotal events in our history, September may be tasked with monitoring and steering the invading Baldies (his ancestors) too.

Zepp said...

(One more) Well, my guess (crazy) is that - dissident - September is a mortal enemy of Windmark alongside those Baldies, invaders, in this year 2036. September, along with other Observers with "name of month of year," saved Peter from the icy lake (with Walter), accompanied their performances in the Fringe team, controlling and guiding their attitudes, and "he did not exist" , to prepare him for this moment of now, ie it can to defeat these evil Baldies of 2036 (!)

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