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Fringe: The Human Kind

“You are here.”

I hope I’m not the only one enchanted by the common statement “You are here.” From mall maps to novelty tees, this simple, obvious sentence seems to sum up all the things we do wrong: worry, plan, lose sight of the beauty before us while questing after more beauty, further down the line. (Or maybe those are just things I do wrong.) “You are here” refuses solipsistic complexity to remind us of the one thing we can’t overthink: simple existence. Hopefully not a lonely one.

The Observers are readers of time and probability—and that is what makes them as calculated and unkind as they are. Not only because their tech transformed their brains into emotionless supercomputers, but also because the beauty of the present moment, and the possibility of inhabiting it mindfully, becomes lost when the then is just as real as the now and the might be. Can we ever be really here if we know exactly what here will mean in ten minutes, ten days, ten days?

Fringe’s portrayal of knowledge has always been ambiguous. On the one hand, knowledge equals power: discovery (both scientific and forensic) leads to understanding, which leads to the world not ending, and so on. On the other hand, knowledge diminishes compassion. Walter choosing to remove parts of his brain, Peter’s struggle over whether to keep the tech or not—these motifs are based on the show’s deeper theme of the importance of compassion and human connection.

In the real world, does compassion only arise when knowledge is renounced? No. Does the false dichotomy that Fringe presents bother me? No. In lesser hands, this season could have easily turned into a cut-rate Michael Bay movie, in which the Heroes defeat Villains and avert Catastrophe by Act III. Instead, Fringe focuses on how villainy can come from within, how heroism has not just one price but many, and how catastrophes can be both global and very, very personal.

Like most of you, I was interested in watching Peter turn into an Observer. (And I loved the hypothesis that he was the first Observer, and the paradox that would create.) But I like this solution better: at the last possible moment, Peter realizes that he is here, having lost a daughter but not yet having lost his wife, father, or friend Astrid. Not yet having lost himself.

Peter’s decision also means that Olivia hasn’t lost all hope. As Jill Scott pointed out, Olivia lacked faith, trust, and hope. Olivia herself confessed that she’d lost any sense of the world making sense: telepathy was an “anomaly,” not a gift. The universe was random, and that randomness was cruel. Her realization that we never really lose the people we love—that they are always here with us—helped draw Peter back into the present moment, away from a future of probabilities, cruelty, and baldness. He decided to be here, not elsewhere.

And now for a radical switch in tone: this episode is gorgeous and—on an emotional level—probably one of the most significant in the series. But (to illustrate a question that stems from a lack of content with the here and now): what next? Peter removed the tech; can he still defeat Windmark? Can this terrible future ever be re-written? Walter and Astrid continue to mine the amber for clues; Olivia’s mission was to pick up a very important magnet for the very important plan—but we still don’t know what that plan is. There isn’t much Fringe left, and I’m starting to get anxious for some resolution. A dash of hope wouldn’t be amiss, either.

Random Things:

• Once again, my DVR didn’t record Fringe. I do not understand how this can be a problem so consistently with just this one show. Grr!

• Because I had to watch this episode On Demand, I had to watch the commercials. Horrifying commercials include:

• Loew’s Hardware, which is attempting to make customer-tracking into a selling point,

• A cell phone commercial that claimed the phone in question wouldn’t just upgrade your phone, but “upgrade yourself,” and

• Gwen Stefani’s commercial for the new Windows phone, which includes the insultingly dumb-blonde line, “Songwriting is so hard, but I love it!” said in a voice eerily similar to a Barbie.

Three out of four bullets that saved a marriage, and a man.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

5 comments:

  1. Hahaha.
    I can see your frustration as illustrated in your commercial listings, Josie. :)
    Nice review, though.
    This is one truly good ep and I agree with you in the sense that there are still A LOT of those weapon-against-the-Observers spare parts that has not yet been found.
    I love the Peter and Olivia moment that sealed their love and bond for each other.
    And Peter, in realizing that he will have to chose between revenge and of keeping his humanity is what makes Fringe writers emo-suckers. (This is a compliment, peeps. :) )
    I am already starting to feel sad in the coming end of this show.
    I will truly miss the Save The World Team not to mention the excellent actors of this show.

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  2. No Josie, you're not the only one who loved it. That was simply brilliant.

    And your first 2 paragraphs were quite....philosophical, but you've touched the essential about Life. Not exactly what I'd find in a Fringe review. Wow. (at this rate, Billie's gonna loose her gold medal and get your silver) (but I never wrote this) (and you never read this either Billie) (oh, I'm such in deep s___)

    The last 5 minutes of this episode were also a great moment; kudos for J. Jackson's cold, robotic performance. So good, I watched it a few times...

    As you, I'm a bit worried : the End is so close and the plan is incomplete. BUT ! After all these seasons, I HAVEN'T given hope on the writers.

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  3. I really enjoyed parts of this episode --- Peter v. Windmark was great, and I loved Olivia going all MacGyver on those bounty hunters --- but I found the climactic ending strangely underwhelming. I was completely unmoved by Olivia's pleas to Peter and his eventual decision to remove the tech. I was glad he did it, but I just felt no emotion in the moment (and you all know full well I'm not an emotionless robot).

    I think Anna Torv underplayed the scene too much. She's usually fantastic and I love her, but this time she just seemed too flat. I get that Olivia keeps her emotions close to the vest, but if ever there was a moment to emote a bit, it was here. Especially given the words she was saying. I think if she'd just delivered them with a little more heightened emotion I would have been a sobbing mess. But as things were, I was strangely disconnected from it all.

    I'm certainly curious to see where things go from here, but I wish I could have been more "in the moment" for this one. Great review, Josie.

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  4. Josie - Of all the reviews I have read on this ep, I think you are the only one who really "got" it. Lovely review for a great ep.

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