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TV Review: Fringe – “6B”, Part I

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While I was disappointed this episode “6B” didn’t turn out to be a ghost story in the end, one of my favourite genres, I totally loved the way the Fringe production team managed, in its own way, to explore the concept.

Just think about it: the setting was typical to a ghost story genre (an old, beautiful building). The tenants were all leaving, one of them because she “couldn’t stand it anymore”; the young and beautiful crowd in the flat, some of whom ended up being the next victims; the blender and the stove switching on as if by their own volition, the doorman telling the detective “Maybe it’s true what they say about this place; the mysterious, elegant old woman peeking out of her window… All ingredients typical to so many ghost stories, supported by a soundtrack crossing appropriately spooky music with the sounds of Fringe we have become to accustomed to during the course of the last three years.

Of course, in the end it turns out not to be a ghost, but a soft spot, created by the intensity of two persons’ grief, one in each universe grieving for the alternate version of the other.  The danger of this particular soft spot is that the grief of said two individuals has thinned the fabric between the universes to the point that they can see each other.  Eventually then, the soft spot could become a hole which itself could become a vortex: a gaping hole that sucks and obliterates everything around it.

Definitely not as romantic as a ghost!

Romance was of course heavily entwined in every subplot of this episode. On the one hand, the intense grief of two individuals having lost their spouse started blending together the two universes, as the hormones in their brains seem to be acting like Cortexiphan. At the same time, Peter and Olivia are dealing with the aftermaths of Altivia’s deception. Underlying it all were the glyphs, which not only spelled HEARTS out, but also contained, in the last glyph, a little heart instead of the usual yellow dot. Cute!

Remember the hand shaking during Seasion 3’s 12th episode, “Concentrate and Try Again”? Well, apparently it was no fluke; Walter’s hand shaking is back in this episode and with a vengeance. Interestingly enough, it can be correlated with a change in his attitude; more than ever, Walter sounds like Walternate, which is all the more interesting in that it comes hot on the heels of the episode “Immortality”, in which Walternate sounded somewhat like Walter.

While we must remember that, while a correlation can be drawn, a link of causality has yet to be established, it still remains a very interesting topic for discussion. Perhaps it’s fear, perhaps it’s the treatment he was seeking (i.e. the inhalation of the brain cells Bell kept as part of his research) that is somehow making him overly sensitive, perhaps it’s the guilt he feels, perhaps it’s all three; whatever caused it, the one thing we can definitely agree on is that Walter’s reaction to the hole reflects the fact that our side is not ready to deal such a situation, as opposed to the Other Side.

Walter himself has come to realise how this fear has been shaping his decisions lately. He shares his reflections with Nina near the end of the episode: “For a long time, I was willing to think the worse of Walternate, that he was an evil man who was willing to use any means necessary to get what he needed. It’s because it made it easier to justify what I did. Now we’re faced with the same decision, and I’m arguing that we do exactly what he did. What sort of person does that make me?”

Once again, Fringe producers are whirling us straight into the delicate dance between good and evil; the concept of perception becomes further honed as we realise, now more than ever, that evil isn’t an entity in itself that suddenly takes over and infects a person, but rather, that it’s a darkness slowly creepin in on us, as the veils of anger, despair, and fear, amongst others, blot out the sun of goodness. It gives hope that Walter and Walternate, both possessing this inherent goodness and both having veiled it because of their negative emotions, just might be able, with the unifying power of their love for Peter, be able to come up with another solution to the blending together of the universes.

The conversation in question was held between Walter and Nina in the offices of Massive Dynamic. It was quite an interesting visual, as the skyline behind them seemed hued in red typical of the alternate universe. Nina tried to comfort a distraught Walter by reassuring him that he is asking the right questions to which Walter, further enhancing the link between this scene and the alternate universe, wonders: “Don’t you think he grappled with them, too?”

The whole question of ambering is quite an interesting one. We were first introduced to the material in Season 1’s third episode, “The Ghost Network”, where its sole purpose was to commit a crime: stealing a glass disk with information on it, at the cost of many innocent victims on a commuter bus.

Ambering in itself really isn’t the problem in my opinion; after all, many a tool can be used for good as well as for bad. On top of that, as Walter points out, is the fact that the alternate universe, after decades of research and funding, has only come up with one solution, temporary at that, to the creation of vortex’: amber.

The other interesting thing about this realisation is that, once again, it might only be by combining forces that the two universes will be able to find a solution to the problem. In Season 2’s twenty-third episode, “Over There, Part 2”, we were told that despite their technological advances, there are some serious fallacies in the Alternate Universe’s understanding of some technologies that we are really good at, namely, the machine. Once again, unity and consultation come by as the best solution to ensuring the survival of both universes.

This implies of course a sort of mindset that is quite unique, a mindset in which one realises that one is in a learning mode of sorts. Nina seems to have started understanding this when she tells Walter: “I think you need to learn”: neither Walter nor Walternate, despite their extreme intelligence and amazing opportunities to delve into the far reaches of science have been able to find anything but a temporary solution to the problem. What would happen if they were able to work together?

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