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TV Review: Fringe – “Stowaway” Part II

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What with the seemingly impending doom awaiting Peter, it might not come as much of a surprise that the concept of hope was once again treated in this episode. But contrary to the other episode in which hope was featured (Season 2’s 18th episode “White Tulip”), hope was treated in a more poetic kind of way, rather than as a more logical or even philosophically debatable concept.

Dana Grey seems to be telling the suicidal individuals she is trying to help that “there is hope in rain drops”, since each of them “holds a promise of regrowth”. It’s a beautiful way of seeing the positive in something that usually puts a damper on plans – quite literally. The other interesting thing is the way the hope is so potent – water does give life – and yet at the same time vague – to what the water will give life depends on where it lands.

She continues on, telling those individuals that each drop “has a purpose, even if they don’t know it”. As she explains, humans sometimes can feel like they don’t have a purpose, but of course, “we do”. Again the metaphor is a beautiful one; a raindrop not only doesn’t know what life it will help generate, but also, during its long hard and sometimes hard landing on a barren surface, can wonder why it left the ‘comfort’ of its ‘home’, i.e. the cloud.

Oftentimes I have noticed that well-intentioned people who leave the comfort of their day to day lives to try to make a change are easily disillusioned when they ‘meet’ a ‘barren ground’, from which nothing grows despite the time and effort put into it. So many times they leave their service, disillusioned and bitter, not seeing that a few meters away, because their work on the barren lands created a little river of water that became a little river, life, perhaps not the one they were intending to create, comes to be.

It’s that attachment to what we want to give to the world that can help create that sense of disillusionment. If we go to serve humanity with the intention of performing a specific task, we are like a tall, proud, strong tree that breaks once the winds of adversity get too strong. And while the tree does provide a lot of shade while it is up, it doesn’t give as much anymore once it has broken.

But imagine if we were to be like tall grass in a large field; instead of resisting the winds of adversity, we let it flow about us, letting it move us at its will. Have you seen a field of grass during a storm? The sight of all the grass moving about in a seemingly choreographed dance is beautiful. And while each blade of grass alone might not feel like it is contributing a lot, the unity between them gives them the ‘power’ to awe just as much as that one big tree did.

In the case of Fringe, it will probably come as no surprise to long time readers that this episode made me once again think that the solution to the problem of the colliding worlds seems more and more to reside in the ability of all the characters to work together, rather than the clash of two strong personalities. For while the clash between Walters seems inevitable, it won’t be the end of it; rather, it will prove so futile that the two Fringe divisions are going to be forced to work together and each with their seemingly limited ‘power’ will be able to change the course of  history.

So when Dana Grey tells those suicidal individuals that we all have a purpose, it is true, however dire the situation might be. And it’s interesting how this attitude comes in sharp contrast to what she decides to do, i.e. to allow a bomb to detonate so that she might be able to finally die. Is it determination or despair that makes the same counsellor who saves 37 lives in three months, who has an uncanny way of connecting with people feeling hopelessness, turn into a mass murdered, albeit a 2nd degree one?

Hope and despair are so intimately linked and the interwoven nature of their relationship is beautifully portrayed in this episode. Dana Grey feels both despair at living in a world without her husband and child, and yet still clings to the hope that she will find a way to be reunited with them. There is an intimate connection between faith that drives you even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds and despair that a way cannot be found, which combine to make one consider and, sometimes, do what seemed to us mere weeks or even days ago undoable. In the case of Dana Grey, she was, for a time, willing to let hundreds of innocent people die so that perhaps she might be able to finally die:

Dana: Can you promise me you’ll reunite me with my family
Peter: Can you promise me that killing a bunch of people will?

It makes you wonder if there is a parallel between her story and that taken by Peter, who went ‘dark’ for awhile, killing shapeshifters for the mere purpose of getting his hands on their memory disks. After all, both Dana and Peter are stuck in a world that they are not supposed to be in, one because he comes from an alternate one, the other because she is supposed to be dead.

The story of Dana Grey also touches upon the themes of fate, destiny and free will are treated.  More specifically, Bell’s views on said themes are treated, that “Sometimes, when  one walks away from fate, one walks right to fate’s doorstep.” Bell’s premises is that, quite simply, Peter is fated to get into the machine, and fated to live out the promise delivered in the drawing.

There are many views on this topic. Mine is that we have free will to do what we want, be it good or bad. We have to use our volition to make life what we want it to be about, again, be it leading a noble life or not. But to have free will does not mean we can control everything. There are things that are bound to happen to us over which we have little control. Fate doesn’t mean that you have no choice in what is going to happen to you, but rather that, within a certain framework, you have all the options you have to capacity to take.

A great analogy to explain this concept is that of a carpet being woven. Imagine a frame and on it, parallel strands of yarn are stretched from one end to the other. The weaver uses a variety of yarns to weave through these strands thus creating a pattern. We are like weavers; we have been given the frame, the strands and the yarns to weave with; these are the talents and powers we are born with, with which we can do what we want within the frame. Therefore our fate is the frame itself and the yarns that we have been given.

However, we choose the design that is to be woven. We can choose to not weave anything, just like we can choose to pour ourselves into the word. And that’s because we have freedom over our actions. The complete work is who we turn up to be. Through free will and volition, we develop our inherent powers and talents.

Which means that, in the context of Fringe, Peter’s fate is linked with that of the machine, but it doesn’t mean that he is going to end up like in the drawing. Rather, it means that he is fated to be involved in the resolution of the problem of the universes colliding, one of which consists of using the machine. However, just like he has demonstrated in so many previous episodes (just think of the recent episode “6B”), because he has an ability to see outside the box and to refuse to be a victim, he definitely can be someone who can change the course of events. He can use his talent of seeing outside the box to weave the pattern of his life in a different way.

This discussion could go on for a long time, but I really want to finally watch the next episode of Fringe (it’s currently the middle of the month of May and Season 3 ended a couple of weeks ago) so I’m going to share one last thought before wrapping this one up.

Fate and destiny are related to signs: we are always looking at the stars or at the bottom of our cups of Turkish coffee to read what is in store for us and have an idea of where to go next. But it’s not that simple. For one, sometimes seemingly random events are far more intimately related than those we think are related. Just think about the Season 3 episode “The Plateau” (third episode); granted, it wasn’t God placing those particular events in motion with a specific goal in mind, but the analogy is quite a good one. On another hand, seemingly important events can be absolutely random; or what if they are signs for someone else?

Despite what I think for the man, William Bell makes a great point when he says that “Destiny, fate… Jung called it synchronicity, the interconnectedness of apparently unrelated events. I mean, don’t you think that it’s curious we meet a woman who is unable to die at the exact moment my consciousness seemingly returns from the grave? Now as a scientist, I like to believe that nothing just happens, that every event has some meaning. Some sort of message. You just have to be able to listen closely enough to hear it.”

And while they are only humans, the production team of Fringe are playing god in this show and I wonder if we have been watching closely enough to differentiate the events in the last couple of seasons that have meaning from those who were just there as background noise.

And now, I’m off to finally watch the next episode of Fringe. And hopefully nothing is going to stop me from watching it, or I might have to start wondering who is planning my life in such a way that I just have no time to watch one of my favourite TV shows.

God, we need to talk.

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