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TV Review: Fringe – Wallflower

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The last episode before a hiatus is usually known to leave us viewers hanging, wondering if, after the holidays, we are going to find our protagonist with or without his or her reputation/job/life/something else really important or, in the case of Fringe, is still stuck in another timeline, away from the ones he loves.

It really is starting to feel as if Season 4 is, in a way, a study in Peter (Joshua Jackson) more than anything else: how he has changed since Season 1 and how he is going to overcome the adversity this new twist of fate has dealt him with. I love this Peter-centric study, just as much as I love the way we are delving into the alternate timeline. Putting the same Peter we have come to know during the last couple of seasons in an entirely new yet familiar environment is making us understand him in a very unique way. Interestingly enough, Peter is becoming the one constant in this show around which all other alternate universes and timelines are revolving.

No wonder, then, that he feels like he has become a Fringe event himself. But while that is no way to live, most would have a hard time dealing with this situation in any healthy kind of way. Perhaps this is why many fans seem to have a hard time understanding how Peter is managing to remain so, well, mature, seeing the extreme emotional pressure he is under. To be detached and rational to the point of understanding that the Olivia (Anna Torve) Lee (Seth Gabel) is falling in love with is not his is commendable, to say the least.

I am known for making statements that earn me the ire of Fringe fans. I am proud to present to you my latest such statement: I hope that Peter and Lee become friends, all the more that Lee is the only person who is treating Peter like he is normal. I must also admit that I fully understand Peter’s point of view regarding Lee, as well as his opinion regarding Lee dating Olivia. While a lot of Fringe fans hate that this timeline’s Olivia and Lincoln are on their way to become an item, fact is, they do make a cute couple and their personalities mesh very well. Peter belongs with the other Olivia, the one whose life he touched since they were children. And so, once again, I put my life in the hands of irate fans but supporting this timeline’s Lee-Olivia romance, and hope the fact that I want Peter to find a way back home to his (and our) Olivia will earn me a reprieve.

However, I do have a second ire-provoking statement for this review (which might annihilate my chances of being forgiven for my above-mentioned statement): there is a special place in my heart for this timeline’s Lee. He cemented his place in this episode when he shared with Olivia his state of mind, that is, the destruction of the basic rules that previously gave his life structure. Having worked for many years with young people between the ages of 11 to 15, it struck a very familiar chord. These preteens and teens oftentimes shared with me that, as their understanding of what is happening in their own home increases, the basic rules that governed their lives would either be seen in a completely different light or be shattered outright. I also felt a deep empathy to what Lee has been feeling because I, too, both as a preteen and as an adult, regularly felt like the rug was (and, at times, still is) been pulled out from under my feet when certain truths I used to believe in were completely overturned.

This links (quite nicely, actually) to another theme at the heart of Fringe, that of interconnectedness. The emphasis this time is placed on the fact that we all need each other and should not do things on our own – especially the really tough tasks that some of us are given. Of course, I am referring here to Olivia (all of them) and her relationship to Fringe Division (all of them). While Olivia is, in all universes and timelines, pretty amazing on her own, and that, as she puts it in this episode, she can do it – fact is that she does not have to do it alone, as Lee says before helping her open the bottle of migraine pills.

While Olivia’s migraines are intriguing in themselves (especially after the way the introduction to this episode was hinting that they are related to the Cortexiphan trials), the most interesting thing about them is that they show that this Olivia, just like all the others, wants to always be the strong one; Lee’s assertion that she does not have to be is yet another recurring theme, brought forward previously by Peter. I really hope Fringe will delve into the importance of team work, of constant consultation, and on the fact that while one person might have higher capacity and more talent than others to get the job done, the job should not rest on that one person’s shoulder alone.

These themes are all the more important because a current increase in consciousness and empowerment makes more and more people arise to better the world; remembering this important lesson will makes us all the more effective. However many capacities we as an individual might have, fact remains that we are fallible creatures, and cannot hope to permanently solve global problems on our own. In the case of the show, however amazing Olivia may be (and boy, is she amazing!), things are far too complicated and heavy for her to deal with alone. She is going to have to accept her limits, and start walking the path of life with other who can share the load of the burden, however humble their contribution might be.

This is why no person should be a wallflower, which happens to be the title of this episode (shocking, right?). We each have our role to play, and it is only when we all play our role, however small and humble it might be, that humanity can move forward. Our differences – the fact that Eugene is invisible, that Peter is from another timeline or that, most poignantly, Olivia processes things in such a unique way, should not keep us apart.

There is one character that has been something of a wallflower for a little while, someone whose plight I have been bringing to fans’ attention since Season 1, that is, the lack of screen time given to one Astrid Farnsworth (Jasika Nicole). Once again it was shown that perhaps our young prodigy is not being given the attention she deserves, that maybe she might be the key to helping Olivia reach balance in her life – and, consequently, reach her peak as an investigator and as a Cortexiphan prodigy. Astrid admits to Olivia in this episode that things do get to her in a way that they do not get to Olivia, and that she has a support network of sorts while the latter does not. Just to cinch my earlier argument about Lee (and, perhaps, a death warrant signed by angry Fringe fans), this is probably why she is doubly attracted to Lee: he is someone she finds physically attractive, but also is someone who knows what she is going through and with whom she can connect in a very unique way.

I also am hoping that being with someone like Lee, who is obviously going through a rough time because of his newly acquired status in Fringe Division and who seems to be the kind of person to accept others as they are (just think of his relationship with Peter), will be able to put Olivia at rest with herself. That is, I hope that Olivia will learn to not think about herself as being abnormal just because she does things differently, namely because she is stronger.  After all, normalcy should not be defined by conformity.

But then again, everyone wants to be loved, and sometimes it feels like it’s only when we are ‘normal’ that we are worthy of love and of being seen. Which leads me to believe that these are the major themes of this the episode, that is, all wants to have a place in the world, and all wants to be seen. Peter is finally seen but he still does not have his place in the world. The invisible man is not seen by anyone and therefore does not have a real place. However, at what cost? Eugene was willing to kill; Massive Dynamic is willing to run horrifying experiments on test subjects and run satellite facilities that are not monitored by headquarters.

And however unlovable the horrible things we might do to be seen make us, it does not change the fact that they are usually done out of a desire to be loved. However, this is not love in the romantic sense only, nor love in the familial sense only. Rather, this is love as “the most great law that ruleth this mighty and heavenly cycle, the unique power that bindeth together the divers elements of this material world, the supreme magnetic force that directeth the mouvement of the spheres in the celestial realms.“ And it comes to no surprise, as “what a power is love! It is the most wonderful, the greatest o all living powers. Love gives life to the lifeless. Love lights a flame in the heart that is cold. Love brings hope to the hopeless and gladdens the hearts of the sorrowful. In the world of existence there is indeed no greater power than the power of love. When the heart of man is aglow with the flame of love, he is ready to sacrifice all – even his life. In the Gospel it is said that God is love.”

I have managed to time this perfectly; Fringe is back on Friday evenings, 9:00 p.m. EST on Fox.  Hopefully it will mark the beginning of Peter’s journey home to his (and our) Olivia, while allowing, somehow, for contact between this timeline, which I have grown attached to, and our own, which will of course always be my favourite.

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  • scully8

    You’re right, I’m not really liking your ‘love’ for Lincoln and Olivia romance, but I must admit, I understand it. Nontheless, I believe there is no other timeline that Peter can get too . . . this is his timeline, it’s just been altered because he died as a boy. To that point, the fact that he’s encouraging the Linocln Olivia romance will be very sad. Ultimately, this new timeline Olivia is ‘his’ Olivia . . . :(