One of the best written dances between darkness and light in recent television is the comparison of the two universes in Fringe. While we might have wanted to remain in the relative ease of black versus white, the production team has added so many shades of grey that it makes a discussion about ethics, such as the question posed at the end of the first part of this review, a lot more complex.
Which is a good thing; were it not for this complexity, I might have run out of things to say.
One of the things that has been portrayed in the alternate universe and that is bound to touch the hearts of any fan intent on hating said universe is the love and loyalty between Lincoln, Scarlie and Altivia. There is also a great deal of respect and concern from the three of them and Altstrid for AlterBroyles, whose fate has yet to be discovered. In the meanwhile, Lincoln has replaced Broyles, a big responsibility that doesn’t keep him from remaining involved in his friends lives.
Our sympathies are also nurtured through the human dramas that they, as individuals but also as a society, have lived though. The vaccine Silva was working on was to stop the Avian Flu, which seems to have killed many more people than initially assumed. Could the Avian Flu have affected the other side in ways that perhaps the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1919 influenced ours?
On the flip side, there are some things that these characters do that would drive a viewer nuts in any universe. I’m thinking of Frank trusting Lincoln with his wish to propose to Altivia while on a vacation, only to have Lincoln turn around immediately and tell Altivia. It was yet another very ‘real’ moment used to make the alternate universe as real as ours, thus drawing viewers deeper and deeper into the storyline.
Another little something that beckons viewers to invest emotionally into the alternate universe are the funny moments spread throughout the ‘red’ episodes as liberally as they are in the ‘blue’ episodes. Lincoln, Scarlie and Altivia stepped up to the humour plate during this episode and boy, did they deliver. First there was Lincoln’s “Spontaneous bug eruption,” a disgustingly hilarious reference to the case, then the awesome teasing Altivia put Scarlie through when it became quite apparent that Mona Foster, the ‘bug lady’, has a crush on him. Altivia seemed to have climbed the height of teasing glory with, “Come on, everybody is looking for someone who is going to love them for who they are on the inside, right?” — only to out climb herself a few minutes later with, “If you go on a date with her and you’re late, then at least you know that she won’t bug out.”
The references to the alternate, seemingly desolate version of Texas were quite amusing, as was Lincoln’s reference to the way Altivia and Frank met: “There is nothing like a little cholera outbreak to bring two people together.”
A less cheerful aspect of the episode is Peter and Altivia’s baby. Conceived in less than innocent circumstances, this innocent baby is of course going to play a major part in the Fringe mythology. On the one hand, it will play an important role in the of Olivia-Peter-Altivia love triangle. On the other hand, it might give Walternate what he needs to win the war against our universe, since a child of Peter’s might be able to take his place.
The baby’s conception does muddy up the water quite a bit for yet another reason: while its parents are both from the Other Side, it was conceived in our universe. I posited, in a previous review, that perhaps Peter, being born on the Other Side but raised on our side, could be the force to create stability between the two universes. Could it be that the baby is an even more potent force of stability?
With regards to the human drama of the conception of this baby, it’s going to be quite interesting as to what happens. Will Peter find out about the baby? It is quite possible, as it becomes quite the powerful bargaining chip for Walternate to lure his son back to the Other Side. What is he going to do? While he might emotionally choose Olivia over Altivia, he might be feel the responsibility of fatherhood so strongly that he will choose to go to the Other Side, however painful that choice might be, and however much he would want to stay on this side, just for the sake of his child. After all, he of all people knows the pain of not having a father present.
Peter could choose to travel between universes in an attempt at having joint custody; however, with what happened to Bell after his multiple jumps between universes, Peter can’t keep coming and going, if a new and improved way of travelling isn’t developed, and if it comes to light that, biologically, Peter’s unique upbringing doesn’t contribute to making travelling easier. I guess another option would be to bring the baby back to this side for Peter and Olivia to raise. But, again, because of Peter’s past, I don’t think that is going to happen. Waiting for the next steps is going to be quite stressful for Fringe fans, that’s for sure.
Another great part of Fringe, of course, is the fact that its production team gives us pieces of the puzzle in each episode. Being a Fringe fan is akin to being a detective; you have to hunt for these pieces and put them together.
One very important piece that was given to us in this episode is to the reason why Peter wasn’t kidnapped from our side and just taken to the Other Side: Walternate explains that he has to want to be on the Other Side, for the choice cannot be imposed on him. He has to exercise his volition, and it probably has to do with the fact that on his choice depends the fate of both universes. It could be compared somewhat to Lord of the Rings, as Frodo has to accept of his own volition the mission of taking the Ring to Mordor.
While many a hero became so out of circumstances, it seems that what differentiates a real hero from one who just happens to be in the right place at the right time is, again, volition. A real hero chooses to step up and make a change; and so, oftentimes, their acts of heroism, both big and small, are repeated many, many times.
I can’t help also but think of what the scope of heroic deeds is. We often think of epic adventures as the stage for acts of heroic deeds to be performed; such scenes are thankfully rare. Even in places where revolutions are taking place, the real heroes are not the ones who are physically fighting; the real heroes are the ones who are doing everything possible, from, say, physically fighting to striving to attain a level of personal excellence that will contribute to the society they are fighting for in the first place.
It really is flipping an entire set of beliefs on its head; for, in my opinion, it isn’t the doctor who is the hero in the hospital, but the janitors, who make sure that the entire place remains sanitary for the health of all who are in the hospital, and not just the sick ones.
Fans are focusing on Peter’s choice at the moment, and understandably so; but what if the real lesson in Fringe is that the hero is going to be the group, each playing their part, however small, in bringing forth the conditions needed so that both universes survive?