Sunday, February 12, 2012

Fringe Episode 4.11 (Making Angels)

Making Angels was a fairly good episode. It expanded a little bit regarding what we currently know about the observers, but aside from that, it didn’t illuminate the overarching plot as much as I would have liked. The true star of the episode was Jasika Nicole who was fantastic in this episode.

- I loved how Astrid yelled in surprise when she sees her alternate for the first time. Like Olivia, I always wondered why people don’t do that. Right from the start, we see that Astrid responds to her alternate in a kind and compassionate manner which contrasts sharply to how Walter and Olivia respond to their alternates. AltAstrid’s father had just passed away and so, in her struggle to understand what happened and to comes to terms with it, she pays Astrid a visit. In her first speech, she describes what happened and it’s interesting that she keeps mentioning how cold it was. Perhaps being unable to understand the coldness that she feels inside, she attributes the coldness that she feels to external causes. When Astrid told her alternate that her mother had also died when she was young, you could see the guilty looks on Walter’s, Peter’s and Olivia’s faces. They are generally so caught up in their own problems, that they probably don’t ask Astrid a whole lot about her own life. It is clear that AltAstrid is a little bit autistic since she appears to lack the social cues that normal people have. It is curious, though, that she is in touch with her emotions enough such that she can cry. I’m assuming, then, that she must have only a minor type of autism.

- AltAstrid’s presence definitely illuminates several of the relationships in the current storyline and her bluntness and attention to detail allows her to say and see things that other people couldn’t. She is such a refreshing character. She mentions that Walter seems to talk and act through Astrid as if they were the same person. We all know that Astrid and Water share a very special relationship and so I’m glad that this was pointed out. AltAstrid also comments on Walter’s treatment of Peter. In the beginning of the episode, Walter is not appreciative of Peter’s presence and even says that he prefers Lincoln’s presence since Lincoln plays chess with him and doesn’t starve him like Peter does (I agree with Peter, though, Walter takes too many food breaks!). AltAstrid points out to Walter that anger towards a person usually means that you are emotionally invested in that person in some way. In other words, he must feel something towards Peter in order to be angry with him. Also, it’s interesting how Walter is angry with Peter since he isn’t HIS Peter; Peter is a reminder of the son that he had, the son that he wished had lived. I always wondered if Walter loved Peter because of who he was or because he was an image of his Peter. I understand that Walter is suffering, but what about Peter? I think that it’s really selfish of Walter to not consider how Peter is feeling- he’s constantly being insulted by Walter, the one man who can help him get home. I really loved the whole scene where Peter is investigating the body at the crime scene and Walter is watching through Astrid. Peter says everything before Walter does, which apparently makes Walter even angrier at Peter. Throughout season 1-3, the reason why the relationship between Peter and Walter was so strong was because Peter was always able to anticipate Walter’s needs and what he would do. One can image that it would eventually become a habit. Also, Peter probably learned a great deal from Walter over the years. His suggestions (DNA sample and take the body back to the lab) seem like routine things that the Fringe division always does and so it seems natural that he would know to do them.

- I thought that the scene where AltAstrid attempts to explain the inexplicable was really amazing. The writing seemed be challenging and I commend Jasika Nicole for beautifully rising to the challenge. AltAstrid comments on the compound that killed the victim, saying that the compounds intermingling is not predictable and not expected. Since the compound has not been invented yet, someone would have to have seen the compounds mixed together in order to know how to mix them (Peter says this). She concludes that there must be something else at play here- the hand of God. As she is saying this, you can see that Walter is obviously falling more and more in love with her with every word she says. It’s a wonderful scene. :)

- I thought that the interactions between AltOlivia and Walter were cute, but confusing and disappointing when you look at how they are placed with respects to the overarching story in season 3. Throughout season 3, there was a great deal of rich conflict and distrust between both sides that really made season 3 as epic as it was. Now that both sides are working together, the distrust has apparently vanished along with the rich character exploration that occurred during season 3. The friendliness between both worlds in this timeline seems to be such a contrast to what was the case in season 3 and I guess to some extent it makes sense since Peter was the cause for the conflict between the two worlds in the original timeline. I wonder what will happen between both worlds when the timelines merge (as I predict). Will they both remember a time of peace (this timeline) AND a time of war (old timeline)? If so, which situation will they chose? Also, regarding AltOlivia, it bothered me that she never once apologized to Walter for tricking him when she was undercover on this side and she seemed almost too perky for someone that does the work that she does.  Although a lot of people love AltOlivia, I'll take our Olivia over her any day.  :)

- When Peter and Olivia visit a colleague of Neil’s at MIT, he explains how Neil spent the summer at a lake house in 1985 and came back changed. He worked tirelessly on equations that would allow him to flatten space and time such that they would both exist on the same plane. This would allow someone to see the past, present, and future simultaneously. So this means that the observer’s ability to travel through time boils down to nothing more than mathematics. It would be interesting if we learned that someone in the future had made the observers for a specific purpose.

- The case of the week centered on Neil, a brilliant scientist and mathematician who, through acquiring September’s blue wand in 1985, acquired the ability to travel through time. This enabled him to see the future, especially of those who would suffer greatly before dying. He used his knowledge to warn such people and killed them mercifully (with a compound he probably discovered in the future) in order to prevent their suffering. He did all this to become a savior of sorts so that he could eventually become an angel. Neil thought of himself as a compassionate killer, believing that painful suffering can sometimes be far worse that death. When Neil meets his third victim in the episode (a businessman), he tells him that he will be hit by a car while driving once he leaves the parking lot. This accident will damage his spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed and alone. Neil tells the man that by killing him now, he will offer him a painless exit from a living nightmare. The man runs away to try to escape from Neil, but ends up getting hit by a car. Thus, although the circumstances were different (he got hit by a car while running away, not while driving and talking on the phone), the result is the same. This implies that our fate is set in stone, no matter what we try to do to change it. This contrasts to the previous episode (Forced Perspective) where the idea prevailed that we can change our fate and that our destinies are not written in stone. During his final scene, Neil speaks to his mother, saying goodbye since he has foreseen his death at the hands of Olivia and Peter. He knows that she feels like the wrong brother died. That she felt that Alex (the one who died) was the better one. “You always resented that I wasn’t Alex. Not your angel. I worried I wasn’t good enough. But God has a plan. He let me live for a reason. God let me see the future so that I could give people mercy (paraphrased).” Not only does he talk like an observer throughout the episode, but he also acquires the ability to speak at the same time as others since having seen the future, he knows what they’ll say before they even say it. It’s interesting also that Neil could have easily avoided his death by running away once he saw Peter and Olivia arrive through the window, but he had faith that God had a plan for him and so he stayed to be killed. The word faith is very interesting in this context and, like hope, might have a bigger role to play in the upcoming episodes.  Neil's speech also reflects Peter's situation- perhaps September rescued him from drowning and didn't erase him because he has a bigger purpose, a purpose that goes beyond the machine. 

- AltAstrid explains to Astrid her dilemma when it comes to dealing with her father’s death. She regrets that she wasn't able to love her father in the way that he wanted or could understand due to who she was. She asks Astrid if he would have loved her more if she was normal. Initially Astrid doesn’t have a response for her, but by the end of the episode, Astrid tells her that her own father is a very hard man to love and that he shows love in his own way. It’s who his is and it’s not her. She tells AltAstrid that she shouldn’t feel guilty about not loving him enough. This was such a sad scene because every child must feel like that at some point in their lives, feeling like they’re not good enough for their parents to love. No child should have to feel that way. Neil felt that way and I imagine that Peter feels that way as well. In fact, Astrid’s speech to AltAstrid could very well describe the relationship between Walter and Peter. During Astrid last scene, we see her at home and her father, who has made her dinner, greets her warmly and gives her a big hug. We realize that Astrid lied to AltAstrid about her father. Considering how warm and kind Astrid is, I didn’t expect anything less from her. The reality is that AltAstrid’s father probably didn’t love her as much because of who she is; they weren’t able to communicate in the same way or in the same “language.” For some parents, the differences between them and their child can be too much and they can’t seem to overcome the emotional barriers. Neil’s mother unfortunately probably did love Alex a little bit more and Walter does love his own Peter a little bit more. I think that individuals that do have mental challenges (like AltAstrid) are among the bravest and most courageous people in society and I think that AltAstrid is an extraordinary person and character.

- It was refreshing to see Peter and Olivia working on a case together just like old times. That moment where Olivia picks the lock at the lake house made me laugh since picking locks was always their thing. They seem to bounce off each other very well, posing questions for the other and finishing each other’s thoughts and sentences. I thought that it was nice when Olivia told him at the end that he makes a good partner. Peter thanks her and chuckles in response and immediately leaves. He seems very noncommittal here which is consistent since he is trying to remain as detached as possible from these people in this timeline. It’s interesting that, in this case, all roads lead to Reiden Lake as they always do. The shot of Peter looking out over the lake was a nice reflective shot. I’m sure that he was thinking about the time when he resurfaced in Reiden Lake in Subject 9 and about everything that has happened at this iconic place.  Also, I found it weird that Peter and Olivia didn’t take the equations from Neil’s house back with them to the lab and study them. It might help them to understand the observers more.

- The final scene between December and March answered some questions, but raised some more. Firstly, based on their conversation, it seems like September is alive and well and that Neil’s blue wand belonged to him. Neil acquired it after September dropped it on the night that he didn’t save Peter Bishop. If Peter wasn’t saved, then why was September there in the first place? Was he just observing this important event? What caused him to drop his blue wand? I think that the latter question is an important one. Also, I find it interesting that they didn’t know about Peter’s reappearance in this timeline till right now. This is so glaringly inconsistent that it must not be a plot contrivance. The observers are thought of as being all seeing and sometimes, all knowing. They should have sensed Peter’s reappearance a long time ago and there must be a reason for why they didn’t. Also, I really wished the show went into greater detail regarding how the observer’s technology (their blue lights that enable them to see the future) works. Does this mean that the observers, by themselves, don’t have any special powers? Are all their powers attributed to the technology that they wield? This gives credibility to the theory that observers were once humans.

- I loved the sayings in this episode, by the way: “Kirk Out!” and “Shittake Happens.”  :)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Fringe Episode 4.10 (Forced Perspective)- Part II

- When Olivia was at the courthouse, talking to Broyles, she said that she can’t stay away from the site just because she has a death threat looming over her. She can’t live her life constantly looking over her shoulder and nor can she do her job right. When she was talking to Duncan, she told him that our fate is not written in stone and that she wasn’t ready to die. Not today. The whole scene, although touching, felt a bit contrived since any bomber wouldn’t stand around and talk when they could just pull the trigger and get what they need to get done. And I felt that Duncan backed down too quickly. But, the message got across regarding Olivia’s state of mind.

- Olivia and Nina’s relationship was interesting to see in this episode. When Olivia confronted Nina regarding Massive Dynamic’s involvement in Emily’s life, Nina appeared very nonchalant about their efforts to study her. Olivia was completely justified in getting a big angry- she’s right in that no matter what you do to a child, when you violate their rights to privacy and respect, it’s abuse. I was a little disturbed by the scene with the two of them at the end. Olivia (no doubt encouraged by what Emily said about telling those you care about that you love them before it’s too late) told Nina that she loved her and that no one has been more of a mother to her than Nina. Nina appeared very touched by this and offered to make Olivia some soup and to obtain for her some drugs that might be helpful for her migraines, drugs that are currently in the experimental stages at Massive Dynamic. I can’t imagine how cold Nina must be in order to hear what Olivia said and still want to give her even more drugs. She seemed more concerned about the migraines than about anything else that Olivia said. I am actually convinced that it’s AltNina who is working with David Robert Jones and who is drugging Olivia. This Nina seems very nice, with no sign at all of guilt and I recall her interactions with Walter in Novation. She seemed very genuine with Walter there and with Olivia in this episode. This goes back to what Walternate said: Not Everything is as it seems.

- “God has a purpose for all of us even if we can’t understand it.” Emily’s story was heartbreaking and it ties very strongly to Olivia’s story. In the end, Emily realized that her purpose was to save those people in the courthouse and after she had fulfilled her purpose, the electrical activity in her brain became too much and she died. I wonder if this is foreshadowing Olivia’s fate. Does she have a certain purpose and once she fulfills it, will she die? This is very similar to what happened to Peter. Are both of their fates unavoidable? Are they intertwined in some way? Like Emily, Olivia has a very special ability (although she doesn’t know it yet) and I fear that what has given the abilities to her (Cortexiphan) will kill her. In season 3, when the gang went inside Olivia’s mind, they encountered Mr. X and Olivia later said that this was the person who was going to kill her. Could Mr. X be CorteXiphan? Another way that you can approach this is by reasoning that Peter is the one that gave Olivia that ability to cross over. By manipulating her own feelings of fear and love towards Peter, Olivia is able to cross over. Thus, could we say that Peter in some twisted unintentional way will be the one to kill Olivia? I thought that Walter’s quote was very appropriate for this episode: “A candle that burns twice as bright, burns half as long.” But, as we’ve seen with Olivia, she is an exception. Her candle does burn twice as bright, but it also burns as long as any candle realistically could. In a lot of ways, she defies the odds. When Olivia asked Emily if she sensed anything around Olivia, Emily grew very quite, but her father interrupted before she could say anything further. I wonder what Emily would have said and it’s a shame that we’ll never figured that out. Also, Emily’s final scene was superbly played by the young actress who played her. Her child-like voice was creepy and provided her with great emotional depth and vulnerability.

- I also thought that it was interesting that both Emily and Olivia had the habit of drawing what they saw. Do Olivia’s dreams of Peter work like Emily’s visions? Is she seeing echoes of future events when she dreams about him? Is she even still having such dreams?

- The scene between Olivia and Peter near the end of the episode was interesting in providing us with some interesting facts about the observers. As Peter said, they experience the past, present and future simultaneously and they don’t predict future events- they know the future because they’ve been there and have experienced it. When Olivia asks Peter if the observers can be wrong, Peter says that he doesn’t see how they could. It’s highly ironic that he says this since he is living proof that the observer’s plan can sometimes backfire. Peter was suppose to die as a boy, but September (with Walter’s help) saved him. Peter was suppose to be erased from time, but September (with Olivia’s help) brought him back. He has a lot of experiencing in avoiding his fate (aka Death). I wish that Olivia would have confided in him instead of lying to him since he of all people could really help her. But, I imagine that when he does find out, he’ll be devastated. After all, the main reason why he chose to build the bridge in the first place was because it was the only way to change the future such that Olivia doesn’t die. Stuck in this new timeline, his only reassurance is the knowledge that he at least averted Olivia’s death. Imagine how he’ll feel when he realizes that his efforts were in vain.

- The glyphs for this episode spelled out MARCH. This could mean several things. Firstly, it could refer to the observer that we’ll see in the next episode named MARCH who could possibly be taking over for September. Secondly, coupled with the glyphs from the previous episode, we get DEATH MARCH which obviously refers to Olivia. Thirdly, it could refer to the fact that Olivia’s death will occur in March. If you recall in Shakespeare, there’s a quote that states “Beware the ides of March.” March was obviously the month in which Julius Caesar was murdered.

- The theme of this episode was the idea that our fate is not written in stone. It can be changed and shaped to be whatever we want it to be. So far this season, we are being presented with two overarching story lines: Peter’s quest to find his way home and Olivia’s struggles with her own mortality. Time is running out for the both of them. The big question is how these two plot lines tie together and whether or not the solution is the same for both of them. Will they both have to be sacrificed for the greater good because they have a pre-destined, overarching purpose? Or are both of their journeys about overcoming the odds and figuring out how to escape their doomed fates?

- A minor quibble: When I initially saw this episode, I strongly disliked it because in a lot of ways, it rehashed the plotlines from Subject 9 and Wallflower in which the cases of the week were both experimented on and reflected the character of Olivia. But upon viewing the episode again and thinking about the themes presented, I have a greater appreciation for what this episode offers in terms of helping us understand how the story will move forward. I still am a bit frustrated by the fact that we have been given very few answers so far this season, but I trust the writers. One of the reviews that I read stated that part of the reason for why a lot of fans are frustrated this season is because we see these new characters discover themselves in ways that we’ve already seen with the old characters. In the old timeline, our Olivia has already come to terms with her past as an experimental subject. In the old timeline, our Walter has already overcome his guilt and grief at what he did to Peter and Olivia as children. There comes a point where you have to ask the writers: are you recontextualizing or rehashing old plot developments? But, nevertheless, I remain steadfast in my trust in the writers.

Fringe Episode 4.10 (Forced Perspective)- Part I

Forced Perspective was a good episode, but much like Wallflower, it was a bit of a disappointment in comparison to the episodes that came before it. Ironically enough, during my first viewing, I thought that “Forced Perspective” provided me with very little new perspective, but upon subsequent viewings and after thinking about the episode a bit, it provides some good insight into the overarching plot of this season.

- At the beginning of the episode, we meet a girl named Emily and she apparently has the ability to see visions of a person’s death before it happens. When she hears a hum signaling that a vision is developing in her mind, she feels compelled to draw it out. Once she draws it out, she strives to warn the marked individuals in an attempt to allow them the gift of saying their goodbyes to those that they love. She appears to have a very fatalistic perspective on things since she feels that their deaths are inevitable. But, for a young girl who has seen drawing after drawing come true, how could she not have such a perspective on things? In the beginning of the episode, she promptly starts drawing a picture of a man that is struck by a high beam such that it goes right through his chest. She spots the man in the crowd and gives him the drawing. I thought that the conversation that him and his partner had about teenagers was funny, but his subsequent death was rather gruesome even if it demonstrated impressive work by the special effects department. When Emily stopped the man to give him her drawing, she probably delayed him for a couple of seconds and the man was delayed further as he slowed down his walking to examine her drawing. If Emily had not stopped him, would he have walked by the construction site a lot sooner and thus, avoided the beam that came falling down? By warning these people about their doom, is Emily inadvertently fulfilling their fate that she foresaw? This is called a self-fulfilling prophecy and its an interesting idea.

- In the next scene, we see Olivia and Broyles talking with each other about the observer sightings. In the first season, the team had encountered an Observer in the episode “The Arrival” and had notified Broyles. Broyles then told them that they had been investigating these individuals for the past 3 years. A similar situation is playing out in this episode. Olivia’s encounter with the Observer caused her to tell Broyles who disclosed that they had been investigating them for quite some time. Regarding giving information to the Fringe team, Broyles will only tell them what they need to know based on whether or not such information is relevant to a current case. Since the Observers have not directly approached the team before, it makes sense that this is the first time that Olivia is fully learning about them. I’m assuming that the Observers have not made contact with the team since Peter does not exist in this timeline. This is consistent with my theory that Peter was the one that the observers were observing and September presumably felt the need to warn Olivia of her fate because somehow it ties into Peter’s fate.

- Skipping a bit ahead, there is another scene between Olivia and Broyles a bit later in which he asks her why she’s been to the health center three times within the last month. Olivia’s normally strong fa├žade crumbles a bit as she tells Broyles that she has needed a constant supply of prescriptive medications to address her migraines that have seem to have gotten worse. She asks Broyles if he believes in fate and upon hearing that he doesn’t, she replies that she didn’t either, not until recently. Working on a case about a girl who is actually able to predict the death of certain individuals must have given credibility to the prophecy that she heard about her death a few weeks ago. Thus, she probably believes in fate a bit more than she did before. I can’t imagine how rattled she must be about everything that’s going on with her. Not only does she have to be able to work everyday in a job where life-threatening things can happen (and have happened), but she also has to deal with persistent migraines. Anyone who has experienced chronic headaches before will tell you that after about 5 hours of having a headache, you just want to crawl into a corner and start crying your eyes out. Regarding Broyles, our Broyles is such a contrast to AltBroyles who appears to be working with the enemy. In these two scenes with Olivia, Broyles proves that he is very different from his counterpart: he is caring and observant. He voices that he is committed to making sure that Olivia is out of harms way as much as possible from this point forward. It’s reassuring to see that their close relationship is retained in this timeline.

- I really loved the scene with Walter, Peter and Olivia in the lab. Walter has apparently stayed true to his promise of helping Peter to find his way home. Peter confesses that since he is not suppose to exist in this timeline, the machine in this timeline would not respond to him. In the initial episodes of season 4, we learned that when the machine was turned on, instead of destroying one of the universes, it actually formed a bridge. But how did the machine turn on in the first place in this timeline? Is the machine designed differently in this timeline such that it has been made to respond to something else other than Peter? It was responsive to Olivia in the old timeline. Is it still responsive to her? Does she have to be dosed with Cortexiphan so that her powers will emerge and so that she’ll be able to operate the machine? If the machine is designed a bit differently in this timeline, will Peter be able to manipulate it in such a way so that it can perform a different function (such as helping him get home)? On a shallow note, it should be a crime for Joshua Jackson to wear a shirt that makes him look as good as the shirt in this scene did. I’ve noticed that in almost all the episodes (with the exception of “Novation” and “And Those We Left Behind”), Peter is wearing a blue shirt or coat which is an appropriate homage to his true home (the Blueverse). I love the way that he says Olivia’s name when he sees her and the way that she smiles when she enters the lab. For both of them, the lab is a familiar setting, a setting that they’ve spent years in, investigating case after case. They’ve probably spent more time in the lab then they have in their respective homes. Olivia is delighted that Walter and Peter are working together and Walter’s response is sweet. He promises her that despite working on two different projects, she’ll always have his full attention when she needs it. I love the family dynamic between the three of them and seeing this scene really made me realize how much I’ve missed it. It’s weird, but with every passing episode, the characters become more and more like the older versions of themselves. I don’t know if this is intentional or not or whether it’s just lax acting. Because of Peter’s presence, are the timelines beginning to merge slowly, day by day?

- Another indication that this Olivia is becoming more like the Olivia from the old timeline is the fact that she noticed Emily’s backpack in the apartment when they went to question Emily’s family about her whereabouts. During the initial episodes of season 4, it was Lincoln who was the observant one and Olivia who seemed to be missing important pieces of information. With every passing episode, I find myself caring more and more about the characters from this timeline and Olivia is no exception to this.

- The scene in the lab with Emily was also a noteworthy scene. Walter proposed that some future events can reverberate backwards in time and Emily said that each vision comes to her like a dream and she draws them out before they fade away. I think that these ideas will somehow play out in future episodes, but I’m not sure how yet. I especially like how Peter relied on his past experiences to help the others on the current case. Peter learned about the green-red light method of mind control in the season 1 episode “The Equation” and I found it a bit weird that Walter didn’t know about this method in this episode. He learned about the method at St. Claire’s from one of his roommates. Him knowing about the method had nothing to do with Peter’s presence and so I felt that his lack of knowledge here was a bit contrived. It was wonderful to see Peter reassuring Walter while he was guiding Emily. Peter, more than anyone, knows what Walter is capable of and has confidence in him. Can I just give a shout out to the special effects department? There are some shows (like Once Upon A Time) that have an enormous budget, but that have really crappy special effects. I’m am constantly amazed at how good the special effects are despite the fact that Fringe is on a low budget. This show seriously makes the most out of every penny that they have, don’t they? Emily’s vision of the bomb attack was beautifully done.