Friday, February 24, 2012

Fringe 4.14: Palimpsest

A palimpsest is a page from which the original text written upon it has been scraped off or removed, so new text can be written upon it.   But if you scrape away the new text, you might still find enough remaining of the original text to read it.

This is the subject of tonight's episode 4.14 of Fringe.  Once, again, in at least two ways.  The proximate way is a video which has been recorded over, but which, in Walter's lab, can be optically penetrated to reveal something of the original.   The deeper way concerns the story with which we have been grappling all season - the relationship of Peter to the Olivia and Walter of this world.

I've been saying, all along, that this world, in which Peter did not exist after he drowned as a boy (or, more accurately, the Peter of this world died of a serious illness, the Peter who drowned was alternate Peter being brought back to this world) - but this world in which there was no adult Peter, but to which adult Peter returned, was really the world of Fringe for the first three seasons.

Olivia was coming to believe that.  So was Peter.  And one of the Eternal Bald Observers confirms this - I would say, beyond any doubt - when he asks at the beginning of this episode why September "did not erase the lingering traces of Peter Bishop from this time line"?  For how else could there be "lingering traces" if this world now on our screens was not in fact the same world of the first three seasons, except with Peter's existence yanked out of it?

Alas, this does not yet yield a happy ending for Olivia and Peter - by the end of the episode and all that Peter and Olivia have been through, Peter concludes that the Olivia in front of him is not the right Olivia - not his. Peter is especially influenced by finding out about Henry, the son he had with Fauxlivia, which shows him the profound consequences of being with the wrong Olivia.  But he's completely wrong, I'd say, about the Olivia in front of him not being his - certainly this conflicts with what the EBO said above.

In additional to this Shakespearean twist, we also learned a lot about the EBOs and some answers about the very basis of Fringe in this episode.  The Observers are humans from the distant future.  They're here to observe their beginnings - their emergence from us - which apparently spring from Henry, the son Peter and Olivia are supposed to have, but did not, because of  Fauxlivia and the war of the realities triggered by Walter's kidnapping Peter.   We further learn that Walternate would have hit upon the cure for Peter's illness himself, had not September accidentally distracted him at the wrong moment.  This in turn led Walter to go across to the alternate reality to kidnap Peter, to save him, which was the action that got all of Fringe going.

September has been trying to set things right ever since - this presumably being Peter from the other side (the Peter we know) with our Olivia.  (The rest of the Observers want to set things right, too, but they see things differently from September.  I wonder what they think of the current Olivia, who has now remembered Peter?) Tonight was thus a big step forward in our knowledge, but backward in the two getting together.  But Fringe is itself a palimpsest, and it's just a matter of peeling away enough false surfaces to get to this truth.

Hey, check out my essay The Return of 1950s Science Fiction in Fringe in this new anthology

See also Fringe Returns for Season 4: Almost with Peter ... Fringe 4.2: Better and Worse Selves ... Fringe 4.3: Sanity and Son ... Fringe 4.4: Peter's Back, Ectoplasm, and McLuhan ... Fringe 4.5: Double Return ... Fringe 4.6: Time Slips ... Fringe 4.7: The Invisible Man ... Fringe 4.8: The Ramifications of Transformed Alternate Realities ... Fringe 4.9: Elizabeth ... Fringe 4.10: Deceit and Future Vision ... Fringe 4.11: Alternate Astrid ... Fringe 4.12: Double Westfield / Single Olivia ... Fringe 4.13: Tea and Telepathy

See also Fringe 3.1: The Other Olivia ... Fringe 3.2: Bad Olivia and Peter ... Fringe 3.3: Our/Their Olivia on the Other Side ... Fringe 3.5: Back from Hiatus, Back from the Amber ... Fringe 3.7: Two Universes Still Nearing Collision ... Fringe 3.8: Long Voyages Home ... Fringe 3.10: The Return of the Eternal Bald Observers ... Flowers for Fringenon in Fringe 3.11 ... Fringe 3.12: The Wrong Coffee  ... Fringe 3.13: Alternate Fringe ... Fringe 3.14: Amber Here ... Fringe 3.15: Young Peter and Olivia ... Fringe 3.16: Walter and Yoko ... Fringe 3.17: Bell, Olivia, Lee, and the Cow ... Fringe 3.18: Clever Walternate ... Fringe 3.19 meets Inception, The Walking Dead, Tron ... Fringe 3.20: Countdown to Season 3 Finale 1 of 3 ... Fringe 3.21:  Ben Frankin, Rimbaldi, and the Future ... Fringe Season 3 Finale: Here's What Happened ... Death Not Death in Fringe 
See also reviews of Season 2: Top Notch Return of Fringe Second Season ... Fringe 2.2 and The Mole People ... Fringe 2.3 and the Human Body as Bomb ... Fringe 2.4 Unfolds and Takes Wing ... Fringe 2.5: Peter in Alternate Reality and Wi-Fi for the Mind ... A Different Stripe of Fringe in 2.6 ... The Kid Who Changed Minds in Fringe 2.7 ... Fringe 2.8: The Eternal Bald Observers ... Fringe 2.9: Walter's Journey ... Fringe 2.10: Walter's Brain, Harry Potter, and Flowers for Algernon ...  New Fringe on Monday Night: In Alternate Universe? ... Fringe 2.12: Classic Science Fiction Chiante ... Fringe 2.13: "I Can't Let Peter Die Again" ... Fringe 2.14: Walter's Health, Books, and Father ... Fringe 2.15: I'll Take 'Manhatan' ... Fringe 2.16: Peter's Story ... Fringe 2.17: Will Olivia Tell Peter? ... Fringe 2.18: Strangeness on a Train ... Fringe 2.19: Two Plus Infinity ... Fringe the Noir Musical ... Fringe 2.21: Bring on the Alternates ... Fringe 2.22:  Tin Soldiers and Nixon Coming ... Fringe Season 2 Finale: The Switch

See also reviews of Season One Fringe Begins ... Fringe 2 and 3: The Anthology Tightrope ... 4: The Eternal Bald Observer ... 7: A Bullet Can Scramble a Dead Brain's Transmission ... 8. Heroic Walter and Apple Through Steel ... 9. Razor-Tipped Butterflies of the Mind ... 10. Shattered Pieces Come Together Through Space and Times ... 11. A Traitor, a Crimimal, and a Lunatic ... 12, 13, 14: Fringe and Teleportation ... 15: Fringe is Back with Feral Child, Pheromones, and Bald Men ... 17. Fringe in New York, with Oliva as Her Suspect ... 18. Heroes and Villains across Fringe ... Stephen King, Arthur C. Clarke, and Star Trek in Penultimate Fringe ... Fringe Alternate Reality Finale: Science Fiction At Its Best

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