While I was disappointed this episode “6B” didn’t turn out to be a ghost story in the end, one of my favourite genres, I totally loved the way the Fringe production team managed, in its own way, to explore the concept.
Just think about it: the setting was typical to a ghost story genre (an old, beautiful building). The tenants were all leaving, one of them because she “couldn’t stand it anymore”; the young and beautiful crowd in the flat, some of whom ended up being the next victims; the blender and the stove switching on as if by their own volition, the doorman telling the detective “Maybe it’s true what they say about this place; the mysterious, elegant old woman peeking out of her window… All ingredients typical to so many ghost stories, supported by a soundtrack crossing appropriately spooky music with the sounds of Fringe we have become to accustomed to during the course of the last three years.
Of course, in the end it turns out not to be a ghost, but a soft spot, created by the intensity of two persons’ grief, one in each universe grieving for the alternate version of the other. The danger of this particular soft spot is that the grief of said two individuals has thinned the fabric between the universes to the point that they can see each other. Eventually then, the soft spot could become a hole which itself could become a vortex: a gaping hole that sucks and obliterates everything around it.
Definitely not as romantic as a ghost!
Romance was of course heavily entwined in every subplot of this episode. On the one hand, the intense grief of two individuals having lost their spouse started blending together the two universes, as the hormones in their brains seem to be acting like Cortexiphan. At the same time, Peter and Olivia are dealing with the aftermaths of Altivia’s deception. Underlying it all were the glyphs, which not only spelled HEARTS out, but also contained, in the last glyph, a little heart instead of the usual yellow dot. Cute!
Remember the hand shaking during Seasion 3’s 12th episode, “Concentrate and Try Again”? Well, apparently it was no fluke; Walter’s hand shaking is back in this episode and with a vengeance. Interestingly enough, it can be correlated with a change in his attitude; more than ever, Walter sounds like Walternate, which is all the more interesting in that it comes hot on the heels of the episode “Immortality”, in which Walternate sounded somewhat like Walter.
While we must remember that, while a correlation can be drawn, a link of causality has yet to be established, it still remains a very interesting topic for discussion. Perhaps it’s fear, perhaps it’s the treatment he was seeking (i.e. the inhalation of the brain cells Bell kept as part of his research) that is somehow making him overly sensitive, perhaps it’s the guilt he feels, perhaps it’s all three; whatever caused it, the one thing we can definitely agree on is that Walter’s reaction to the hole reflects the fact that our side is not ready to deal such a situation, as opposed to the Other Side.
Walter himself has come to realise how this fear has been shaping his decisions lately. He shares his reflections with Nina near the end of the episode: “For a long time, I was willing to think the worse of Walternate, that he was an evil man who was willing to use any means necessary to get what he needed. It’s because it made it easier to justify what I did. Now we’re faced with the same decision, and I’m arguing that we do exactly what he did. What sort of person does that make me?”
Once again, Fringe producers are whirling us straight into the delicate dance between good and evil; the concept of perception becomes further honed as we realise, now more than ever, that evil isn’t an entity in itself that suddenly takes over and infects a person, but rather, that it’s a darkness slowly creepin in on us, as the veils of anger, despair, and fear, amongst others, blot out the sun of goodness. It gives hope that Walter and Walternate, both possessing this inherent goodness and both having veiled it because of their negative emotions, just might be able, with the unifying power of their love for Peter, be able to come up with another solution to the blending together of the universes.
The conversation in question was held between Walter and Nina in the offices of Massive Dynamic. It was quite an interesting visual, as the skyline behind them seemed hued in red typical of the alternate universe. Nina tried to comfort a distraught Walter by reassuring him that he is asking the right questions to which Walter, further enhancing the link between this scene and the alternate universe, wonders: “Don’t you think he grappled with them, too?”
The whole question of ambering is quite an interesting one. We were first introduced to the material in Season 1’s third episode, “The Ghost Network”, where its sole purpose was to commit a crime: stealing a glass disk with information on it, at the cost of many innocent victims on a commuter bus.
Ambering in itself really isn’t the problem in my opinion; after all, many a tool can be used for good as well as for bad. On top of that, as Walter points out, is the fact that the alternate universe, after decades of research and funding, has only come up with one solution, temporary at that, to the creation of vortex’: amber.
The other interesting thing about this realisation is that, once again, it might only be by combining forces that the two universes will be able to find a solution to the problem. In Season 2’s twenty-third episode, “Over There, Part 2”, we were told that despite their technological advances, there are some serious fallacies in the Alternate Universe’s understanding of some technologies that we are really good at, namely, the machine. Once again, unity and consultation come by as the best solution to ensuring the survival of both universes.
This implies of course a sort of mindset that is quite unique, a mindset in which one realises that one is in a learning mode of sorts. Nina seems to have started understanding this when she tells Walter: “I think you need to learn”: neither Walter nor Walternate, despite their extreme intelligence and amazing opportunities to delve into the far reaches of science have been able to find anything but a temporary solution to the problem. What would happen if they were able to work together?
Two Fringe characters who really need to start working together are Peter and Olivia. Walter’s Cupid-playing does pay off, albeit indirectly, giving Peter the chance to call Olivia on the fact that she is the one keeping them apart. Because while what Peter did is a blow to Olivia, her holding that against him doesn’t seem quite fair. Yes, he drove all us fans crazy when, week after week, he’d brush off the differences between Altivia and Olivia, but he has time and again apologized and tried to make things better.
Then again, because of the depth of the betrayal, however unintentional it might have been, there is a need for extra transparency between the two. To make any relationship work, let alone one spanning two universes, you need to have mutual respect and complete honesty. And so, I really liked when Olivia in turn called Peter out with: “I know that you still think about her. I know you had feelings for her, and that you still do. And frankly, I don’t think you have been completely honest with me”, as it was an upfront yet politely formulated accusation.
Once again demonstrating the fact that not only there is always another way, but that he plays an integral part in finding it, Peter adopts the approach of gathering the information needed and looking at it another way. While Walter is trying to deal with the consequences of the inconceivable, Peter works on how to avoid it altogether. This subplot is a great reflection of the mythology of Fringe – that annihilation of one universe for the sake of the survival of another isn’t a must, and that Peter is somehow going to play a very important role.
It didn’t only come as a surprise to Peter that Walter doesn’t believe in ghosts; I raised my eyebrows quite high, to be honest. Walter’s explanation was quite interesting. He and William Bell used to discuss the topic of life after death and the existence of the soul all the time; Bell’s theory was that the energy released at death could be gathered using soul magnets.
Of course that reminded me of noetic science, something I (and so many others) discovered reading Dan Brown’s book The Lost Symbol. In an experiment carried out in this book, one of the main characters proves that, after death, the body’s weight infinitesimally decreases, which she associates with the weight of something leaving the body at death, possibly the soul. I wonder why Bell never attempted this experiment; I’m sure Massive Dynamic has more than enough capital to fund such research.
In any case, the question of what happens after the death of the body is quite an interesting one, and in my opinion, ties closely with both the guilt Walter has been feeling after the events in 1985 as well as what he is going to do now, faced with the imminent threat of both a vengeful Walternate and two universes that are colliding.
In “White Tulip” (Season 2, Episode 18), Walter had a very interesting conversation with Dr. Alistair Peck, in which they discussed the moral implications of the experiments they were doing. I argued in one of my previous reviews (“Marionette”, Season 3, Episode 9) that if we feel instructively so strongly about certain experiments we are scientifically able to conduct, then perhaps we are tapping into a powerful instinct that has kept many a person on a relatively narrow path.
There is a reason why science and religion should go hand in hand. With regards to the experiments ran by the fictional Katherine Solomon in The Lost Symbol, by Bell and Walter in Fringe and those experiments done in real life, adding religion and Faith to the mix in a logical and systematic way tends to enhance the scientific process, not to stifle it, as so many tend to think it will. It is only when religion is taken to the extreme that it becomes a veil rather than a source of light, and that is when science becomes obsolete.
Speaking of science, did anyone else wonder at the validity of Walter’s Coin Toss Test and try it at home for themselves? I might have done it a couple of times, and according to Walter’s theory, I just might have a vortex beginning in my kitchen. Perhaps that’s where all my socks have been disappearing. I wouldn’t mind hearing someone’s expert opinion on both matters, i.e. the Coin Toss Test and my disappearing socks.
No Fringe review would be complete without mentioning typical funny moments from the episode. The top funny moments of “6B” include:
Walter: And that nervous little Brandon.
Peter: Not how you imagined meeting the President, huh?
Broyles: I already know him. He doesn’t like me. I beat him at golf.
Walter: There is no such thing as ghosts.
Peter: So this is where you draw the line? Ghosts?
Olivia: So. What was so important?
Walter: Important? Breakfast! The most important meal of the day. And I proved it in 1973.
Typical to this time in its season, momentum is definitely increasing, While we already know there is not going to be a massive, two-part finale this year, we have been told that the last three episodes are part of the same arc, which will predominantly feature Sam Weiss. Hopefully, pieces of the puzzle, scattered liberally throughout the three seasons and particularly throughout Season 3, are going to come together very soon, and the now confirmed Season 4 will play with the complexities of the world the Fringe production team created all the way through at least a fifth season.