Thursday, November 26, 2009

Observing August

Today, on Thanksgiving, I am thankful that I have the day off so I can finally catch-up on some of my write-ups! Here are some thoughts on last week's stand-out episode of Fringe...

It pains me whenever I hear the depressing news that Fringe is faltering in the ratings.  But after seeing last week's stellar Observer-heavy outing, it makes that pain cut a little deeper.  This was, hands-down, the best episode of the season thus far and it managed to accomplish something that the other outings have not: it perfectly blended the mythology of the show (even advancing it) while also providing a kickass case-of-the-week!  For the better part of the last season and a half, we have wondered about the man we only know as The Observer.  He was often seen, but hardly ever heard.  Last week, we learned that he is really several men -- all dressed the same, all with the bald head and top hat and all observing time.  One of those men, simply known as August, went from observing to participating.  And that's when the trouble started...

As Olivia and Peter learned, the Observers have been present at numerous major events throughout history.  But in an alarming discovery, a researcher at Massive Dynamic revealed that sightings of the Observers have been increasing heavily in recent years leading him to believe that some sort of major event is about to happen.  This, of course, gels with William Bell's message for Olivia when she traveled to the alternate universe.

But this revelation took a back seat to The Observer-centric case-of-the-week which brings us back to August.  He had been observing Christine Hollis since she was a little girl.  He was supposed to observe her losing her life in a tragic plane crash off the coast of Italy, but instead, he kidnapped her (thus preventing her from getting on the plane).  He interfered with fate -- something that the Observers are not suppose to do unless the person is "important."  So, the other Observers decided to correct August's wrong and ordered a hit on Christine.  August turned to Walter (apparently, Walter has a deal with the Observers that goes back to the day that he "borrowed" alternate universe Peter) who told him to "make Christine important."  He did (by making her the cause of the death of one of them), but the question still remained: Why did August go to so much trouble to save this one girl's life?  Because somewhere along the way, The Observer went from observing his subjects to becoming like them.  He became human.  He fell in love.

It was a moving journey that answered a few questions and raised a few more.  What does it mean to be human?  Certainly, the Observers look the part (even if they are a bit strange in their appearance), but are they human?  They travel through time, or in their world, time is merely a series of events all taking place congruently.  They observe without interfering (unless warranted) and prior to August's actions, never show an ounce of emotion along the way.  And yet, this episode raised the stakes a bit higher.  One of them began to feel: one of the most basic of human elements.  And then at the end, the Observers reminded us once again of their purpose: they watched as Olivia enjoyed a day off with her niece at the amusement park.  In seeing her joy, they remarked that it's a shame that things are about to get so difficult for her.  Reaffirming, of course, that something big is around the corner.  Can't wait to see what Fringe has in store.  

Fringe airs Thursday nights on Fox. If you missed this week's episode, you can watch it for free at


John said...

I am sure within the context of the show the increase in observed Observes has real importance, but in “reality” I wouldn’t bet on it. Howe many digital still cameras, digital videos cameras, cellphone cameras and iPod cameras were there a hundred years ago, or even 10. In addition to the aforementioned cameras, there are government traffic cams, red light cams, security cameras, etc. It would be astounding if there weren’t more images of the Observers today.

I wondered if the “her” the Observers referred to at the end were Olivia, or her niece.

As an aside, the Observer organization reminds me of an organization in Isaac Asimov’s novel “The End of Eternity”. In that story there was a group that existed outside time. They did meddle in timelines more than the Observers seem to. Of course, why do the Observers only watch (as a rule)? Where, or when, are they from?

I have decided I don’t like Walter. He is not a nice person. The “old” Walter conducted highly unethical experiments on adults and children.

He apparently murdered his lab assistant.

He kidnapped Peter.

The “New” Walter still conducts unethical experiments on people – think of the FBI agent he drugged and whose mind he attempted to control.

While pretending to work with the FBI he actually knowingly hinders them. He didn’t tell them about his ability to translate the journal.

He distracts Astride so he can slip out and meet with August. In addition to the other implications the distraction kept Astride from calling for backup for Olivia and Peter, nearly getting Peter murdered.

Walter’s priorities are Walter and then Peter and weird science experiments, not necessarily in that order. All else is supported as his interests dictate and only so long as they don’t interfere with what he really cares for.

Off Topic Note: You may not have noticed there are spam comments for the “Barney Calls the Plays” post.

TVFan said...

I have to agree with you on Walter. I used to think that "old" Walter was a bad person, but "new" Walter was warm and fuzzy. But after seeing things more clearly this season, I don't think he has changed too much. The one exception for me is his seemingly sincere regret for what he did to Olivia when she was a child. Otherwise, I got nothing!

I also thought about the increase in Observer sightings being due to the increase in cameras in the modern world. Like you, I assume that we're not supposed to chalk it up to that for the context of the story/show. But funny that we both thought about that!

Thanks for the heads up on the HIMYM thread. I'll take care of it.

John said...

Great minds think alike.