Friday, September 18, 2009

Fringe - New Season: New World

Any fan of JJ Abrams can tell you that he has a penchant for creating female leads struggling between two worlds. With 'Felicity' there was Felicity's conflict between becoming the doctor her father expected her to be, and becoming the artist her heart wanted to be.

In 'Alias' there was Sydney's battle between remaining a secret government agent to make the world a better place and becoming a regular woman, wife and mother, to live the life she'd always dreamt of.

On 'Lost' there is Kate's choice between playing into the bad girl fugitive lifestyle she thinks she deserves and being the good and happy family woman she desires to be.

With 'Fringe' there is literally a female lead struggling between two worlds.

The season one finale saw Olivia mysteriously escape into an alternate universe, of which we know very little, and the premier skipped past the events of her time there and thrust her, literally, back into this one with veiled memories of her meeting with Walter Bishop's previous partner, William Bell, among - possibly - other things.

The questions of how she got there, how she got back, what exactly happened to her during that time, who is this shape shifting soldier after her, and what do they want with her will be the context of the rest of this season. It is curious that she woke only when Peter sat at her bedside (much like she telepathically lit the lights on the puzzle last season with Peter standing behind her) and the words she muttered – in Greek – were words Peter's mother, an unseen force thus far in this story, used to recite to Peter on a daily basis.

Be a better man than your father.

The frustration of a show like this is speculation. Did Olivia meet Peter's mother? Or did Olivia somehow tap into some memory in the recesses of Peter's mind? And if she did, why? Is there some bond between them that allows her to tap into her powers? What exactly IS her power? The video of her as a child seemed to suggest – when compared to the images of Mr. Jones' artificially created time/space jump location from the prison cell – that she had herself made some sort of possibly natural time/space jump.

By doing so, did Olivia create the alternate universe that is predicted to destroy ours?

Or did she simply travel there? (Since they opened the doors to it -- Is our Olivia really OUR Olivia -- or did each universe's Olivia switch over? And while we're at it, just how alike ARE the two worlds? Is there a second Walter? Or is William Bell REALLY that world's Walter Bishop?) And will Peter eventually be forced to see Olivia as an experiment in order to prevent that from happening?

Alternate universes are an old staple of science fiction, and that Fringe comes from the same people who have more recently created 'Lost' and the newest 'Star Trek' movie, it brings to mind the same themes those works emphasize: fate and destiny and free will and the consequences that each brings.

And it brings us back to choices. If Olivia does have the ability to transport herself between the universes, is the proverbial grass greener on the other side? Does she have the responsibility to put Peter back in his universe? Or was it his destiny to be in ours? Most importantly though, does Olivia have the power to decide which universe survives the impending merge? Or does she have the ability to seal the alternate worlds permanently from one another.

And what are the consequences of it all?

At the heart of all these things is one woman with very real feelings and very real connections to the people around her – whether they are from this dimension or another – and the knowledge that her actions could put any one of them in danger, or eradicate them from existence will weigh heavy on her shoulders. But is it any different from her situation now?

One could argue that Olivia wants the same things Felicity, Sydney and Kate wanted before her: the freedom to choose the life she leads. To not have extenuating circumstances and the aspirations of others direct her paths, and to be able to ultimately walk away from the path her life had been on towards what she truly wants. And what Olivia wants is, whether you deem it to be misogynistic or a natural instinct, to be a regular ol' mom in an ordinary world.

Her character came to life midway through the first season with the introduction of her sister and niece, and she is most human, most empathetic, when she's cutting loose in those few moments outside of work, most especially with Peter and her niece. Her line of work, you could say, is what Walter Bishop and William Bell engrained in her as a child – the rules of some imaginary future army (much like Sydney Bristol in 'Alias') that would be beckoned when the time was right. Her life has become the byproduct of that.

But is that her destiny? Does she walk the fine line between these worlds protecting them both as some sort of superhuman soldier? Or can she walk away, creating a new life – a new dimension of herself.

It's a good thing we have another season to get closer to that answer.

One response to “Fringe - New Season: New World”

Excellent insights, M. I hadn't thought about the "woman caught between two worlds" angle that JJ tends to favor. And I also hadn't considered Peter and Olivia's connection being deeper than what we've already seen.