(Musical accompaniment today is New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle." "Why can't we be ourselves like we were yesterday?" Because yesterday you didn't exist! Or did you?)
IS IT HER?
In telling a story about alternate universes, secondary timelines, and parallel dimensions, is there any better way to put it into layman's terms than put an awkward love story in the middle of it? And awkward fully describes last night's episode of Fringe, "A Better Human Being," another positive step for Fox's underdog sci-fi show that, despite a few bumps along the way, continues to prove itself to be one of the most compelling series of its genre.
"A Better Human Being" continued Fringe's mythalone tradition, with the concept of multiple personalities taking center stage for the second week in a row. In the case-of-the-week, a young man heard the voices of killers committing a murder elsewhere. Following up on Olivia's smooch heard 'round the universes from last week, memories of Universe A Timeline A Olivia continued to flood into this season's Olivia, and ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a Total Mind-F*** of the Heart for Mr. Peter Bishop and Olivia.
Let's get the case out of the way first, since it was clearly the weaker portion of the episode. The general idea was an anonymous sperm donor was responsible for a lot of kids by way of in vitro fertilization, meaning his seed was all over the place. Those kids had a genetic spur, an anomaly that tapped into all sorts of abilities human beings thought were long unnecessary, such as telepathy and various forms of long-distance non-verbal communication. They were the Borg, essentially, a hivemind of some guy's kids that just so happened to carry the instinct to protect each other at all costs.
That instinct drove them to kill anyone who threatened to expose their secret, killing a few journalists poking around the work of the doctor who performed all the non-traditional baby-making. But the loosest end was the doctor himself, who came clean to Team Fringe that not only did he genetically alter the kids to include the genetic spurs in order to create superior human beings, but in mixing the cocktail that made them he–gross–provided the juice himself.
Fringe usually does a good job at giving viewers the perspective of the bad guy, but not so much last night. Had we gotten the point-of-view of one of the hivemind killers rather than the schizophrenic patient (Sean) who was so detached from them, the story might have resonated better. Not that Sean's story wasn't interesting, but he always seemed to be tapping into their communication rather than being part of it, giving us little in the way of understanding the real motives of the killers other than the simple "they want to protect their secret." And by the way, Harrison Thomas, who played Schizo Sean deserves a shout-out here, he was fantastic. A quick Google search shows that he would have been in Fox's Locke & Key pilot. Too bad.
Now to the good stuff. Poor Peter! How confused must he be? Imagine being dropped into a facsimile of your home where no one knows you, seeing a carbon copy of the girl of your dreams who says things like "You're a stranger, what would I feel?" but later begins to act, think, and remember like your original girlfriend. That not only must play unfair games on your mind, but also your heart. Peter, this Olivia, and that Olivia? That's one heck of a bizarre love triangle.
Peter wants so badly to be back with Olivia, HIS Olivia. But is this Olivia, who looks, acts, and thinks like his Olivia, actually HIS Olivia? Is it her? Even if it isn't, can you love someone the same way if they're essentially identical to your loved one but you know deep down that they aren't? Philosophical conundrum! Do we love the person we love because they are that person (O.G. Olivia), or do we love the various pieces that make up that person (this new Olivia)? People say the soul is the core of our selves, and in essence, the soul of Peter's Olivia has transferred into this Olivia. But is that enough? Is it much different from the final scene of "Marionette"? (I strongly encourage you to watch this.)
The whole scenario gave me such an uncomfortable feeling because I'm still thinking that this isn't Peter's home and this Olivia isn't our Olivia. I touched on this last week and Peter mentioned it in this episode, but Peter already went through this with Fauxlivia and is naturally apprehensive. The difference this time is there's no deception, which makes it so much more brutal and real. I understand Olivia's longing looks throughout the episode, because she believes she is Peter's Olivia. And I understand Peter giving in at the end, because it's just too much (and too real) to resist. But man oh man was I shouting "Don't do it Peter! She's not yours!" every time he returned her goo-goo eyes. I still think the other timeline exists concurrently, at least theoretically, and somewhere out there the universe we grew to know is existing without Peter, whether it's literally physical or just in some form of quantum entanglement. It's Schrödinger's cat, but instead of just a kitty in a cardboard box that is simultaneously alive and dead, it's an entire universe (and possibly more if September's words of "all possible futures" are true) that simultaneously exists and doesn't exist. There's only one Peter that made it to adulthood in all the possibilities the universes have gone through, and he's important to the existence of the whole frickin' Uber-Universe. He doesn't belong here, but you can't blame this timeline for wanting him to stick around. He's dope and makes everything around him better.
And then BAM we get one brain-smasher of an ending when Olivia comes to in a dark room tied to a chair. And opposite from her is Nina, also tied to a chair and telling her, "We're going to be okay." We suspected the Nina we were watching was a shapeshifter after her quick chat with David Robert Jones, and this all but confirms that she's been body-snatched.
Here's a wacky loose theory that builds on what I've talked about in the past. The war in Fringe is a battle of timelines. Fact: David Robert Jones, under direction from some unknown really bad guy, is infiltrating this timeline with shapeshifters. But why? Stay with me on this one. In an ultimate struggle for control over existence or some other incredibly important power, the shapeshifters need this timeline to "win." And winning depends on Peter's presence because of his unique ability to control the machine (or something else?). There's only one adult Peter, and the shapeshifters need him to remain here so that he can operate the machine (or something else) in this timeline because this timeline is the one that's advantageous for whoever is the shapeshifters' boss. The Observers are something like the guardians of the Uber-Universes, a collection of all existence (think of the parallel universes as the fourth dimension and the parallel timelines as a fifth dimension). Rather than let Peter exist in his original timeline and risk the shapeshifter peeps getting a hold of him, they tried to erase him. But oops, that didn't work either through September's mistake or the shapeshifters finding a way to bring him back. Shapeshifter Nina has been injecting Cortexiphan into Olivia, which has allowed the consciousness, memories, and more of the original Olivia to slip into this Olivia's head, essentially reproducing Olivia across timelines. Why? Because the best way to get Peter to stay in this timeline, and therefore fulfill a destiny here, is to make him fall in love with this Olivia. The shapeshifters want Peter to feel right at home in this universe. There's also the possiblity that both Peter and Olivia are required to fulfill whatever destiny they're meant to, but because Peter is unique, it's all about having possession of Peter in this war of timelines. Moving forward through the rest of the season, the new struggle for Peter will be to NOT fall in love with this Olivia and continue his search for a way home and back to his timeline and his Olivia. In other words, I have no idea what's going on. I'm just riffin' here, people. I don't know what the ultimate goal is, whether the shapeshifters want to use the machine to erase other timelines or destroy everything completely, or if they're just after the Observers. I'm just guessing with the details we've been given and I'm probably wrong. Also, theoretical science and quantum mechanics make my brain cry so don't think I'm some authority on anything.
If you find any glaring holes in my theory, let me know so I can get off that train and start laying tracks for a new theory! Or is it better if we don't theorize at all and just enjoy the ride? One thing's for sure: Fringe is promising some big answers about The Observers next week, so we'll what holds and what doesn't.
Notes from the litter box of Schrödinger's Cat:
– Loved loved loved Walter's chat with the man orbiting Venus. "Oh! That's a lovely planet."
– How great was it to see clips from the Pilot episode rush back into Olivia's head? Makes me want to rewatch the series from the start. Has anyone done this yet? Has it helped you understand things better?
– Astrid, do you make house calls? Because you are so good at making people feel better and I have a feeling Tuesday is going to be pretty rough for me coming off a three-day weekend. Call me!
– What do you think Lincoln and Walter will do with THAT Nina?
– Before we get to next week's episode, here's your chance to explain what you think the Observers are.
– Do you think this Olivia is now THAT Olivia? Should Peter love this Olivia now? Are you happy about it?
And just in case you weren't excited enough about next Friday, wrap this puppy around your brain:
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom