5 FRINGE Episodes In Which ‘Reality’ Is Most In Question

Reality, and the perception of it, has always been a theme close to the heart of Fringe. It underscores almost every aspect of the story because ‘perception’, by its very nature, controls, contains, and shapes the connections that our characters have, and the way they relate to their external and internal worlds.

The third season has brought more of these connections out into the open, and we seem to be heading towards something big that may well change the way we, the audience, perceive the story. With that in mind, we take a look at 5 Fringe episodes in which ‘reality’ is most in question.

What I mean by ‘most in question’, is not to necessarily question the existence or non-existence of a particular reality (we know there are two realities in the story, if not more, but we’re also open to looking at reality in different ways), but instead to identify episodes where the writers may be seeding larger hints about the nature of ‘reality’ in Fringe. See what you make of my choices below the jump.

1.20 “There’s More Than One Of Everything”

William Bell pulled Olivia into the alternate universe, but we momentarily lose our bearings as she appears to skip through several time-frames, or universes, before finally meeting her re-creator.

Whether she actually went through various universes during the elevator ride, or suffered some kind of intra universe time-skip. Something happened to place a question mark over exactly where Olivia went during this time.

2.17 “White Tulip”

This episode plays with time and thematics in a way that makes me question the mechanics at work. Walter’s white tulip of forgiveness and Peck’s “epiphany balloon” seem almost too well constructed, as if a signpost for something larger.

2.19 “Brown Betty”

Large chunks of “Brown Betty” take place in the mind of Walter Bishop. Enough said.

Seriously though, since this episode foreshadows a lot of the show’s third season (in a very surface-level fashion) it raises the question of narrative reliability. Depending on how seriously you want to take this episode, it could imply that the ‘reality’ of Fringe is part of a more personal narration, rather than a subjective account of events.

2.20 “Northwest Passage”

One of the most unusual Fringe episodes. In truth, not much happens in “Northwest Passage”, at least on the surface. But it’s filled with odd events and a sleepy tint that bring into question the perspective of Peter Bishop. And since Peter is in charge of the Boom-Boom-Machine..

3.15 “Subject 13″

An episode straight from the Magic Box, placing large focus on imagination and memory. There are several moments in this one that make me suspicious. Does this episode take place in more than two realities? Is the fabric of reality actually comprised of spliced memory? Do we see evidence that reality is in fact amenable to the point where new realities can be birthed from creative minds?

Side note: If I had six slots, I’d fit “Momentum Deferred” or “Bad Dreams” in there somewhere, if only because it deals heavily with memory and I have a feeling that memory and dreams may become even bigger players further down the line.

What do you make of it all – agree? disagree? Have an opinion on the ‘realities’ of Fringe? Feel free to share your views in the comments.

Comments

  1. Obie-server says

    Quick observation…..weren’t we told that this took place 6 months after Walter taking Peter? And peter was taken in 1985. So by the date and timestamp on the video screen on the television, we (or at least I) am lead to believe that the abduction took place in 1984?? forgive me if I am not making sense here.

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    • says

      @Obie-server: There are quite a few oddities in this episode, aren’t there? Like fedora, I wonder whether the seeming inconsistency with the date was intentional – perhaps making more sense with retrospective eyes? A third universe is possible, though I also wonder whether memories or ‘narrators’ are ‘clashing’? Enough seeds have been planted if they want to go in that direction.

      That aside, I wonder if we should bear in mind the specific date: 4/1? Is a joke being played? Misdirection? Something else?

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  2. fedorafadares says

    I noticed this, too, Obie-server, and it’s part of what shored up my theory that we saw yet another universe in Subject 13. There were lots of inconsistencies between what we saw in the episode and the “facts” of the Fringe story as we know them. This time stamp is one of them, in my opinion.

    As for your post, Rocco, I always theorized (rationalized?) that Olivia traveled from our universe to Over There at the point of the car crash, then traveled within the other world from the hotel she was in to the Twin Towers during that elevator ride in “More than One of Everything.” That was back when I thought there were only two worlds, though.

    My thinking these days is of a multiverse, so who knows what that elevator was a portal through!

    By the way, is there any way to tease your Seriable posts over at Fringebloggers? I’m sure lots of devotees would love to join these discussions. (I realize that keeping the sites separate may be the point, however.)

    Enjoying you wherever you’re writing!

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    • says

      “As for your post, Rocco, I always theorized (rationalized?) that Olivia traveled from our universe to Over There at the point of the car crash, then traveled within the other world from the hotel she was in to the Twin Towers during that elevator ride in “More than One of Everything.” That was back when I thought there were only two worlds, though.”

      I think that makes a lot of sense. I recall speculating that Bellie used two methods to bring Olivia to his office; something to transport her to the alternate universe, followed by some kind of teleportation device during the elevator ride (though we’ve seen before how one device can have multiple functions in “Fringe”).

      I also find this interesting though, as it suggests that Bellie did all the work for her – she simply had the ability to survive the journey. That being said, perhaps her ‘natural ability’ was able to kick in and help her along the way.

      Whether inter or intra reality travel, it’s still interesting to speculate!

      “By the way, is there any way to tease your Seriable posts over at Fringebloggers? I’m sure lots of devotees would love to join these discussions. (I realize that keeping the sites separate may be the point, however.)”

      That’s a good question, fedora. My aim is to service both sites without taking anything away from either. I do try to post a round-up of some Seriable “Fringe” posts in the “Fringe Links” posts on FB, for those interested.

      I’m always looking at ways to improve both sites, and have some cool stuff coming up in the future. Thanks for the feedback, always appreciated!

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  3. shelly says

    Anyone notice the date was April fools day? That has got to mean something, right? Help roco, you didn’t mention this in fringe observations and i would like to hear your ideas.

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    • says

      @shelly – I wondered that too. I put it down to the many possible hints at ‘something else’ being implied by the creators. As you point out the date references April Fools day, and interestingly enough it’s a Friday this year. I’ll need to confirm whether there’s an episode on that night, but it would usually be a “Fringe” night. Possible episode tie-in or reference? Just an in-joke from the creators, letting us know that despite the inconsistencies, there’s nothing to ‘see here’?

      Interesting, though, that Walter should ask Bellie: “perhaps you can see something I cannot?” when we see that video footage.

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  4. ApplesBananasRhinoceros says

    Has anyone ever read the book (or seen the movie) “The Bumblebee Flies Anyway”? It’s a sci-fi young adult book from the mid 80s that always messed with my head. It deals with hypnosis, drug testing on children, different realities and planted memories… this review reminded me of it. Very Fringe related and it’s a great book too!

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  5. matt says

    it is another universe. maybe time is perceived differently there and thus seasons as well. hell, for all we know their earth is farther from the sun or closer due to slightly different events in galactic history. maybe different placements of land mass or a different speed of orbit around the sun for the earth or something makes seasons occur during different times of the year than we are used to.

    But, I really think there is something to be said about the whole April fools thing and the fact that the observers are named after seasons and the seasons over there seem to be out of whack.

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