The Grand Unified Field Theory of Fringe.

The Grand Unified Theory of physics is the holy grail of modern science.  In it, the principles of General Relativity are brought together with those of electromagnetism or Quantum Mechanics.  Scientists are seemingly close to bringing these  principles together but on Fringe what was so far apart are now united in several different ways.

It seems "unification" was one of the major themes of this fifth season opener of Fringe.  On one hand hand, we have Olivia being reunited with the Fringe division and her family.  On the other we have the Borg like unification of the Observers where "resistance is futile".  We also have the disunity of Walter's mind that was purposely partitioned in order to foil the Observers.  The irony there is both Walter and Windmark seek it's re-unification.

Let's start with one the more enjoyable aspects of Fringe and that is their references to pop culture.  Who'd of thought the Observers were fans of Star Trek?  Actually, they are probably more fans of the Borg than they are of the uplifting message of Star Fleet and their optimistic future.  The Borg were all about the homogeniziation of various cultures into one single minded superior race.  Their take on unification was one by force something they have in common with the Observers.  Certainly the Observers consider themselves the superior to our present class of humanity.  Although, according to Windmark, they do tolerate music.  I'm not so sure the Borg would be so tolerant.  But at least the Borg offered their catch phrase as a warning before you were assimilated the Observers just march right in.

I was going to save this "observation" for my next post but since the tie in to the Borg was so notable I thought I'd mention it here.  Pictured above is the Alice Krige version of the Borg Queen.  In the Star Trek movie "First Contact" She referred to Data as "hearing her song" or at least when a Borg unit died she could no longer her their song.  I'm sure its a reference to the telepathic harmonic of the Borg and their single mind.  It's a bit ironic that the Observers have no need for music and merely tolerate it.  The Borg on the other hand relish in their common song and use it as a greater symphony of communication.  For his part Walter Bishop imparted the importance of music and how it helps you alter your perspective.  Something Windmark and the Observers fail to appreciate.  One wonders if the Borg would bypass the Observers for this lack of appreciation.

The theme of unification continued with the Olivia being re-united with her daughter Henrietta.  It was a poignant scene that stood in stark contrast with Peter being re-united with Olivia. There was no physicality to that reunion.  I think I picked up a vibe of remorse between Peter and Olivia but it was obvious that damage had been done.  Walter referred to the aforementioned "damage" when he accused Peter of abandoning the team in time of crisis. It's apparent this is a different Walter as the old avuncular version would have realized the sacrifice needed to protect a love one.  Wasn't that the theme of several seasons of Fringe?  How far would you go to save a loved one?  Has Olivia changed?  She and Walter stayed on mission while Peter separated himself from the group in order to save Henrietta.  Its possible these fissures will persist and they may effect the outcome of the battle to defeat the Observers.  I'm thinking the divide might be so great that a sacrifice will have to be made in order to set things right.  This does not bode well.

Lastly, the re-unification of Walters memory is at issue.   Its been indicated that these memories are lost forever (specifically, the plan to defeat the Observers) and that hope is lost.  Walter mentioned to Windmark during his interrogation that music helped change your perspective if need be.  During the same conversation Windmark taunted Walter with the loss of "hope".  This may be a leap but I think both subjects were deliberately connected by the Fringe writers.  Witness Walter sitting in the cab listening to the Yaz CD.  To me he was gaining a new perspective to the memories that were lost due to the brutality of his torture.  I think the music will provide Walter with the inspiration to re-connect with his memories and hope is not lost after all.  Bad call Windmark. 

One could also extrapolate from this that Walter may realize that the harmonics from music will provide a clue to re-unite with September.  Perhaps the "Beacon" operates on a certain wavelength that will allow September to harmonically converge with it and restore the plan to Walter and the rest.

Unification may be the key to which our Fringe heroes learn to sing together again.  Lets hope that they reach this conclusion before Windmark does and they can orchestrate a brave new world.

Next up, Fringe Fries and more observations!


  1. Morning, Dave!

    Sipping coffee and reading your blog pairs quite nicely in the morning :)

    Being a Star Trek fan, I had to smile at your mention of The Borg. As far as comparisons are concerned, to compare the Borg to the Observers is spot on. You gave many reasons why, so I don't really need to expound on this except to say I agree :)

    In your piece, you mentioned the characters having changed and asked if Olivia had chance. I think the answer to that is absolutely. Each event in our life changes us, helps us to grow as human beings, and the loss of a child is such an unbelievable tragedy, you'd have to be chiseled out of stone not to be affected. Statistically it's so common for two people to grow apart after a tragedy like that. Olivia and Peter are strong enough and their love is strong enough that they'll be fine in the end, but their story post season four but before being ambered makes perfect sense to me. Olivia has always been a fighter. She has never "given up" even in the darkest of hours. She needs to envelop herself in "the quest" in order to heal... Peter on the other hand, is not so strong. I'm not saying he's weak, but I can picture him letting the grief overwhelm him. He's no Olivia.
    The funny thing, is Walter knows what it is to lose a child, so for him to say Peter abandoned them is a bit harsh. Maybe it's because he had his brain sorted out, he wasn't AS compassionate as usual? Peter obviously was in grieving, and I for one would have expected Walter to show more empathy... Even though Olivia is an empath, she was going through it, so she had to sort through her own grief in her own way.

    Anyhoo, I'm rambling and I'm sorry if these thoughts are completely run-on :)


    1. Always good to hear from Sarah Maria.

      I have a counter-point or two to make to your argument concerning Olivia and Peter. First of all, was Olivia always the strong one? She nearly had a nervous breakdown when Walternate imprisoned her in "Over There Part Two" and she crumpled into a sobbing heap when she found her clothes and Peters in the laundry when she got back.

      For his Part, Peter was hunting down shape-shifters with murderous ferocity as in the episode "Reciprocity" from season three. So we actually have a change in roles there.

      So what does it all mean? How about that the writers are inconsistent in their portrayal of their characters. There has been many a time when I've scratched my head at the mood swings and personality changes of our characters. How many times have they changed Walter???!!!

      I would actually like them to re-set the entire series to year one at the end of this abridged season. With time travel you can do anything.

      I want the old avuncular Walter back. The one that was missing brain pieces. He was still a genius!

      Judging from some of the teasers I've seen, little miss Etta will reveal a side of her personality that isn't so sweet. Maybe we should title this season "Personalities on Parade".

      Cheers to my friend!

    2. Hi again!

      I can't disagree with your rebuttal completely. There have been moments through the seasons where the characters seem to be a little schizophrenic with their personality shifts... However, I'm still standing beside my post.
      Olivia did breakdown when locked up in the Redverse, and she also had a breakdown when discovering Peter was sleeping at her place with Fauxlivia. But she's human. She's expected to show SOME weakness (as is Peter) or else she'd be a bore to root for. What I meant, is she always perseveres no matter how many ways the plot throws insane obstacles at her. I'm not saying Peter is a weaker person in general, but I'm a firm believer that our lives and selves are shaped by what we experience, and between the Cortexiphan trials, being kidnapped by Walternate, Jone's tests, growing up with an abusive step father, being a trained FBI agent via the military, she's simply better equipped (training-wise and emotionally) to handle what happened with Etta.
      I hold nothing against Peter. I think what he did was what one would expect from a grieving parent. Peter isn't weak, but he loves his family deeply and it got in the way of the "mission" at hand. We saw a glimpse of it in the season 4 finale. When Olivia had been shot, he completely lost it. Walter had to slap him. Again, this isn't a bad thing. I want someone to love me that much. Peter is amazing, but I think Olivia wouldn't have reacted so poignantly. She'd have kept a level head until her job was done and then grieve when the time was less diar.

      I rambled :)
      I love talking about fringe!
      Cheers, Dave!

    3. Excellent defense of your position Sarah, I quite enjoyed reading it. I now understand your argument more clearly. Maybe we should copy this and send it off to Wyman as a guideline.

      I don't doubt there will be personality shifts in the future. Sometimes I wonder if Olivia's repression will get the better of her. Everyone needs an outlet. Perhaps with Etta in her life again Olivia will discover a side to her personality that even she didn't know she had.

      Then there's Peter going into Papa Bear mode once Etta is threatened again! Grrr!

  2. Dave,
    the theme of unity was indeed all around us in the S5 opener.
    Although im not sure im a fan of the Observers ..or should i say Widmarks ...form of unity. If youre living in 2036 and you are not on board the "unity" train then prepare to have your brain wiped or removed from your body. Uhhh... no thanks!

    I too noticed a slight change in Olivia. When Peter and Olivia were talking (and i was crying) .... i thought she showed great empathy for Peter...she didnt react like the kickass Dunham of old. Peter mentioned that after they lost Etta he wasnt as strong as Olivia ...but i think he was. He chose to leave those he fought for / loved and sacrificed for ... to go and search for his daughter. I think that takes great strength and courage. That was his way of dealing with his grief. Olivias way was to throw herself headlong into her work ...which is something Olivia does well. And i think in doing so she dealt with her grief and understood why Peter was doing what he did. In that brief converstation ... i saw a different Olivia. I saw an Olivia who has come full circle in her emotional growth.(I could be completely wrong ..but thats what it appeared like to me). Perhaps Olivia's emotional growth was another sign of unity in this ep.

    I believe that Peter and Olivia will be ok. Its their headstrong daughter that im a bit more concerned about!!! Given the fact that she may have inherited a healthy dose of "strong will" from both her parents ..and maybe even her grandpa ... oh she's in for a lot of trouble. I hope Peter and Olivia can rein her in somewhat because she difinitely does not want to run foul of Widmark. To quote Luke Skywalker .."i have a bad feeling about this."

    Like you Dave, i too think that music is the key to Walters memories reconnecting or reuniting. Music has played a part in Fringe right from S1 so i expect it to be somewhat poignant throughout this season. I think Walter may have connected music to the clues that the team need to find in order to eradicate or at least overcome the Observers. John Noble mentioned in an interview that the Bishops have to find a "clue a week" ... in order to complete a plan that will foil the Observers. I think music is a key to these clues ...and i think the music is tied to Etta when she was a little girl. Or perhaps im just reading too much into Walters comment to Etta "to me you will forever be a little girl".

    I could go on for hours about this episode. But i will stop. Suffice to say that once again the cast amazed me with their brilliant acting. The subtleties in their emotions were on full display here ...and i was truly in awe.

    1. *Ugh...just noticed my spelling mistakes ..hmmm..*conversation ...*definitely!

    2. Reading your feedback has just given me a thought! What if the music of the Carousel triggers something in Walter? It was a shared memory between Henrietta and Walter and it may provide an important clue. What do you think?

      So you think you picked out something in Olivia's reaction also eh? As an actress, Anna Torv is a master of subtleties. It is one of her strengths. Some of her best work comes from non verbal communication.

      I agree that Liv and Peter have to be concerned about Henrietta. She comes across as so sweet and compassionate but she has no compunction about gunning down Observers or Loyalists. I bet she will even gun down that Loyalist that was flirting with her near the end of the episode. Gulp!

      Thanks for the reply RPR!

  3. Hi Dave,

    Great post! After 20+ years of Observer rule, it’s time to put the band back together. I’m sure that theme will continue as we add Nina and Broyles (and dare we hope other familiar faces?) back into the fold.

    It struck me when they found the thought unifier device that if Walter had this in season 1 things would have sped along much more quickly. Since he left the psych ward Walter’s memories have been in (seeming) disarray. For 4 years he has accessed the right memories or sussed out solutions through triggers like music, comfort food, old toys, etc. His brain has a non-linear, non-logical filing system and he, September, and the rest of the Fringe team would know that. September had to know that the Observers could likely interrogate him like this someday, looking for a pattern in his thoughts. Whatever he hid in Walter’s brain had to be accessed by Walter’s unique rather disorganized mental filing system, one that would appear to the Observers, like music, as just noise. They might find fragments of the plan, but not the unified whole because Walter’s brain doesn’t store information that way. What better way/place to hide it? I think using the thought unifier device will not result in him remembering segments of the plan clearly, and never would have. Instead I think it will activate his memory triggers. Maybe it will cause him to start humming a song he can’t get out of his head, or have a sudden craving for a particular food that will lead him and the Fringe team to the pieces of the plan, just as they always have.

    The whole importance of music and your discussion of the Borg reminded me of the Battlestar Galactica episode Crossroads Part 2. It was one of the most powerful uses of music I’ve ever seen on TV and fully fits with the unifying theme. Interesting though that here music is important to the humans who haven’t forgotten how powerful it can be.

    Peeking out of the amber in Boston, Lynne

    1. So.

      Bell took out pieces of Walters brain to make things safer for us all and from that point on Walters brain worked in non linear fashion and he was a nicer guy. In 2036 Simon repairs Walter's brain and he is whole again but bitter. But in 2015 September puts scrambled information into an already fried brain. Did Simon screw things up ala "the plan" by fixing Walter when Walter could have achieved retrieval by his normal associative means? Wait a minute, this is season four Walter anyway not the original. Sigh.

      Give me a hint on that BSG episode you are referring to. My mind feels a little non linear at the moment.

    2. I get a headache trying to sort out the various iterations of Walter, pun intended. I'm thinking that Windmark's probing reset him to more or less the befuddled non-complete brain Walter we have known since the beginning, alternate history aside. I think if "the plan" was ever in there at all, all he has left now is his associative means of accessing where the peices of the new machine might be hidden. That is what the unifier will help him unlock. September would have been smart to not share all of it with him for safety anyway. I think this was all a convoluted way to return us to the same Fringe team modus operandi that works so well. Something pops into Walter's head that he can't shake, the team helps him interpret what it might mean, they find a clue. Observers would have a hard time sorting through this type of memory.

      BSG hint: All Along the Watchtower remix.

    3. Ha, I like your line of thinking. Especially the reset part. I had someone at work remark to me today she doesn't like the direction the show is taking. She better get used to it. It is this story line or nothing!

      Thanks for the new perspective for viewing Fringe this season. I didn't even have to listen to Watchtower to understand it!

      (Sox in amber till spring and Valentine sent to another dimension.)

  4. "And why should I help you?"; "Because we're family." - Revolution. Seems like the zeitgeist is moving in that direction.

    Musically, the group, Yaz(oo) is affiliated with a band named, Erasure.


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