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Fringe Season 4: 5 Questions About “Forced Perspective”

Admit it: We’ve all pondered the question of whether fate is some kind of unstoppable, unavoidable juggernaut, or whether we have control over our destinies at one point or another… but as this week’s Fringe made clear, that question has a little more urgency to it when someone has told you that your fate is that you have to die in order for everything else to survive. Five questions about “Forced Perspective,” anyone?

What Is Massive Dynamic Up To?
I know, I know, I’ve asked that before. But yet, discovering that Massive Dynamic is apparently rounding up children with superhuman abilities, as was heavily suggested in this episode, adds a whole new level to whatever Nina and her cohorts are up to. It’s not just messing with Olivia, or dealing with David Robert Jones on the alternate Earth; it’s also herding up mutant kids like some rogue Professor Xavier. For some reason, my first thought is that Massive Dynamic is gathering up some kind of army for some reason… Perhaps to invade alternate Earths? Or is that just too ridiculous for words? Possibly, so here’s something else to wonder about, as brought on by Olivia telling Nina at the end of the episode that she is the closest thing to a mother than Olivia has: What if Nina is behind Olivia’s mother’s death, so that she got to control Olivia…?

I can’t tell if that idea is going too far down the rabbit hole or not. Don’t worry, I’m going to get much further before this column is done.

Why Did Peter Tell Olivia That The Observers Couldn’t Be Wrong?
We know that the Observers can be wrong, if only because there was a schism when one of them saved (our) Peter’s life earlier (If they can disagree, then doesn’t it follow that they can be wrong? If they were all infallible, why would they have different ideas about what to do?), and we also know that Peter knows this… So why did he tell Olivia that the Observers couldn’t be wrong when predicting the future? (My guess, genuinely, is forgetful writers and wanting to underscore the potential threat of Olivia’s death.) Also, more to the point, why is no one apparently considering the (at this point, perfectly reasonable from their point of view) idea that the Observer that told Olivia that she had to die was lying…? There’s a lot of surrendering to the idea of predestination going on this week, weirdly enough considering the outcome of this episode’s A plot.

Was The Girl An Observer Yet To Happen?
Here’s another crazy theory: What if the girl who could see the future died because her vision didn’t come true? I mean, yes, I heard that explanation about the stroke and everything, but I couldn’t help but wonder… would she still have died if everything had happened as she foresaw it? But that death scene also made me think Hmm. She’s looking awful pale, there. And her eyes are looking odd, too (Yes, I know it’s the blood from the stroke, in retrospect) In fact, she kind of looks like an Observer, a bit… Which, if you think about the fact that the Observers have some strange relationship with time (They exist at all points simultaneously, like Peter said? I remain unconvinced, if only because we’ve seen them interact and be shot, which would imply some linear progression), so… what if the Observers’ origin is that they have a similar reaction to the ripples of events as this girl did?

Told you I’d have some weird theories this week. Which reminds me…

Is Olivia Peter’s Way Home?
This Olivia doesn’t know that she has the ability to cross into alternate Earths just yet, thanks to the nefarious dealings of Nina and Massive Dynamic, but those “migraines” are definitely getting stronger. Is this because of what’s happening when she’s being experimented on, or the result of Peter’s presence? Is Peter going to somehow (unknowingly?) jumpstart Olivia’s abilities, resulting in both her death and Peter’s return to his own timeline?

So, About That Whole Fate or Free Will Thing…?
…And, of course, the big question from “Forced Perspective”: Do we get to choose our futures, or are we locked into a fate decided by some cosmic, unknowable force? The episode itself tried to have it both ways: The destruction of the courthouse was averted (We have some control!), but Olivia’s death can’t be avoided (We have no control!). What was curiously absent from the episode was any discussion about the fact that, because we know that Fringe takes place in a multiverse filled with infinite Earths as described by Walter way back when, it’s an entirely moot question, because every possibility will happen somewhere – The idea of a particular “fate” is ridiculous, because in some other Earth, that fate won’t occur, but at the same time, the idea of free will is also an illusion, because any decision made on that particular Earth may be voluntary to the person making the decision, but will also be happening because that’s the Earth that it happens on, with other decisions already happening on other Earths. If that makes sense.

Which is to say: In the Fringe universe, there is fate and free will, because there’s also no fate or free will; everyone gets to choose their own adventure, but the choices they make will be fated, if only because ultimately fate has allowed for every single possibility in one of an infinite number of realities.

…You know, if I keep this train of thought up, there’s a chance that I might end up having a particularly Walter Bishop view of reality. Perhaps I should just skip the middle of the process and buy myself a a cow right now…


  • Coryjameson

    I didn’t get to watch it.  What’s everyone’s rating of this episode?

  • Tomalak Geret’kal

    Interestingly enough, that’s pretty much how I feel about real life.

  • Indyswain

    This analysis is sick! Nice work Graeme.  I’m buying it all. 

  • comicfan

    Anything that happens, happens.

    Anything that, in happening, causes something else to happen, causes something else to happen.
    Anything that, in happening, causes itself to happen again, happens again.
    It doesn’t necessarily do it in chronological order, though.

    so says the guide

  • Tomfitz1

    Think you’re overthinking it a tad too much, Mr. Millan?
    It’s just an entertaining tv series.

    Maybe you’re an “observer” in disguise?

  • drhiphop85

    One of the best things to do with sci-fi television, movies, and reading is to let your mind wander. So yes it is “just an entertaining TV series” but the thing that makes sci-fi such a rich genre is that it encourages you to look beyond the surface.

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s obvious in cases like this that you don’t actually have five questions a lot of the time. Your audience is smart enough to just read a simple article about the episode instead of sticking to this played out top 5 gimmick.

  • David

    I always wondered about the small kid in the episode “Inner Child” and whether or not he was a future Observer 

  • numberthirty

    Observers have all been male/bald.

  • Tomalak Geret’kal

    Only so far.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve never even considered the possibility that Olivia might be the one to help Peter cross back to his own world. But then again, so far each world has been shown as one part of a pair of worlds. Walter could only look into one other world with his alternate world viewer device. Can Olivia really jump to a third different world?

    Maybe Peter just needs to set right what once went wrong before he can leap to another… oh wait, wrong show.

  • Tomalak Geret’kal

    I believe we’re supposed to view timelines as orthogonal to parallel universes.

  • LightningBug

    exactly! wait what does orthogonal mean again?

  • Tomalak Geret’kal

    They’re different axes. You can have different timelines each with its different parallel worlds. So we’ve already covered that there are parallel universes, and now the show is exploring multiple _timelines_ which, I believe, we’re supposed to consider as being another layer on top of the existing mythology. Basically.

  • Anonymous

    Orthogonal? As in all parallel universes move at the same speed on the time axis? So if it’s 11am on the 21st of April 2012 in the current Olivia’s world, it will be the same on the other side, as well as the original parallel universes? Are you trying to say that Peter can’t travel through time? ‘Cause although I said it as a joke in my previous post, Peter did travel through time once last season, 15 years into the future, even though it was just his mind that did the leaping. And in this episode, he said all observers exist simultaneously in time, which I take to mean that the observers are omniscience, possessing knowledge of past and future, including the alternate versions. So information can clearly bypass the boundary of time.

    Honestly, the real reason Season 4 started this way was because the observers wanted to erase Peter’s existence, since he wasn’t supposed to live. Which in a way, mean to set right what once went wrong. So I guess my joke isn’t too far-fetched. Haha.

  • Tomalak Geret’kal

    Um no, that’s not what I’m saying at all.

    I’ll re-write my original comment: we’re supposed to view the _notion_ of distinct timelines as orthogonal to the _notion_ of distinct, parallel, universes.

  • Gentega

    There was an entire episode devoted to a watcher changing events merely because he wanted to save the life of a girl he thought was nice. Peter did not know about that; Walter did. So….destiny changes, Watchers change stuff, and what’s destined is obviously Peter’s mission to save Olivia.

  • Anonymous

    Erm… To me, one is time, one is space. The part I don’t get is, what made you suddenly consider that the show is heading in this direction? There hasn’t been any time-traveling this season. Premonition and seeing the future shouldn’t count. Well… Maybe I’m just not thinking 4th dimensionally. I’ll just keep watching, and be pleasantly surprised if it turns out that you’re right.

  • Tomalak Geret’kal

    Well, there’s been no forwards or backwards temporal displacement per se, but some sideways displacement…. in that the entire season is set in an alternate timeline…. one in which Peter died at Reiden Lake. The Peter from S1-3’s timeline was yanked out of that and into this S4 timeline. He’s trying to get back. Note that both universes exist and are reachable in this “new” timeline; hence my comment that the distinction between timelines and the distinction between universes is separate. Your comparison of time vs space reflects that nicely, I think.

  • BishopBell

    Don’t forget one thing:  Olivia did die.