Fringe: “6:02 AM EST”

Destroyer of Worlds


Fox Network, Fridays, 9 PM

“6:02 AM EST”

Written by David Wilcox & Josh Singer & Graham Roland

Directed by Jeannot Swarc

“I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” — Bhagavad Gita, chapter 11, verse 32.

After last week’s precedent-shattering excursion into fantasy, we return to a world on the brink of collapse, a world whose destruction Walter blames himself for. Vortexes are opening up, as in the Other Universe; in the opening sequences we see a herd of sheep, along with their shepherds abiding in the fields, disappear. At the same moment (6:02 AM EST), Olivia is waking in Peter’s arms, contemplating the promise implicit in dawns, and encountering Walter walking about naked in the house. Because it’s Tuesday, and he does that on Tuesdays. Clearly, Walter is edging towards madness. In the Other Universe, Fauxlivia is bonding with her son, whom she has named Henry after the taxi driver who delivered him. Called to a Fringe event, the team is told to stand down before they arrive, rousing not only her suspicions but Lincoln Lee’s. She decides her only route to the truth leads back to our world, and attempts to cross over; she hijacks some devices from AltBrandon but is caught by security before she can cross. Meanwhile, the Doomsday Machine on our side has turned on, and Peter thinks he can shut it off. He’s wrong.

“It’s like it’s been calling out to me.” – Peter

I was glad to see Peter taking a more active role in the Doomsday project, which got put on hold for a couple of episodes. He knows it was made for him, designed around him, and feels a tremendous sense of responsibility. Walter has finally resigned himself to the idea that he may, once again, lose his son. This time he will not try to stop it, but is suffering enormously. As he tells his son, “I would have to sacrifice you to fix the problems I’ve created.” We’ve been a little short-changed on the Peter Bishop story in the last couple of episodes, so it was nice to see the little moments: a sleepy-eyed Peter waking up with Olivia, his grim determination as he walks to the machine, his quiet understanding of his father’s agony. His willingness to sacrifice himself shines through the calm façade.

“I asked you for a sign and you sent it to me.” — Walter

That sacrificial, even Biblical theme, weaves through this entire story. I am not sure it’s a coincidence that this show airs during Passover, on Good Friday. From our initial opening, which echoes the Ten Plagues (attacks on sheep, clouds of locusts, mighty winds) to the son willing to die for the good of the world, to Walter’s sudden attack of religiosity in the hospital chapel, we are fed some not-so-subtle religious cues. I’m not at all comfortable with this sudden shoehorning of religious themes into the show; it smacks of a certain level of pandering, almost on the level of product placement. It seems particularly out of character for Walter to resort to prayer, but I suppose anyone, no matter how rigidly intellectual and scientific, can find himself falling back on religion at a moment of crisis. In fact Walter himself quotes Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atomic bomb, who at the moment of the Trinity blast found himself quoting from the Bhagavad Gita, as above. To call on higher powers when your own are exhausted is perhaps natural, but Walter’s scene still felt forced to me. Perhaps because it played out as the last stage in his emotional catharsis, the last breaking down of what he was; I would rather see religion as the bootstrap that pulls him out of the morass, not the last feather than knocks him into it. But that’s me.

“I chose to give up my son so that you can keep yours.” — Walternate

While Peter suits up for the Doomsday machine, Olivia is desperately looking for Sam Weiss, the bowling-alley guru who has been acting as Yoda to her Luke Skywalker. Full of cryptic messages, he gets one that really went off the charts: the bowling balls in his alley start knocking against one another. He goes into his locked room, opens a locked box, and takes out a Newton’s cradle, the ball-and-wire toy that demonstrates Isaac Newton’s conservation of momentum law. It sits motionless for a moment, then begins clicking on its own. Where is the initial energy coming from? Clearly, from outside our universe. Sam then appears at odd moments in the story, using various devices to see opening vortexes, windows to the Other Universe, and other harbingers of the apocalypse. I finally figured out that he’s tracking intrusions of energy from the Other Universe into ours, including the initiation of the Doomsday Machine. Walternate turned it on using blood collected from Henry, Peter’s son by Fauxlivia. Unlike Walter, Walternate is sacrificing his actual, biological son, knowing that Peter will die with our universe when the Doomsday Machine fulfills its task. In the end, Peter’s restrained farewells and Walter’s anxious tears mean nothing; this noble gesture is derailed when the Doomsday Machine rejects Peter, flinging him to the ground and giving him a concussion.

“I was never good at letting you go.” – Walter

This episode felt like the first part of a chess game, as the pieces are arranged on the board. The big move is coming up, the endgame that will decide who wins and who loses. Sam has already indicated that the universe holding the Olivia Peter chooses will win; does this mean he, too, will lose a son? Even one he knows nothing about? Because the opening scene of this episode made it pretty clear he’s chosen our Olivia. In any event, we’re gearing up for the last couple of episodes, and I can feel the momentum building. When it hits, I wonder what it will knock into motion?

“I changed. That should matter.” — Walter

The New York Times recently named Fringe as an example supporting its theory that DVR time-shifting is benefitting low-rated shows. According to the article, Live+7 ratings (broadcast day ratings plus those viewings over the next 7 days on DVR) raises the profile of a struggling show. This is the time of year when networks make cancel/renewal decisions (don’t worry, Fringe has already been renewed for next year). The Times says that Kevin Reilly, head of Fox Networks, would have been considered “borderline delusional” for renewing the show based on broadcast-night ratings alone. Whether this means renewal decisions in future will take a look at time-shifted viewing as a rule remains to be seen. For now, it’s just good to know that our Fringe universe will not come to an end next month.