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Some Predictions About Fringe

When you begin a show late in the game, it’s hard not to be spoiled about plot developments.  I go to a lot of pop culture type websites.  You read things.  They lodge in your mind and wait to pop back up when they’re gonna mean something to you.  I started watching Mad Men, for example, after season two had already ended its first run; I knew how season one was going to end for Peggy, and that when Don and Betty separated in the middle of season two that they’d be back together by its end.  At least enough to conceive another baby together.

So right now I’m watching the first season of Fringe, for the first time, though two full seasons have already aired on FOX.  I know that at some point in those two seasons (spoilers and speculation ahead!),

an alternate universe is going to factor in.  I know that there are alternate versions of at least some of the characters because on the TWOP forums I keep seeing people refer to “Alt-Olivia.”

Currently I’m just a handful of episodes away from the close of the first season, and though I’m not quite hooked yet, I’m content to pass empty summer evenings in the show’s company.  Even four and one half episodes’ worth like I did yesterday after work (missed out on the half episode by falling asleep on the couch—now I’m sitting here next day wondering how that one ended.  Was Olivia astral-projecting herself or what?).

But anyway, back to this alternate reality thing.  I don’t know much about it, and I haven’t reached it yet.  But I think the show might be setting it up (or teasing it, at the very least).  The characters keep having these strange, brief conflicts of information that are unresolved within the episode.  For example, in “Inner Child,” they find a silent feral kid living in a crawlspace under a building and while they test his brain, Peter hands over an old GI Joe of his to play with.  It’s strange, he comments, but he remembers the scar on the toy’s face being on the other side.  End of conversation.  Never brought up again.

Or the time Walter told a story about Peter, as a boy, being extremely ill to the point of hospitalization.  “I don’t remember any of this,” says Peter.  Yet Walter has this vivid recollection of it.  Is Walter crazy and delusional?  Yeah, kind of, which is presumably how we viewers are meant to read the scene—and also probably why Peter drops the subject without much argument.

People who don’t study narratives for a living are probably quite used to just writing things off.  “Well, this happened, then this happened, then they had a random conversation that didn’t mean anything, then…”  But in literary studies, we’re taught to look for unity—to tie things together thematically and to not discount anything the writer sees fit to include.  Conversations that are left hanging stick out, they draw attention to themselves.  It happens in sloppy writing, of course, but skilled writers know how to utilize this technique like countdown clocks.  “Discriminating viewers pay attention!  This will be important later!”  Is it possible, then, that these seemingly throwaway moments are planting seeds for later revelations?

I don’t know if I’m right about this theory, and whether these moments are, in fact, foreshadowing.  They could easily be nothing.  But, if I am right, I love this.  If I am right, this show owns.  I’ll keep you all posted on that.

(Anyone who tries to spoil me in the comments gets banned!)


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