Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fringe-You Had Me At "Tripping His Brains Out"

If you haven't heard me speak of my love of Fringe, you haven't been listening or reading this blog (well I've done at least one post).  I don't know why more people didn't watch it the first season.  I can't fathom the idea that there are people who dropped out of its phenomenal second season and I absolutely hope that this third season, which is shaping up to be a complete and total mind-warp, gains viewership.  If you know me and live near me, please feel free to borrow the first and second seasons; it's a show that is quickly earning its place in my all-time favorite shows list.  That being said, this post is a lot about Fringe, a little about something else that has been on my mind and happened to, by the curious ways of the universe, weave itself into an intersection of my thoughts and poof!  here's the blog about it.  Because what else am I going to do, write it in a diary?  There will be spoilers involved, so if you're honestly interested in Fringe, please don't let me ruin it for you.  Stop now.  I mean it.  It's you're last chance.  You've been warned.



Here's the thing about this fourth episode of the third season:  I knew it was going to be a good one.  As soon as Walter started to de-pants in his "classroom" and Peter walked in, nonplussed by this behavior, and calmly said to Nina, "You know he's tripping is brains out right now," I thought, yes, this will be a fantastic episode.  Appropriately titled "Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep"it begged the question, what happens when not-so-humans start acting human, or more essentially, what is it that really makes us human?  I'm about to get a little existential so as Samuel L. Jackson would say, "hold on to your butts".
At the same time, I'm just (re)beginning to read Chuck Klosterman's "Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs" and his first entry in that book, is, in my warped mind, dealing with a very similar idea.  It's about us, humanity, coming to terms with the idea of a fictionalized representation of love.  One for which I have fallen, hook, line and sinker.  Or at least, whose spell I was under for a very long time and am trying to sort out now, but only after some events that have resulted in a slightly more jaded outlook than I was prepared for at 17.  Klosterman's argument is that our ideals of true happiness, in terms of relationships, can never be achieved because, as a society, we have deluded ourselves into believing that romantic notions are the same as love.  That, love songs, and to use his exact example, Lloyd Dobler, have set the standards so high that our satisfaction can never be absolute.  I see his point.  If I'm listening to U2 sing "With or Without You" (the fantasy), I'm not really into the idea of finding someone's toenail clipplings on the bathroom floor (the reality).  The reasons it works in songs and books and movies is that those all have finite endings.  There's a cutoff point, and we're all cutoff before the frustrations start.  Maybe if "With or Without You" had gone on just a while longer into the relationship, it would have just been called "Without Anyone".
But here's the convergence.  This week's episode of Fringe was based in the idea that emotions are humanity's crowning glory, and, being an emotional person, I tend to agree with that.  I'm a heart over brain girl, when it ultimately comes down to it.  The problem is my brain puts up such a fuss.  This was an episode where it was firmly "the greater good" vs. "individual happiness" and we're all inclined to agree that when that's the situation, the greater good should usually win out, unless it's being preached from a dictator's pulpit.  Then it's time to pack up and get a new passport for sure.  But what happens when those ever present emotions, manufactured or not, get in the way.
When Walter was trying to find a way to detect the data center of the shapeshifter, he realized that emotional ties were the only way to accurately find it.  The SVH (Shapeshifter Van Horn) had no reaction to ordinary, inanimate objects (like the toy car) but that his neurons sparked like that outlet in A Christmas Story when shown the photo of his "wife".  Essentially, that the shapeshifter had managed to manufacture such emotion that it, in turn, became real emotion.  Not perfect emotion, but real emotion.  I'd be inclined to argue that while, perhaps Klosterman is right about the fact that our (my) goals are set too high, that is not to say that there will not be moments of complete satisfaction.  It's true that moments do not a lifetime make, but it's also true that I'd rather have moments of complete happiness than a lifetime of accepted inadequate satisfaction.
Thus bringing me to the ending of the episode.  Sure, I'm skipping a lot here, and I'm sorry about that, but I'm trying to make this as cohesive as possible.  In reality, I probably lost most readers around paragraph one and a half. The ending of the episode ** Major Spoiler** Peter and Olivia finally getting together, should have had me whooping and hollering like some crazed Texas Ranger fan.  But it didn't. There was something so wrong about it, that I wanted to stop it.  Make Peter see that this isn't the way it's supposed to happen.  Because what Fringe has done so brilliantly is to create two completely separate characters using just one fantastic actor/actress.  I like Faux-Livia.  Really I do, or I did.  But now, now she's sticking her nose (for want of better euphemisms) where it doesn't belong.  And I think it only gets to me because she KNOWS that she's doing it.
Olivia in the other universe, isn't really Olivia either.  She's been brainwashed, or to use some pretty adequate language from The Hunger Games, she's been hijacked.  Her body has been taken over by memories and instincts that almost completely go against her nature.  It's this lack of knowing herself that makes it ok for Olivia to be with Faux-livia's boyfriend, because she doesn't know any better.  Perhaps if I believed that Faux-livia really did have feelings for Peter, and if Peter KNEW that it wasn't Olivia, that would have made everything ok.  But it's the idea of manufactured emotion, the idea of pretending, that made it seem so wrong.
And that's why I love Fringe. Because when other shows would have left you with an ending that had you believing true love was possible, Fringe plays by a different, more twisted set of rules.  You might end up asking yourself what does "true love" really mean?  Are Peter and Olivia meant to be together because they're fated by some turn of the universe, "because you belong with me" as Olivia stated in last season's finale?  The sap in me believed every second of that finale last year.  Cheered when she said that, because ultimately, it's what we all want isn't it?  To belong WITH someone, not TO someone.  But if it's so easy to be fooled by the physical similarity when what's underneath is so different, then what part is it that makes us who we are? When will Peter finally understand why "Olivia" is acting so different?  And if he really knew her to begin with, wouldn't he have known by now?  Do any of these questions even factor in to why a guy would go over to a girl's apartment in the middle of the night?  Maybe in the end, we're all just searching for those moments of total happiness.  Total happiness and satisfaction exist, it's just in moments and not lifetimes.  So maybe it's not so much the expectations that we've gotten wrong, it's just the duration.

Or are these the incoherent ramblings of a total nerd?

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