Walternate is not Evil

For those of you unfa­mil­iar with the show Fringe, this post will make lit­tle sense. Fringe real­ly isn’t a show that lends itself to expla­na­tion.  In fact, in part, we’re pick­ing apart the rather sim­plis­tic expla­na­tion of some of the show’s recent twists and turns by a news arti­cle that tries very hard to explain the show and only more spec­tac­u­lar­ly fails.  So… watch some fringe, and then come back.

fringe-walt-and-walternate

Wal­ter and Wal­ter­nate from Fringe

My wife com­ment­ed on a Toron­to Star arti­cle that (for the pur­pos­es of this dis­cus­sion) labeled “Wal­ter­nate” as an evil twin of Wal­ter in the series Fringe.  There are many inter­est­ing things to com­pare between the two Wal­ters, and indeed, they are played by the same actor, but Wal­ter­nate is not evil.

To be fair, read­ing the arti­cle for myself, it labels Walternate’s uni­verse as evil (maybe sim­ply as short­hand), but Wal­ter­nate cer­tain­ly embod­ies many of the pri­ma­ry themes of this harsh­er uni­verse. But “evil” is an inap­pro­pri­ate short­hand for both the uni­verse and Wal­ter­nate. While free­doms are very obvi­ous­ly cur­tailed in a US sur­veil­lance state that requires ID (“show me”) cards, one could also eas­i­ly argue that the fic­tion isn’t that much stranger than the truth of our own exis­tence. More per­ti­nent­ly, the show is care­ful to show that the alter­nate uni­verse is inhab­it­ed by peo­ple who are just as “nor­mal.”

Per­haps, too, this has a direct anal­o­gy to Wal­ter­nate.  His char­ac­ter is torn not only by the loss of his son (to Wal­ter and our uni­verse) but also by the knowl­edge that the act of abduct­ing his son (by Wal­ter of this uni­verse) has very much con­demned his uni­verse to a ghast­ly destruc­tion.  John Noble real­ly nails both char­ac­ters giv­ing them dif­fer­ent but very com­pa­ra­ble per­son­al­i­ties.  Both Wal­ters are dri­ven by a desire to pro­tect or even “save” Peter (Walternate’s son).

fringe-olivia-and-altolivia

Olivia and AltO­livia or Olivial­ter­nate from Fringe

In a slight­ly more com­plex plot twist, both Olivia’s spend some time pre­tend­ing to be the “oth­er” Olivia — that is spend­ing some time in the uni­verse that is not their own.  While both Olivia’s sense of duty and respon­si­bil­i­ty pre­vent them from defect­ing to the oth­er cause, both Olivia’s also show com­pas­sion for the “oth­er” uni­verse.  Nei­ther char­ac­ter is evil and nei­ther is their uni­verse.

I would be far to sim­ple a mat­ter to resolve the show’s main con­flict if one or oth­er uni­verse were evil.  If the alter­nate uni­verse were evil, then destroy­ing it to save our own would seem very rea­son­able.  Such is the lan­guage of war: only by dehu­man­iz­ing the oth­er side can we ratio­nal­ize the killing we under­take.  As far as there is a war between uni­vers­es, both sides demo­nize the oth­er in an attempt to “win”… but…

Tak­en in con­text, both Wal­ter and Wal­ter­nate have cho­sen actions that while ques­tion­able at one lev­el are very rea­son­able for the char­ac­ter at anoth­er.  These actions aren’t evil, but dri­ven by a need to pro­tect their son and their world.  Tak­en in con­text, both Olivia’s also take steps to pro­tect their world but they also con­sid­er the pos­si­bil­i­ty that one world might not need to make that ulti­mate sac­ri­fice.  Will we end up see­ing a res­o­lu­tion that swaps the lan­guage of war (dehu­man­iza­tion) for the lan­guage of peace (coop­er­a­tion)?

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2 Responses to Walternate is not Evil

  1. BrandOn says:

    I see that this was writ­ten before the con­clu­sion of the third sea­son… I agree with what you said. The wal­ter on this side chose to have peices of his brain because he was fol­low­ing in the path of wal­ter­nate.
    Wal­ter­nate, at the end of the 3rd sea­son proves to be one evil SOB. Of course the eposode takes place in the future, but it is here where he decides to sab­o­tage our world for revenge. And as wal­ter said, he caused the death of thou­sands on acci­dent, while Wal­ter­nate did it on pur­pose.

    • dgilbert says:

      Well… in a way, though, that Wal­ter­nate is far removed from the Wal­ter­nate that we have again at the begin­ning of the fourth sea­son. He is also struck with unbe­liev­able grief that he believes to be at the hands of “our” uni­verse. More than real­ly evil, I think that Wal­ter­nate, even in the alter­nate future of the last episodes of the third sea­son, is not evil, but sim­ply suf­fer­ing deeply. We don’t even real­ly have all the tools to eval­u­ate how he has suf­fered — the details of the last days of his uni­verse are unwrit­ten.

      I was say he was trag­ic rather than evil… in the clas­si­cal sense.

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