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.
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).
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)?