A friend of mine, who I recently inducted into the world of “Fringe”, asked me to explain the “Pattern” to her. I contemplated giving an answer involving conspiracies, strange events, scientific endeavour and corporate might. But I decided to provide a more concise opinion:
“The Pattern is Hell, and some just like it hot”
“Think back 20 years – imagine yourself then, imagining yourself now – 20 years into the future. In your wildest imagination, could you ever think you’d be here?” – (Walter Bishop, “Safe”)
My case in point — “Unleashed”. Not the most patternesque of episodes, but one which reached back into the extensive back catalogue of Walter’s past explorations, and indeed, exploitations. Today, our mad scientist looks into the eyes of a monster he ‘could’ have created, but unlike John Locke, what he saw was far from “beautiful” — instead, he saw his own beastly reflection.
The Pattern is hell on earth (possibly earths), and we’re all a part of it — past-Walter didn’t consider that he might be part of a society, one who suffer from his amoral outlook on life.
Better Faster Stronger
“Work it harder make it better,
Do it faster makes us stronger,
More than ever, hour after hour,
Work is never over” (*Daft Punk – “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”)
That Walter’s transgenic works never survived gestation is not really the point. He attempted to push the limits of possibility – mixing and matching different creatures with a view to making them “better, faster, stronger”. Is this lending God a hand, or sneering at his ‘imperfection’? The pursuit for perfection can be a slippery slope – why stop at animals when your own child disappoints you? It’s something which has carried over with Walter to this very day – constantly nitpicking at Peter’s faults and his failure to make more of himself – “Yeah, Peter, why commit to anything when you can just fake it?”. When you’re obsessed with perfection, everything around you seems so…inadequate.
But if you don’t aim for the stars, what’s the point?
“Double, Double, Toil And Trouble”
“Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and howlet’s wing,–
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.” (Macbeth)
Perhaps it’s unfair to compare Walter to a witch, but I can picture him 20 years ago, stirring his cauldron of exotic creatures with a wry grin on his face and a twinkle in his eye — “It’s alive..it’s aliiiive!” Maybe Dr. Frankenstein is a better comparison, but I’d pay good money to see Walter dressed up as a witch. I sense he’d enjoy it.
Some might argue that hybridising “the best of the best” is no different from cloning a sheep, but one has to look at the intention behind transgenic actions. It’s difficult to see any good in creating a Lion/Snake/Octopus hybrid — other than to prove that it can be done, of course.
The day might come when popular myth turns into a very real reality. Which would beg the question: What came first — the myth or the truth?
“The Pursuit of Happiness”
“It was right then that I started thinking about Thomas Jefferson on the Declaration of Independence and the part about our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And I remember thinking how did he know to put the pursuit part in there? That maybe happiness is something that we can only pursue and maybe we can actually never have it. No matter what. How did he know that? ” (Chris Gardener – The Pursuit of Happiness)
Walter is often viewed as a man on the edge, on the fringes of society. Some might argue that his son should be more patient with him, but when we see how capable that man is, it’s difficult to not share Peter’s frustration. Peter’s love (for his father) is, understandably, tempered by the worry that he is fostering the devil.
Ironically, in some circles, Walter is seen as a God amongst mortals — the awe with which David Jones greeted Walter was eye-opening. Walter found it disconcerting, he may not remember everything about his past, but he knows that he is a cautionary tale. Society has suffered the consequences of his negligence, as as he. No wonder Walter grabs happiness where he can.
It could be argued that perfection is an illusion. The pursuit may be one that elevates mankind above the current standard, but perfection itself can never be obtained. But it must be difficult for Walter to give up on his dreams– after all, if we are not here to test the very limits of the possible, why tempt us with knowledge? This must be Walter’s line of thinking. He has picked the Tree of Knowledge bare and discovered that eating all of those fruits has only led to thirst..a thirst for more, a thirst to be first — as he himself said: “I don’t think [of the consequences], never have. Don’t know if I can. [It’s] not who I am”.
It’s an interesting line that Walter toes. In my eyes, he’s both the hero and the villain, the “pattern” is part of his own hell yet he has the ability to quell its flames. He’s not what I’d call an evil person, just someone who lost his way a long time ago. But I’m a firm believer in redemption. That we are put on this earth to make mistakes, but to learn from our them, to seek redemption. Everyone has their own challenges to overcome, it’s part of the journey..the pursuit.
In truth, Walter’s demons are not hybrid monsters, but himself. How can he battle Cerberus when he probably created it!?
“All falls down”
“Oh when it all, it all falls down
I’m telling you ohh, it all falls down”
For Walter to conquer his monster it will take more than a dragon slaying or self-inflicted poisoning. He must teach and educate — pass on responsible wisdom, not to bury our heads in the sand, but to help lead mankind down a safer path.
Easier said than done. How can he tell others like him — the Joneses, Esterbrook’s, Penrose’s and Fischer’s — to conform to society’s ‘norms’? How can he quench his thirst for exploration when he knows that so much is possible? It’s like telling a bird not to fly, or Icarus not to soar. Once you’ve seen over the rainbow, how can you go back? How can you expect others to suddenly do the same?
Maybe it’s too much to expect anyone to have responsibility in their actions, perhaps soc-I-ety comes second to the individual? Maybe it’s too late to step on the brakes? Perhaps we’re all, in our own ways, too “unleashed” to ever come back down?
Maybe it’s in our nature to fly? Science providing the vehicle and myth providing the inspiration.
As an aside — there have been A LOT of references to ‘underground’ (AKA Hell) so far this season. Here are just a few that I can pull out of the air:
- The cylinder came from underground
- Robert Bishop’s grave
- The ‘Inner Child’ was found underground
- Our trio going underground into the sewers to lure the beast
Not enough to build a proper theory on yet, but the writers could be dropping clues, either on purpose or unintentionally.