Reality Bytes & Dream States


“The Equation” provided yet more evidence of technology hybridizing realities and dreams, hopes and fears, obsessions and possessions. In a poignant scene, Dashiell tells Walter “it was all a bad dream!”, when referring to the experiences the ‘woman’ (Joanne Ostler) implanted into his mind. Throughout the episode we see the same thing happen to young Ben, tantalizing images of his mother fed into his brain, only they weren’t real. It was all fake to get him to crack the equation. Earlier in the episode we hear Walter singing “Row your boat” – a song which ends “life is but a dream”.This is the same song he referenced and sang at the end of episode 1.02 “The Same Old Story”, the very episode in which Olivia experienced a disturbing dream where Broyles suggested she might be pregnant with John Scott’s child.

The underlying theme – dreams, or rather, the intermingling of states, be it dream states, waking states, reality. Like a kayak, it seems that Fringe is sailing through these different states with purpose. It’s becoming clear that to truly understand Fringe, we might have to reconsider how we perceive reality in terms of the show. After all, what is true reality? Is it the perceived norms or is it experiencing the perceived impossibilities? Fringe is set in a world not too dissimilar from our own, where communication is not restricted by a bullet to the brain, where the consciousness can be shared even with the dead, where simply observing red and greed lights can result in a person observing too closely, yet not closely enough, as time jumps before their eyes.

With that said, it brings into question, who is the real Walter – is it the one we’ve come to know, or the “visitor” who appears to be a fragmentation of the original Dr. Bishop? Who are the real Observers, are they represented by the creepy bald guy, or by our Fringe team, ever altering the patterns that they come across? What is the real Pattern, is it the ruthless trail of scientific endeavour, or natures way of purging mankind by elevating our capabilities above our station?

Comments

  1. FlashWriter says

    Hi D-Roc,
    Your comment, “After all, what is true reality?”, was interesting, but I hope that’s not where this ends up. I feel it’s kind of comment that I used to hear in sixth grade to justify why somebody didn’t need to work to pass that test and it’s the kind of a perspective that simply saps all the life out of a story.

    One of the most interesting aspects of the show, and what I hope to see, is that we’re operating at the FRINGE of our reality and expanding it. We’ll hopefully finding out new things about ourselves and the universe–and some of them may not be all that pretty (keeping with the old saying that “the truth will set you free–but first it will make you miserable”).

    The ‘real reality’ thing parallels the ending of so many Freshman short stories where “…and then I looked in the mirror and the monster was me.” (I think the only author I’ve ever read who ever actually got away that was Stephen King.) I can’t ever forget the last scene of the last epsode of “St. Elsewhere”. All the characters who we grew to love, all the things that happened–everything–collapsed away into the fevered imagination of a mentally challenged man. It was like coitus interuptus. I felt cheated and betrayed. I believe then and I believe now that it was the work of writers who simply did not care and didn’t respect the audience enough to give them a decent ending.

    AND THAT’S THE PROBLEM. This kind of “what is the real reality?” gives the writers carte blanche to back into any corner they please, and with that kind of freedom they ususally do. It usually leads to bad stories with a shoddy last episode. I can see the ending now:

    “Olivia looked into the black night sky as everything around her began to fade into transparency. At the last instant she realized that the search for God was irrelevent. Science and religeon and the whole human comedy simply never existed. She realized that Peter and Walter and herself never actually were. It was all just a divine private joke. With that, Olivia and the last of the world blinked out. There was no more solar system and no more galaxy and no more universe. There was only a microscopic seed floating in the black non-existance. Then the laughter of a being unseen echoed as the seed exploded into uncountable galaxies that rushed away into the blackness.”

    …and YOU, dear viewer, have wasted your time caring about something and somebody that blew away in the wind.

    No, I dearly hope we don’t play this reality game. I’ve grown way too fond of Olivia and the rest of the cast. I hope JJ thought of the last episode of MASH. The universe changed but life and our characters went on. Now there was a reality–and a respect.

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  2. says

    Hi FlashWriter,

    I agree that the ‘what is true reality’ angle could allow the writers too much scope to cover plot-holes thus potentially deflating the credibility of the stories that they build up. However, I don’t think Bad Robot Productions would allow this to happen, as we’ve seen in “LOST”, with the creators (wisely) abiding by the paradox theory of time-travel.

    My comment on ‘what is the true reality’ is actually more about the extension of our possibilities (as you touched on). For example, we see Olivia enter into a dream-state in the pilot episode. There she interacts with John Scott in this new medium. When she exists the dream state, she is still Olivia and has conscious knowledge of what she has experienced. Both of these mediums are variants of ‘reality’, and crucially they are linked. The question of ‘what is the true reality?’, in this instance, is less about one reality ultimately being meaningless or insignificant to the overall story, but more about every field of reality in the show being significant and part of the characters experience..part of the reality that they are used to and the ones they’re not used to. Of course, the ‘true reality’ could be one in which the character feels most connected to – most ‘alive’?

    I guess my question is more about the perspective of realities as part of a whole, rather than individual and disconnected realities.

    That said, we all question from time to time, so perhaps this must be for a reason?

    I think you’re right in that the show shouldn’t remove the things that we hold dear to render the previous episodes meaningless. I’m sure there are rules that the writers have up in the writers room, guidelines that govern the flow and direction of the Fringeverse. My hope is that they do allow us to question the merits of the ‘realities’ or states that the characters find themselves in, but that they also ensure that the key experiences of the characters are real and inter-connected.

    Good to hear your thoughts on this, FW

    -D-Roc

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  3. FlashWriter says

    Ok. Perhaps the terms ‘alternate’ and ‘variants’ of reality are what’s bothering me. While Olivia’s conversation with John was in a dream state, it was still an extension of this reality, our reality in the show. Once this new concept had been explored (however briefly), it simply becomes part of our (now larger) reality. I can’t think of it as ‘alternate’ or ‘variant’. Our species (through one of its more brilliant members) simply figured out how to do something more than we’ve ever done before.

    During the last half of the 20th century it seemed to me that science was strutting around like it knew pretty much all that was knowable about how the universe was put together. (Sort of like pre-Galileo cosmologists.) And from that attitude came a ‘reality’ that, for instance, mandated that you can’t cheat the speed of light. This was REALITY, Jackson. You can Star Trek all you want, but it’s not REALITY. We just can’t get there from here because it’s physically impossible.

    Then along came computers (for modeling) and Hubble (for viewing) and—guess what—there’s a whole bunch of matter out there that behaves in a way that nobody can explain. There’s a form of energy that doesn’t follow the rules. Suddenly scientific theories start popping up that (and I’m smiling as I use this phrase) posits that the speed of light isn’t an absolute speed limit after all.

    Are we now living in an alternate reality or an expanded reality because of the scientific discoveries of the last, say, 30 years? Did the whole idea of a star-centric solar system change our reality or just expand it? What about developing the technology to go to the moon and to the planets plop us into an ‘alternate’ reality or merely expand our reality?

    Was Olivia’s communication with John, even though it was accomplished in an alternate conscousness and aided with here-to fore unknown technology, an alternate reality or merely an extension of this reality?

    I vote for the latter.

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  4. says

    Ok. Perhaps the terms ‘alternate’ and ‘variants’ of reality are what’s bothering me. While Olivia’s conversation with John was in a dream state, it was still an extension of this reality, our reality in the show. Once this new concept had been explored (however briefly), it simply becomes part of our (now larger) reality. I can’t think of it as ‘alternate’ or ‘variant’. Our species (through one of its more brilliant members) simply figured out how to do something more than we’ve ever done before.

    Very true, but isn’t the idea of Fringe that it will explore the boundaries of all possible reality, alternate or otherwise? But I’d say you’re right, once these ‘fringe’ realities are explored they become an extension of our known reality. I see it similar to the way I view observation. That is, reality cannot occur without observation..without someone witnessing it. This could also tap into the purpose of our Observer friend on the show?

    During the last half of the 20th century it seemed to me that science was strutting around like it knew pretty much all that was knowable about how the universe was put together. (Sort of like pre-Galileo cosmologists.) And from that attitude came a ‘reality’ that, for instance, mandated that you can’t cheat the speed of light. This was REALITY, Jackson. You can Star Trek all you want, but it’s not REALITY. We just can’t get there from here because it’s physically impossible.

    Then along came computers (for modeling) and Hubble (for viewing) and—guess what—there’s a whole bunch of matter out there that behaves in a way that nobody can explain. There’s a form of energy that doesn’t follow the rules. Suddenly scientific theories start popping up that (and I’m smiling as I use this phrase) posits that the speed of light isn’t an absolute speed limit after all.

    Are we now living in an alternate reality or an expanded reality because of the scientific discoveries of the last, say, 30 years? Did the whole idea of a star-centric solar system change our reality or just expand it? What about developing the technology to go to the moon and to the planets plop us into an ‘alternate’ reality or merely expand our reality?

    I think you raise good points that I hope the show will also tackle. Personally, I think that reality evolves and changes over time. In my view, what was reality, say, 30 years ago, has been changed due to the passing of time and the experience of those who have lived through that time.

    It’s much like how I view “The Pattern” – it’s not just a sequence of events, but an entity..and an unstable one at that. One which changes every time our trio interact with it, one which alters with each clue that Olivia discovers and with every code that Walter cracks. In that sense, The Pattern could be a living, breathing, ever-changing part of their realities.

    With that in mind, perhaps we could look at knowledge in the same way? It changes over time. Old perceptions become overlaid with new insight and perspective. History, therefore, changes the future, but the past itself is also changed by the realities of the present, it’s future. I would also posit (love that phrase!) that in the last 40 or so years, we’ve made greater scientific and evolutionary strides that we have made in the past 500 years put together. Our minds are opening and our capability is exeeding. There surely has to be a tipping point, or rather, a breaking point? Perhaps the only way to maintain any concept of “reality” will be to converge all known realities and to let go of the physical constraints of the world we, as a human race, think we know?

    I certainly don’t know the answers, but it’s interesting to speculate!

    Was Olivia’s communication with John, even though it was accomplished in an alternate conscousness and aided with here-to fore unknown technology, an alternate reality or merely an extension of this reality?

    I vote for the latter.

    I would speculate that they are one in the same thing – an alternate reality might only be alternate because we have not yet experienced it, or because we are resistant to experiencing it?

    At it’s root, I think that Olivia’s communication with John was certainly an extension of her reality, but the ‘alien’ nature of the reality could be perceived as being distinctly ‘alternate’ in nature.

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