Welcome to the FB review of the Fringe season 2 episode 8 – August. In this review I present my honest opinions on both the good and the bad aspects of the episode. I also take a look at the answers and unresolved mysteries, before sharing my thoughts on other aspects which may have been overlooked.
Serial and Mythology. The immediate story was directly connected to the wider arc. Plot elements from previous episodes were addressed and we received a great deal of progression and character focus. It was also cool to dig deep into the mythology of the show – I loved seeing the cool gadgets that the Observers use, and I enjoyed the way they tied in some real-world references.
Continuity. One of my fears coming into this episode was that we’d see Broyles without any hint of the bullet wound that he suffered in the previous episode. However they put his arm in a sling and restored my faith in the show’s continuity, somewhat. It was also good to see that the props used in the Observer’s first centric episode – “Arrival”, carried the same quirks in this episode as they did back then. Small things, but if I’m to buy into the show these are important issues.
August. A fantastically drawn character who intrigued me from the start. His motivations made sense and he allowed me to further understand the Observers and their role in the show. I actually felt a pang in my heart when he died. Perhaps it was from watching them eat all that hot-sauce, but I suspect it was a sign that I actually cared about the character.
September. Even though this was August’s time to shine, I was taken by September’s contribution to this episode. In particular his final two scenes – in the car where he witnessed his colleague’s death and seemed to understand human nature a bit better, and the scene at the funfair, where he just watched Olivia and Ella letting their hair down. The episode may not have directly implied it, but it was as if August foreshadowed the September/Olivia arc – and we all know what follows August.
The Score. At times the music was brilliant. So good that it become one with the on-screen performance. That’s when you know it’s good, when you watch it again and realise just how much the music contributed to the effectiveness of a scene.
Walter’s diversionary tactics are getting old, but at least he didn’t stab Astrid in the neck this time! Seriously, for me this is a good thing because I still haven’t forgiven Walter for attacking Astrid last season, or Astrid for just forgetting the situation. I feel this was the writers way saying, “actually there are other ways of getting Walter on his own without drugging Astrid”. (although for a sick moment I thought he had poisoned the ice cream). It illustrated Walter’s growth, and was a nice touch not lost on me.
I felt that they forced the Ella scenes somewhat. Nothing against Ella, I like her character, I’m just not sure the end-scene meshed well with the episode. I’m glad it was there, as on its own, I enjoyed that last little scene on the roller coaster – as I mentioned above. But for some reason it felt a little out of place. Perhaps it’s because there’s no way Olivia would go roller-coasting after getting so close to one of the biggest mysteries on her list. She’s just been assigned gate-keeper, not kindergarten cop. Although perhaps I’m being unfair – maybe Olivia is evolving and realising that despite the madness of her world, she has to make time for herself and the people she loves? If that was the intent, then I’d happily retract this point.
MD without Nina is like cooking without food. Olivia and Peter visit Massive Dynamic and don’t even swing by Nina’s office? OK, I can actually buy that, and Brandon did a decent spot of exposition, but I’m a Nina fan and I want Nina not her voice piece.
I’m just not sure I buy this Donald guy. I also can’t work out whether I liked the idea of a somewhat unfit dude being the Observers prime hitman. I mean, really guys? You couldn’t get someone more sprightly than Donald to carry out important missions? That said, if the idea is to have someone unsuspecting because he blends in then I totally buy it and I think it’s kinda cool – as long as their other contacts aren’t ninja assassins.
No Precautions. I’ve seen a few people mention this on the blog, and it hasn’t really bothered me until now – Broyles and Olivia’s open-air discussions in parks and on public benches. Seriously, if this is how we’re rolling then we’ve already lost the war. Why do they think the Observers and shapeshifters communicate using bizzaro technology – because it’s covert! Get with the programme guys, or at least sweep the benches for mics. For real though, a simple nod to the fact that they have to be ‘careful’ would satisfy me in this instance.
- The Observers are supposed to observe, not get involved, unless correcting a mistake of their own making. Peter also alluded to the idea that they are “looking for something”. If we use the 1914 Franz Ferdinand reference as an example, perhaps they’re looking for the moment which triggers a full-on inter-reality war?
- Massive Dynamic scientist, Brendon, has recorded 26 Observer sightings in the past 3 months alone. He contrasts this with the 24 or so ‘definite’ occurrences (major world events where Observers might show up) in the past 5000 years of human history. We know that they observe important historical, technological and scientific moments in our history, suggesting that whatever is coming is BIG. We can probably guess that it involves the inter-reality war and prophesied “apocalypse”.
- August left his diary behind on purpose so that Walter would find and decipher his message.
- As I speculated last season, the Observers are greatly concerned with time, although as Brandon put it, it’s more like they’re “observing time”. If we consider that time is happening all at once (as in all moments in time, ever, are taking place right now), it’s possible to understand how the Observers are able to know our past, present and future. Another way I like to describe it is perception based on possibilities. This could also explain why they don’t seem to age – they are not bound by our limited linear understanding of time. (although perhaps they age back home..wherever, whenever that is?).
- August tipped himself off to the FBI so that Olivia and Peter would change the outcome and save Christine. Once he realised how to make Christine “important”, he must have saw the possibilities which would lead to her survival.
- There are many Observers, but why have we only seen sightings of OUR Observer (September) prior to this episode? Is September more active and less camera shy, or is this just a story-telling device that we just have to buy into? I suspect it’s the latter.
- The show blurred the audience’s reality by depicting Observers at famous historical events which we know they didn’t actually attend. What does this say about the world of the show – is “over here” rooted less in our world than we previously thought, or is this another example suspension of disbelief? It’s probably the latter, although I am intrigued by the fact that pretty much every other ‘real world’ factual reference in the show has been presented without distortion..until now. They could have some fun with that, but I’m not sure they will.
- We’ve asked this question before, but it’s a good time to again question why September saved Walter and Peter, when Olivia seems to be the one he’s most enamored with? One possible thought I have on this is that perhaps September knew (saw) that Olivia would one day need Peter and Walter by her side, and hence needed the Bishop’s alive. Although, it’s more than that as the Bishop’s are seemingly important in their own right. So his reasons for saving them may be interwoven, just as our Fringies lives are. Alternatively, could he have intervened out of self preservation – do the Observers need Walter and Peter to function? Or maybe its simply because the Peter from “over there” wasn’t supposed to die? Perhaps that would have caused an “error”, or maybe the error was original Peter’s death and the Observer saved replacement Peter to correct his mistake?
- What is the Observers recruitment process? They have couriers who deliver information, and hitmen who kill people who were supposed to die, but how do they approach these people and how do they decide if they can trust them? I doubt this is the case, but did Donald owe them a favor Ala Walter?
- If the Observers can see people’s futures, why do the need to physically Observe? Or does the act of observation increase their perception – Like that saying, the more you do it, the better you become?
- Walter trying to recreate his favourite milkshake is probably an allusion to him recreating the son he lost by stealing Peter2.
- It seems I was on the right lines with my old theories on the Observers changing the pattern, and correcting errors.
- I loathe to mention the “butterfly effect”, but I have to wonder how changes in the time-line (however small or ‘insignificant’) and the natural course of events will reverberate? Christine will be safe for the foreseeable future, but she will now influence events which wouldn’t otherwise have happened. In the case of Christine this might not matter too much, but if August/Christine is foreshadowing September/Olivia (as I suspect it is), then a similar change will have greater consequence as Olivia is important on pretty much every level possible.
- This old theory of mine was pretty crazy, I admit, but I think it does hit a few nails on the head:
Another possibility that I’ve been mulling around, and I really like this one, is that the object of the Observer’s affection is actually Olivia.
- Olivia has developed a real affection for Ella – I suspect she sees a bit of herself in her niece. Obviously they chose to bring the lil’ one back for this episode to draw on the themes they started in “Inner Child”.
- I think the writers wanted to make a point of Olivia being scared of roller-coasters yet fearless in her job (although she did keep her nightlight on that one time 😉 ). I’m also picking up on a theme with the writers using both Rachel and Ella to remind Olivia that protecting the world is her JOB. Liv was like, “thanks Ella, there goes that day off I was planning to take next week”.
- This episode got me thinking – do the Observers want to prevent the war, or allow it to take its natural course? Perhaps they failed by letting Bell (and others) cross over to the parallel world in the first place, or maybe they assisted him?
- You gotta love those crazy folks at Massive Dynamic – they sure love a good ole’ prop demonstration. A few weeks ago we had Nina almost take someone’s eye out with her reality collision presentation, now we have Brandon spilling his liquid on Olivia’s shoes.
- Can I just say, John Noble has that ‘shifty Walter knows more than he’s letting on’ look down to a tee!
- Peter does love an important-comment-disguised-as-a-throw-away-line:
“Whatever these Observers do to keep from aging, they should market it – they’d make a fortune”.
Boy wonder makes 2 assumptions:
1. That the Observers are interested in $$$.
2. That the Observers don’t age.
Perhaps their aging process is much slower (than ours) due to their origins (another time? another reality?). Another possibility is that they are ‘designed’ this way – perhaps to help them ‘get here’ (throw back to the shapeshifters scenario). It even crossed my mind how their gradual ageing is the opposite of the Penrose rapid ageing clone story from season 1 (brought back to the fore in episode 2.07). I’m not saying that the Observers are clones, but it’s worth speculating whether they are hybrids or avatars of some kind. I feel that it’s important to remember that travelling (be it teleportation, time-travel or alternate reality travel) has been marked as carrying MAJOR consequences in this show. So however the Observers have got here, they presumably have been modified in some way – be it through evolution or science.
- Olivia really seemed to open up to Peter in this episode. I get the sense that she’s more trusting of him these days – perhaps through familiarity, or a sense of friendship. It was good to hear her talk about her mother for once, coming on the back of Peter’s momma getting a mention in last week’s episode. I particularly liked the delivery of this line and the padding that went before it:
“It’s one of my favorite memories of my mother”.
Note, she calls her mother – a somewhat harsh term (out of the two options), but her face showed affection. I have to wonder whether Liv’s mom is dead, or just not in her and Rachel’s life? I’m also wondering why Peter didn’t ask her more questions about mother Dunham – it was a good a time as any. I guess he understood what Liv just wanted space to vent and decided to bide his time with all the questions. He’s not quite on that level with Olivia just yet anyway.
- Rachel is not even in the episode and yet she gets on my nerves. Seriously, Liv has enough on her plate without being left to hold the baby while she scoots off on holiday, or whatever. OK, I know it’s probably because they didn’t want to use Graynor in this episode, but at least say that Rachel’s gone on a ‘how to become a better parent in 30 days’ course or something. I love her, really I do.
- Poor Peter – how many times does he need to almost be shot in the head this season? Actually, didn’t Broyles say he owed him one last week? 😉 You gotta love Dunham’s half-arsed attempt at going after Donald though. I’m pretty sure she could have caught him if she had bothered to look. LOL, Liv, what ever happened to that roof-top leaping girl from season we all loved. (kidding).
- I found it interesting that out of the four Observers, the older they were, the more “human” in mannerisms they seemed. This was surely intentional and suggests that the longer they observe our world, the more like us they become.
- It’s a shame there was no mention of the mini-Observer or the beacon. Hopefully they’ll be addressed in future episodes or seasons.
- The Observers are only supposed to intervene in the “natural course” to correct a mistake of their own making. Two things:
1. I’m intrigued by the choice of words – “making” instead of “doing”. The former carries more weight.
2. How many “mistakes” have the Observers made? I’m assuming one involves Walter and Peter and the car accident in the frozen lake. (possibly Reiden Lake last seen in the season 1 finale?).
- August had some great lines, in fact I enjoyed the dialogue between all of the Observers. This was a particularly excellent exchange:
Eldest Observer: “She has no future”
August: “Then why do I see it!?”
The idea seems to be that love changed August’s perception, which in-turn changed the natural course of events and gave Christine a future that she wasn’t supposed to have. I like the response the elder Observer gave – calling August’s perception an “over-sight”. There’s something about that word which is so fitting, even though it was used in a negative light.
August said that he interfered with the “natural course of events”, which makes me wonder whether the natural course is predetermined, or open to freewill. I guess it’s a bit of both? At any rate, the way things are supposed to happen probably becomes more apparent to an “outside observer” – like the Observers, or Walter when he stole Peter from another reality. Being on the outside of time or reality changes one’s perception, I’d imagine.
Another interesting line came from September: “They are all unique”. I find it interesting to contrast these words with what he said in the season 1 finale – “There’s more than one of everything”. It’s comforting to know that despite the infinite number of iterations a person has, he still views us as having an identity of our own. Coming off the back of the Tyler clone episode, I feel that there’s some interesting ethical content being delivered in the background of this episode.
- What is it about the 1960’s era that the Observers seem fond of, what with the fedora and all? Perhaps it’s another example of the show telling us that there is a mish-mash of old and new brought about by the differences in advancement of the various realities. I mean – fedora’s might be all the rage in another reality. And of course, everything comes back around.
Another allusion, this time to Peter having an ability: “I can feel it!”. Again, interesting choice of words seeing as the episode was essentially about an emotionless being developing ‘feelings’ for our kind. One of my more far reaching crackpot theories is that Peter was actually taken from the Observers world and not “over there”, but this doesn’t have to be the case for the line to work.
- August reminds Walter that he ‘saw beyond the limitations of his problems’. Walter responds: “not really, I just missed my son”. Fantastic on every level.
- Did August ever consider taking Walter’s lead by kidnapping alter-Christine from a parallel world? I found it odd that he would seek advice from Walter – I didn’t expect that.
- I found it telling that August wanted to know whether Christine trusted him. I suspect that trust will be a major issue between Walter and Peter in the future. No matter how much Walter loved his son, without Peter’s trust he will be left with nothing.
- The underlying themes from “Of Human Action” enhanced this episode for me. We learn that the Observers are capable of human emotion which causes them to act as we would – sometimes in the interests of the few, just as Walter once did out of love for his son – a need that needed to be filled. Poor August, no wonder he was confused, although it was interesting seeing a selfish desire play out with such a brave sacrifice.
- “You must make her important”. Did Walter make Peter important by abducting him from the parallel world? It seems that way. “You must be prepared to face the consequences”. Is Walter prepared? I hope so!
- In previous reviews this season, I’ve posted about the Peter/gun nods. We got a taste of it last week, but he really got his gun in this episode and I have to feel that they’ve been building up to that intentionally. There’s something about the way Peter looked at the Observers gun after he zapped Donald that tells me there’s more to this than meets the eye, if you know what I mean. Of course, it could just be the wandering eyes of a weapons dealer getting his hands on some pretty savvy tech. But I prefer the former insinuation.
- August delivered one of the best lines of the season when he said:
“She crossed my mind..somehow, she never left”.
For me this resonated on several levels:
1. It’s a great and unusual way to describe that you love someone.
2. We’ve been told that the Observers are not travelling through time per se, but August’s words kinda suggest that time, people and events – might be travelling (crossing) through them.
- Walter: “Don’t worry son, you’ll get your answer”. Is Walter talking to Peter or the audience?
- Small thing, but I liked that September was holding a Popsicle at the fairground – it’s not only hot stuff that tickles his senses, but also cold stuff. Makes sense. (I guess that rootbeer float from 1.04 wasn’t quite cold enough, huh).
- “Look how happy she is. It’s a shame things are going to get so hard for her”. It did cross my mind that the elder Observer was referring to Ella, but I just don’t see her as being a big a part of the overarching story. He’s obviously referring to Olivia and her role in the war, etc. Perhaps she might even lose Ella along the way?
The producers said they were proud of this episode because they felt it gave emotion to emotionless characters. Their achievement is made all the more remarkable because we only had 43 minutes to know August, and yet personally speaking I became invested in the character.
The more I watch Fringe the more I suspect that at it’s core, it’s a love story disguised as a science fiction show, and the more I hope it’s a serial disguised as a procedural/serial hybrid. This episode was a great leveller – both in making up for some lost time with unimportant episodes, and in the love that August felt for Christine. It was the one thing which allowed him to understand humans and what drives our condition.
I always take a moment to consider the episode title – this one was simple, it’s the character’s name. But it also gives us insight into the mythology of the Observers, considering our main one is called September. (I presume the other two were July and October). Moreover, I got the impression that “August” was so fitting a title because we witnessed the Autumn of August’s life. Unlike Broyles, he was unable to put his job first and chose love. To be honest, both men made understandable choices.
Perhaps more than anything though, “August” was one of the best examples so far of characters acting out of parameter by going to the FRINGE of their personalities. We’ve seen them all do things they didn’t think they were capable of doing – Olivia, Peter, Walter, even Astrid. Now we’ve observed an Observer going to the edge of his being and somehow becoming more human for it. That’s pretty powerful stuff. “Fringe”, that one little word, now means so much more.
August is an exceptional body of work – an episode which needs to be watched twice to be truly appreciated. Sure, it’s not perfect and might not even be my favorite episode of this season, but it’s an important chapter – one I am already very fond of.
Best Moment: September fighting back the tears as he declared “she is responsible for the death of one of us”. Those words are open to great interpretation and the delivery by Cerveris was fantastic.
Best Performer: Peter Woodward.
Episode Rating: 9/10