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Fringe 2.6: "Earthling"



The idea of alien creatures in “Fringe”, even if just as a riff on the ongoing exploration of the meaning of consciousness, leaves me a bit uncertain. I would have been a little happier if the “infection” of the cosmonaut had been revealed as a catalyst for the fragmentation of the cosmonaut’s own consciousness, or even just a fragment of it.


After all, the treatment of this rogue consciousness was very similar to the reports of “shadow people” in the paranormal investigative world. Granted, such phenomena isn’t said to result in people turning into ash, but there were strong similarities, particularly in terms of the video evidence and the unusual electromagnetic effects. Merging the current legends and lore of “shadow people” to this particular story could have grounded it in the semi-familiar world. (At least, for those already with an interest in “fringe science”.)


I personally think the concepts at play in the show are complicated enough without adding alien consciousnesses to the mix. If there is one thing that has marked genre shows produced by JJ Abrams, it is a tendency to expand the frame of unusual reference a little too far. Keeping the scope of the series to the bizarre fringes of technological advancement between two parallel universes should give them more than enough room to maneuver. Adding aliens into the mix expands the boundaries a bit more than necessary.


Thankfully, the alien angle is incidental to the point of the episode. The central idea is the separation of mind and body, which has been a part of the series’ DNA since the beginning. In a show where memories can be downloaded into another person through technology or an altered state (or both), a consciousness without a physical body is hardly a stretch. (It also means that “ghosts” are at least potentially real in the “Fringe” universe; hence the potential connection to the “shadow people”.)


While the alien connection may seem excessive, I can think of one interesting possibility. The alien seemed to be able to keep the cosmonaut’s body alive under extreme circumstances, all for the purpose of maintaining its own existence. This encounter in Fringe Prime didn’t have any long-term effects, but what if this alien organism was discovered under very different circumstances in the Alt-Fringe universe? There are plenty of indications that Alt-Walter and his ilk wouldn’t let moral considerations get in the way of dissecting and experimenting.


Despite some minor disappointments with elements of the plot, I did like the episode for its focus on Agent Broyles. There have been some hints along the way that he has been involved in some badass covert ops, and this episode seems to confirm it. Broyles does not seem like the kind of agent one would want to cross, which makes his frustrations at red tape all the more intriguing.


Broyles also mentioned that the Fringe Division has been around for well over four years, and that it had fallen far out of favor by 2005. Taking into account the homage to “The X-Files”, one has to wonder how seriously the writing staff is taking that joke, given how the timelines sometimes seem to mesh. It also places an age on “The Pattern” that I don’t remember hearing before. My recollection is that it was a recent development, but it makes sense that there were events and discoveries long before any connective thread was suspected.

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