'Fringe': Method to the madness

Annatorv_fringe_240_002 Fringe is all about a world in which science is pushed to the limit. It's sorta like taking the highway to the danger zone, but not in a Tom Cruise way. More like an Albert Einstein/Stephen Hawking way. Up until now, each exhibit in the worldwide experiment known as The Pattern has been isolated. Its Fringe's own version of the Mystery of the Week. But tonight, we saw the culmination of several Pattern pieces finally coming together for the first time. And in doing so, the show revealed that these individual mysteries were in fact all steps towards a much larger goal.

Now, to figure out what that goal might be, I propose we use something Walter Bishop would be proud to employ: the Scientific Method. Of course, Walter would use such a method to build a teleportation device, and we're just using it to try and figure out what's going on in the world of this kooky show, but hey, we can't all be Walter Bishop. Though what a world that would be, no?

Let's look at each step in the Scientific Method individually and see what we might learn.

Ask a Question

I have two biggies: What's the purpose of the Pattern? And who is truly behind it? The show wants us to assign "blame" to Massive Dynamic, the mega-corporation responsibility for everything short of punching puppies in the world of the show. And yet, Nina Sharp denies any responsibility for Olivia's kidnapping at episode's end. Still, odd that Mr. Jones only asked for Olivia after Sharp realized Dunham might have the memories required by her company, no? Then again, he started her sketch earlier in the episode, so perhaps he merely beat her to the punch.

In any case: the freeing of Jones wasn't the end game, merely another step towards a larger goal. There's no way that the be all and end all of the Pattern is to liberate a Hannibal Lecter wanna-be. No way.

Do Background Research

Let's do a little of our own, as tonight's caper relied heavily on the results learned from former iterations of the pattern. First up? Radiation poisoning, explored in "The Cure." Next up? Phasing, as explored in "The Equation." Thirdly? Little Hill, a location learned in "In Which We Meet Mr. Jones." These episodes all showed bits of knowledge necessary to exploit the device built by Walter Bishop 23 years ago. What did that device do? Only theoretically send one through time and/or space, that's all. Walter built this device to go back in time to find a doctor who might have been able to cure Peter's rare illness as a child. That's Father of the Year material right there, people.

These steps were not taken simply because Jones got arrested. Getting arrested in and of itself was one of the steps. He got arrested voluntarily, much in the way Mitchell Loeb allowed his heart to be Audrey II'ed a few weeks ago. They believe in the Pattern religiously, but approach it scientifically. Pattern Participants are simultaneously fanatical yet methodical. It's a paradox I find fascinating, and makes them all the more dangerous as adversaries. It's not often one can mix devotion and temperance, but Jones and Loeb excel at maintaining this balance.

Construct a Hypothesis

A hypothesis is an educated guess. It's constructed along the lines of, "If I do X, then I can expect Y to occur." What keeps those enacting the Pattern ahead of Dunham, Broyles, and the Bishop Boys is that they know they hypothesis ahead of time. Dunham and Company spend the majority of each episode trying to retrofit the correct hypothesis in time to save the day. And while they are usually successfully in averting complete catastrophe, they nevertheless remain in the dark as to the overall objective of those behind the Pattern.

Think of each instance of the Pattern as part of a scientific assembly line. The goal of the Pattern is not only achieve the end goal, but to do so in a linear way that doesn't upset the delicate structure necessary to construct the completed item. Occasionally, members will be called upon to put their lives on this assembly line for a higher purpose, but they will never be asked to do so without a scientifically proven chance of success. They will have coordinates. They will have equations. They will have resources. And on occasion, they'll have Dramamine.

The question thus remains: what's the ultimate hypothesis of The Pattern? Your guess is as good as mine, but I'm willing to wager the words "William Bell" are somewhere within it. And I'm willing further to wager that the seeds for The Pattern were planted roughly 23 years ago: not with Walter's machine, but Peter's illness. (He just happens to come down with a disease his brilliant father cannot cure? Really?)

Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment

Joshuajackson_fringe_240 Well, that's pretty much every episode of Fringe, no? In many ways, what the Pattern does is take the magic out of the everyday mystery that is the universe. Contrast Peter's various magic tricks with the results of the Pattern: both seem impossible, yet are completely and utterly of this world. Peter's coin doesn't disappear anymore than Mitchell Loeb passes through solid matter. Peter palms the coin, and vibrations destabilize the walls of various banks. They are both optical misdirections that cover up the reality of the situation. Magic is simply non-existent in this world; it's all waves and quanta.

Of course, Peter's trick does no harm. What Loeb and his ex-Marine stooges did this week violates nature and points to a moral/ethical dilemma inherent to the Pattern: at what point does "fringe" science become heretical? Scientists often argue that science itself is an amoral entity, but clearly there are ramifications for bending the mathematical/scientific framework of the Fringe universe to one's will. Radiation poisoning is small price to pay for now. While these experiments are so far largely clandestine, free from the prying eyes of all but a few people, it's only a matter of time before one of these experiments goes global. And with grander plans come greater risks, not only for those conducting the experiments, but mankind itself.

Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion

Nina Sharp ordered the capture of Olivia, and then went on a business trip to London to create plausible deniability once Broyles started asking questions. Inside John Scott's memories is the key to the next building block of the Pattern.

Communicate Your Results

Well, I think that's what I do weekly, isn't it?

Are the pieces fitting together for you, or is The Pattern getting too far-fetched for you? Is Nina behind Olivia's abduction, or did someone beat her to the punch? And was Peter's mysterious illness natural or perhaps part of The Pattern itself? Discuss below!

Ryan urges you to pack your sunscreen and set your coordinates for Boob Tube Dude.