Ipanemian Insight – Fringe 4.20: Lysergic Acid Diethylamide

The Girl From Ipanema

Tall and tan and young and lovely,
The girl from Ipanema goes walking,
And when she passes each one she passes goes “a-a-ah!”
When she walks she’s like a samba that,
Swings so cool and sways so gentle,
That when she passes each one she passes goes “a-a-ah!”
Oh, but I watch her so sadly,
How can I tell her I love her?
Yes, I would give my heart gladly
But each day when she walks to the sea,
She looks straight ahead not at me
The girl from Ipanema goes walking,
And when she passes
I smile, but she doesn’t see,
She just doesn’t see,
No she doesn’t see

To paraphrase my favorite James T. Kirk speech of all time from, ‘Return To Tomorrow, ‘ , ‘Risk! Risk is our business. That’s what Fringe is all about. That’s why we write the stories we do.’
The Fringe showrunners, like Kirk, have made Risk their business.
And they are good at their business. Very, very good.
With a musical episode under their belts, Fringe took an obstacle and turned it in an opportunity. They parlayed Nimoy’s aversion to any further acting and created a way for Nimoy to be on the show without him having to do any long distance traveling.
They TOON’ed Belly!
And Walter, or Wally as Astro, er Astrid is wont to call him, Peter, Olivia, Brandon, and Olivia’s step-dad too. Using a mix of live action and animation; and LSD; the show took these tools to leverage off of Nimoy’s recalcitrance. They enticed him for a swan song appearance as William ‘Belly’ Bell and showed us the interior mental landscape of Olivia’s deepest thoughts to boot.
The most admirable thing about Fringe is how high they set their sights. Very few shows would take the risks Fringe has to date. And with the goals set by LSD, very few shows would be willing to take such a risk. And those few that did, would be quite proud of taking those risks. Not Fringe. Fringe aims higher. They took the risk of animating part of the episode and weaved in story threads that move the characters into positions that ready them for the upcoming climax of the season, plant seeds for new storylines, give Peter a masterful moment of redemption, and throw in liberal doses of humor too. All that and a cliffhanger closing line by Olivia too.
Whew! What more can one ask for? I mean, seriously?
With LSD, important issues for the three main characters are resolved. Olivia is able to face and stand down her internal life long demons. A thing of well written beauty as it included her stepfather too. William Bell may be a genius but he has been proven not to be infallible. His proclamation that Olivia has never felt safe and that she is her own worst enemy is cursory and incorrect because the past three seasons have shown us that not to be true. Her Season 1 romance with John Scott and now with Peter demonstrate that while Olivia may wrestle with her fears more the others, no small wonder when one reviews her life history, she has repeatedly overcome those fears. Much of that perseverance comes from within Olivia. Out of all the Cortexiphan Children, Olivia is the strongest. But no one can go it on their own and with Peter, Olivia now has that relational anchor that everyone needs.
With Peter in LSD, we are shown – if nothing else you have to appreciate how often the Fringe writers are able to show us important character development and story points – how close Peter and Olivia have become between episodes. The off screen insights that Olivia has shared with Peter become the road map that leads to her rescue. Equally skillful is the redemption provided for Peter as he is allowed to atone for his earlier Season 3 mistake of not being able to discern that the person he was involved with, was not the real Olivia. Looking into her eyes, Peter knew the Olivia inside her childhood home was not the real one. That the real Olivia revealed herself to Peter, after he passed the eye test, as an innocent, a child, was a wonderful visual demonstration of Olivia’s trust in Peter.
The conversation between Walter and Belly in the zeppelin showed the realization by both men of their youthful arrogance. Walter learned that his dependency on Belly to help him in his quest to save Peter from the Machine is unwarranted. Bell points out to Walter what we have been shown – there is that word again! – since the pilot; Walter has learned humility. A character trait both men lacked in their youth. Walter is now grounded and will be able to make the right decisions.
For William Bell, his reluctance to say good bye extended to an aversion to leaving life. In trying to cheat death, Bell learned to let go, freeing himself and Olivia in the process.
Fringe Patterns: (add your own in the comments)
  • ‘Astro,’ , ‘ Wally!’
  • ‘Perfectly safe. Take a few steps back.’
  • ‘Ready Belly?’ ‘Aye, aye. Captain.’
  • simultaneous – ‘He’s my partner.’ , ‘She’s my girlfriend.’
  • Bellivia gives the Spockian raised eyebrow
  • Whole Brain Emulation software
  • ‘Where are the neurosensors?’ , ‘Back shelf by the fish food.’
  • ‘Have you ever tripped Peter?’
  • Tripping Peter exclaiming Broyles is bald and a possible Observer
  • in Olivia’s mind everyone dresses like her in dark and neutral colors
  • ‘There is a plan, right Walter?’
  • chocolate pudding, Walter’s favorite, shiny lid used for sending Morse code
  • Broyles tripping and engrossed by swirls on Walter’s Red Vines licorice
  • Wait! You’re driving?!?!’ , ‘Ok.’
  • ‘Peter! I made a skid!’
  • Belly is an animated liar
  • Toon Walter’s, ‘How Wonderful,’ thought balloon
  • Broyles sees death, it is him, and he asks Astrid to hold his hand
  • loved the world view of Olivia’s mind from the top of the Twin Towers building
  • Zombie BadBrandons!
  • Mystery Man on zeppelin
  • Walter falls. Was that Reiden Lake he fell to?
  • Massive Dynamic RAM for computer memory
  • Peter sees in adult Olivia’s eyes that is is not her
  • little aka real Olivia trusts Peter
  • Peter saves little Olivia
  • Broyles blowing bubbles
  • ‘I remember you.’
  • Astrid downloaded ZOOM for Walter
  • Peter’s foreshadowing line, ‘Pretty crazy. What we will have to face next?’
  • Olivia at peace with herself
  • any significance to the toast?
  • Olivia’s foreshadowing cliffhanger line, ‘I haven’t seen him before but I think he’s the man who is going to kill me.’
The animation for the characters was pretty fantastic too. Very reminiscent, but more stylized, of Linklater’s, ‘Waking Life,’ or the animated adaption of Philip K. Dick’s, ‘A Scanner Darkly.’  The first time I watched the episode the only drawback to the animation seemed to be that, naturally, that the emotional nuances of the actors was lost. On rewatch I found that not to be true. The animators did a wonderful job of expressing character emotions. The animation did work better for the older actors, whose lined visages make emoting an easier process. Peter and Olivia did not emote nearly as well.
So unlike, ‘The girl from Ipanema,’ who could not, or would not, see the world around her and the possibility of love, Olivia could and did. Her life long fears may have hobbled her but Olivia never buckled under. It is a testament to her strength of will how much Olivia has been able to accomplish. Fear is a motivating factor for everyone at their innermost levels. Fear of death, of loss of loved ones, of providing shelter and food for their family, and the fear of being alone.
Olivia’s story of triumph over her personal demons is truly that of a hero. What a joy to behold.

What a joy it is also to watch such a wonderfully written episode.

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