On Top of the World

Well behaved women rarely make history.

Of Peters and Parents

He knew he was loved. …Didn’t he?

Last week’s episode of Fringe had me prepared to cry for basically the entire hiatus before it aired. If you want to get me excited about something try exploring the childhood of one of my favourite characters, it works 90% of the time. And “Peter” — both the episode and the wee version highlighted in it — delivered. But it was Walter’s show and it was John Noble’s heartbreaking delivery of the line above (and the scene that surrounded it) that actually drew the promised tears. It was a perfect snapshot of who Walter is.

But it was the exchange toward the end that I want to talk about. Peter from the alternate universe (who is actually our Peter) says anxiously “you’re not my father” and our Walter answers “of course I am.” Who are Peter’s real parents? I’ve seen some speculation about Nina, about William Bell, about the Observers and Fringe science — probably someone somewhere can give bullet points describing how Olivia is secretly Peter’s mother — and at the least we know that Walternate and ‘I won’t be surprised to find she spent years in a mental institution after what our Walter did to her’ Alternate Elizabeth raised the boy (who is our Peter!) for the first seven years of his life.

Aside one: Why did all these people on our side, except our Elizabeth, abandon Peter after this point? At the beginning of the series he is utterly alone.

Aside two: In Walternate’s universe Peter was closer to his mother than his father. It is saddest to me that Walter knows this, knows that the happy memories he has of Peter’s early childhood did not happen for the Peter he has now. That Peter only remembers a distant father and then an absent one, when Walter was willing to break the multiverse for his son. One act of love (if also desperation) does not make someone a good father (see: Darth Vader), but it matters.

Aside three: The whole window to an alternate universe reminds me of Phillip Pullman’s novel The Golden Compass. Towards the end of it, Lord Asriel freaks out when his daughter Lyra appears in his northern castle because he is momentarily worried that when he asked God for a child to sacrifice He sent Asriel’s own. I thought of that in relation to Walter re: Peter versus Walter re: Olivia. Maybe Walter abandons Peter to save him from that life, the one he gave to Olivia, the one he knows hurt her. To go on yet another tangent, in Star Wars, I’ve always been struck how Vader treats Luke versus how he treats Leia — Luke, he goes after desperately, he offers him everything, he begs him to leave and finally, he sacrifices everything to save him. Leia, he captures, tortures, helps blow up her planet, captures again, tortures again, nearly kills her boyfriend in front of her — now he doesn’t know she’s his daughter but it is still meaningful. And imagine how he must feel once he does know. Maybe it helps make the decision to save Luke. (Aside within an aside: Despite likening Walter to Vader twice now — ha! — I’m not saying that Walter is secretly Olivia’s father, but he is a good part responsible for her childhood and our childhood shapes us. Hence why I love it when series delve into my favourite characters’ childhood).

ANYWAY. So I’m thinking about all this. And I thought Poor Peter to learn Walter is not his father. BUT then almost immediately I thought, well, but what makes a father? It is not just genetics. Our Walter — his presence and his absence and his presence in Peter’s life — is the “father” who shaped him. Not Walternate, not William Bell, not the Observers, not anyone else because our Walter is the one who ‘raised’ (again by presence and absence) Peter for as long as he remembers. And that is SO INTERESTING. Because it does matter where we come from. It does. But that is not at all what makes us who we are.

I expect Peter to be hurt and angry and scared when he learns the truth about where he came from. But I expect he, too, will then realize the truth inside that truth — that his father loved and loves him more than anything else in this or any world. And then Walter’s question will be answered. And I CANNOT WAIT to watch.


1 Comment»

  An inauspicious start, April « Thinking Too Much wrote @

[…] other news, I know smart thinky people. Anika posted a spoilery discussion post about Fringe, Peter, and the nature of parenting. And Caroline posted her musings on Julius Ceasar, Marc Antony, and Marlon Brando. And we of […]

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