Fringe: Making Angels (Observers ex Machina)

The episode of Fringe which aired this past Friday, “Making Angels,” explores religious themes in interesting ways.

The starting point of the episode is the death of the father of Astrid in the parallel universe. That Astrid, who is autistic, comes to our universe to meet her parallel self who does not suffer from autism. Their conversation will touch on relationships with parents and the significance of the death of a parent it had seemed impossible to please, in a manner that is reminiscent of that other show created by J. J. Abrams, LOST. Another theme paralleled in the universe of LOST is the theme of twins and the competition between them for a parent’s affection, with one being viewed as “angelic.” Religious imagery features prominently in the saints and savior figures on Neil’s wall, and his mention of going to his death in a manner akin to Jesus and the Romans.

On a deeper level, the episode focuses on Neil’s discovery of a way to view time all at once, as the Observers do (whether Neil achieves this through the accidental happening across a lost piece of Observer technology, or through his own mathematical accomplishment, or a bit of both, is not entirely clear). This perspective allows him to become what he understands to be a saint or savior, an angel of mercy, putting people who are destined for long and painful deaths out of their misery, sparing them the suffering.

I was reminded less of an angel and more of the Doctor, the time lord who decided not to observe but get involved. Of course, “Observers” is simply another way of saying “Watchers” and so anyone familiar with ancient Jewish angelology should perhaps see a connection there.

The episode provides a good starting point for a number of topics related to religion and philosophy: the notion of playing God, euthanasia and the nature of mercy when dealing with cases that will involve prolonged suffering, and the appropriate response to foreknowledge. And of course, an ancient Egyptian connection was offered by way of the “tears of Ra.”

What did you make of the treatment of religious themes in this episode? Are the Observers (rather like their counterparts in The Adjustment Bureau) sci-fi equivalents of angels? What do you make of the show’s theology?

For fuller recaps of the episode visit IO9 as well as Paul Levinson’s Infinite Regress.

  • John M. Harris

    Seems Dispensational to me

  • http://theology.geek.nz Geoff Gummer

    LOL @94043edc328618f94d0e464d36c920bb:disqus 

    I think the problem with the observers is that they seem to be fighting a losing battle. It is interesting that September seems to have gone rogue. Has he seen something the others havent? Or does he, unlike the others, realise that the future is not set in stone?
    Peter says that the observers have seen the past, present, and future (which would make them a form of god (demiurge?), I think). And then he supposes that this means the future is immutable, but since he himself being there is resulting from a changed timeline, then it can not be.
    The problem is Olivia has been told she has to die, and this can not change. Eventually the realisation will set in that the future can change, and Peter and her will set about changing the timelines.. at least, that’s what I think they are setting up for.

  • Anonymous

    Here is an interesting post on “self government” (one’s right to choose)
    http://secularright.org/SR/wordpress/2012/01/28/against-self-government/

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Angie, what pray tell does that link have to do with the TV show Fringe?!

      • Anonymous

        Self government is the right to not be the observer of one’s own life!! One can take responsibility as much in having a “living will” as it facing disease “with courage”! Which is of higher value to/in our society? Self responsible behavior and choice or facing what government imposes upon the life, from the outside, just like an observer! One cannot enter the sanctum of personal experience….that is for the person alone, and that is for the person to decide!!

  • Anonymous
  • Pingback: PatheosProgXn


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