Fringe returned last night with the episode “Back To Where You’ve Never Been.” It featured all the surprises, twists and turns we have come to love from the show, and from J. J. Abrams shows in general, while continuing to feel more satisfying than LOST in giving answers as well as raising questions.
While this post does contain spoilers inasmuch as it talks about a specific scene in the episode, it is not going to recap the episode in detail. Others do that well elsewhere. Instead, I would like to focus on one scene and reflect on its relationship to a major component of numerous religious traditions.
When Peter travels to the alternate universe, and meets that universe’s version of his mother, she realizes it is him. However she became convinced that other universes exist, she says that after her own son Peter died, she took comfort from the knowledge that somewhere else there was a version of her son that survived, grew up, fell in love, and lived a happy and full life.This struck me immediately as being akin to the comfort that many people take from belief in an afterlife – the belief that, even though a loved one has died, that person exists somewhere else and is happy.
I’m curious whether there are in fact people who eschew any traditional sort of belief in an afterlife, but take comfort from something based in scientific possibility, such as an infinite universe or a multiverse in which there are other versions of ourselves and those we love.
LOST fans may note that what Fringe is doing here appears to be the opposite of the final season of LOST, in a sense. There we saw what we thought was a parallel universe and it turned out to be an afterlife. Here we see an alternate universe and it is being thought of as providing comfort of the sort belief in an afterlife might.