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?