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Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 14 Season 4, The End of All Things

Posted by Karl Withakay on February 24, 2012

A Gold/Yellow Episode

As always, an episode synopsis will be found over at Scott’s Polite Dissent

Dumbest Quote of the Show


“You know that’s impossible”

Why would anybody that has seen even a small fraction of the things the Fringe team has dealt with ever say that anything was impossible?

Now We Need a Name for Evil Nina

It seems that this is the Nina from the Alterverse and not a shape shifter, though it’s still possible that it is a shape shifter that has replaced the alternate Nina.  Until someone comes up with something better, I will call her E’l Nina for Evil Nina.

Can You Lend Me a Hand?

Did Jones replace E’l Nina’s hand with a robotic prosthetic just to make her match Nina?  How devoted a follower is E’l Nina?  Are we sure she’s not a shape shifter?

Storage Terminology Nitpick

Peter twice referred to the flash memory card as a disk.  It would be OK to call it a drive, but a flash memory card is not a disk.

Did You Wipe When You Were Done?

There’s a problem or two with Peter’s recovery of older images form the flash drive.  The first is that flash memory is different from magnetic disks.  If you completely over-write a magnetic disk, it is can still be possible to recover the old data because there may be a residual magnetic signature of the old data left behind, much like with a palimpsest as Walter mentioned.  This is why a “government level wipe” requires multiple passes of over-writing every bit of data on the drive, although now even that is considered insufficient and it is recommended to degauss the hard drive, effectively destroying it. (Note:  Some maintain that one pass is sufficient with modern drives.)

However, a flash drive is a bit different, and I don’t know if transistor based flash memory can have residual traces of over-written data like magnetic disks can if you completely wipe and over-write the entire drive even one time.

Even if you could recover residual data from a flash drive like you can with a magnetic drive, Peter stated that the drive recorded in 60 minute loops*, and this is the second problem.  If we assume that 60 minutes was all the flash card had room to hold and not that it had room for hundreds of hours of video, but for some reason was configured to only buffer 60 minutes, then every hour, the entire data set would be over-written.  The drive would receive the equivalent of 24 full pass wipes every day, and it would be essentially impossible to recover any data more than a few hours old.

*  I’m guessing that the purpose of the local storage of the video loop was to buffer the recording in case the connection to wherever the camera was sending its data was temporarily interrupted so that no data would be lost.

Mama Said Knock You Out

Another minor nitpick:  Did you ever notice that nobody ever seems to suffer from post concussion syndrome (other than maybe a headache immediately after regaining consciousness) after being knocked unconscious in the movies or on TV?

Clear As Mud

It seems the show is being deliberately vague and ambiguous as to whether this is or isn’t Peter’s Olivia.  Peter seems to again believe it is not, but September never stated that it was not Peter’s Olivia or that this wasn’t Peter’s native/proper multiverse.


11 Responses to “Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 14 Season 4, The End of All Things”

  1. Thomas Towne said

    The writers seem to be too lax when it comes to researching their own show. The light box test in “Ability” required Olivia to turn the lights OFF, not on.

  2. […] cipher was: UNITE. A list of all previous Fringe reviews is available here. As always, Karl has more to say over at his […]

  3. Reyes said

    So read somewhere that Blair Brown refers to her alternate self as Mean-a. As Broyles said, if Nina was a shapeshifter, the original one would be dead.
    As for the SD cards, they are subject to wear so repeated continuous writes would eventually “wear” them out. Surveillance devices that uses them usually use motion detection so as to minimize writes.
    As for the Observer (September) with the left (more dangerous) chest wound, sounds like the other Observers put out a hit on him by their human assassin like the one used in the story with August, the lovesick Observer.

  4. Reyes said

    As for the lights going on instead of off, probably dramatic license from the writers (damn continuity – if Jules Verne can disregard it in the Mysterious Island and 20K leagues under the sea, so can we). Somebody probably has been itching to have the flashing light and sparks effect for drama. Plus, it seems that one of the DRJ henchmen was shocked unconscious.

  5. D_Mon said

    I’m pretty sure you cannot guess about the previous state of a flipflop (which is used in flash memory) once it changed since it is essentially a mechanical switch.
    But even if you were, no way would you get ghosted images or something like that. What you would get is a heavily artifacted version of the previous video (like your digital TV if reception drops dramatically, but much worse)

  6. johngaltx said

    From what I can fathom, Peter is in his “universe”, or “time-line” if you will. All that happened when Peter activated the machine was that he ceased to exist in the universe that he was brought into by Walter. Everyone that was there when he disappeared are still there, only the events that had Peter as a thread have changed into a time and space that he had zero impact. So, Walter, Astrid, Broyles and especially Olivia are the same group of people that were there when Peter vanished into the ether, the only difference is that nothing in their lives up to the point that Peter reappeared had been influenced by Peter from the original Red Universe.

    Basically, Peter did not destroy his universe, or re-enter a new universe apart from the one he left, he re-entered the same universe that he disappeared from, only reappearing in it at a point that was well along in time from the when the Blue Walter snatched him from the Red Universe. Three simple proofs are: 1) Peter is the same age now as when he vanished, 2) Olivia appears to have all her memories of Peter from before the time he disappeared. 3) Walter’s house near the campus appears to be just as it was when Peter and Walter shared it; Peter moves right in just like he has been gone weeks instead of and eternity.

    I predict Peter will do something that will knock the Blue universe back into it’s season 3 splendor, Olivia and Peter will have little Henry again, Broyles will not be an evil shape-shifter, and then everyone will drink some concoction from Walters lab and ride off into the sunset.

  7. JJ said

    I agree that Peter just re-entered the same universe, but a universe with slight changes perhaps but what i dont get and am so mad right now is why after September explaining all that to Peter, Peter decides to keep believing that he is in a different timeline and has to go home ?? wtf, seriously? it’s obvious he should know better and know that she is the real Olivia ffs i hate this show now and i’m laughing a bit here reading these reviews loll. bah i guess Fringe is dead to me again now.. =/


  8. Cassie said

    As a computer scientist, and general computer geek “disk” is kind of generic. Yeah, “drive” and “disk” have a discrete difference… but sometimes even we (compi geeks) just blurt crap out. I honestly didn’t notice this nitpick at all, even though you’re right to point it out.

    Government-level harddrive wipes consist of multiple wipes, perhaps a gaussing pass, and then physical destruction of the drive via sledgehammer, or such. The government takes the possibility of ghosting very seriously, and doesn’t take chances.

    Flash-memory works weird… it does not usually overwrite data that would normally be overwritten. This is designed to spread out writes to ensure that a “hot-spot” does not develop on the drive, since flash eventually experiences write fatigue and dies. So, in order to combat that, the drive cycles writes through itself. All that said: no, flash-memory does not experience traditional ghosting, and the technique described in the show would not work. (Even recovering ghosting from a harddrive would require disassembly in a clean room, and a
    very sensitive magnetic field detector… one cannot simply recover ghosted data straight from the drive in normal operating condition.)

    Lastly, as someone who actually experienced Post-concussion syndrome, I was entirely frightened by what was going on when it happened, and no one seemed to have any answers for me at all. It wasn’t until I was looking at causes for acute short-term memory loss that I came across PCS and was able to self-diagnose. (Even the time frame fit perfectly with a motorcycle, and a realization that I did not recall going over the curb.) So, it doesn’t particularly surprise me that even if the writers knew of PCS themselves, it’s reasonable to assume that the general viewing audience would be unaware of it as well. Besides, who wants to cut a whole “Previously on Fringe…” montage just to account for why the character is absent-minded and forgetful. … Honestly, I highly doubt anyone actually realized that I was experiencing PCS anyways… even when I told them what was going on, they were all “but everyone forgets stuff”.

  9. Cassie said

    Actually, having read the article currently linked to in your article, that PCS seems different from the PCS article that I read two-some years ago. Though the new article seems to be clear that the symptoms are various, and time lines inconsistent. (So, when I talk about “the time frame fitting perfectly”, that’s to the prior article… I still have no doubts about it being PCS, there was kind of long period (3~4 months) of little cognitive impairment before about a good two weeks of severe short-term memory ability loss. No headaches, but then I don’t usually get headaches anyways.)

    I’m rambling… still, my point was that very few people have probably heard of PCS, and that still stands as the likely explanation of why shows and movies rarely ever show any PCS.

  10. […] episode is debunked at Polite Dissent and Cordial Deconstruction, and you can read more about it at Fox, IMDb and the A.V. […]

  11. kristenmaxwell said

    does nobody ever learn anything? how easy would it have been for Olivia to shoot the portal device instead of mister scabby face? peter basically did that before, and even bragged about it just a few episodes before.

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