We all knew it was coming. There’s truly something endearing about the guy who first appeared in the alternate universe, only to catch our eye and manifest later in our universe, noticeably more meek and bespectacled. Lincoln Lee, perhaps more than any other character, implicitly speaks to what FOX’s Fringe and its sci-fi entrenched multi-universes aim to teach us about identity, destiny, and its play-science. In our understanding of the world, Lincoln was part of the Fringe team literally before he even knew it. And this isn’t a coy interpretation of the story presented, not even a technicality. Just as the adorable Seth Gabel certainly doesn’t receive separate checks for playing multiple versions, Lincoln is one cohesive identity—one that is at some times confidence personified, while at other points, too docile to punch Peter in the face for stealing his crush (and her memories.) This week’s “Everything In Its Right Place” is thorough in its reveal that both Lincoln and alt-Lincoln share identical histories, visages, and relatives named Tyrone. Alt-Lincoln suggests that perhaps he just made a decision to not be our Lincoln, which, for all intents and purposes, may be true. But that still suggests that Lincoln is in no way an exclusive identity.
Contrast this with shape shifters apparently running amok throughout this episode and the alt-universe, in general. The freak-of-the-week, next-generation shapeshifting prototype is faulty but goes about violently confiscating the identities of several crooks in order to survive, in order to preserve his own identity. With the image of a loved one tucked in his wallet, the sympathetic shapeshifter is faulty mainly because of his earnest desire to sustain his own identity, unlike a good shape shifter, leading to the murder and face distortion of several corpses, exactly like a good shape shifter – the statement being that although identity and humanity are things truly resilient, they aren’t truly copiable, despite how it may seem sometimes. People have to die for our guy to even ostensibly become them. The clones, old and new, have always worked this ‘there can only be one’, Highlander sort of way, but this episode exposes how deeply rooted the sentiment is in the Fringe universe, perhaps more than any other before.
Spoiler-alert: alt-Lincoln dies. For clarification, Lincoln doesn’t die because there can’t be two guys named Lincoln (but there is a case to be made as to why Abraham and the Ford model are mysteriously not present in this episode.) It is very much the case that alt-Lincoln died because he was shot. But there does to be an interesting amount of baton passing from alt-Lincoln to our Lincoln, who only came to this universe in the first place on an angst riddled soul searching expedition (and, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention, to deliver a box of stuff, and Astrid was assigned the job at first simply because Broyles apparently doesn’t respect her much.) Lincoln had questions and anxieties and uncertainties. The death of alt-Lincoln, if not addressing those things directly, coincided with certain revelations Lincoln may have discovered throughout this case. He became a hero today. He made that decision. Also, maybe more subtly (maybe not), there’s a whole other Olivia to fawn over stupid pouty faced Lincoln! And now you’re one of a kind.
He always was. Lincoln, like some of the other characters of the show (sorry Peter), has a unique opportunity to see themselves in a poignantly dynamic mirror. Of course, the Olivias, both Faux and not, are the sort to scoff at this chance, too stubborn and head strong to appreciate it for what it is unless it’s a threat, but it takes a special character like Lincoln to give us a sample to what the rest of us would see if we could see ourselves outside of the perspectives we’re metaphysically limited to. And in experiencing that sort of Lacanian mirror-stage of self-realization, would a part of us have to die?