|Larry Fleinhardt's Long, Strange Trip
||[Sep. 27th, 2007|10:19 pm]
I hope this is an appropriate post. I wrote it in response to various comments I've seen on different boards from people who seem dissatisfied with the direction Larry's taken. (I also posted it on another forum as well--I hope that's okay too.)
I am totally behind The Long Strange Trip of Dr. Larry Fleinhardt. I am amazed and impressed by where TPTB took him, and I hope that whatever happens with Larry, it happens in a believable fashion that respects what he's gone through.
As our surrogate for sense of wonder Larry has always been the most science fictional of the Numb3rs characters. Through much of S1 he came off as rather stodgy and pompous ("The work, Charles, the work."--and don't think I've forgiven him for that horrible Yang-Mills pun, either) but with his plasma cannons and steam rockets, or while enlisting Charlie's help in demonstrating the impenetrable armor of physics, Larry, even more than Charlie, has been the one to show us how neat this science stuff is. Larry and Charlie get to play. They get to levitate stuff and freestyle Faraday's Law of Induction and dump Mentos in Diet Coke and make ice cream with liquid nitrogen and other demonstrations of how deeply cool the workings of the universe can be. I mean, what good is being a genius if what you're a genius at isn't any fun?
(Note to Amita: go play. It'll do you a world of good.)
I also understand that the end of S3 left a strong impression that Larry was no longer having much fun. It'd be easy enough to think that sending Larry to the space station was a bad idea. I have to admit, when I first heard about it I had major problems with the whole arc, but they were more "unsuspended disbelief"-type problems. I finally decided to chill--it's just a TV show, right? Besides, what other show would be cool enough to write out a character for a couple of months by sending him to the International Space Station? Numb3rs got major points on that alone. And when Larry came back--the emotional payoff was brilliant. Just brilliant. That scene on the beach in "The Art of Reckoning" still makes me cry.
I think everyone understands that it's not just that Larry has lived his dream and now what is he to with the rest of his life. It's more than that. It's what happened to him while he was up there and how that tied into the direction his life was headed when he went.
(Here is where an entire post of rampant speculation delves even more deeply into the personal cogitations of yours truly. In other words, feel free to disagree, since these are my own interpretations of events.)
Larry has lived in an awesome universe, in that he is fully cognizant of and deeply appreciative of the beauties of the cosmos. But the cosmos is big and cold and doesn't exactly require much in the way of emotional engagement. Larry may be sweet, he may be quirky, he may be charming, but he's lived a life that's distant from human attachments, despite his protestations about how important such things are.
Now Megan's come along and started to smack him out of that mindset--despite his attempts to back out. "It's starting to affect my work," is the quote, I think. Plus he's developing real friendships with the team. "Sometimes it's been confusing but it's always been real," I think is *that* quote. He's starting to see the beauty in human beings. Comparing Megan to M57 is not just high praise, it is evidence of a paradigm shift. And then what does he do? He goes up to the International Space Station, a tin can just 200 miles up, and looking down he can see the tiny little blue and white and brown blob of mud and water we live on, and against the far limb of that blob he can see a thin sliver of almost nothing atmosphere keeping us safe, keeping us alive, and every other direction he can see a whole lot of black, cold, hard vacuum.
Larry has discovered another word with the same root as "awesome"--awful, as in full of awe, with all the old connotations of fear and reverence. He has discovered that he is not restricted to looking outward for beauty and meaning, because his very existence is no less a miracle than the existence of the M57 Nebula. He has to reappraise his life. It's a lot to think about.
It's a very humanist direction for Larry, and I think it's great. It also ties into some of the underlying themes of the show. For example, Don's been wondering if he makes a difference, if he means anything, if he matters. Larry knows the answer now. Maybe they should talk.