Welcome back Fringe fans. After what seems like forever, Fringe finally kicks off its mid-season premiere with some significant narrative progression. Let’s hope the momentum continues with a string of new episodes and no more inexplicable hiatuses.
Let’s take a closer look:
The quick “previously on” clip package was a welcomed blessing. I usually do well with complex serial narratives, but with all the stops and starts Fringe has had this season – it’s been quite difficult to keep up. Let’s recap: Peter (Joshua Jackson) is back from who knows where, dropped into a timeline where Olivia (Anna Torv) and Walter (John Noble) don’t know who the heck he is. (Henceforth known as ‘over here’)
Peter’s convinced that he’s from yet another alternate timeline that looks identical to this one, except his loved ones, well, know who he is. Let’s just call this ‘the land of Seasons 1-3′. So he’s on a plight to get home. (I’ve mentioned this before, but I think the big “reveal’ that’s coming is that there is no “home” – that this, indeed, is it.)
And then of course, I say ‘yet another’ because we have the ‘over there’ time stream, where the twin towers are still intact, Walter is known as Walternate (and is Secretary of Defense) and Olivia is known as Faux-Livia (a spunky red head with bangs). The two time streams are aware of one another and attempting to work together in peace. With a new breed of shapeshifters entering the mix (human shapeshifters, meaning they’re really hard to detect ala in Mission Impossible with the masks…) ‘over here’ is pretty suspicious of ‘over there’ especially since Walternate sent over some other shapeshifters last season. Your head properly spun yet? Enough summary – let’s get into the meat of this week’s eppy.
Finally abandoning the ‘monster of the week’ format and really getting into the nitty gritty, this episode is probably the best of the season due to its pace and an arsenal of deliciously good plot reveals.
After we open with a nice dream sequence of a topless Walter cooking some chocolate chip pancakes for Peter as Olivia gives him a good morning kiss, Peter awakens knowing he’s gotta get the eff home to make his dreams a reality. This sequence is juxtaposed with a very buttoned-up, dapper Walternate sealing off the investigation of a human shapeshifter incident that’s popped up ‘over there’. Walternate’s lacky, Dr. Fayette (Ryan Mcdonald), doesn’t seem to understand why the incident is being kept under wraps, further suggesting that Walternate is indeed the mastermind behind these human doppelgangers.
Skipping ahead, Peter manages to convince Olivia to help him get to ‘over there’ so that he can use Walternate to get him home (since no one ‘over here’ is even remotely interested). She asks Lincoln (Seth Gabel) to help him out. The motives aren’t completely altruistic, though – Lincoln’s really going to gather some intel. The boys cross over while Olivia camps out in a theatre waiting for their return.
Some hi-jinks ensue, leaving both Lincoln and Peter captured by the ‘over there’ Fringe team. Whilst in a prisoner transport, someone calls in an execution order on them. Looks like the ‘over there-ers’ ain’t interested in helping anyone. All evidence at this point suggests that Walternate is behind everything – but ah, that would be far too simple wouldn’t it? Peter breaks off from Lincoln, who is left to convince Faux-livia and bad-ass Lincoln (he wears cargo pants and has an earring/earpiece which automatically gives him ‘cred’) to help him investigate Walternate and possibly expose his sinister motives.
Peter, on the other hand, goes to the only person left who can help him – his mother (from this time stream), played by the wonderful Orla Brady. In what could have been a very hokey scene, Brady successfully conveys the love between a mother and her child. The moment she looks in Peter’s eyes, she knows it’s him, regardless of what universe he’s from. I maintain that one of the strongest elements of Fringe are the familial relationship – I love the complex dynamics between Walter, Peter and Elizabeth Bishop. Every scene with any combination of these three is usually stellar, and wrought with subtle emotion. I also thought Olivia and Peter worked best when they had kind-of a brother/sister relationship vs. a romantic one. But I digress…what is driving Peter to get home is his desire to get back to his fringe family – and I think that’s what keeps us viewers engaged.
Mamma Bishop convinces Peter that Walternate would do anything to help him, so off to the Secretary’s office they go. In a tense confrontation between Peter and Walternate involving the stroking of a very scary, spoke like weapon, it is eventually revealed that Walternate does indeed know Peter, and that he’s not behind the new human shapeshifters. In fact, he’s just been guarding his actions because there’s a bevy of human shapeshifters working in his very office! (We discover this when he finally offs Dr. Fayette, exposing him as a shapeshifter all along).
This sets up an unexpected surprise – Walternate is actually not an evil mastermind and he is totally onboard to help Peter. Cut back to the Fringe headquarters where Broyles (Lance Reddick) is revealed (to the audience only) as being involved with the human shapeshifter plot along with – wait for it – seemingly back from the dead David Robert Jones (Jared Harris). His face is in bandages, and is helming a human doppelganger factory in which Faux-Livia and Bad Ass-Lincoln are walking straight into!
Phew. If that weren’t enough to nosh on, we get a final scene back ‘over here’ where Olivia is greeted by a wounded Observer (Michael Cerveris). As he nurses a gunshot wound, he cryptically tells her:
I have looked at all possible futures and in every one the result is the same – you have to die.
And scene. What could it mean? What’s to come of the new Peter/Walternate relationship? Is he really to be trusted? And what will happen to Faux-Livia and Bad-ass Lincoln when they enter Jones’ lair? Is Broyles the big bad of the season? Lots of juiciness happened in this episode, and it sets up some really interesting threads to continue in both ‘over here,’ ‘over there’ and everywhere in between. Here’s hoping that the momentum continues and we don’t get any more interruptions with hiatuses, and filler episodes (as good as they may be).
- It’s likely you heard of what FOX’s entertainment president Kevin Reilly said with regard to Fringe‘s future. The show is losing money, which doesn’t bode well. If this episode is any indication, Fringe still has lots of potential for some mind-blowing twists, but it needs the stability to tell its story properly. All the false starts and stops, I believe, has resulted in a more uneven, difficult to grasp season overall.
- Case in point: David Robert Jones. I’ll admit, I knew this guy was a big baddie, but I totally forgot all the stuff that he did and had to look it up as a reminder (Oh internets how I love you!) The memory relapse is also attributed to Jared Harris popping up everywhere else (I still associate him most with Lane Pryce over on Mad Men). I’m sure the shock of his reappearance would have been more effective had the show not been broken up by so many starts and stops to the main mythology-laced storyline.
- I’ve always admired the green screen work on Fringe. Hey Ringer – take note.
- I don’t know about you guys, but I wants-me some more Astrid (Jasika Nicole).