This week on Fringe, Joshua Jackson continues to be MVP (though his Mom comes pretty close), we get a number of huge pay-off moments, and Walter investigates molecular gastronomy. Let’s get to it, friends:
The episode picks up right where the last left off, where Evil Alternate Universe Broyles (we are getting so comic-booky on this show, its ridiculous) has ratted out Faux-livia and Lincoln Lee, all while trying to kill (or something) Earth 1 Lincoln Lee. He’s stopped by Walternate, and Peter, who reveal the government has been invaded by shapeshifters. Meanwhile, Faux-livia and Lincoln encounter the no longer dead David Robert Jones, who pulls the same trick he did way back in season two, and gets himself arrested just to make a point. By the way, this paragraph is why no one is watching Fringe anymore (though also why I love it).
Anyway, back at Fringe headquarters, Peter recognizes Jones, and offers to interrogate him. In a tense scene, he brings up events that no one in this or any other Universe should know about. Evil Broyles tries very poorly not to seem evil while he’s listening, and Jones – annoyed – calls game on. He takes out a hospital ward in the goriest way possible, then tells them to let him go.
Next up on the greatest hits parade? Using money hiding tracking chips, he manages to confuse the Fringe Division team, and escape to continue his master plan. Luckily, his master plan on New Timeline Earth-2 is nearly identical to his master plan was way back on Old Timeline Earth-1: get a bunch of metal, and blow a hole in two universes. Earth-2 Fringe tracks him down, only to find out… They’re in the wrong universe.
So they head back to Earth-1, along with the regular versions of everyone, but they’re too late: Jones grabs tons of the metal, and escapes BACK to Earth-2 (why no one was waiting for him over there, we’ll ignore), but not before our Olivia gets a first hand lesson in what happens to your car when portals to other dimensions close on the hood. Jones waits for instructions from the person he’s working for, who is secretly… Ba-bum-BUM! Nina Sharpe.
In the B-Plot, meanwhile, Walternate laments to his wife that he can’t help Peter fix the machine that will – potentially – return Peter to his own dimension or timeline, while Walter can. So she heads over to Earth-1, finds a far more damaged Walter Bishop than her own, and forgives him. Both this scene – and the scene later where Walter tells Peter that he’ll help him – are on the surface, very simple. But, to get into what I like about this season of Fringe so much, is that they’re actually insanely complex.
The first scene has a Mrs. Bishop from an alternate dimension forgiving her own husband – who saw her commit suicide in his dimension – for killing her son… Because she knows he didn’t mean to, and was in fact trying to save him. This is after they’ve both met an adult version of “their” son from what they believe is a third dimension. And beyond that, we, the audience, know that Peter is actually Mrs. Bishop’s son, while emotionally Walter’s son. Neither of them know that, though; but the writers and actors play all of that at the same time. This is very, very complex stuff, and to make it make sense is one thing. To make it also hit home emotionally is rather brilliant.
I talked about this a bit last week, and I’ll keep going with it, because, why not, but it’s insanely ballsy of Fringe to be playing so hardcore to repeat viewers. It’s the same sort of intelligent writing that worked on LOST, and so many creators are afraid of. Yes, it limits your viewership: Joshua Jackson’s speech to two universe’s Fringe teams saying how they took down David Robert Jones in his timeline, and they’ll do it again made me almost stand on my couch and cheer; for casual viewers, I have no idea if it would even make sense.
It’s even ballsier for the show not to be providing a simple out for everyone. Yes, there’s the Machine, but given that doesn’t do what Peter thinks it does, and no-one really knows how it works, there’s no way things are just going back to normal. I read somewhere that this approach is alienating viewers, because they’re spending an entire season watching characters they don’t know, and technically don’t care about. The crux of why I think that’s wrong is Peter. Like he’s been saying, at their core these are the people he knows, just with different memories and experiences. It’s a fascinating topic to explore: what makes us who we are? Is it what happens to us, is it the people around us, or are we just who we are, deep down.
I find it even more fascinating that Fringe doesn’t provide a simple, easy answer to those questions… They are, and will continue to explore all those options. And for this season, that’s all through the window of Peter Bishop. He’s the one character who is the same (though he’ll surely come out of this experience a different person), and watching him mostly silently react to subtle and not so subtle changes in the people we know and love, almost as much as he does is making for beautiful television.
There is, of course – as always – the question of the ending. Will all of this pay off in a way that’s satisfying for viewers who have been enjoying this season, like me; as well as viewers who just want to see their friends again? My guess is, yes, absolutely. I can’t imagine we won’t get a last episode where at least Olivia is able to remember her life with Peter, and how she loves him… Though I also can’t imagine that won’t happen right before she dies. Because this is just that sort of show.
Until then, though, we’ll be enjoying the spherical pastrami.