Let’s get this out of the way first: I’m dumbfounded about the way this week’s episode of FRINGE ended. Yes, I realize it’s bad reviewing to say, “Well, I would have done it this way,” but the set up was so blindingly clear, I feel something must have changed in the eventual execution of the episode. Here’s how things played out, and how I thought they were going to play out (and then we’ll jump back and give a little more context):
David Robert Jones is trying to collapse the two universes into one, in order to become a new god of physics or something. He needs some sort of safe area, a central zone for the coming temporal storm; a place he can hide out while two universes implode, before he becomes Noah, with his arc full of genetic monstrosities. The two Fringe Divisions, after exhausting every other option, decide to shut down The Machine that keeps the Bridge between their two Universes. This means that Earth-2’s healing will stop, the two Universes will no longer be connected, and potentially, Peter will disappear (at least Walter thinks so, though we know better).
As the clock ticks down to a third set of earthquakes that will definitely trigger the universal implosion, Walter - using Peter’s DNA - powers up the machine: it needs to reach 100% power before it can be shut down.
HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED: The Machine reaches 100%, and with time left on the countdown clock, Earth-2 disappears from the Bridge. They’ll miss them. Peter doesn’t disappear. The end.
HERE’S WHAT I THOUGHT WOULD HAPPEN: The Machine reaches 100%, and just as the two Fringe teams wonder whether they’ll be able to stave off destruction, a door opens in the Bridge. In walks David Robert Jones, followed by a menagerie of genetic monsters... Because if you were going to have an eye of the storm, wouldn’t it be the Bridge that connects two worlds? And wouldn’t you need the Machine at full power to act as the focal point of universal collapse? The clock reaches zero, the implosion begins, and right in the middle are all our bad guys, and all our good guys. Cue credits.
Again, I realize this is now just a pleasant bit of fan fiction, but that some variation on those events didn’t happen is gobsmacking to me, considering how much the episode seemed to be setting up some variation on the scenario. I imagine, given we have two episodes left, the Producers and writers decided instead to focus on the emotional scenario of saying goodbye to Earth-2. Additionally, because they were well into finishing this episode before the announcement of Season Five, I also imagine there was a certain level of tidying things up before they go, so they can spend the last two episodes focusing squarely on “our” Fringe Division (sorry, Lincoln Lee).
But there’s two basic, glaring facts that makes the actual execution of the episode so strange: 1) We never find out where DRJ’s safe zone was; and 2) You don’t, ever, count down to something and then have a bunch of time left before the countdown clock expires. That never happens. Ever. Can you think of a single TV show or Movie where there’s a ticking bomb, and the hero disarms it with plenty of time to go? Of course not. This, by itself, suggests to me that things changed, possibly at the last minute... Though of course that’s just a theory.
Otherwise, how was this episode? Pretty darn good, all things considered, and it all comes down to the acting. Anna Torv and John Noble in particular get to play dual roles (as does Jasika Nicole, but to a much lesser extent), and the effects - and ways the two actors differentiate between their Earth-1 and Earth-2 counterparts are alarmingly good. Sure, they have different hair, and Torv’s Earth-2 Olivia is a little too, “Eh, I’m a dude!” but whether we’re saying goodbye to these characters for real, or if it’s a feint (I’m guessing the latter), it really felt like we were saying goodbye to separate characters - and not just Anna Torv in a wig.
The clear stand-out of the episode, of course, is John Noble’s scene in the hallway, as the Walters of two worlds sit and talk for, quite possibly, the first time in the show’s history. The effects here are superb (I couldn’t help but think, “We’ve come so far since “The Parent Trap!”), but it’s Noble’s subtle tender acting, and the writing of the scene - which finds the two Walters bonding over their love of “their” son Peter - that make it something really special.
There were a few more stand-out scenes: the opening, as Cortexiphan Kidz cause earthquakes all over the world, was also extremely exciting; as was Olivia invading her friend’s mind to track him down before he caused a second earthquake - casually causing psychic bonds is like FRINGE’s bread and butter at this point. But as a whole, this felt like clearing the deck, and (hopefully) the calm before the storm.
Given that the producers thought these next two episodes might have been their last, we expect a bit of a barn-burner. And from a show that’s never shied away from big, crazy moves, our expectations are very, very high.