Since Fringe returned on April 7th with Inner Child, we've gotten one great ep after another, and the roller coaster continued this week with The Road Not Taken, a brilliant serial-procedural hybrid that featured several compelling mysteries, Emmy-worthy performances, and some real pay-offs for devoted fans. Oh, and some shameless cross-promotion for a little movie that came out this week.
"Blonde girl about 5'7. Really well-done. Melted fillings."
Spontaneous human combustion? Nah. That was The X-Files. This is Fringe.So Susan Pratt and Nancy Lewis were part of the same Cortexiphan trials as Olivia and Nick Drake. It looks like Cortexiphan affects more than just perception! Sure, Liv can see into alternate realities, but she, along with this week's twins, can also excite molecules until they conflagrate. What other kinds of mind-tricks are ZFT recruits capable of? And why did William Bell think these super soldiers were necessary to win the imminent inter-reality war?
"Each choice we make creates a new reality."
Walter confirmed it: Fringe doesn't just take place in our own universe, but in the meta-universe. The world we've occupied since the Pilot is only one path of causality, out of an infinite number of possible timelines, akin to Hugh Everett's Many-Worlds Interpretation of quantum physics.
The narrative implications are endless. Is there an alternate Boston where John Scott is still alive? Where Peter and Walter weren't rescued from drowning by the Observer? Where history as we know it is remarkably different? That certainly seems to be the case with the reality Olivia glimpses in The Road Not Taken. Here's everything I noticed about it:
Dell is still a ubiquitous computer manufacturer. Everyone wears kevlar. Things are...bluer. There seems to be no trash pickup. Lots of graffiti. Lots of smoke and fire. The FBI communicates via red bat-phones. Kirk Acevedo is mean. And scarred. And giving shoot-to-kill orders. The city of Boston is being both evacuated and quaratined (which seems a contradiction).
My biggest question about Olivia's visions: is this reality the one with whom ZFT prophecizes a war? The one they created super soldiers to fight? If so, I'm confused. Where do the Observers fit in? And what's so special about this particular alternate reality, when there are an infinite number of them in the meta-universal manifold?
"William Bell is not the enemy."
Look out, we've got another Ambiguously Powerful Figure from JJ Abrams, the same man who brought us Arvin Sloane and Benjamin Linus. All of Season 1, the writers have establish Bell as a morally corrupt Man Behind the Curtain of Massive Dynamic, the Pattern, and now ZFT. But in The Road Not Taken, both Nina Sharp and Walter defend Bell's character, assuring viewers that he's been misrepresented.
Who do we trust? Will the apocryphal Chapter of Ethics really prove Bell's innocence? I have a feeling Bell's intentions may be benevolent, but his means, unethical. Maybe we'll find out in next week's finale. And if Bell's not evil, who's responsible for ripping out the Chapter of Ethics and corrupting ZFT? Mr. Jones?
- Best Walterism of the Night: "When he was five, he built me a popsicle napkin-holder. Dreadful design. Utterly useless."
- How slick is Lance Reddick? The man could kill someone with a glance.
- Interesting cameo from Clint Howard. I imagine Akiva Goldsman talked him into it. Did this shameless Trek plug bother anyone?
- How many of you cheered when Sanford Harris went up in flames?
- Blair Brown was awesome as Nina Sharp in this ep, and I think John Noble deserves an Emmy for this performance. The coffee-shop scene particularly.
- Nina seems to be limping all of a sudden. Just how much of her is robotic, do you think?
- Nice to see Astrid out of the lab! Get that girl a gun next season.
- I liked the return of the light box. Here's hoping we see ZFT Test #2 next year.
Adam Morgan is a writer for both the page and screen in Chicago, and he blogs pseudo-daily at Mount Helicon.