Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god—and that’s just my reaction to the crawly bugs, which gave me some really horrible nightmares. Everything else? I’m not even sure of what to say: so many developments, so many possibilities, so much dramatic tension.
Life prevented me from completing this review for a few days, but I did waste a bit of time zipping around the internet to see what folks were saying. I was surprised to discover that some people worry that Fringe has introduced a soap-operatic element into the plot—as though Fauxlivia’s as-yet-unborn baby will become cousin Oliver, or Dawn from Buffy, or a cuddly McGuffin to be tossed around like a beachball at a Dodgers game. But, after all, Fringe is full of plots that could be ripped from Days of Our Lives: dopplegangers, abducted children, mysterious parentage, childhood trauma, fake bionic hands…the list goes on.
The difference is one of tone, register, and good ol’ fashioned skill. I don’t know much about soap operas, but I’m under the impression that they’re rather campy. Fringe isn’t. The writers have managed to take some truly unbelievable plots and make them seem real and vibrant. The actors, too, deserve mad props for bringing authenticity to numerous moments that could be overplayed and overwrought. So Peter is torn between two versions of one ur-Olivia, one of whom is pregnant with his baby in another dimension, and is thus being used as a pawn in an evil vengeance scheme by an all-powerful Walternate? Fringe will make it work.
In the meantime, we have numerous fascinating character developments. I am most interested in Walternate’s feeling towards children (generally) and family (specifically Peter and Baby). In his conversation with Evil Brandon, Walternate discovered that he has a line: no experiments on children. This line reflects his own feelings towards his lost son, but it also illuminates some of Walter’s own ethics of experimentation. Unexpectedly, Walternate became more relatable, which shone a light on the moral implications of Walter’s own Cortexiphan sins.
Walternate does, however, seem to see a devious potential in Baby. He may draw the line at experimentation, but he doesn’t mind using Baby as a pawn to draw his own son back. Will this eventually become something more sinister, as Walternate uses his grandchild to explore the infinite potential of baby brains? Will he begin to see the child as his own lost son? Or will some event take place that prevents the baby from being born? (My money is on that last one, sadly.)
Silva said: “The world changed on me. It simply changed, and robbed me of my legacy.” Walternate could say the same thing, although he doesn’t yet seem to see Baby’s function as a potential immortality device. We have babies to see our line continue, to replicate, to leave something of ourselves that lasts beyond our death. That’s what Silva wanted, in his own way: to live beyond his death as a scientific genius. It’s a natural desire that turned into a monomania because he had nothing, in the present, worth living for. Is that where Walternate is headed?
I chose the line “Guess who” as my lead quote for this episode because, in addition to the immortality theme, there’s a theme of confusion over the roles people play, and will play, in each others’ lives. The tension showdown between Silva and Fauxlivia was a game of “Who’s got the button?”—who is doomed to die, and who to live? (Their names are also near-anagrams of each other, but not quite.) On a larger scale, Fauxlivia agreed to marry her boyfriend, but we saw her struggling with the return to her “real” life, away from Peter. Now, of course, she’s left with Peter’s baby, no fiancé, and a complex moral relationship with the most powerful man Over There. Lincoln, too, seems confused about his roles, both as the new Broyles and as Olivia’s friend who wants something more. Even Francis didn’t know what role he was to play in the flirtation game with the bug girl. And did anyone catch Fauxlivia saying “I.D.” instead of “Show-Me”? It’s a symbolic slip—she didn’t just use the wrong word, but is struggling with her Over Here identity and her Over There identity.
While this episode had great moments of world-building, and a hugely important mythological jump forward in the pregnancy plot, it’s those character interactions, reactions, and tensions that I find most interesting. I’ve come to care deeply about the characters and the worlds the show has created, because Fringe is made with such consummate skill that everything feels so real and alive. All of that is my way of saying that I can’t wait for the next episode.
What the Hell Am I Putting Together Here?:
• Lincoln: “How come, when you say boss, it sounds like insubordination?”
• Olivia: “No, sir, the bugs do not have control of your wife…I promise, that is not the way they work.”
• The bug girl crushing on Francis was adorable. The bug jokes were charming, too.
• So the sheep are dead, eh? That’s depressing. As were the mentions of no hot water in North Texas and a cholera epidemic. (Cholera? We know how to deal with that!)
• Lincoln is verging on too pretty, isn’t he? That must be why he wears the scruffy sorta-beard, just to ugly himself up.
Four out of four creepy crawly bugs. Ugh!
(Find more of my Fringe reviews, as well as reviews of the Vampire Diaries at billiedoux.com.)