“It’s about trust. So it’s a great game, if two people are playing.”
For the past five episodes or so, I’ve had the same thought after each airing: How many viewers will call this the last straw, the final push, the reason to rant and rave and, ultimately, walk away? Fringe continues to push us past our comfort zone, not just in terms of scientific possibilities but also in the intersection between the personal and the scientific, with interesting results.
This episode was nearly perfect. The Walter-centric humor that bookended the story—with Hurley (as Kevin) in the opener and with Nina near the close—was delightful, and it was wonderful to see our hero having some silly fun with the community he is building at Massive Dynamics. As an unabashed Hurley fan, I desperately hope he will join the cast as a series regular, even if only to play Walter’s weed hook-up. The final shot between Water and Nina as they looked at the door was even better: subtle comedy that didn’t rely on a single line to be hilarious.
Peter and Olivia were equally fun-loving. Well, for a while. When last we saw our heroes (grown-up version), I wondered if Olivia’s relaxed demeanor was a put-on to lure Peter in. She seemed much more natural this episode, although I wonder where all those smiles and giggles will go once she returns to her body and tries to come to terms with Peter’s extracurricular activities.
Yeah…once she returns to her body. Cuz now, she’s possessed by William Bell, thanks to the soul-magnet-magic he worked back in “There’s More Than One of Everything.” At the time, I didn’t particularly pay attention to the ringing bell, but now we know that was a hugely important moment in which Bell…soul magnet…Olivia. Yeah, that’s it.
I am still undecided on the Belly-possession. That the soul magnets seem like a great idea to a very stoned scientist is an internal clue that the writers might be aware they’re taking us a step too far, or at least acknowledging that the science behind soul magnets is more speculative than anything else. Olivia did a wonderful job channeling Bell, but I was a bit embarrassed for her at the end. Possession by Spock? Complete with voice? I’m not against it, but it’s rather awkward and graceless. (I also feel horrible for Olivia. The Cortexiphan, the tank, Over There—can’t she just be a regular girl for a week?)
The humor and the final moments are just icing on the cake, a frame to the plot-of-the-week. The p.o.t.w. was solid, and it was neato to see Alan Ruck. However, I continue to be deeply uncomfortable with Fringe’s ablest logic. I will not repeat my earlier rant, but I will note that I do not understand why the show (via Peter’s dialogue and other techniques) assumes we will instantly see the logic between young men choosing one assistive device (a wheelchair) over a set of new assistive devices (a tether, lead boots, regular injections). Alan Ruck’s discussion with his son at the end hinted at some of these much larger issues, but Fringe continues to operate under a series of very bizarre assumptions about the perspective of the “handicapped” who are “confined to wheelchairs”—both of which are rather inaccurate phrases.
It worked well, though, as a plot that stands for the larger theme of the episode: trust games. Alan Ruck asked the young men to trust him, but they couldn’t know he was playing the game with another goal in mind: curing his son. Belly has been playing Olivia for years now without cluing her into her own participation in the game—would she have consented to be possessed by a dead scientist? It’s mental rape. Peter, on the other hand, has to deal with moving past his own reliance on game-playing and cons. His default position is lying to keep things on an even keel, but he took a gamble and disclosed his shapeshifter-assassinations to Olivia.
All of that is made possible, as Walter reminded us, by his actions so many years ago. The rules of the universe are breaking down, enabling Alan Ruck to try to save his son, but hinting at the destruction of something, if not everything.
The Decoder Key Is In My Office:
• Hurley: “What did he say?”
Walter: “It was the seventies. What could he say?”
• Walter: “Hold still, you infernal creature!”
• Walter: “It’s like using balloons to steal bowling balls.”
• Walter: “Belly was researching the perfect bowel movement…Everybody poops, dear.”
• Walter: “Yes, we never really solved that design issue. I suspect that may be why we didn’t get many volunteers.”
• Nina: “I don’t imagine you’re preparing for a science fair.”
• Olivia: “Is this why you asked me to meet you across campus and not at the lab, so we could make out in front of college kids instead of your dad?”
• The upside-down shot of the men stealing the metal was extremely disorienting. It almost made me nauseous.
• I was genuinely worried that Young Man #3 was going to float into the atmosphere and burn up.
I said above that this was a nearly-perfect episode. It was extremely well crafted, beautifully shot, and full of delightful character moments. I may not agree with the perspective the show espouses as regards physical ability, but that’s a personal reaction and has little bearing on the artistic merits of the show. Will Belly’s possession of Olivia turn into something wonderful? I don’t know. We can’t know. But I will be watching to find out.
Three and a half out of four Hurleys.
(Are you sick of putting mints into bottles of cola just to watch something explode? Kill time by checking out my reviews of the Vampire Diaries and Fringe at billiedoux.com.)