By Josie Kafka 2/12/2012 04:42:00 PM Categories: Fringe. Season 4, Fringe review, Welcome to Westfield
“You folks lost?”
“Not that I’m aware of.”
This is an episode that could have gone either way: horribly disappointing or deeply satisfying. Standalones and trapped-in-a-town narratives can provide a welcome relief from an overarching mythology, or a frustrating sense that the writers are dragging their feet. Somehow, “Welcome to Westfield” didn’t have either of those results at all: the standalone elements were so evocative of so many other episodes, and the final surprise was so darn exciting that the relief I felt wasn’t at the break from the mythos, but at the sense that we are finally, finally getting somewhere.
We can think of Westfield itself as something of a metaphor for Season Four. We thought we were going somewhere, leaving behind old stories to pick up new ones, at the end of Season Three, just like Peter and Olivia thought they were leaving town. But we wound up looping back around on ourselves, meeting new iterations of Olivia, Walter, Astrid, etc., and in some ways re-living old cases with new twists.
But the Westfield situation resolved itself, albeit with a few smooshed people as casualties. And now it looks like the erased timelines/reversed timelines/new timelines confusion is starting to resolve. Olivia has her memories back, or is merging with the version of Olivia we knew in seasons 1-3, or something else. I think she’s merging with seasons 1-3 Olivia, with the caveat that seasons 1-3 Olivia (Originalivia?) hasn’t existed, properly speaking, since the end of Season Three. Cliff said that the people in the high school needed hope above all. And now we, the viewers, have hope, too.
That’s awesome. Thank you, Mr. Jones! That is, if I’m right. And if whatever’s happening to Olivia doesn’t somehow cause, y’know, the end of the world, which it just might. Do you think Jones created the Westfield situation to force Olivia’s merger? Was the plane crash just to get their attention? Questions. Happy, happy questions.
And: how tragic would it be if the Machine’s new purpose is just to re-set the world yet again, creating a constant loop in which Peter must, again and again, return to a foreign world and re-assert himself, coming closer and closer to a solution but never quite reaching it? (And if that reminds you of a certain book series, you’ve guessed correctly what I am currently re-reading.) That’s a sad, sad question.
Hopefully the events in Westfield indicate that a more stable solution is forthcoming. Some people in the town did survive, and Cliff emphasized just what makes their survival possible: family and the love that binds people together. The intersection of the deeply personal and the scientifically impossible is one of the hallmarks of the Fringe universe, and it looks like we’re finally approaching a smooshed solution to the questions that have been plaguing us for weeks: just what’s going on, and what does it mean for our beloved characters?
The Magnificent Rooster:
• Walter: “Needs more butter.”
• Broyles: “Welcome to Vermont.” For some reason, I thought this was hilarious.
• Two quibbles: Cliff needed a blood transfusion, but then got magically better. And schizophrenia isn’t the same thing as multiple personality disorder.
• Walter on the high school PA. I’d do exactly that if given the opportunity.
• Walter was already acting like Originalter by leaving the lab. Maybe Olivia isn’t the only one who is changing.
• Cliff got loaded with a lot of exposition, but the actor really made it work.
• Two rows of teeth! Ewww! (I have tooth issues.)
• No Lincoln Lee. Sigh.
• I could list all the episodes of Fringe and other shows that “Welcome to Westfield” reminded me of, but the list is too long, so I’ll let all of you put your own in the comments.
This is a hard episode to rate. It shouldn’t have worked, but it did. And it looks like it’s heading us towards a much longed-for solution. But there are many, many unanswered questions. Maybe I’ll revise my opinion after next week’s episode, but for now, I’m going to offer this rating, free of charge:
Three and a half out of four rhubarb pies.
(Josie Kafka reviews episodes of Fringe, Vampire Diaries, and Game of Thrones for billiedoux.com.)