Fringe Review: The Consultant ~ Fringe Television - Fan Site for the FOX TV Series Fringe

Fringe Review: The Consultant

      Email Post       4/14/2012 06:38:00 AM      

“No one can be certain exactly what they’re capable of.”

As I work my way though a complete Alias re-watch, and as I’m considering a Lost re-watch for this summer, I keep puzzling over the emphasis on parent/child relationships in JJ Abrams shows (even ones, like Fringe, that he’s not very involved in). One of the great strengths of Fringe—an area where it outshines Lost and even, a little bit, Alias—is its examination of parent/child conflicts from both sides of the relationship. The challenges and anguishes of parenthood are just as important as the pain and trauma the children experience.

Alt-Broyles knows that anguish, and now we know why he betrayed his universe: to save his son. He and Walter have that in common now, although Alt-Broyles took the initiative to stop himself and sacrifice his son to save his world. That makes sense, given what we know of Broyles’s strong moral fiber. He knows the damage Jones can cause and wants to cause; Walter did not know the damage he was causing when he tried to rescue Peter all those years ago.

Walter got to experience the great joys of parenthood in this episode: his glee at Peter and Olivia walking together was obvious, and it was delightful to see how proud he is of his son and the woman who loves him. Alt-Broyles will never get to experience that joy, unless something dramatic happens to make his son’s recovery from his illness possible. (Where does Jones get his medicine? Perhaps Alt-Broyles could get more.)

Other-Astrid worked through her parental grief in this episode, in her own off-hand way. She sat outside the funeral, unsure of what to say and likely recollecting her father’s recent passing. Lincoln, on the other hand, seemed to be watching Lincoln “Deceased” Lee’s parents, who must look just like his own. Lincoln is also working through his continuing grief for his partner, of course. Right now, he seems to be channeling that grief into supporting the various characters Over There: with Other-Astrid in the car and as Fauxlivia’s new partner.

Fauxlivia also relied on Walter, whose Holmsian advice directed her to Broyles as a likely suspect for the mole. From there, Walter and friends sussed out Jones’s endgame: collapsing the universes, which I assume means smooshing them together like the crazy people-mushing we’ve seen before. Jones remains enigmatic, but not in a good way. Evil Nina believes that he will rescue her, and last week Canaan seemed equally taken in by Jones’s concern for his well-being. We know he’s the kind of man to see the killing of random people as nothing more than experimental data. We know he’s got shapeshifters and a plan.

But Jones is still not a compelling villain for me. Why is he doing what he’s doing? How does he create such devotion and faith in his followers? What is he up to when he’s off-screen? The decision to make him, his reasons, and his methods such a mystery may not have been the most effective way of building suspense this season.

In general, I sort of, kinda, a little bit…don’t shoot me!...thought this was a weak episode. It had so much potential, particularly the exploration of grief and betrayal, the great emphasis on duplication in all of the cutting between worlds, Lincoln and Fauxlivia developing a new partnership, Walter and his big step across universal divides, and more information on Jones.

But it was clear that the deaths-of-the-week plot didn’t really matter, because they weren’t given much screen time. Lincoln felt out of place and randomly stuck in because he had to be somewhere, so why not standing next to Fauxlivia or talking to Astrid? This episode could have used one more draft before production, or something. It lacked the usual grace of a Fringe episode. And that, in its own way, is a backhanded compliment: this episode was still heads and shoulders above so much of TV today. It just wasn’t up to Fringe’s usual standards. Perhaps they were busy preparing for the nineteenth episode that’s causing so much buzz.

Anything’s Possible. Even Santa Claus:

• Walter: “Most automobile accidents occur between work and home.”
Astrid: “Yeah. So does most driving.”

• Walter: “Look, it’s my son and his girlfriend.”

• Walter: “Several. Mostly recreational.”

• Walter: “Keep an eye on this universe, will you? I’ve grown quite fond of it.”

• A list of 108 names.

• I loved Astrid and Other Astrid acting as a inter-universal support staff. With coffee.

• Domesticated badgers?

• I don’t know what is more unlikely: that Walter would own that robe, or that Fauxlivia would.

Two and a half out of four eggs. They’re nature’s sponge.

(Josie Kafka reviews episodes of Fringe, Awake, Vampire Diaries, and Game of Thrones for


Francisco Solares-Larrave said...

Weak? Not really, more like a transitional episode, similar to "Wallflower" or "Forced Perspective" in the sense that it works as a kind of gateway to stronger, more revealing episodes. In other words, I agree with you: while it's a bit less intense than other "Fringe" chapters, it's still compelling and multilayered. I really liked Walter's religious comments (very off, yet very timely), the use of objects to show what's going on in the characters' minds (when Walter looks at the screen in the conference room), and the wonderful acting of Anna Torv (I find myself often thinking of Fauxlivia as a completely different person/actress, not Olivia's döppelganger and Torv's initial character), who gave Faux an incredibly human dimension (she is grieving).

Yes, maybe "The Consultant" is a weak "Fringe" episode, but it's still a fringy one. Thanks for the review!

scully8 said...

I agree with both commentors. I thought I was the only one who wasn't totally blown away by the episode. As stated, even the less than stellar epiodes of Fringe are heads above most things on television.

I did love the Walter/AltLivia and even the scene with Olivia in the bridge room very much. Lincoln I'm still having a difficult time connecting with his character . . .

SheHateMeBro said...

I thought this was a very good episode because of the Alt-Broyles parts. It filled in missing details and was also great acting. Also the scenes with Walter and Bolivia were really good.

milostanfield said...

I don't agree with Josie's assessment of the episode as a whole. I've only seen it once but liked it, and my own assessment usually goes up after rewatching. Fringe is the only show on network TV worth rewatching (except maybe Awake). The scenes between Walter and "Red" alone were enough for me to like this one.

I do share Josie's disdain of DRJ. He's too comic book "pure evil" to me. As a villain, I thought Walternate of Season 3 was much more nuanced, having shades of grey that DRJ apparently does not

I'm not comparing actors. Jared Harris obviously has acting in his genes. It's the way the character is written. While we can disagree with S03's Walternate on course of action, we can at least understand emotionally why he did what he did. And we had two excellent "back to the 80's" episodes to flesh all that out (more Orla Brady please!). With DRJ we've had nothing. And if they wait until he's about to be defeated to provide more insight into DRJ, we won't care.

But that's more about what is, for me, the only clunk note of S04 as a whole, rather than this episode. So far "The Consultant" is an easy 4 cans of smuggled blueverse coffee out of 5, with probably a few more tablespoons to add.

More Peter and Olivia would have been nice but you can't have everything in 43 minutes. My dream episode would (will?) have both Fringe teams working fully together to solve a case on both sides. "The Consultant" came pretty close.

So glad Lance Reddick got a chance to shine. He was awesome.

jophan said...

AltBroyles got the last of the treatments (per DRJ) before turning himself in. That's an uncommon mistake on Jones' part, since it would only make sense to keep the leash on until the critical task is accomplished.

I wasn't impressed by Jones in S1, though I know many others liked him a lot. I'll have wait for the resolution to see if more attention to his motives would have played better than keeping us as much in the dark as the Fringe teams. I thought the resolution to the Peter-going-home arc was anticlimactic because the clues were fairly obvious, but then, many others seem to have missed or denied them.

Anonymous said...

For my own sanity, I've done a bit of a summary myself below.. Bare with me.. lol.

I've been thinking a lot about the "endgames" of each season. In Season 1, all the hype was about William Bell. Who he was, what he was up to. Whose side he was on. And I guess he was the villain of the season or so we all thought.. I guess it was DRJ, but he just seemed like a pawn to me. I didn't think he was a big deal at all bc he was killed off so fast before we even knew what he was up to and now it seems it's about to happen again.. Like Milo said.. "if they wait until he's about to be defeated to provide more insight into DRJ, we won't care." I totally agree and wished it was different.

As for Bell, we finally got to meet him when Olivia crossed over for the first time and that was the finale. I did wish we knew more about him and what he was doing in the other universe instead of implying that he was curious about it and decided to stay and work for The Secretary (at least if my memory serves me right). I know this was partially due to Leonard Nemoy turning down offers to stay on the show.

In Season 2, I can't remember his name, but the villain seemed like it was that guy who's head was retrieved from the cryogenics fridge who turned out to be the shapeshifter leader. (HOW DID HE GET THERE TO BEGIN WITH?) But he was a pawn too who was trying to help Walternate cross over and Walternate was the bad guy. He was seeking revenge on the blue verse for Walter kidnapping his son and causing damage to his universe (right?). He had a clear motive. Season 2 was probably the most cohesive as far as evil villains and motives go.

Season 3's villain, I guess was still Walternate. But in a way, it was also the machine... Ultimately, everything was leading up to what the heck the machine was supposed to do.

In Season 4, the villain is obviously DRJ. But I guess it IS like a new Season 1 of Fringe...But I'm still trying to figure out where DRJ fits in. Where does he fit in with the bigger picture? And the bigger picture I'm guessing has something to do with the Observers? I guess the reset really did reset everything entirely. New villains, new motives, new characters. But somehow I wished it was all tied together... maybe in the end it will be.

Questions/Ideas to think about:

1) Walternate created Ver 1.0 of the shapeshifters right? Even in the new timeline? So then DRJ "copied" him and created new and improved shapeshifters? It just seems like there's a disconnect to me..

2) What happened in the original timeline (where Sept does NOT interfere with Walternate’s cure for Peter and Peter grows up in the other universe and somehow makes a baby with the blueverse Olivia)? Technically, Sep didn’t exist yet. I know it’s the chicken and the egg question, but assuming that’s true, why did he interfere and change the course of the timeline? Something tells me it was on purpose. The Observers are far too skilled at disappearing and reappearing for it to be a mistake.

3) I'd still like to know more about ZFT… About their reference to “the war that is coming”; “testing the recruits”; “cross-pollination”(at first, I thought this was prophecing Fauxlivia and Peter’s baby, but now I’m wondering if it’s about Peter and Olivia since Peter is from the other side and Olivia is from our side. Further, if/when they make a child, what kind of frequency will the baby have and how does that affect the future? Will it inherit super powers from Olivia? Is that baby a new breed of observers? Either way, I hope they reference the ZFT again and somehow tie it in the finale.

4) Sam Weiss.

jdelprete said...

Do we know the guy who was helping out DRJ? I feel like he may be Moreau, from the end of season 4 "The day we died", who was the head of the End of dayers. I also want to know if he is the same person as Conrad Moreau from season 1 who created the serum that turned the man on the plane into the porcupine monster in "The transformation"...which we just saw redone new timeline style a couple weeks ago. But looking up Conrad Moreau on fringepedia I see that he died at some point, so how could he be Moreau from the End of dayers? Having some serious head cramping.

Anonymous said...

No, this was a great episode. And I don't hand that out lightly. As with any drama, the characters and relationships trump plot points. This was a very character driven episode and these characters are fascinating. I'm glad the 'freak of the week' took a back seat. I agree that more info on Jones' machinations would flesh out his character/plot a bit more, but there's a danger there in focusing too much on an unredeeming bad guy. FRINGE does enough of that already. I was thinking a third universe had to be involved destroying both of 'ours'. But it could indeed be some 'End of Worlder' nut case. But then what's in it for Jones? We shall see. On the brighter side, filling in for scenes we may never see.... I can see Walter or MDyne synthesizing Broyles Jr's meds. And after a period of mourning, I can see where a relationship between Lincoln and his alt-parents could be very comforting to both. It would be a very sweet, poignant scene.

milostanfield said...

Part 1
@ fringelover - you're right that DRJ in S01 was too much of a flash in the pan, although an entertaining one. He also came across as a megalomaniac, which usually doesn't make for an interesting villain unless he has hella charisma.

Bell as a villain is also tricky because of his ambivalence. He helped Walternate but he also helped our good guys. In 3.21 "Over There 1" it was implied but not proven that Bell made The Machine. In 3.04 "Do Shapeshifters…" I think it was established that Bell did make the Shapeshifters 1.0 (Walter's "brontosaurus has a brain in it's ass" revelation). And somewhere (Over There 2?) it was implied that Bell had to make the tech that Walternate was using against the blueverse in order to stay in Walternate's good graces and stay in the redverse.

Bell has another kind of ambivalence that he shares with his old lab partner Walter. They both have a fascination for how things work that can blind them to possible ethical implications. Although Walter has grown so much, he still has lapses, like when he met the shapeshifter at the end of "Everything In It's Right Place". Bell also admitted, when he and Walter had it out in "Over There 2", that part of the reason he was in the redverse was to bring advanced redtech to the blueverse for profit; the same kind of moral ambivalence that Nina displayed with her "we just own all the patents" speech in 4.04 "Subject 9". Business and science are powerful tools that have no intrinsic ethics of their own, and so can be used for good or evil.

milostanfield said...

Part 2
Thomas Jerome Newton (gotta have 3 names to be in the villain club), our frozen head villain, was just a pawn, but he also, for a machine/organic hybrid, had an incredibile insight into what made humans tick. He outwitted Olivia in 2.10 "Grey Matters", and was delighted that he found her weakness. He also understood Duffy's ethical dilemma in 3.04 "Do Shapeshifters…", more than many humans would, right before he "terminated" him in cold blood. So even though Newton was a pawn and a machine, his insight into people made him a fascinating bad guy. Plus he was polite and had a British accent, two prime ingredients for a good villain.

And so to The Machine. Can a machine be a villain? At first blush I would say no. But I'm reading through Iain M. Bank's "Culture" novels, where machines and AI have evolved to such an extent that they are sentient to the point of near omniscience. And not as overlords or servants of organic beings, but as partners exploring space together. And they are certainly capable of evil as well as good. Fringe's Machine seems more like a force of nature than a villain at first glance, and you don't think of a tornado as a villain. But right now The Machine is healing the rifts that were destroying two universes, certainly an "act" of good.

Alan Turing's famous Turing Test placed a human at a terminal, who communicated with some unseen entity, and based on just the communications alone tried to determine if the entity was a computer or a human. If the human couldn't tell the damn difference then the entity was "human" regardless of whether or not it was a computer. If I were to propose a Good Villain Test, I would ask the entity if 1)it was capable of understanding morally (not intellectually) the difference between good and evil, 2) if it was capable of choosing good and/or evil , and then 3) if it DID choose evil. If the answer to all three is yes, then it's a good villain even if it's a damn waffle iron.

Walternate would pass. So would Bell. And so would Walter(!?). I would say yes for Newton but that's debatable. And the machine? The jury's out. It can certainly do good or evil. But is it sentient? Can it "change it's mind"? Or is it just crunching binary bits like the computer at the office running that godawful spreadsheet? We don't know. I think DRJ would flunk because I see no evidence that he could answer yes to #1 or #2.

milostanfield said...

@ jdelprete - "Do we know the guy who was helping out DRJ? I feel like he may be Moreau, from the end of season 4"

Cool idea. Will file that one away for possible future use. "The Day We Died" was 20+ years in the future so it could fit agewise. Maybe his first job just out of college;). I think Conrad Moreau was a completely different person (a relative?). You actually see him at the climax of 1.13 and he seemed too old to potentially be Moreau in 2026. I don't think that he died, just that his ass got put in the slammer where it belonged, thanks to Dunhamnator and her dead lover. Good luck with that head cramp.

milostanfield said...

@537d7c78-4f2b-11e1-b978-000bcdcb8a73 - (may I call you 537d7c78?) A meeting between Lincoln and his alt-parents would be great. Are his real parents dead? That idea reminds me of the wonderful scenes between Olivia and Altlivia's mom in early S03. Always fantasized that they would meet again after Olivia's escape and recovery, but with the rewrite I guess that's off the table.

Alissa said...

@Fringelover, I have a few questions as well... regarding both John Scott and Charlie. It seems like, in this timeline, Charlie just never existed...? Anyone have any brilliant theories/insights?

milostanfield said...

Probably most of you got this first time through. Not me.

On rewatch, when Alt-Lincoln's mother spoke about how a parent wasn't supposed to outlive a child, the look that came over Alt-Broyles face took on a deeper meaning.

In Season One cold blooded science experiments took place within one universe. Now they occur across two universes.

Interesting to compare:
Walter's eggs scene with Altlivia and Walter's root beer float scene with Olivia (and compare does not imply one is better).

The Machine has been plopped smack dab back into the center of the show. When it first appeared in S03, it was this ominous presence, like Gort in "The Day The Earth Stood Still". Now it is the nexus of this new "dual universe" which depends on it, and a linchpin that can be attacked. It has gone from something to fear to something to defend.

Meana may not know Alt-Broyles had surrendered rather than being arrested. This could be used to gain leverage over her.

jdelprete said...

@milostanfield, thank you, helps at least knowing what happened to the Conrad of the Morneaus... but yea, was thinking the guy helping could be on of em. If its Conrad, maybe they met up at some point and Jones said, "Hey, I wanna make crazy super humans" then Conrad would reply, "I wanna make crazy monsters, lets do it together!" If its Moreau of the End of dayers, they definitely met at an anger management class gone horribly wrong...haha

Zepp said...

Thank you Josie, for his post and their reflections. Also like those other thoughts I read them here, so far. But what was already dark in Fringe, apparently cleared a bit, but returned to obscure again. I'm talking about is the phlegmatic and malicious, Mr. Jones. He now dictates the actions on Fringe, at all levels and universes. And Nina? Well, Nina has shown the "nails", and she even stuck still powerful and enigmatic. In this episode, my only complaint is related to interest equal occurrence, the death of "copies" of people from another universe, resulting in similar or identical, with the events that took place in the universe, where the event occurred. I think the solution to these problems "Fringe," could have been further explored by the writers of Fringe, it would give it a bit more in terms of action, with more movements Fringe team in both universes. But, generally speaking, I found a "episode-of-transition" without a special mark, or, apparently, more important, but elucidator, especially on the obscure actions of a traitor, such as alt-Broyles, eg.

I do not think the acts of the alt-Broyles, be justified as being due to a medication for your child, be supported by "intelligence" of Mr. Jones. That universe of alt-Broyles, the medicine is more advanced and with many more possibilities. I found that these attitudes traitor Broyles, were due to a real threat to your family, like a kidnapping of his son and stuff. The thought it was good episode, but this justification of the alt-Broyles I found weak, even not "justify" all those, deaths and twists that happened. Both Broyles, as well as your copy, alt-Broyles, are individuals with high moral rectitude his actions, and that event reliance on a vaccine made by Mr. Jones for the son of alt-Broyles, would not justify in any way, the actions of a despicable traitor, now charged to the alt-Broyles, the answer to that question, I felt weak.

But, in contrast, Fauxlivia are sensational. Fauxlivia I see now, as I saw Olivia before, ie, with admiration for their actions, attitudes, choices in action and ways of thinking and acting. Devised a plan to "get" the Nina and it worked wonderfully. In other words, Fauxlivia is now for me, the "hero" of Fringe, in this new context. And Olivia? Well … Olivia is now the girlfriend of Peter, and little else.

Anonymous said...

@Zepp. I may grieve with Fauxlivia in regards to Alt-Lincoln, but I still don't respect nor like her. If it was our Olivia, she would have figured out Alt-Broyles was the mole without anyone's help and probably sooner. Who knows..She could have saved Alt-Lincoln (technically, she did save Lincoln's life once). And just because she hasn't had much air time lately, doesn't mean she's become worthless. Besides, Walter didn't want her to come with him to the other side and Lincoln was trying to get away so I think it wasn't like she refused to help the other side. Circumstances just didn't allow her to shine these last couple episodes.

@milo. I'll have to rewatch this, but for some reason, I thought both Lincolns' parents died...

Old Darth said...

Loved the episode. Thought it was fantastic. And to me, Jones is a great villain.

Zepp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zepp said...

@fringelover, maybe you're right, I do not know ... But, now that Olivia and even Peter, they only think about dating. It must be because they are now, really together, I assume, they are somewhat of a "background" the universes of Fringe, I see. Even the quiet Walter complained that called Peter, and he simply did not answer (correctly, no doubt:) because he was next to Olivia, and did not answer the phone! Happening this, there Walter went alone to the universe red. and there Walter, beside the "electric" Fauxlivia, they discovered the causes of accidents with those people, and along with it, although he participated in the discovery of the betrayal of alt-Broyles.

I always thought that Olivia is the hero of Fringe, I still think, but she now has red hair.

In time. Where is the Walternate?! He simply disappeared! Even in this case alt-Broyles, he does not participated in the investigations. I wonder what he is preparing us, hu?

Tsp1215 said...

I theorize that DRJ is not the "bad guy". Because they have not revealed his motives, I have a feeling that he may well be on our side in a battle against a greater enemy, hence his desire to activate Olivia and the creation of the shapeshifters.

Zort70 said...

I've had a feeling for some time that DRJ is not necessarily part of the red / blue or even Amber version of the universes.

I see him as more of a bigger picture guy and that he knows a lot more than any of us yet know.

I also think his reappearance in this season is a continuation of his original character / plan not a new version.

Kind of like how Peter can't be erased, DRJ may be in that same category.

45 said...

Zepp, Why don't You back off olivia and stop being sexist. The last two episodes were set OVER THERE so how the heck is olivia suppose to save the day? Oh and olivia is the girlfriend of peter and you can say that peter is the boyfriend of olivia, little else. I can also say that Lincoln is the new peter since everything unique about peter is now given to Lincoln.

45 said...

And Peter and Olivia only think about dating? Yeah whatever since they both ran to the lab when Walter told them he has news for them or that they were at the scene of both crimes. It's very difficult for Peter and Olivia to catch DRJ if he IS IN THE ALTERNATE UNIVERSE. But you know, people aren't allowed to have relationships on this show, it's all about saving the day.


So enough of your sexist comments, zepp.

Zepp said...

Hey @45 you're what's wrong, this is not a question of sexism, or that I am a sexist or not, because what I am what I am, and it does not matter, because nobody has anything to do with it, not is?

These points I made with respect to "our" Olivia deal is undoubtedly a request, my, with reference to a change in the posture of a character who is totally apathetic now. If Olivia get this kind of character, no explosion, no vivacity that had before, probably will lose his place to Fauxlivia, in preference, at least for me. Of course, that I'm doing, or opining, is directly to the writers of Fringe because the actors are "controlled" by the script, which is presented to them and can do nothing.

Zepp said...

@45, on the other hand, maybe I expressed myself poorly, and used some bad words, or adjectives that I put in a "sexist," I do not know. I have problems with language translations, so ...

But, I reiterate, Olivia now, is far, far short of what I watched on other timelines, or past seasons. Olivia before, was "our" Olivia, or my hero of Fringe.

milostanfield said...

@fringelover - the lines below are from ACT 3 scene 4 of "Everything In It's Right Place" (copied from Fringepedia's transcript). It's when the two Lincolns are comparing lives for differences:

(AGENT LEE is blue Lincoln)
AGENT LEE: Where did you grow up?
AGENT LEE: I'm just looking for where our paths diverged.
LINCOLN LEE: Teaneck, New Jersey.
AGENT LEE: Me too. ‘Til my mom died, and then my dad moved us --
LINCOLN LEE: To Philadelphia. He started a business there.
AGENT LEE: Lee's Hardware.

So unless blue Lincoln's dad died later on, he has just lost his mom. Captain Lee does not say "hey wait that's different. My mom didn't die", but goes right to the hardware store line, which confused me a bit. I assumed from that that Captain Lee's mom died too, but that's not so. The back and forth was really fast, like Cary Grant and Rosiland Russell in "His Girl Friday", with each of them finishing the other's sentences, so a "hey wait" would have broken that rhythm. Hope that helps.

Anonymous said...

For the lincoln mom part, the Redverse father could have remarried thus giving him a mother again. ALt bryoles in season 3 loved his son so much and was willing to help Olivia get back home to save his son's future. Remember Olivia caught the bad guy there, but with the rewrite never caught them in this merged line. As for why Jones would give Alt-broyles the last of the assume it was the last. For all we know it was colored water like in blue verse Nina massive dynamic lab. Another thought is that maybe Jones WANTED Alt-broyles to give that controler to the otherside, and used Alt Broyles to get it there in a way that would not have been suspicous. What if that little box has more than one function. Remember the trick to a good magic trick is making the audience see what you want them to, not what you are actually doing.

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