“Anything is possible.”
And so it begins: the long, quick slide down the rocky outcropping towards the cliff from which we will hang with delicious, knuckle-whitening suspense until fall. “Brave New World, Part I” continues the great tradition of wonderful, mystifying, tantalizing penultimate episodes. And, in keeping with Fringe tradition, it is almost impossible to rate or even assess.
The first third of this episode was a fascinating low-key case of the week that set up the roller-coaster ride of the last two-thirds. Lost’s Rebecca Mader has made no secret of her membership in our unofficial Fringe fan club, and she did a wonderful job of showing us the outsider’s view of the events our heroes deal with every day. Her fear—and her strength—were a beautiful opportunity for Fringe to remind us what is at stake with every case: not just world-bending mind-altering insanity, but individual lives.
The evil burning nanites were creepy. (Nanites are creepy all the time. Like malevolent germs.) More to the point, their purpose is confusing: why would Jones leave such an obvious trail? Was he coached by Bell to draw the Fringe team out? In that case, Bell and Jones decided to sacrifice a bunch of people just to draw Walter’s attention to the continued existence of his ol’ friend Belly. And then Bell decided to sacrifice his bishop. (Jones, luckily, not one of our more loveable Bishops.)
Speaking of which: wow and double-wow! In a recent conference call, Pinkner and Wyman attested to their strong desire to get Leonard Nimoy back for the fifth season…and didn’t let anything slip about his appearance in this week’s episode. Now, not only is Bell back, but he’s possibly evil. Then again, his plans have always been mysterious: maybe he’s not a villain bent on the destruction of two universes. Maybe there’s more to this: Nina sure thinks so. Bell said he hadn’t made a move in his chess game in over 20 years. Is that an allusion to Peter’s death/abduction/etc?
(And what does Bell’s history of cancer, disappearance, and reappearance in this universe mean for the events of Seasons 1-3? How completely different were those first contacts between universes, without Bell to orchestrate them and move the pieces around the board? Argh, my brain!)
In addition to revealing Bell, the nanite case also revealed Olivia’s power of interpersonal telekinesis (for lack of a better phrase). She calmed Jessica’s nanites, and took over Peter’s body to help him fight Jones. That scene wasn’t my favorite, as the shadowboxing was clumsy, but this new aspect of Olivia’s power is both awe-inspiring and frightening. Peter promised Olivia they would figure out her new power together: “I will not lose you again, Olivia.” I can’t think of a better guarantee of something horrible happening to one of them in the next episode.
That would be emotionally difficult, as we’ve already (apparently) lost Lincoln Lee and an entire universe this season, we lost Jones in this episode, and Astrid is in dire straits. All that in an episode that also included the nanites, the sun-beam, Olivia’s powers, and the return of William Bell. That’s practically an entire chess game of events, and I didn’t even mention the lemon cake or the animalia.
Must Seem a Little Bizarre, Huh?
• Olivia: “Nursery?”
• Walter: “…my lethal friend.”
• Peter: “That’s what happens when you drink and mince.”
• Walter: “Jones must be reflecting light off something, like one of the disco balls.”
• Walter: “…and shut off the sun. Well, you know what I mean.”
• Walter: “It’s a fool’s errand, and I am a fool. No one is asking you to join me, Alex. It’s much hunch, and I’m quite capable of pursuing it on my own. So peace out.”
Walter: “I was on a roll.”
• Walter: “I knew it! Chilean almonds!” Obviously!
• Walter: “Sounds like a rhino. But more nasal.”
• Bell: “Hello, old friend.”
• I would like to nominate “Eyes Without a Face” for the creepiest song ever, please. Especially muzaked.
• Did anyone worry that the nanites would infect anyone who touched the nanited people?
• I apologize if this is a stupid question, but why did Jones disintegrate?
Attempting to rate this episode when Part II is still to come seems like a fool’s errand of my own. So I’ll let you do it:
How many Chilean almonds out of four?
(Josie Kafka reviews episodes of Fringe, Awake, Vampire Diaries, and Game of Thrones for billiedoux.com. And--completely random plug--we also have reviews (by Paul Kelly) of Sherlock, the wonderful BBC series that resumes on PBS in the US this Sunday.)