Just to get it out of the way so I can get on with the more interesting details: I absolutely loved tonight’s Fringe episode. I initially thought that tonight’s episode was a return to the more case-centric style of storytelling, and to a degree it was. Solving the case of bodies that were lighter than air yet contained traces of the densest elements provided Walter with quite the challenge, and led to some always-entertaining moments between Walter and Astrid. The case itself turns out to be tied to the larger story of Fringe in a way that I honestly did not anticipate. The reason that the aeronautical engineer, played marvelously by Alan Ruck, is able to create this new ‘miraculous’compound that breaks the laws of physics is because Our Universe is starting to decay the same way the Other Side is. The very laws of physics, as Walter points out to Nina, are ceasing to function the way they ought to.
I found myself in the strange position of identifying with the ‘bad guy’of the episode. Someone whom I love very much is in a wheelchair, although for a different reason than the engineer’s son, and I can absolutely understand his desire to do anything he possibly could to try and fix the situation; his desire to try and do everything in his power to make his loved one happy. My heart broke for both the father and son during the prison scene, and I was once again struck by the continuing trend of Fringe having amazing guest stars. At the same time, I also found myself hating the father for using other people as lab rats and taking advantage of their hope and desperation — even if he did it out of love for his son. Never let it be said that issues in Fringe are simply black and white.
From what I saw online during the episode it seems as though people are divided as far as the relationship between Peter and Olivia: they either love it or they hate it. I love how it’s being handled, particularly since this is the first episode in which we really see them as a couple: I like that we get these little glimpses of how their relationship has changed, but that it doesn’t overshadow everything else in the episode. Nor, interestingly enough, do I really find it to be a huge change from their dynamic before they were romantically involved – aside from the fact that Olivia now smiles a great deal more. I do have to say that Walter’s sheer delight at Olivia and Peter’s relationship is so much fun: it makes me wonder a bit if Walter remembers that they actually met as children, although I don’t think that he does. I did find myself rather annoyed at Peter, that he was continuing to keep secrets from Olivia even though they had apparently instituted a ‘full disclosure’policy; but in yet another example of perfect story pacing, Peter finally revealed to her that he has been conducting his own investigation.
In true Fringe fashion, Peter’s revelation to Olivia is interrupted by the arrival of ‘Bellivia’, as fans have taken to calling her. When Jeff Pinkner revealed that Anna Torv would soon be playing another persona, this was absolutely not what I was expecting. I did see it coming as soon as Walter mentioned the ‘soul magnets’and started talking about calling back William Bell’s ‘soul’, or consciousness. I was surprised that the magnets actually worked, but not that Olivia was his ‘vessel’. Who else would Belly have chosen, other than the child who was always the strongest?
I do find it interesting that Bell and Walter view the soul as a separate entity in and of itself, as something persists even after death, although this does fit with the view of the soul that we’ve seen so far in Fringe – particularly in the episode ‘Unearthed’. It’s probably because it’s not a view I share, but this actually bothers me to such a degree that I find myself trying to explain other ways that this could work: perhaps the magnets could function in such a way as to influence Olivia’s neural patterns to mimic Bell’s. Given the relationship between magnetism and electricity it’s not entirely far-fetched to believe that magnetic fields could alter neural functioning. In which case, if what we view as consciousness is determined by neural activity, then it might provide a bit more of a scientific explanation. But I digress.
I sometimes feel as though it is easy to forget that Walter lost his best friend and partner. Between Walter’s journey back to sanity, and then thinking that William Bell was the one responsible for leaving him literally brain-damaged, I get the feeling that Walter hadn’t really processed the loss of his best friend. His tangible grief and desperation also has to be tied into the fact that he literally feels the weight of the universe on his shoulders: after all, it was one of his failures — the failure to save his son — that led to his actions to tear apart the fabric between universes. There’s no telling what the consequences might be if he fails to come up with a solution this time.
Initially I found myself incredibly amused at Anna Torv channeling Leonard Nimoy: not that she doesn’t do a fantastic job with it — as with her portrayal of AltLivia, even her carriage and diction change — but just that it’s so strange. Even by Fringe standards. But when I thought about the situation a bit more, I couldn’t help but find myself furious on Olivia’s behalf. I highly doubt that Bell asked Olivia for her permission to use her, and it is yet another violation of Olivia. From being a Cortexiphan kid, to having her memories overwritten with those of an alternate version of herself, to channeling the consciousness of a dead man — how much more can our Olivia take?
That being said, I’m sure it’ll make things hilariously awkward for Peter and Olivia; for any number of reasons, I cannot wait to see how this plays out in next week’s episode. And given the fact that ‘Anna Torv’has been trending on Twitter for over four hours, I can’t wait to see the ratings for this episode tomorrow morning. Here’s hoping that they go up again! A.