Fringe 3.18 “Bloodline” Review

I always enjoy the episodes which take place Over There, and tonight’s episode “Bloodline” was no exception. The world-building never ceases to fascinate me, the Alternates are wonderfully intriguing, and trying to predict how the stories will affect Our Side is, well, rather fun. It was also quite the relief to be able to enjoy the show without the spectre of cancellation hanging over our heads: in case you haven’t heard, Fringe has indeed been officially renewed for a fourth season.

For a long time I was in the minority in that I actually liked AltLivia. My guess is that the impetus behind the hatred that developed was a combination of the mission she was carrying out against Our Side, as well as the fact that she was in a relationship with an unsuspecting Peter. I think people have been starting to come around since AltLivia was back on her own Side, but I sincerely hope that tonight’s episode changed some minds. Actually, I’m not sure how you could watch ‘Bloodline’and still dislike AltLivia. Anna Torv, as per the usual, delivered a phenomenal performance. As someone who watches a fair bit of television, I’ve seen a lot of shows do scenes with characters in labour. This is the first time I actually really felt anything for the character in question: AltLivia’s pain was almost palpable, and many of the scenes had me cringing. Not to mention Olivia’s tangible fear for her own life, even while being determined to save that of her child.

Speaking of great performances, I also loved the work of Seth Gabel, who plays Lincoln Lee, in tonight’s episode. The scene between Lincoln and AltLivia when she’s giving birth was heartbreaking, especially since we didn’t know whether she would survive. One benefit of having doubles of your characters is that it can help to foster a real sense of jeopardy: characters can be killed off without being written out entirely.

As far as Lincoln and Charlie go, I am very glad that they’ve finally become aware of the switch that occurred earlier this season. Now that they know what really happened, I’m hoping that they’ll start to wonder about Broyles’fate; I think they already have, given that they mentioned his disappearance. I’m curious to see whether one of them, or perhaps AltLivia if they talk to her about their suspicions, will guess that Broyles actually helped our Olivia escape. And if they find this out, I wonder if it would make anyone question Walternate, if their own commanding officer were willing to act against him so openly. Although, when Walternate was talking to Lincoln he made it sound as though Olivia had been sent back by him, not that she’d escaped, so that could throw them off a bit.

On the one hand, I was hardly surprised to find out that Walternate was behind AltLivia’s abduction as there seems to be no end to his machinations and few limits to what he will sanction. On the other hand, I was hoping that it wouldn’t be him: in the last couple episodes Over There, Walternate has seemed staunch in his unwillingness to experiment on children. I suppose it was too much to hope that that unwillingness would extend to his own grandson. I keep vacillating between liking and hating Walternate, though I always remain wary.

I’m endlessly curious about what Walternate is planning for AltLivia and his grandson. I’ll be disappointed if it turns out that Peter’s son can operate the Machine as well: by that reasoning, both Walter and Elizabeth Bishop could also operate it. There has been quite the emphasis on the fact that only Peter is keyed to the machine, so no relatives of his should be able to operate it, no matter their genetic similarity.

I’ve been discussing the episode with friends all evening, and one question that people have is whether the baby will experience any side-effects from the accelerated growth. The technology used is reminiscent of that showcased in the Fringe season 1 episode ‘The Same Old Story’: in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were the same technology. We know that the Other Side is more technologically advanced, and if they have found a way to cure cancer — which would entail arresting the uncontrollable cell growth — it stands to reason that they would have a way to safely accelerate cell growth. As we saw in season 1, the problem that arose was that once they accelerated the growth in subjects, they couldn’t slow it down again. I doubt, very much, that they have that problem Over There.

My guess is that we won’t see any ill-effects: I think that the baby would need continual exposure to the drugs they gave AltLivia to induce accelerated aging. One of the doctors mentioned that the drugs were acting to block inhibitors, so I assume that once the drugs are removed, the inhibitors — that is, those intracellular inhibitors which mediate cell growth — would resume their normal actions, and Peter and AltLivia’s son will exhibit normal growth.

My one problem, though it’s really more of a quibble, with the episode was that the people holding AltLivia captive were administering her sedatives in pill form. She already had an IV in, and logically, it makes far more sense to just administer all of the medications intravenously. That being said, I understand that they needed a way to have her trick them into thinking she’d taken the medications, so presumably it was intentional, but it’s just a little bit illogical.

The question has also arisen as to what, exactly, VPE — viral propagated eclampsia — is. This is not actually a condition that we see in reality, although eclampsia is, of course, a real and very serious condition that can be life threatening for a mother and fetus. We don’t actually know what causes eclampsia, although there are various risk factors and correlations that are observed. I gather that VPE is eclampsia driven by a virus that replicates to the point of causing cardiovascular collapse for both mother and child during labour if pregnancy goes to term.

I assume that VPE is a disease that was discovered Over There, likely due to the fact that they’re more advanced. That being said, the fact that there seems to be a genetic component does make one wonder why Rachel and Ella survived on Our Side. My own hypothesis is that VPE is also due to some sort of environmental factor — perhaps the virus is one which doesn’t exist on Our Side — and so that is how Olivia’s niece and sister are still alive in our universe. Rachel, and Olivia, for that matter, would still be carriers of the genetic predisposition, but if the virus only exists on the Other Side, the condition wouldn’t manifest in them during pregnancy.

It’s a bit of a non sequitur, but I very much hope that we see more of certain guest stars. Amy Madigan consistently delivers heart-wrenching performances as Marilyn Dunham, and always makes me wish that Our Olivia still had her own mother. Andre Royo is thoroughly unforgettable as Henry Arliss Higgins, and leaves me wanting Olivia to cross back over just so that we can see more of their dynamic. I find it rather fitting that he would bring AltLivia’s son into the world. And although we didn’t actually see Julie McNiven in tonight’s episode, Charlie’s mention of his date with Mona the entomologist, whom we first met in ‘Immortality’, had me laughing and hoping that we’ll see her again in person.

Overall, I very much enjoyed ‘Bloodline’. I can’t quite say that every new episode is better than the previous ones, because I love so many episodes from this season and last. That being said, it certainly feels as though we are building up to something pretty huge as we go into the remaining episodes of the season. A

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