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'Fringe' recap: Balance versus imbalance

November 5, 2010 |  7:08 am

305_amber_084 "Fringe" returned from its baseball-related break with another episode from the other side. Paralleland. The Déjà Vuniverse. The Red Universe. A world where the fabric of reality was torn apart when Walter crossed over to save, and eventually steal, Peter. 

Those tears in the fabric of reality are repaired with a substance known as Amber 31422. The amber was first seen way back in Season 1 in our universe, when it trapped a bunch of people on a bus, but in the alternate universe, Amber 31422 quarantines breaches in the universe, trapping any innocent bystanders unlucky enough to be in the area when it is released. In the last couple of episodes, "Fringe" has fleshed out the reality of the amber (those trapped inside were declared legally dead, and protesters condemned its use), but this episode gave us a taste of the emotions surrounding the amber.

We started off with two men breaking quarantine to cut another guy out of the amber. It turns out there was a bank robber in 2004 named Joshua Rose, who broke into banks using technology that allowed him to pass through solid walls (another hearkening  back to Season 1). Every time Joshua used this technology, though, it damaged reality and forced Fringe Division to amber the entire location. The crimes stopped when Joshua was thought to have trapped himself in the amber during one of his robberies -- only it was Joshua's twin, Matthew, who got trapped while trying to stop his brother. 

Four years later, Joshua frees his brother from the amber, only to draw the attention of Fringe Division. Walternate is adamant that no one find out that the people trapped in the amber are still alive. Cutting them free could cause the holes in reality to open once again. 

This is what I love about "Fringe." Not only do they have the cool science, they also have the moral questions that go along. Joshua feels ashamed about what he did. He stole hundreds of people from their families, including his own twin. At the same time, Walternate explains that he still remembers when he first used the amber, and talks about how nature knows no good or evil. It only understands balance and imbalance. He's going to bring back that balance, even if he has to do things that other people might classify as evil. 

Along with all this, Olivia tracks down Joshua while struggling with her own identity. She's been pumped full of her alternate's memories by Walternate in order to learn how she passes between the two universes, but she's haunted by her very own Jiminy Cricket, who appears as Peter, telling her she belongs in our universe. Olivia is just starting to realize what everyone else in that alternate universe seems to already know or at least suspect. Shows how much more advanced that universe is compared with ours. Nobody on our side suspects Bolivia of not being the real Olivia. On the other side, even Bolivia's mom is starting to pick up on the clues. (I'm enjoying Amy Madigan as Momma Dunham, but I keep expecting her to yell "At least he doesn't burn books, you Nazi cow.")

In her down-time from the investigation, Olivia participates in experiments by Walternate and that side's Brandon as they try to figure out how she can cross between the universes. They even bring out their own sensory-deprivation tank, but I think I like Walter's better. Walternate's is vertical. Who wants that? If I'm going to be in a tank full of water while scientists inject me with psychotropic drugs, I want to at least be lying down.

Through these experiments, Olivia gets momentary trips back to our universe. Two times she appears in a gift shop on Liberty Island just long enough to smash up the inventory and use the phone to make a long-distance call to her niece. By her second trip, Olivia's visions of Peter manage to make her doubt her identity. She goes from telling Walternate everything about the experience to lying about what happened, but Walternate and Brandon pick up the first traces of Cortexiphan. Oh, the plot thickens!

Wow. You know it's a good episode when I've already written all of this and there's still tons of stuff I want to mention. Like the fun, playful dialogue among the Fringe Division members while getting their wounds tended (I really hope "Fringe" gives us our universe's version of Lincoln Lee). Or the hard-core iPads everyone seems to use on the other side. Or the nice emotional touch of mentioning Ella's birthday. Or how it seemed like Walternate left and came back in the middle of the first Olivia experiment (did anyone else catch that?). But I guess having too much to say always beats having too little. 

No special effects needed: I totally thought Joshua and Matthew Rose were played by the same actor through the magic of special effects, but when I looked up the episode on IMDb, I noticed that they were in fact played by twin actors Aaron and Shawn Ashmore. Each of them have their own nerd cred too. Shawn played Iceman in the "X-Men" movies, and Aaron played Jimmy Olson in "Smallville."

Astrid Action: I was starting to get a little nervous. Astrid was absent from most of the episode. Or should I say BadAstrid (I know she's not necessarily evil, but one of my commenters suggested the name a few weeks ago, and I love how it sounds). Then, with only 15 minutes left, she appeared just in time to give Olivia the statistics on where Joshua Rose will strike next, decked out in her Fringe Division uniform and beret. Though I have to ask, why is she wearing camouflage? Her job is to run statistical probabilities. Does she even go outside? And if not, shouldn't her camouflage look like desk and cubicles? Hmmm. Something to think about.

Spot the Observer: Ha! I totally caught him this time. It's taken me three seasons, but I'm starting to wise up to the Observer's tricks. I knew he liked hanging out in scenes with lots of action, and he can't resist taking a peek whenever the cops show up. So after the episode was over, I automatically rewound to when the Fringe Division arrived at Riverside Bank. Wouldn't you know it, when Broyles turns to look at Olivia's car, old baldy is standing at the left side of the screen. Gotcha!

-- Andrew Hanson

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"Fringe" recap: Don't touch my pudding

"Fringe" recap: That wasn't supposed to happen

Complete "Fringe" coverage on Show Tracker

Photo: Olivia (Anna Torv, left) works on a case with Astrid (Jasika Nicole). Credit: Fox

 

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