‘Fringe’ recap: Drugs. A lot of drugs.
I’m not one of those sticklers who thinks every depiction of drug use on TV has to be followed with the user ending up penniless on the street, but for a broadcast show, "Fringe" sure has been enjoying the drug use carefree lately.
In the first couple of seasons, Walter would self-medicate occasionally, bringing out major narcotics only in dire situations.
Last year, "Fringe" got a little more lenient. Walter smoked up a little Brown Betty and everyone started singing. Then this year, you get Walter passing a bong with Hurley and now everyone’s dropping LSD. "Fringe," we’re your friends. You might need help.
"Lysergic Acid Diethylamide" is one of those episodes of "Fringe" you are either going to love or hate. I can see why some viewers might hate it. The episode did veer awfully close to "Inception" at times, the animation had the feel of "A Scanner Darkly" done on a PS2, and I’m sure there are dozens of other complaints I can’t think of. "Fringe" went out on a creative limb, and I’m one of those people who loved it.
This week "Fringe" tried to solve the riddle of Bellivia. William Bell is still cheating death inside Olivia’s consciousness thanks to his Soul Magnets (still an incredible name for a band). Originally Bell promised he’d be out of Olivia’s head in 48 hours, though he could easily stay there two weeks.
Now, Olivia’s mind is slipping away, and Bell’s two-week estimate was based on experiments on rats. I’m not sure how you test and see if the wrong soul is still in charge of a rat. I guess you could train one to run a maze and they transfer that rat’s soul into another. That’s not important. What is important is saving Olivia’s consciousness.
After a failed attempt to shock Bell’s soul into a corpse, complete with a rush to the emergency room, Bell, Walter and Peter take a bunch of LSD and hook themselves up to a machine so they can slip into Olivia’s mind.
The first level of Olivia’s mind looks like a normal street, though all the pedestrians dress with Olivia’s black-on-gray flare. Peter and Walter find each other in this level and begin their search for Olivia. They get a signal from Olivia’s dream version of the World Trade Center only to find out it is William Bell flashing them Morse Code instead of Olivia. Plus the whole world becomes animated, too, so double whammy.
The whole rotoshopping/scoping style of animation might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it gave the show’s writers (show runners Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman) and director (Joe Chappelle) the opportunity to take the story in directions they couldn’t before. They gave us a good chunk of action in Olivia’s mind before everything went Toontown: car chases, mindless mobs, Walter on top of a bus. With the animation they were able to have Peter fight off zombies and then jump off the World Trade Center to catch a departing zeppelin. That’s all I need to accept the animation.
Even as the episode got a little crazy using Olivia’s mind as a setting, it stays grounded through the emotional current running underneath. Walter is desperate to save Billy Bell because he needs a Ying to his Yang. A balance that keeps him from going off in the corners of science he shouldn’t. Peter is desperate to save Olivia because he loves her and would like her to knock off that Leonard Nimoy impression. Walter doesn’t save Bell but learns that he has the maturity to Ying his own Yang, while Peter does save Olivia in a beautiful scene where he sees past Olivia’s decoy and finds her real self.
Like I said, you’re either going to love the episode and wonder how "Fringe" is going to top this next season, or you’re going to hate it and wonder why they would spend so much time on that shot of animated Olivia listening to Walter Bell’s goodbye (she wasn’t moving. It could have been a photograph for all I knew). Either way you have to give ‘Fringe’ credit for taking a risky, bold move.
As we head into the last three episodes of Season 3, "Fringe" leaves us with a pretty good cliffhanger. Who was that guy with the big X on his chest? Why was Olivia so nonchalant when she said she thought he was going to kill her? And how am I going to survive this whole summer without "Fringe?"
Placing the product placement. Teasing "Fringe" about product placement is like making fun of the kid whose mom packs his lunch. That doesn’t mean I won’t do it. Normally it’s a long glance at a caller ID on a slick phone or GPS navigation out of a slick car. This week Astrid did the duty, pulling out a Sprint tablet on which she downloaded the 1972 PBS educational series "Zoom" to cheer Walter up. I had never heard of "Zoom" before myself, but apparently it featured kids in rugby shirts telling viewers to “turn of the TV and do it!” according to Wikipedia.
I have to ask, though, if they have this state-of-the-art doodad to watch campy TV shows, why are they using an old Apple II to download William Bell’s brain? I know Walter has a love for nostalgia, but everything is cooler when it has a touch screen. Seeing them use this tablet to watch a show might make me want it, but seeing them use it to save the mind of a mad scientist makes me need it.
Astrid Action. Astrid was the designated driver of this episode. Not only did she watch over Walter, Peter and Bellivia as they take their acid trip into Olivia’s mind, she also gets to babysit Broyles after he touches the tray they used to serve the LSD sugar cubes. Astrid must have had a good deal of experience dealing with Walter high as a kite because she knows just what to do to tend to Broyles and his expanded mind. As the designated driver, Astrid got to listen to everyone’s drunken confessions. First from Broyles as he talks about the horror of seeing his dead self (that has to mess you up), and then Walter’s realization that Bell is gone (at least until the show figures out another way to bring him back).
OK, "Fringe," you’ve been green-lighted for Season 4. That better come with an Astrid-centric episode. I’m not kidding this time. She’s earned it.
Spot the Observer. Did you see him? I think my brain has adapted to "Fringe." As soon as they burst into the hospital with Olivia on a gurney I knew to keep my eyes open. About two minutes into the episode you can spot the Observer walking past an open door at a nurses’ station. It is a tricky one, but if I caught it with my track record, then everyone should have noticed him.
-- Andrew Hanson
Photos: Walter (John Noble) and Astrid (Jasika Nicole) watch their experiment. Credit: Fox