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‘Fringe’ recap: Drugs. A lot of drugs.

319_lsd_anim-bird I’m starting to worry that it might be time for an intervention on "Fringe."

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.

319_lsd_anim-cockpit 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. 

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-- Andrew Hanson

Photos: Walter (John Noble) and Astrid (Jasika Nicole) watch their experiment. Credit: Fox

 
Comments () | Archives (19)

I loved this episode! Yea it screamed Inception when Peter jumps in Olive's mind with the shades and coat on and also when Olive's mind 'notices' the intruders and starts to chase them. But all in all the episode was so different that it was cool. I actually laughed when I saw them as comic book characters. It gave them the chance to do all the stunts on a cheap budget and still work with the story since they WERE on LSD AND in someone's imagination. This is why I love this show. It separates itself from everything else on TV right now and the fact that it's still surviving on Friday's makes me proud.

let them get high! fringe itself it's a high dope and love this!
i love when walter is smoking weed.. better than a Weeds Season.. hehe

didn't the animation remind you of WALTZ WITH BASHIR? except for Olivia, who looked like a video-game reject?

Otherwise, the episode soared for me.

Oh no! They're depicting on television what actually happens in the world every day. No, not the bongs! Kids might watch the show, smoke a bong load and go out and rape or murder. What the hell is a Brown Betty anyway?


Count me among those who loved it! And of course the animation allowed Leonard Nimoy to appear without actually appearing, after he'd "resigned" from acting (other than voice-overs, as in the upcoming Transformers film). I'd have thought that was one of the main reasons the episode went cartoon: so that William Bell could appear as more than Bellivia. Also, nice that Peter _did_ recognize a "fake" Olivia this time, since he didn't with Fauxlivia from the Other Side.

@Edwin, you know what else it screamed? The Matrix but then Inception screamed that as well. Come on.

It's not like they didn't warn you. Check your preview of "Brown Betty".

I laughed at a lot watching this episode. I thought the animation went on a little too long (and how awful was the adult Olivia's hair?). Great fun overall, though, and I'll be glad to see the end of Walter's excessive neediness. How Olivia will change going forward, we'll see.

Sam Winchester, nice reference and thank God for Friday nights. Fringe, Smallville and Supernatural are TVs saving grace for me because I can't stand reality TV. I thought the cartoon was the most creative thing on TV in years, and I don't care who's idea they took some creative liberty with.

If JJ Abrams wants to bring his references full circle, he needs to get the actor who played a young Spock in his Star Trek film to play a young William Bell somehow. I have no idea how from a story line perspective, but it's certainly worth drafting a story board over because it would be awesome to have the same two actors play the same two characters at different points in that characters life.

That cartoon episode was the best thing on TV this season since Jensen asked what was up with the names after meeting Misha in their alternate reality episode. I'll watch season 4.

Spencer - I couldn't find any corroboration for it anywhere on the internet, but the drawing style looks like that of Assaf or Tomer Hanuka - two Israeli graphic novel artists who are half of the people who did the animation for "Waltz with Bashir". That's probably the reason for the resemblance.

I also really enjoyed it, the cartoon aspect just seemed a wacky side effect of being in someone's mind, especially a mind inhabited by two consciousnesses (plus Peter and Walter). I thought it apt that in the end, Bell and Olivia were alone in her mind, with Bell helping her see what she'd done, by standing up to her fears, she'd taken their power away. Would that more of us could do that.

Mr. X will pop up again, it was mentioned on another blog that the name might have been a slap at Fox for almost cancelling the show (and thus killing Olivia). Whatever, I'm sure they'll work it in next season. So happy to be able to write 'next season'.

The drugs didn't bother me, the fact that Walter isn't PC on this, and thus the show isn't makes sense, he has after all spent his life doing experiments of various kinds on people's minds and bodies.

Loved the episode..when they all went cartoon-ey..walter's though bubbles "how wonderful" was genius!
Was it just me who spotted the bottle of MacCutcheon in Bell's office?

And come on, you have to applaud Lance Reddick (Broyles) for his excellent acting being high on acid. I laughed my ass of! Just hilarious to use him, the last person who'd ever do that, tripping his brains out. That last scene, when he's just sitting there blowing bubbles, despite everything that's happening....epic!

"Only those who risk going too far, find out how far they can go".

The use of the cartoon animation was a creative touch, similar to the faux noir episode earlier this year. But, it smacks of self indulgence that there is so little in the way of plot going on to lard up the schedule with visual cutesieness. Back in the 80's, when Michael Mann used to pep up dull Miami Vice episodes with visuals, they were in the middle of an episode where something happened. In this one, creative and all, sure, but, what happened - a diversionary plot line filled out a few weeks, and...blooey, nothing. It was interesting to see Nina, in her fire engine red hair, sort of pop up--like the woman in red in Matrix, but the poor girl has got to get something going plot wise. Sure Astrid is fun, and wonderful, and probably has a cat, but so what - she has no plot points to make either.
And as far as it went, I could imagine Bell coming back into the pad computer, OR Broyles, since he was pretty mindless - color me old fashioned but I do not recall people taking 2000 mikes of LSD sitting there with their mouths hanging open, LET ALONE popping up from it all in an hour or two later (a day or so, maybe).
And that zepplin --- puleeez. Where do we start - can you get sucked out of one, NOOOO, its not pressurized, since that defeats the idea of it working. Shoot off a flare, yes, Blooey, not a hole in the side. And the "engine room" I mean, they are on the outside where the propellers are. And it must have been an LSD trip to go 80 mph from New York to Jacksonville (about 975 miles) in less than 12 hours, and so on.
Its awful to think they did not want to pay Leonard Nimoy to appear in this episode, and simply had him come in for some voice overs on afternoon...isn't it?

What was the point of this whole Bellivia plotline? It did absolutely nothing for anyone except, oddly enough, Olivia, who slept through the whole thing! They just resurrected the biggest non-Fringe Division characters of the show only to have him hang out for a couple days without really doing anything and then they killed him off for no reason. Why did they do that? If they needed Bell for something, just have the body swap work and you're good; old Bell in a new body (/actor). If they didn't need Bell, why we just go through all that?

It really seems like they just wanted Leonard Nimoy back, and just started making episodes leading up to his triumphant return... which didn't happen. So they just pulled a quick abort and dumped the whole plot. But instead of writing new episodes to fill in the blank section of their schedule, they just shoved these episodes in there anyway and then switched the ending to render the whole thing meaningless.

I actually enjoyed most aspects of the episode. The animation was fine; although, it went on a bit too long (as others have commented). Other than that, I loved the journey into Olivia's mind. I liked that they showed us that she is afraid, and therefore, flawed. I especially liked the end when she so VERY casually said "He's the man who's going to kill me." Anna Torv is one of the most under-recognized actresses on primetime right now.

"Its awful to think they did not want to pay Leonard Nimoy to appear in this episode, and simply had him come in for some voice overs on afternoon...isn't it?"

Do your homework before posting. It has already been stated elsewhere that since Nimoy is now 80, the strain of the punishing shooting schedule was too much. Check his wikipedia page where it explicitly says he's retired, but is willing to do voice overs.

@Steve
"then they killed him off for no reason". How do you know what they're done with Bell next? Can you see the future? Didn't you notice when Bellivia offered Peter a 'cup of tea' - like the one he gave Olivia with the soul magnets perhaps?

Nimoy said in an interview (Google "For Him The Bell Tolls youtube") where Nimoy hints he'll be back ("and back and back" to quote him).

@Jim P, I didn't get the Sam Winchester reference. I might need to watch that episode again but I agree that "Supernatural" and "Fringe" are the best two sci-fi shows going currently. I also liked the episode of Supernatural to which you referred.

I LOVED Zoom. Sigh....


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