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‘Fringe’ recap: How does that make you feel?

Fringe-ep402_4 Why don’t more people watch "Fringe"? Seriously. It’s not a rhetorical question.  "Fringe" is the best science fiction on television right now. I’m willing to argue that with anyone. Challenge me. Bring up any show on the air, and I’ll counter you with "One Night in October." I’m always partial to the Flashback episodes or Singing Film Noir episodes, but "One Night in October" definitely skyrocketed to one of my top five episodes of "Fringe."

Since Olivia crossed worlds to meet William Bell at the end of Season One, ‘Fringe’ has done a good job of utilizing the two universes. They built the other universe as an enemy to ours while making their motivations clear and understandable. They’ve shown us how little changes in history can drastically change the personalities of our favorite characters. They even tease us with the small difference, like who starred in their version of "Back to the Future" (if you read my recaps, you know that’s my favorite detail of the other side). The best tale of two universes, though, has to be "October" and the story of John McClennan.

We start off in normal "Fringe" fashion with a bit of crazy science. John McClennan, our madman of the week, quizzes his victim on a memory from childhood, even asking him in true psychologist fashion “How does that make you feel?” All the while McClennan pumps a bright blue liquid in the back of his patient’s brain until he freezes to death from the inside out, complete with the final icy tear. Classic "Fringe."

Only this didn’t happen in our universe. This scientific serial killer is over there. In the red universe, eluding Fauxlivia and her Fringe Division. They’ve done everything they can to catch this guy with no results. Even when McClennan messes up and leaves DNA evidence with his most recent victim, it isn’t enough to track him down, so Fauxlivia comes to our Fringe Division looking for help. 

The premise gives us plenty of time to watch our Olivia work with the other Fringe Division. Seeing the two Olivias side by side brings out their differences, even in body language. I commended John Noble last week for his ability to distinguish the characters he plays just by his physicality, and Anna Torv pulled off the same acting magic Friday night. 

The relationships between the characters were quite enjoyable as well. Olivia starts of hating and mistrusting Fauxlivia, to the point that she seems angry when Lincoln points out their similarities, but her feelings are slowly overpowered by her devotion to her job and bringing a killer to justice. Speaking of Lincoln, he must be in hog heaven with two different Olivias to be hopelessly in love with. The only thing missing was a little other side Charlie Francis. I was such a huge fan of the playful relationship the alternate Fringe Division had last summer. Unfortunately, Charlie is off on his honeymoon with Mrs. Bug Girl. Probably permanently since actor Kirk Acevedo has taken a role on "Prime Suspect."

As if the concept of the two Fringe Divisions teaming up isn’t cool enough, Fauxlivia’s plan takes it to the next level. She wants to bring the John McClennan from our side over there, so he can study their McClennan’s home and possibly pick up on clues that might help them catch the serial killer. Pretty good plan. It even turns out that our McClennan studies forensic psychology and has been waiting all his life for the FBI to show up and ask him to help track down a serial killer. I bet he never guessed that serial killer would be himself. 

The tale of two McClennans plays out amazingly, in a powerful combination of writing and the performance by John Pyper-Ferguson. Our McClennan starts off so excited. He’s thrilled to be working with the FBI. He’s even excited to down the tranquilizers they require he take so he won’t know he’s moving between worlds. You can see the childlike glee in him as he goes through the other McClennan’s house, interpreting his belongings and what they mean about the killer’s mental state. Then everything shifts gears when McClennan finds pieces of his own life in the killer’s belongings. At that point, there’s no more hiding the truth. 

Both McClennans carry with them a darkness, much like everyone’s favorite serial killer Dexter Morgan (another show I’m excited to have come back this week). They both feel urges to kill, urges that were magnified by the abuse they received from their fathers. The big divide between them came one night in October when our McClennan ran away and found support in Marjorie, the woman who took him in and taught him he could still step into the light. The McClennan over there never found Marjorie. He went home with his father and got three straight days of beatings, and now he uses his high IQ to try to steal happy memories from his victims. 

I cannot talk enough about how much I enjoyed this story. From our McClennan’s discovery to his desire to save the other McClennan and his ultimate fate: becoming one of the victims. The Other McClennan uses his crazy science to steal the memory of Marjorie and immediately feels for all the people he killed over the years. Our McClennan returns home with his memory wiped of what happened over there and Marjorie removed from his mind forever. This is "Fringe" at its best, taking the out-there science fiction concepts and aligning them with a compelling human story. Seriously. Why aren’t more people watching this show?

I hate the other universe – I’ve always been a cautious supporter of the other side. Sure their people have sent over shape-shifting super soldiers, they kidnapped our Olivia and replaced her with a double, they even turned on their machine in an attempt to destroy our entire universe, but I give them the benefit of the doubt. All they knew about our universe is that someone from this side stole Walternate’s son and caused cataclysmic disasters in the process. Can’t blame them for being upset. Then I saw they have 99-cent gas. Really, alternate universe? Zeppelins and vacations to the moon aren’t enough? You also get gas for under a buck a gallon? I hate the other universe.

Astrid Action – We got some great action from both Astrid and Other Astrid this week (or Bad Astrid, my favorite term for her so far). Over there, Other Astrid used her big old brain to calculate the probable actions of our McClennan after he escaped to track down his serial killer self. Over here, our Astrid tried to find out why Walter is acting strange, experimenting with his medications, and re-creating Maxell commercials.  But most importantly, Astrid got the line of the night. After she tries to set Olivia up with Lincoln, she points out that maybe the man Olivia is looking for “doesn’t exist.” Hopefully he’ll exist again real soon.

Spot the Observer – After being so visible in the season premier, the Observer once again slips into the background this week. You may have caught him at the very end. In the hospital. As Olivia and Broyles walked away, talking about people who leave a mark on your soul, the Observer can be seen, hanging in the background. 

RELATED:

John Noble and the 'beautiful challenge' of 'Fringe'

'Fringe' recap: In a world without Peter...

Complete 'Fringe' coverage on Show Tracker

-- Andrew Hanson

Photo: John McClennan (guest star John Pyper-Ferguson) inspects a suspect's kitchen. Credit: Fox Television

 
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