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‘Fringe’ recap: No one is who you think they are

January 14, 2012 | 12:30 pm

WalternateWhen "Fringe" premiered back in 2008, it seemed like your average procedural show with a supernatural twist. Nothing exceptionally original. We had seen it before: monsters of the week sprinkled with hints at a larger mythology. Only "Fringe" didn’t leave us hanging endlessly waiting for answers. Instead of spending five years leaving us wondering who took Mulder’s sister or what was the smoke monster, "Fringe" gave up its secrets. Two universes. Our Peter died. Walter stole theirs. 

Where does a series go after it has revealed its big mystery? Anywhere it wants. Now we get episodes that center on alternate-timeline versions of the parallel-universe doppelgangers of our original "Fringe" characters. How many shows can say that? 

The only character from our universe and timeline is Peter, and he desperately wants to get back. Who could blame him? His dream of waking up to pancakes with Olivia and a half-naked Walter seemed pretty nice.

The only problem is that the one man who could help Peter doesn’t want anything to do with him. This timeline’s Walter has decided that his attempt to save the parallel universe’s Peter caused too much damage. He won’t risk that again. Luckily ...

... there are two version of the one man who can help Peter, so he heads to chat with this timeline’s Walternate.

Getting to the other side ends up being not so easy. Sure, this timeline has a bridge connecting the two universes, but they’re not so much on friendly terms. The “over here” Fringe Division believes that Walternate has been sending over a new version of the shape shifters' super soldiers. No one is going to authorize Peter to stroll over to “over there” for a conversation with public enemy No. 1. Instead, Peter and Olivia hatch a plan to use Walter’s original universe-jumping device to slip next door unnoticed and have Lincoln Lee impersonate his himself to get close to Walternate. Easy as that. 

Only no one is who you think they are. Peter trusts the alt-timeline Olivia and Lincoln Lee because -- well -- they’re Olivia and Lincoln Lee, right? But this version of Olivia and Lincoln never knew Peter. They don’t have any loyalty to him. They see an opportunity to slip behind enemy lines, grab some intel and get out. Whether this crazy guy who popped out of an electric cloud gets back to where he came from isn’t their concern. 

On the other side, that Fringe Division is handling its own shape shifter situation. After inappropriate activity in a bus station bathroom, one of the hybrid shifters got nailed by the Greyhound to Cleveland. Walternate personally saw to the investigation/dissection. Awfully suspicious. Then, after Peter and Lincoln get captured by the other side’s Fringe Division (did they really think simply changing Lincoln’s clothes would be enough?) and before they can make it to prison, their drive receives orders to kill them. Doesn’t look good for Walternate.

But not everything is as it seems. Walternate is fighting the shape shifters himself. They’ve infiltrated high-powered people in the alternate universe, including Walternate’s assistant Brandon. Walternate is willing to help Peter if Peter can help him. Walternate needs Peter to tell the Fringe Division over here that he isn’t responsible for the super shape shifters. They need to work together to stop the real threat: Nissan Leaf product placements. Just kidding. It’s an evil scientist. 

Even with this twisty, turny plot going on, "Fringe" managed to squeeze in a few moments of heartfelt emotion. First when Walter described finding his wife after her suicide, and then when the alternate version of Elizabeth Bishop recognizes Peter. Inventive, emotional, clever and fun. Why aren’t more people watching "Fringe?"

“I killed a guy like that once” – Welcome back, David Robert Jones. I complained once that "Fringe" kills off its villains way too fast. It’s nice to see one of them come back. In our timeline, Peter chopped Jones in half while he was trying to move between universes. In this timeline, he’s alive and growing shape shifters.

Toys R Me – If you’re anything like me, you get paid to write about television. Chances are, you’re not. You probably have a regular job with a boss you don’t like. How much worse would it be if your boss was a psycho version of Broyles? Lance Reddick did a short over on Funny or Die. (Be warned: It’s definitely not safe for work, no matter who your boss is.)

Astrid Action – Alternate Astrid didn’t get a lot of action this week. She spotted the hole Peter and Lincoln Lee used to cross over, but other than that, we didn’t get to see much of Agent Farnsworth. 

Spot the Observer – This week it should be "Shot the Observer." Baldy the Watcher showed up bleeding through his 1950s suit. Before he vanished, he delivered the ominous message that he’s seen all the possible futures and Olivia will have to die. As far as ominous messages go, it’s pretty standard, but it raises the question: Is the Observer talking about just this timeline’s Olivia or all Olivias? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

RELATED:

"Fringe" recap: Unseen U-gene

"Fringe" recap: What's the problem?

Complete "Fringe" coverage on Show Tracker

-- Andrew Hanson

Photo: Walternate (John Noble) prepares for a meeting. Credit: Fox

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