‘Fringe’ recap: Surprise, surprise
“Fringe” has always been fantastic at season finales, mostly because the show seems to enjoy making massive changes from one year to the next. At the end of Season One, Olivia first visited the other side, traveling to the parallel universe to first meet William Bell. Season Two concluded with Olivia trapped as Walternate’s prisoner while Fauxlivia took her place. Then last year, Peter climbed into the machine and ended up far in the future. Each finale has been more daring than the last, and “Brave New World” has already had more surprises than any other season closer, and that’s only the first half.
Season Four came out of nowhere. When Peter activated the machine, he erased himself from history and rebooted the universe. “Fringe” restarted, introducing us to new versions of all the characters we’d come to know. They were still the same people, but without Peter, their lives had taken different paths. It was a crazy risk that paid off. Season Four has been the finest year of “Fringe.” The writing, the acting, the themes. And it has all been building to this.
Everything kicks off with the crazy science of the week mixed with a little Sprint commercial. I kid “Fringe” on its product placements, but you gotta pay the bills, which apparently you can do now by conveniently swiping your phone. Not all transactions will end with you infested with nanobots which spontaneously combust off your body movement. At least that’s what I assume. I have Verizon myself.
Then the show jumps into its nonstop shocker. Peter and Olivia lie in bed, considering neighborhoods where they could buy a home. Peter lists the amenities, and Olivia asks for a nursery. She wants kids. It’s a surprise for Peter, but not for us. We saw a couple of episodes ago that their daughter will be a member of Fringe Division in 2036. Peter is fully on board. He did pull himself back from nonexistence to be with Olivia. You can be sure Peter is not afraid of commitment.
While Walter investigates the smoking corpses of the nanobot victims, he runs into surprise No. 2: guest star Rebecca Mader. Another “Lost” alum visiting “Fringe.” Mader plays Jessica Holt, one of the people infected with the tiny robots who volunteers to be Walter’s guinea pig. Walter is able to use her to come up with a cure, but more importantly, Olivia triggers more of her Cortexiphan powers trying to save Jessica from overheating. Olivia is quickly becoming the superhuman Walter and William Bell experimented to create.
Fringe Division connects the nanobots to David Robert Jones, but Walter recognizes their design. They practically have William Bell’s signature all over them, which leads to probably the biggest surprise of the night: the return of Leonard Nimoy. “Fringe” hinted in the past few episodes to William Bell’s involvement, but I was certain Nimoy had retired from acting after his last “Fringe” appearance. Though I should have seen it coming. He did lend his voice to an episode of “Big Bang Theory” this year as well. In a world of spoilers, it was a happy thrill.
Though “Fringe” was far from done with surprises. Bell moved his plan to the next level, concentrating a beam of sunlight at an oil reserve under Boston. Bell wants Peter and Olivia’s attention, and nothing works better than a shaft of light destroying an entire building. Walter triangulates where David Robert Jones is directing the space laser and sends Peter and Olivia to shut him down. I love my Fringe Division, but I feel like someone should have noticed this could be a trap. Instead, Peter and Olivia go alone and even split up to take down the two antennas communicating to the sunbeam satellites. Not that splitting up matters. Now Olivia's Cortexiphan powers let her remotely control Peter. He has always been a good brawler, but with Olivia as puppet master, David Robert Jones doesn’t stand a chance.
In the end, David Robert Jones is just a sacrificed piece in William Bell’s giant game of chess. All this time, Olivia and Walter have been trying to figure out Jones’ plan. His actions this season have been erratic at times, but when seen from the point of view of Bell, it makes more sense. He is slowly activating all of Olivia’s powers. The shipload of half-human monsters is part of Bell’s plot as well. As to his endgame, we’ll have to wait for next week to see.
The Investigation – I think the only thing that might have bugged me about this episode was the trail of bread crumbs that leads Walter to William Bell. By bread crumbs, I mean almond oil. I was excited to see Walter return to the mental hospital where he was incarcerated all those years, but his bloodhound act on the visitor logs and the pig brain follow-up felt like a bit of a stretch. Walter goes to visit the importer William Bell used decades ago to get his almonds wholesale and stumbles on Bell’s homemade ark? Let’s just say my suspension of disbelief got a rigorous stretching at times.
Astrid Action – Noooooooooooooooooooooo! Tonight had some literal Astrid action. Not only was she running three computers simultaneously to get Walter all his information or driving him to the docks in the middle of the night, Astrid also kicked a thug’s gun away and put up a strong gun fight until she was… I don’t know if I even want to write it. Shot in the back? Not my Alex. I mean, Astrid.
Spot the Observer – I went through the episode three times and couldn’t spot the Observer. I would have sworn he would be in the opening, but I didn’t notice him anywhere. You can’t blame me for being distracted. So much happened this week. I’m excited to see how the season ends.
-- Andrew Hanson
Photo: Walter (John Noble, left), Peter (Josh Jackson) and Olivia (Anna Torv) visit a hospital to reserach Walter's past. Credit: Fox Television.