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‘Fringe’ recap: The Black Dry-Cleaning Van

January 28, 2012 |  2:25 pm

"Fringe" normally nails its twists. It will lead you down a trail, letting you think you know what’s happening, before it flips on you. Suddenly that helpless victim turns out to be the villain. Or Walternate turns out to be a good guy. "Fringe" knows how to work a good red herring. Though now I want to coin a new term: the Black Dry-Cleaning Van. A red herring is an intentionally false trail, made to draw you away from the true path. A Black Dry-Cleaning Van is like a red herring where the truth is a letdown. 

In "Forced Perspective," the Fringe Division investigates Emily, a young girl who sees glimpses of the future. Specifically people’s deaths. The girl’s father constantly moves their family, changing their names and getting new jobs, to prevent people from taking Emily away to study her. People like Massive Dynamic. After Olivia discovers the Emily’s gift, her father thinks Massive Dynamic has found them again, but it turns out to only be a black dry cleaning van that happened to park across the street. Kind of a letdown. Definitely if this guy has been uprooting his family constantly because of his own paranoia. Makes you hope Massive Dynamic was stalking them, just to make it worth it. 

As always, the mystery of the week is connected to the larger picture. A girl who can see others' deaths strikes a chord with Olivia, who recently heard from the Observer that she has to die. Though, apparently, in this timeline, Olivia and Fringe Division don’t have much on the bald voyeurs beyond a bunch of blurry photographs. All Olivia knows is that one showed up, shot, to predict her demise. It makes sense that when she comes across a girl who can doodle death, she’d be more than a little intrigued.

The connection is deeper than just that. Olivia sees herself in Emily. The stories of the girl being studied remind Olivia of her childhood. Back when Walter and William Bell experimented on her. Olivia confronts Nina Sharp about Massive Dynamic’s history with Emily. She feels a little betrayed by the woman who rescued and raised her. It is good preparation. I think Olivia is going to feel a lot more betrayed by Nina in the coming weeks. 

Emily’s entire story seems to be a Black Dry Cleaning Van. Her prophetic sketches do save a lot of people from exploding in a county courthouse, but she doesn’t end up shedding any new light on Olivia’s death. Emily’s own fate ends anticlimatically. She dies from some sort of stroke while sitting on a park bench. The same supercharged brain that gave her these visions killed her. Without any final prediction or insight. That seems like a textbook example of anticlimcatic. 

Don’t get me wrong. There’s plenty of "Force Perspective" that I loved: the gory opening death, Walter walking a hypnotized Emily through the memory of her vision (that would have been great in 3D), and the great moment when Emily explains to her father that she never told him she had seen her own death because she knew he would be there when it happened (less needing of 3D). I just couldn’t get myself deeply invested in Emily’s story. Probably because the last few episodes have built the tension over Peter’s attempt to return to our timeline and the future of these versions of Olivia and Walter that I have little patience for detour. I’m sure Emily is/was a perfectly nice young lady, but give me more alternate timeline and the alternate timeline parallel universe. Just give me more "Fringe." Now.

Security? –- How bad is security at the Allston Courthouse? Albert Duncan, the surprise bad guy of the episode, manages to both park a pickup full of remote-controlled explosives in the parking structure beneath the building and smuggle in a vest bomb. You’d think that a government facility in the courthouse range would be able to spot at least one of the bombs slipping in each day. Our mad bomber isn’t that much smarter, though. His remote is jammed by the bomb squad adjusting their radio signals. Security can’t always rely on incompetence. 

Astrid Action – Astrid stuck with her basic duties supporting Walter in the lab. I have gotten so used to Astrid going out with her field gear and streaming her investigation back to Walter that it was a little strange to see her confined back to the Harvard basement. Don’t worry. From the preview it looks like next week is going to be Astrid crazy.

Spot the Observer – The Observer can easily be spotted standing outside Olivia’s window in the final moments of the episode, but they popped up quite a bit before that. This timeline is just now putting together the pieces when it comes to Observers. They didn’t even know they were called Observers until Peter mentioned it. Now that the Observers are a little more know, I’m sure they’ll be sticking their shiny, round heads out even more.


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-- Andrew Hanson

Photo: Walter (John Nobel, center) and Peter (Josh Jackson) question a young girl with psychic ability. Credit: Fox Television