by Josie Kafka
“No one can be certain exactly what they’re capable of.”
As I work my way though a complete Alias re-watch, and as I’m considering a Lost re-watch for this summer, I keep puzzling over the emphasis on parent/child relationships in JJ Abrams shows (even ones, like Fringe, that he’s not very involved in). One of the great strengths of Fringe—an area where it outshines Lost and even, a little bit, Alias—is its examination of parent/child conflicts from both sides of the relationship. The challenges and anguishes of parenthood are just as important as the pain and trauma the children experience.
Alt-Broyles knows that anguish, and now we know why he betrayed his universe: to save his son. He and Walter have that in common now, although Alt-Broyles took the initiative to stop himself and sacrifice his son to save his world. That makes sense, given what we know of Broyles’s strong moral fiber. He knows the damage Jones can cause and wants to cause; Walter did not know the damage he was causing when he tried to rescue Peter all those years ago.
Walter got to experience the great joys of parenthood in this episode: his glee at Peter and Olivia walking together was obvious, and it was delightful to see how proud he is of his son and the woman who loves him. Alt-Broyles will never get to experience that joy, unless something dramatic happens to make his son’s recovery from his illness possible. (Where does Jones get his medicine? Perhaps Alt-Broyles could get more.)
Other-Astrid worked through her parental grief in this episode, in her own off-hand way. She sat outside the funeral, unsure of what to say and likely recollecting her father’s recent passing. Lincoln, on the other hand, seemed to be watching Lincoln “Deceased” Lee’s parents, who must look just like his own. Lincoln is also working through his continuing grief for his partner, of course. Right now, he seems to be channeling that grief into supporting the various characters Over There: with Other-Astrid in the car and as Fauxlivia’s new partner.
Fauxlivia also relied on Walter, whose Holmsian advice directed her to Broyles as a likely suspect for the mole. From there, Walter and friends sussed out Jones’s endgame: collapsing the universes, which I assume means smooshing them together like the crazy people-mushing we’ve seen before. Jones remains enigmatic, but not in a good way. Evil Nina believes that he will rescue her, and last week Canaan seemed equally taken in by Jones’s concern for his well-being. We know he’s the kind of man to see the killing of random people as nothing more than experimental data. We know he’s got shapeshifters and a plan.
But Jones is still not a compelling villain for me. Why is he doing what he’s doing? How does he create such devotion and faith in his followers? What is he up to when he’s off-screen? The decision to make him, his reasons, and his methods such a mystery may not have been the most effective way of building suspense this season.
In general, I sort of, kinda, a little bit…don’t shoot me!...thought this was a weak episode. It had so much potential, particularly the exploration of grief and betrayal, the great emphasis on duplication in all of the cutting between worlds, Lincoln and Fauxlivia developing a new partnership, Walter and his big step across universal divides, and more information on Jones.
But it was clear that the deaths-of-the-week plot didn’t really matter, because they weren’t given much screen time. Lincoln felt out of place and randomly stuck in because he had to be somewhere, so why not standing next to Fauxlivia or talking to Astrid? This episode could have used one more draft before production, or something. It lacked the usual grace of a Fringe episode. And that, in its own way, is a backhanded compliment: this episode was still heads and shoulders above so much of TV today. It just wasn’t up to Fringe’s usual standards. Perhaps they were busy preparing for the nineteenth episode that’s causing so much buzz.
Anything’s Possible. Even Santa Claus:
• Walter: “Most automobile accidents occur between work and home.”
Astrid: “Yeah. So does most driving.”
• Walter: “Look, it’s my son and his girlfriend.”
• Walter: “Several. Mostly recreational.”
• Walter: “Keep an eye on this universe, will you? I’ve grown quite fond of it.”
• A list of 108 names.
• I loved Astrid and Other Astrid acting as a inter-universal support staff. With coffee.
• Domesticated badgers?
• I don’t know what is more unlikely: that Walter would own that robe, or that Fauxlivia would.
Two and a half out of four eggs. They’re nature’s sponge.