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Fringe: Over There, Part 2

“Is that what this is about?”

This was a beautifully written, beautifully acted, beautifully directed, and beautifully scored episode. Sure, this was about the coming storm, rifts between realities, and the end of the world. It’s also about individual characters encountering each other and realizing things about themselves. I didn’t know a Fringe episode could make me cry. This one did.

Three scenes really stood out to me. First on the list is the one between Peter and Oliviate. When he last saw Olivia, they were sussing out whether or not their relationship could become a relationship. As he spoke with Oliviate, he kept forgetting and remembering that she wasn’t his girl, all of which was beautifully expressed by Joshua Jackson.

Second-best? Any scene between William Bell and Walter. They felt comfortable together, like old friends who don’t really like each other but still speak in the same rhythms. Transitioning from their conversation in the car to the wasteland surrounding Boston…I know I’ve mentioned the Fisher King before, but that is definitely Fringe’s biggest intertext.

The most touching scene was between Olivia and Oliviate. I cried when they talked about their mom and their sister, and watching them play off each other, each one wondering just how similar and how different they were, and then Patty-Duking it out—usually, I hate double fight scenes, but that was incredible. Just incredible.

I can’t come up with enough superlatives to describe Joshua Jackson’s acting or the great way his character was written. Little moments, like when he referred to the regular reality as “yours” when talking to Olivia. The loneliness of talking to himself as he figured out the MacGuffin, because he has grown used to having a team (and how much he’s changed since we first met him!). Kissing Olivia, and the sadness of that kiss. Was it a goodbye kiss? Or a hello kiss?

We won’t find out for a while. Trapping Olivia Over There, and replacing her with Oliviate definitely qualifies as the greatest lengths any show has gone to in order to increase the will-they-or-won’t-they suspense. How long will it take Peter, Walter, and Astrid to figure out Oliviate is not their Olivia?

I haven’t talked much about the mythology we got, mostly because (while interesting) it just couldn’t compare to the fabulous character interactions. But, quickly, here we go: Walternate wants to kill us all to get revenge on Walter; William Bell has universe-hopped so many times he’s like a ball of pure energy; Walter opening the door has led to the deaths of thousands of people from Fringe Events; Walternate still has a device of infinite potential for destruction, but without Peter attached, it's useless. And since our Olivia is over there, all of this stuff will still matter next season.

This is Gonna Sound Crazy:

• Bell: “We’ve accomplished a lot together, Walter. But she may be our greatest achievement.” Walter obviously didn’t agree with the objectification inherent in this statement.

• Olivia: “We both leave our hide-a-key in the same place.”

• Peter: “What’s a little universe-hopping between friends?”

• Olivia: “I used a grenade. I think I bought us a few minutes.” And saved the producers the money for the explosion.

• Bell describing his guns to distract Oliviate and AlternaFrancis, and then the payoff when he used the 77-model gun.

• Oliviate all tied up was shot like a bondage fantasy.

• Walter came back to his reality, and set about milking his cow. I guess that’s his post-vacation ritual.

Thoughts on the Season

My ratings for Fringe have been off the charts lately, which I never expected to happen. Even as recently as episodes fourteen and fifteen, I felt like the show was rather ho-hum: J.J. Abrams’s dictate that Fringe should avoid the ‘literal impenetrability’ of Alias meant that the mythos was constantly being shuttled aside in favor of stand-alones. Don’t get me wrong, Fringe does those well. But there are some episodes from this season (and season one) that I just don’t remember—and that doesn’t matter.

But in the past six or seven episodes, the writers seem to have realized something important: one of the benefits of developing a complex mythology is that it gives you a chance to show the characters reacting to that mythology, and bringing all of their issues and craziness to those reactions. Sometimes, this can spell disaster (FlashForward), but sometimes this delicate balance between myth and individual people can be great storytelling. That’s what the past few episodes of Fringe have been, and I hope we continue to see that kind of greatness next season.

Eight out of four Atom Bomb Leonard Nimoys.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

16 comments:

  1. I love that you refer to William Bell as "pure energy." Remember that 80s song by Information Society (What's On Your Mind) that used a clip of Leonard Nimoy as Spock saying "pure energy"? I've got it stuck in my head now. Great meta-reference.

    I dropped Fringe early in its first season, but I may have to give it another try. You definitely seem to be enjoying it immensely of late. I'm glad the season finale was so satisfying for you, Josie!

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  2. Saw the switch twist coming a mile off and still loved it. Can’t wait now for next season.

    One thing I’ve loved about this two-parter, apart from the writing, acting and general awesomeness, has been all the little pop culture touches they put in the background to further distinguish between the two universes. Last week it was the continuation of The West Wing, this week its was comic book covers with Red Lantern & Red Arrow, The Man of Steel Returns and the Death of Batman (no Marvel over there, huh?).

    Finally seeing Walter and Bell interact together was great, especially their brief stop at KFC for snacks and strategy. Shame that Leonard Nimoy has now retired as I would’ve loved to have seen these two characters clash again. Unless… they could get Zachary Quinto to play a younger, time travelling William Bell. Let’s face it, he’s out of a job now and would appreciate the work.

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  3. Just one question for now, and not specific to this episode or this series for that matter:
    Why do alternate realities always have zeppelins?

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  4. I wasn't happy with this episode at all. I loved that they added mythology. It's something the show was noticeably missing. But seeing a long time will-they-won't-they couple profess their love for each other and kiss, only for things to immediately go horribly wrong for them... am I the only one who is really tired of this plot development? Plus we've already had a doppelganger posing as one of the good guys this very season! (And I didn't like it back then either.)

    But, on a more positive note, except for the last few minutes I really loved this two part season finale. The quality of Fringe has grown a lot lately and I hope they can keep it up in Season 3. I just hope they get this whole Oliviate thing over with quickly and the real Olivia returns.

    Oh, and WriterDrew: It's because zeppelins are cool, man!

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  5. I watched Fringe off and on during the first season, only buying the DVDs on a whim. Then, I thought I'd watch Fringe online on Fridays because it competed with my favorite show (Supernatural) on Thursdays.

    However, lately, I have waited in anticipation for Fringe, often choosing to watch Fringe over my "favorite" show. So, I'm losing interest in Supernatural, and my interest in Fringe is growing so much that I can say it's probably my favorite show now.

    And, I was so sad that William Bell died. Of course, it's because Leonard Nimoy has retired from acting, and what a swan song he made!

    Great review!

    Kat

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  7. Well, just caught up with Fringe after stopping watching half way through season one. A much improved show. With a great developing mythology.

    However, they desperately need to work on their characters. Walter's fine. He's probably the most developed of the bunch. But, apart from bits and pieces, the rest of the cast remain surprisingly unknown. Olivia definitely needs work. She's the show central character. I love Anna Torv, and I love her character. We just need to know more about her.

    Same with Peter. We know he has a shady background. Let's see some of it. Currently, they just seem to use it as an excuse to bring in some weird "expert" to help them solve the case.

    Astrid...Broyles... all great characters we know virtually nothing about. I think, if they replaced a couple of the season stand-alones with some more character driven pieces, they'd enhance the show no end.

    Anyway, looking forwards to season three, and more reviews. Thanks to Mark and Josie for reinvigorating my interest in this show.

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  8. Loved this finale. In fact all of the latter half of this season has been outstanding.

    Talking of differences between the 'verses, did anyone else notice, near the end of the episode, the cinema screening Indiana Jones and the Hex of the Hydra? Now there's a movie it would be worth hopping dimensions to see. :-)

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  9. William Bell and Walter Bishop didn't have common projects in alternaverse, so Fauxlivia was never treated with Cortexiphan.

    How come Fauxlivia was still able to open a portal back?

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  10. I kept thinking, how exceptionally clever from a writing and producing standpoint. Similar sets and the same actors, but two different realities. And I'm into it enough now that I'm trying to decide if I'm going to wait for season three DVDs or pay to stream the episodes.

    When Leonard Nimoy blew up, he had his hand in a very familiar position. :)

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  11. "I didn't know a Fringe episode could make me cry." Did you not watch 'Peter'?! Walter's child died in his arms! It was devastating! Maybe having kids increases the impact of that one.

    Anyway, a rousing finish to the season. I knew the Olivia switch was coming, but I liked how they played it in such a way that you could still figure it out before the reveal. It was subtle, but post-grenade Olivia was definitely acting more like Fauxlivia.

    I also really liked the revelation that Bell removed part of Walter's brain because Walter asked him to do it. Very interesting.

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  12. Congratulations on finishing the season, Jess!

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  13. Josie, congratulations on managing to convert both Jess and myself to Fringedom. No small feat.

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  14. I'm sure Fox will send me a royalty check any day.

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  15. A fantastic end to the second season. And, another season of fantastic reviews.

    Thanks, Josie.

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