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Fringe: Amber 31422

“Nature doesn’t recognize good and evil. Nature only recognizes balance and imbalance. I intend to restore balance.”

Over in this week’s Supernatural thread, commenter Felipe just mentioned that The Vampire Diaries had spoiled him on plot development. On VD, the changes come fast and furious, and missing one episode would probably be like missing about ten Fringe episodes. So even though this episode seems stuck in neutral, I think that we should be okay with that. We have our characters, our worlds (two! What a deal!), and some fairly interesting plots. Fringe isn’t running at a break-neck speed, and that’s okay. It’s still way, way better than FlashForward.

I’m also okay with the fact that twinning is our Theme of the Week. Again. The great alt-twin switcheroo wasn’t an incredibly compelling case, except when it delved into the similarities and differences between people with the same DNA but different selves or souls. The most effective scene was the tiniest one: when the wife revealed to Bad Twin just how upset she was, and she communicated four years of repressed anger in about 30 seconds. If—when—Olivia’s switcheroo is made known to her friends, what will the fallout be there? What about Fauxlivia’s friends and family?

I’m even okay with the tank. Gasp! I hated that tank in previous episodes, but the lack of John Scott made it okay. Without John Scott, and without Walter, Olivia’s experience in the tank is so impersonal: Walternate and Brandon were watching a screen, which gave them some distance, and all Olivia got for her troubles was a towel. I’ve included a screenshot from an early tank-scene above: see how personal it is? It’s practically a pietà, with the triangular structure formed by Walter and Olivia, as Peter and Astrid look at the almost-father/daughter pairing. Olivate may be friendly with Francis and Lee, but they aren’t as tied to her as Walter and Peter were, even in those early episodes. And the regulations of Over There Fringe Division keep them from helping her when she needs it most, even if she doesn’t yet know it.

Not only did Olivia brave the scary and impersonal tank, but she’s starting to get a stronger sense of her own position, courtesy of her inner Peter. It makes sense that she would wind up in the gift shop on Liberty Island, as it’s probably in the same spot as the DoD lab Over There, but the Symbolic Object of the Week is definitely the snowglobe that she broke, twice. The snowglobes don’t just parallel the amber, but also the divisions between both worlds that are more fragile than we might think.

The Cortexiphan from Olivia’s childhood, which is still in her brain, makes this breakage possible. I hope Walternate doesn’t decide to use her brain to mine the drug. I think he would, if he thought it worth the trouble. He’s not a friendly guy, that Walternate.

Bad Twin is, though. He attempted to restore balance in his own way, by sacrificing himself for his brother and his brother’s family. Walter’s distinction between good/bad, balance/imbalance seems rather pedantic, like the difference between justice and vengeance. At the end of the day, it’s about the choices we make, and how we can do the least harm and the most good. Bad Twin saw that, but Walter doesn’t: he’s using some nebulous concept of balance to justify a personal vendetta. There’s nothing more dangerous with someone who thinks they’re restoring the natural order, especially when that someone is in charge of the Department of Defense.

What I’m About to Tell You is Classified:

• Over There, twins have identical DNA but different retinal scans. Over Here, twins have different DNA, right?

• They seem to have skipped a stage in cell phone development. Everyone has earpieces, but they still have pagers. They must not text, Over There. That almost makes up for the coffee shortage.

• There’s a promotional thing run by Sprint about Fringe, in which you “decode” a message from Fauxlivia to her Over There comrades. This week’s code was: “Polar bears do exist, sir. But they have yet to mutate.”

• Astrid is very different over there, isn’t she? She avoids eye contact, depends overmuch on logic, and struggles to grasp some basic human interactions. Also, the beret.

• The safe-breaking technology was first scene in the episode “Safe” in Season One. I cannot provide a link to my review of that episode, as I will never review it.

Three out of four twins. Or do I mean quadruplets?

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


  1. Identical twins will have the same DNA, fraternal twins won't. But even identical twins will have different fingerprints and retinal scans, because those things are formed as you grow and are not genetically programmed.

  2. Patrick, thank you for the info. I had no idea!

  3. Hey Josie, splendid review. But why will you never review "The Safe"? Superstitious? Surely you pay no heed to the great exploding organs curse?

    And speaking of Fringe, that's one magnificent fringe your avatar is sporting. Your avatar makes mine look sickly. I'm attractive though, right?

  4. Paul, you are the handsomest stick figure I know.

    As I recall, "The Safe" was awful. Just awful. I'm not even sure I've seen the whole thing, and I dread having to re-watch it, especially now that Fringe is so good. So I'm leaving it un-reviewed, because that's more mysterious. And mystery equal sexiness. And with a fringe like mine, I need all the sexy points I can amass.

  5. I love your reviews.

    Not the best episode this week, but the progress of the overall story is good. I also like the alt-Fringe team's dynamic. It will be interesting to see how Olivia reacts to coming home, much less her friends and relatives! She's already more serious, but keeps some of the playful relationship. I'm a bit afraid of losing that.

  6. I liked this one. Aaron and Shawn Ashmore did a good job as the twins, and I was actually rooting for Joshua the bank robber. I like Peter's visitations, too. It's a good way to get Peter into the red episodes.

  7. Olivia was taking some red pills to stop Peter from appearing, what she does not know is that she should be taking blue pills becasue red is the wrong world. Also opposite then in the Matrix.

    I'm mostly looking forward to who will help Olivia escape to our world. Alt-Charlie who already mentioned that he considers what she said about not being from Alt-Fringe as probably or Lee who might have a small crush on her.

  8. I liked this one, too, but mostly because I was having fun playing "Which twin is Aaron?" He and his brother really do look a lot alike, but their voices are different. The bank robber brother just didn't sound like Jinks (Warehouse 13).

    I also rather loved the horrifying reveal that the people trapped in amber are in a state of suspended animation and are conscious. It just makes things Over There seem so much worse than we ever thought, and it makes Walternate seem that much more evil, whether he's trying to restore balance or not. At least the Alt-Fringe Team seemed appropriately horrified.


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