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Fringe: Immortality

“Guess who.”

Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god—and that’s just my reaction to the crawly bugs, which gave me some really horrible nightmares. Everything else? I’m not even sure of what to say: so many developments, so many possibilities, so much dramatic tension.

Life prevented me from completing this review for a few days, but I did waste a bit of time zipping around the internet to see what folks were saying. I was surprised to discover that some people worry that Fringe has introduced a soap-operatic element into the plot—as though Fauxlivia’s as-yet-unborn baby will become cousin Oliver, or Dawn from Buffy, or a cuddly McGuffin to be tossed around like a beachball at a Dodgers game. But, after all, Fringe is full of plots that could be ripped from Days of Our Lives: doppelgangers, abducted children, mysterious parentage, childhood trauma, fake bionic hands…the list goes on.

The difference is one of tone, register, and good ol’ fashioned skill. I don’t know much about soap operas, but I’m under the impression that they’re rather campy. Fringe isn’t. The writers have managed to take some truly unbelievable plots and make them seem real and vibrant. The actors, too, deserve mad props for bringing authenticity to numerous moments that could be overplayed and overwrought. So Peter is torn between two versions of one ur-Olivia, one of whom is pregnant with his baby in another dimension, and is thus being used as a pawn in an evil vengeance scheme by an all-powerful Walternate? Fringe will make it work.

In the meantime, we have numerous fascinating character developments. I am most interested in Walternate’s feeling towards children (generally) and family (specifically Peter and Baby). In his conversation with Evil Brandon, Walternate discovered that he has a line: no experiments on children. This line reflects his own feelings towards his lost son, but it also illuminates some of Walter’s own ethics of experimentation. Unexpectedly, Walternate became more relatable, which shone a light on the moral implications of Walter’s own Cortexiphan sins.

Walternate does, however, seem to see a devious potential in Baby. He may draw the line at experimentation, but he doesn’t mind using Baby as a pawn to draw his own son back. Will this eventually become something more sinister, as Walternate uses his grandchild to explore the infinite potential of baby brains? Will he begin to see the child as his own lost son? Or will some event take place that prevents the baby from being born? (My money is on that last one, sadly.)

Silva said: “The world changed on me. It simply changed, and robbed me of my legacy.” Walternate could say the same thing, although he doesn’t yet seem to see Baby’s function as a potential immortality device. We have babies to see our line continue, to replicate, to leave something of ourselves that lasts beyond our death. That’s what Silva wanted, in his own way: to live beyond his death as a scientific genius. It’s a natural desire that turned into a monomania because he had nothing, in the present, worth living for. Is that where Walternate is headed?

I chose the line “Guess who” as my lead quote for this episode because, in addition to the immortality theme, there’s a theme of confusion over the roles people play, and will play, in each others’ lives. The tension showdown between Silva and Fauxlivia was a game of “Who’s got the button?”—who is doomed to die, and who to live? (Their names are also near-anagrams of each other, but not quite.) On a larger scale, Fauxlivia agreed to marry her boyfriend, but we saw her struggling with the return to her “real” life, away from Peter. Now, of course, she’s left with Peter’s baby, no fiancĂ©, and a complex moral relationship with the most powerful man Over There. Lincoln, too, seems confused about his roles, both as the new Broyles and as Olivia’s friend who wants something more. Even Francis didn’t know what role he was to play in the flirtation game with the bug girl. And did anyone catch Fauxlivia saying “I.D.” instead of “Show-Me”? It’s a symbolic slip—she didn’t just use the wrong word, but is struggling with her Over Here identity and her Over There identity.

While this episode had great moments of world-building, and a hugely important mythological jump forward in the pregnancy plot, it’s those character interactions, reactions, and tensions that I find most interesting. I’ve come to care deeply about the characters and the worlds the show has created, because Fringe is made with such consummate skill that everything feels so real and alive. All of that is my way of saying that I can’t wait for the next episode.

What the Hell Am I Putting Together Here?:

• Lincoln: “How come, when you say boss, it sounds like insubordination?”

• Olivia: “No, sir, the bugs do not have control of your wife…I promise, that is not the way they work.”

• The bug girl crushing on Francis was adorable. The bug jokes were charming, too.

• So the sheep are dead, eh? That’s depressing. As were the mentions of no hot water in North Texas and a cholera epidemic. (Cholera? We know how to deal with that!)

• Lincoln is verging on too pretty, isn’t he? That must be why he wears the scruffy sorta-beard, just to ugly himself up. Sadly, the uglification was not entirely successful.

Four out of four creepy crawly bugs. Ugh!

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

11 comments:

  1. As I was waiting for your comments, I was reading other Fringe blogs...and, as a whole, folks are none too happy about the baby development. I tend to take the view you are taking...glad to read someone's opinion that wasn't so negative! I don't believe the baby storyline is going to end up as some corny soap opera, and I don't think Peter's "choosing" between the 2 Olivia's is going to be that simple. The set up was a little clumsy (oh, Faux needs a sonogram...wonder what they will find!), but how else is she supposed to find out? We don't have time for missed periods, morning sickness...(and, plus, wouldn't that have been boring??) I also think I am in the minority with actually liking the crew from over there. I do feel invested in Walternate, Faux, Lincoln, Charlie and the gang. Someone elsewhere mentioned that we haven't seen Lincoln over here...I would like to see that (because it would be interesting, and, yes, he is pretty). I do think this group of actors has done a great job making both sides believable enough that now, for me anyway, I don't want to see either side "lose". How awful would that be to lose an entire universe? Fringe is my new Lost.

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  2. I'm glad to see a reviewer who enjoyed this one. I thought the plot was a little too deliberately a setup for the pregnancy reveal, but it was no weaker than a number of S1 and S2 episodes. I've been waiting for Walternate to develop beyond the moustache-twirling. The mistress is no shock, but I wonder whether she is really just cloyingly supportive or a power-behind-the-throne.

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  3. Great review, Josie! I like this one too. I wonder if the vitriol toward the baby subplot is a delayed reaction to Captain Exposition's out-of-the-blue revelation last week that the series was going to be about who Peter chooses to be with. The concept is sound, but it felt an awful lot like the writers were taking a shortcut, not just breaking the "show, don't tell" rule but smashing it to bits, and perhaps it cost them a larger amount of good faith than we first realised.

    I have to say, I like the Over There crew an awful lot, and I always saw Walternate as a villain with a strong moral core. In fact, I'm no longer convinced he wants to obliterate the other world. His talk with Broyles a few episodes ago about the difference between right and balance indicates that he knows he's making evil choices and considers his decisions' benefits to the world(s) more important than the integrity of his soul or conscience.

    In context of the more recent revelations, it occurs to me that destroying Over Here would not comprise balance, so maybe Walternate is playing an elaborate chess game, sacrificing a lot of lives to achieve an end that would protect both worlds. This would be really interesting to me because then the story would be devoid of any big bad per se.

    As an aside, if it weren't for the "murdering people" thing, I think, in Peter's shoes, I would have gone for Fauxlivia. Her amused aloofness and constant giggling are infectious.

    How about you, other readers? Which woman wouldyou go for? Olivia or Fauxlivia?

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  4. I posted a comment some days ago that was somehow suppressed. I'll sum it up here:

    - I really liked the episode and the review;

    - Evil baby plots are bad. Baby plots, not necessarily;

    - I'd fall for Fauxlivia, for many reasons besides the fact I have a thing for redheads;

    - The bug girl (redhead!) looked familiar. She played Anna Milton in Supernatural (why do they have to kill all the cool female characters?) and was a regular in SGU.

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  5. Gus, I checked and your earlier comment wasn't listed, wasn't blocked, and wasn't on the spam list. I can't imagine any comment of yours being blocked. So I think we'll have to blame the confirmation word thing.

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  6. Ditto to what Billie said, Gustavo.

    Plus: That was her! I meant to check but forgot. I hope we get to see more of her.

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  7. Josie and Billie

    I don't think it was a problem on your part. It wouldn't be the first time I stupidly close the window after mistyping the confirmation word. Your site is awesome, works well, and I feel comfortable commenting here. I never even considered that you'd blocked something I said. Not that I never say anything inappropriate, but if you let the guy who wanted to fight over "The Little Prince" issues 2 years later, you'll let me in too. :)

    Sorry for making you go through the trouble of checking.

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  8. It's no trouble at all, Gus. I knew what you meant.

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  9. Bugs, bugs, bugs! I hate bug episodes. Why does every sci-fi/fantasy show have to do a bug episode? X-Files, Supernatural... I know there have been others. And the transparent parallel that Fauxlivia has been infested with Peter's baby. Did they have to do that?

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  10. Wow, Julie McNiven looks even hotter with glasses on. Give her a starring role in a show already.

    I'm also very fond of the alt-Fringe team. They seem to be having more fun on the job then our guys. A nice contrast of attitude and world devastation. I wouldn't mind if Lincoln popped up in our reality. Preferably as a cortexiphan experiment with some powers.

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  11. The bugs literally gave me the chills every time they were on screen, but Bug Girl (and Fauxlivia and Charlie's reactions to her) was thoroughly delightful! Julie McNiven was so freaking adorable in those glasses!

    Walternate refusing to conduct tests on children gave some nice shading to his character and definitely made him seem somewhat less evil. At least until he was assuring Fauxlivia that he would take care of her and his grandchild. Then I got the same heebie jeebies the bugs gave me. Dude is scary!

    I felt really, really bad for Frank in this episode. He obviously loves Fauxlivia very much, and it wasn't that long ago that she loved him in return. They seemed like a good couple, and I'm strangely sad that Walternate's machinations ruined their relationship.

    Can I just say that Joan Chen is remarkably well preserved? She looked every bit as stunning as she did back in the Twin Peaks days.

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