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Fringe: Os

“It’s about trust. So it’s a great game, if two people are playing.”

For the past five episodes or so, I’ve had the same thought after each airing: How many viewers will call this the last straw, the final push, the reason to rant and rave and, ultimately, walk away? Fringe continues to push us past our comfort zone, not just in terms of scientific possibilities but also in the intersection between the personal and the scientific, with interesting results.

This episode was nearly perfect. The Walter-centric humor that bookended the story—with Hurley (as Kevin) in the opener and with Nina near the close—was delightful, and it was wonderful to see our hero having some silly fun with the community he is building at Massive Dynamics. As an unabashed Hurley fan, I desperately hope he will join the cast as a series regular, even if only to play Walter’s weed hook-up. The final shot between Water and Nina as they looked at the door was even better: subtle comedy that didn’t rely on a single line to be hilarious.

Peter and Olivia were equally fun-loving. Well, for a while. When last we saw our heroes (grown-up version), I wondered if Olivia’s relaxed demeanor was a put-on to lure Peter in. She seemed much more natural this episode, although I wonder where all those smiles and giggles will go once she returns to her body and tries to come to terms with Peter’s extracurricular activities.

Yeah…once she returns to her body. Cuz now, she’s possessed by William Bell, thanks to the soul-magnet-magic he worked back in “There’s More Than One of Everything.” At the time, I didn’t particularly pay attention to the ringing bell, but now we know that was a hugely important moment in which Bell…soul magnet…Olivia. Yeah, that’s it.

I am still undecided on the Belly-possession. That the soul magnets seem like a great idea to a very stoned scientist is an internal clue that the writers might be aware they’re taking us a step too far, or at least acknowledging that the science behind soul magnets is more speculative than anything else. Olivia did a wonderful job channeling Bell, but I was a bit embarrassed for her at the end. Possession by Spock? Complete with voice? I’m not against it, but it’s rather awkward and graceless. (I also feel horrible for Olivia. The Cortexiphan, the tank, Over There—can’t she just be a regular girl for a week?)

The humor and the final moments are just icing on the cake, a frame to the plot-of-the-week. The p.o.t.w. was solid, and it was neato to see Alan Ruck. However, I continue to be deeply uncomfortable with Fringe’s ablest logic. I will not repeat my earlier rant, but I will note that I do not understand why the show (via Peter’s dialogue and other techniques) assumes we will instantly see the logic between young men choosing one assistive device (a wheelchair) over a set of new assistive devices (a tether, lead boots, regular injections). Alan Ruck’s discussion with his son at the end hinted at some of these much larger issues, but Fringe continues to operate under a series of very bizarre assumptions about the perspective of the “handicapped” who are “confined to wheelchairs”—both of which are rather inaccurate phrases.

It worked well, though, as a plot that stands for the larger theme of the episode: trust games. Alan Ruck asked the young men to trust him, but they couldn’t know he was playing the game with another goal in mind: curing his son. Belly has been playing Olivia for years now without cluing her into her own participation in the game—would she have consented to be possessed by a dead scientist? It’s mental rape. Peter, on the other hand, has to deal with moving past his own reliance on game-playing and cons. His default position is lying to keep things on an even keel, but he took a gamble and disclosed his shapeshifter-assassinations to Olivia.

All of that is made possible, as Walter reminded us, by his actions so many years ago. The rules of the universe are breaking down, enabling Alan Ruck to try to save his son, but hinting at the destruction of something, if not everything.

The Decoder Key Is In My Office:

• Hurley: “What did he say?”
Walter: “It was the seventies. What could he say?”

• Walter: “Hold still, you infernal creature!”

• Walter: “It’s like using balloons to steal bowling balls.”

• Walter: “Belly was researching the perfect bowel movement…Everybody poops, dear.”

• Walter: “Yes, we never really solved that design issue. I suspect that may be why we didn’t get many volunteers.”

• Nina: “I don’t imagine you’re preparing for a science fair.”

• Olivia: “Is this why you asked me to meet you across campus and not at the lab, so we could make out in front of college kids instead of your dad?”

• The upside-down shot of the men stealing the metal was extremely disorienting. It almost made me nauseous.

• I was genuinely worried that Young Man #3 was going to float into the atmosphere and burn up.

I said above that this was a nearly-perfect episode. It was extremely well crafted, beautifully shot, and full of delightful character moments. I may not agree with the perspective the show espouses as regards physical ability, but that’s a personal reaction and has little bearing on the artistic merits of the show. Will Belly’s possession of Olivia turn into something wonderful? I don’t know. We can’t know. But I will be watching to find out.

Three and a half out of four Hurleys.

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

8 comments:

  1. Great review, Josie.

    I feel that, with Belly's possession of Olivia's body, Fringe may be crouching in front of the shark. I really hope they handle that well, and I think they will, but I shudder to think they're going too far.

    Did you notice all the "Oz" references? There was the title, the fact that Dead Floating Guy was wearing red shoes (on which they focused more than once) and all the "Defying Gravity" theme. ("Defying Gravity" is a song from Wicked, a musical whose main character is the Witch of the West, or East. I haven't seen it.)

    What about Jorge Garcia? That was it? When can we see him again. He probably won't be a regular, because he's been cast in the next JJ Abrahams project, Alcatraz, as a regular. He can be a recurring character, though. I wouldn't complain.

    Please, Fringe Powers That Be, avoid the shark!

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  2. Hurley makes everything better.

    Not so sure about Olivia channelling Nimoy, though. Even for this show that seemed a little too silly to me.

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  3. I too loved all the humor of the episode. However, I agree with Gus regarding Olivia as Bell. My hope is that it lasts just one episode...that he/she has to do one important thing (that only Bell could do), and then Bell gracefully lets Olivia (and himself) go.

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  4. Walter getting stoned with Hurley was absolutely awesome. Peter and Olivia are the cutest couple ever. I'm also a bit weirded out by Olivia channeling Bell, though.

    This episode made me realize that everyone on this show suffers horribly for their superpowers. It doesn't seem quite fair.

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  5. I adore Alan Ruck, but this one did very little for me. I spent most of the episode irritated that Peter was now keeping secrets from shiny, happy Olivia, and Walter's soul magnet obsession was a bit ludicrous. I kind of liked the upswing though. Walter's actions being responsible for what Alan Ruck was able to accomplish was a neat twist, and Peter being straight with Olivia in the end (even about the shapeshifter murders) was a good thing.

    Of course, then Olivia was overtaken by William Bell's lingering soul energy. Alrighty, then.

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  6. I think we got a candidate for worst episode of the season. The case was very season 1 and if Walter didn't explain that it was a byproduct of our universe falling apart it would be just ridiculous.

    I hope Olivia just has a message from Bell and idn't really channeling his soul because... Bad idea.

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  7. Genuine question here: Why was it so terrible for the father to want his son to be able to walk?

    Obviously his methods were completely wrong, and even his level of desperation was way out of proportion (I could see motivated, but not desperate). His son wasn't dying. The son did not have the use of his legs but he was happy and fulfilled. If his father couldn't cure him it would be ok, but wouldn't it be better if he could use his legs? The son is no less human and no less a person without the use of his legs, but it seemed like you were saying that it's "ableist" for his father to want him to walk. And the phrase, "confined to a wheelchair" is offensive? Do people stay in wheelchairs by choice? I could see objecting to the language because it defines them by their disability--is that the issue?

    I'm to trying to be sarcastic, I just genuinely don't understand.

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  8. Anon, a person is only "confined" to a wheelchair if they are being held there against their will. If a person chooses to use a wheelchair to get around, they're not any more confined than I am to my Honda, which I choose to use for my morning commute. Sure, I choose to use my car because it's the only way I can get to my job, which is far away. But it's not confinement. It's a choice of assistive technology.

    ... it seemed like you were saying that it's "ableist" for his father to want him to walk.

    I haven't watched this episode in a long time, but yes, that's probably what I was saying. Sure, walking is awesome. So it taking people for what they are rather than some sort of false ideal.

    If you're interested, I recommend googling "Disability theory," "Disability studies," and/or "Social construction of disability" for more information on where I'm coming from here.

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