Fringe: Lysergic Acid Diethylamide

“I’m not afwaid of you.”

Last season’s “Brown Betty” was about experimenting with form to achieve maximum emotional wallop. I adored that episode, both because I love all things noir and because Walter’s emotional situation was so complex and weighty that the unusual presentation seemed both necessary and inevitable—not a writerly choice so much as a real expression of Walter’s innermost emotional narrative. Like “Brown Betty,” “LSD” plays with presentation to explain an arc more affective than active.

How much you enjoyed this episode probably depends on how much you enjoyed the presentation. While the Inception-influenced early portion of Walter and Peter’s dream-walk through Olivia’s brain didn’t do much for me (beyond reminding me of Inception), the second part was delightful. Not because it was the most beautiful animation ever, but because the cartoon image seemed to influence the story: Peter’s leap off the building to the zeppelin’s rope ladder, for instance, makes sense according to cartoon physics. The drive through the Jacksonville military base was like an old Flintstones in which the same background was used to save money. And Bell got over an implicit fear of motorcycles in the safest way possible: a cartoony trip in someone else’s consciousness.

They didn’t overdo the hallucinogenic humor, though. Peter’s in-lab fixation on Broyles’s bald pate was punchy, and Broyles’s own morbid bubble-blowing was a great character moment. But within the dream-world, the only LSD influence I could detect was the emphasis on grids in the layout of both the city and the base.

The content of the dream-world does raise some questions, though. Why did it take place Over There, if that’s a correct surmise from the presence of the Twin Towers? Why was Nina Sharp working against Peter, Bell, and Walter? Was she evil, or was she a guardian created by Olivia’s subconscious to protect Olivia from harm? If she’s evil, that raises a slew of questions that are either incredibly important or utterly irrelevant. (“I wear the cheese. It does not wear me.”) Ditto, if she’s a guardian. And the most important one: how can Olivia’s consciousness know the man who will kill her, if she doesn’t know who he is?

We won’t know if those questions matter, or if they are even the right ones, until next week or beyond. But we do now know that Olivia has moved past her childhood trauma and is no longer afraid of her stepfather, Brandon-zombies, or anything else. As the chewy emotional center of this digressive episode, the revelation and resolution of Olivia’s Massive Singular Issue wasn’t up to the level of Walter’s complicated emotional maelstrom in “Brown Betty.” Is Olivia really a scared little girl inside? Think about all she has done, all she has accomplished, and all she has fought for, both personally and professionally. Perhaps the recent re-membering of the Cortexiphan trials consolidated her fears into one six-year-old bundle…but really? The emotional resolution felt too easy, in other words. Although that little girl was insanely adorable.

Walter’s short step towards okayness was important, though. At episode’s end, he was stuck in a grief-fueled depression over the loss of his friend. But I suspect he will come to realize that Bell was right: Walter has changed since his misspent youth. He is capable of making the just choice. Bell did not claim the same capability for himself, although he did the right thing by choosing to disappear. Peter, too, got some resolution. He’d been keeping his anger and sadness over Olivia’s (most recent) disappearance under wraps, but his intense hug with Walter in the lab, and his happy-puppy look when Olivia returned to his body spoke volumes about the weight of his tension and the relief he felt.

I stopped worrying too much about what’s coming next on Fringe. Inevitably, I’m wrong and happy that I’m wrong. But I do hope that Olivia gets to do something awesome, soon. Recently, she’s been strapped down (okay, that was Fauxlivia), moved around, mentally raped, and portrayed as an emotionally unstable child. I’m ready for her to be powerful, forceful, and awesome again. It has been too long.

How Wonderful:

• Bell: "The little old lady from Ipanina."
Walter: "It's 'The Girl from Ipanema'. Or, 'The Little Old Lady from Pasadena'."

• Walter: “Astro, are we ready?
Astrid: “Just about, Wally.”

• Walter: “Belly, how are you a cartoon?”
Bell: “I’d ask yourself the same question.”
Walter’s Thought Bubble: “How wonderful!”

• Bell: “The direction you choose to take will be just.”

• Did anyone else get a thrill out of Bell bothering to pour himself—and drink—a scotch when he’s nothing but a consciousness inhabiting another person’s body undergoing and LSD-induced group hallucination in cartoon form?

• The Brandon-zombies were very Walking Dead.

• That was a lot of Walter/Peter hugging, back in the lab.

• When our heroes were on the roof, looking out over toonland, were those ambered buildings on the right, in the distance, or green rolling hills?

Three out of four red doors.

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

9 comments:

CrazyCris said...

"Walter: “Astro, are we ready?
Astrid: “Just about, Wally.” "

I loved Astrid finally giving some back! Walter's not remember her name is getting a bit too ridiculous!

And I thought Broyles on LSD was excellent!!!

Not too convinced by the whole in Olivia's mind sequence though. The cartoon part was cool at the beginning, then not so much.

I did love the way they managed to squeeze in Leonard Nemoy's final appearance! Great way to bring him back out of retirement!

BRING ON SOME MORE FRINGE!!!

Am so glad we've got another season!

And I second the request for some more ass-kicking Olivia! :o)

TVNerd said...

Another good, if not great episode. Although I enjoyed every minute of it. I liked the matrix/inception take at the beginning and Peter's jab at Olivia's clothing choices.

I thought, given all the running around, this was a great way to bring back Leonard Nimoy without driving him to an early grave (god forbid!). Maybe they can come up with another creative way of bringing him back next season. Speaking of which, I'm ecstatic that we're getting another season!

Thanks for another great review Josie! And I totally agree that strong Olivia has been gone too long. CrazyCris I think Walter uses those names for Astrid as a sign of affection. Since there would be no way he could forget her name after all they've been through.

TVNerd

Mark Greig said...

“Just about, Wally.”

That just made me smile. The look on Walter's face was priceless.

The MF Mojo Man said...

I loved it!

Gus Brunetti said...

I loved this episode, as usual this season. The review, also as usual, is insightful and well-written.

I'm really suprised nobody commented onthis, but how LOST-y was that end? Even the music seemed reminiscent of the horns Billie hates so much. And Olivia is behaving very much like Desmond after Widmore put him through the Microwave of Doom. Creepy!

india said...

i seriously loved it...except for the animation part!!

Billie Doux said...

I don't know if I was just tired or if it was the animation (I just don't relate to animation), but I kept nodding off during this one. The best part (for me) was Broyles stoned.

Jess Lynde said...

I get why they went with the animation. I do. But the style of it was so poor, that I found it distracting. It was incredibly hard for me to feel any emotional impact whatsoever from flat characters that barely resembled the real life actors. The moment in which Peter looked into Olivia's eyes and knew that it wasn't her, was 8 billion times more potent than Olivia finally conquering her fear. I hate that the latter moment didn't pack the same emotional punch or catharsis.

It didn't even have the same emotional impact as Broyles drug-induced musings about having seen death. I thought that was an amazing moment, which shows us how truly haunted Broyles is by what happened to his doppleganger. I was incredibly touched by him seeking a human connection in Astrid to keep the horror at bay. Her gently taking his hand was so sweet.

Patryk said...

At least the animated parts enabled some scens that wouldn't work oin live action like the zeppelin ride.

Bell came and went without answering any questions. Like what's the significance of the first people, or the machine ect. OF course i bet that will be adressed before the season is over, but Bell seemed like the right character for a lengthy exposition dump.