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Fringe: Welcome to Westfield

“You folks lost?”
“Not that I’m aware of.”

This is an episode that could have gone either way: horribly disappointing or deeply satisfying. Standalones and trapped-in-a-town narratives can provide a welcome relief from an overarching mythology, or a frustrating sense that the writers are dragging their feet. Somehow, “Welcome to Westfield” didn’t have either of those results at all: the standalone elements were so evocative of so many other episodes, and the final surprise was so darn exciting that the relief I felt wasn’t at the break from the mythos, but at the sense that we are finally, finally getting somewhere.

We can think of Westfield itself as something of a metaphor for Season Four. We thought we were going somewhere, leaving behind old stories to pick up new ones, at the end of Season Three, just like Peter and Olivia thought they were leaving town. But we wound up looping back around on ourselves, meeting new iterations of Olivia, Walter, Astrid, etc., and in some ways re-living old cases with new twists.

But the Westfield situation resolved itself, albeit with a few smooshed people as casualties. And now it looks like the erased timelines/reversed timelines/new timelines confusion is starting to resolve. Olivia has her memories back, or is merging with the version of Olivia we knew in seasons 1-3, or something else. I think she’s merging with seasons 1-3 Olivia, with the caveat that seasons 1-3 Olivia (Originalivia?) hasn’t existed, properly speaking, since the end of Season Three. Cliff said that the people in the high school needed hope above all. And now we, the viewers, have hope, too.

That’s awesome. Thank you, Mr. Jones! That is, if I’m right. And if whatever’s happening to Olivia doesn’t somehow cause, y’know, the end of the world, which it just might. Do you think Jones created the Westfield situation to force Olivia’s merger? Was the plane crash just to get their attention? Questions. Happy, happy questions.

And: how tragic would it be if the Machine’s new purpose is just to re-set the world yet again, creating a constant loop in which Peter must, again and again, return to a foreign world and re-assert himself, coming closer and closer to a solution but never quite reaching it? (And if that reminds you of a certain book series, you’ve guessed correctly what I am currently re-reading.) That’s a sad, sad question.

Hopefully the events in Westfield indicate that a more stable solution is forthcoming. Some people in the town did survive, and Cliff emphasized just what makes their survival possible: family and the love that binds people together. The intersection of the deeply personal and the scientifically impossible is one of the hallmarks of the Fringe universe, and it looks like we’re finally approaching a smooshed solution to the questions that have been plaguing us for weeks: just what’s going on, and what does it mean for our beloved characters?

The Magnificent Rooster:

• Walter: “Needs more butter.”

• Broyles: “Welcome to Vermont.” For some reason, I thought this was hilarious.

• Two quibbles: Cliff needed a blood transfusion, but then got magically better. And schizophrenia isn’t the same thing as multiple personality disorder.

• Walter on the high school PA. I’d do exactly that if given the opportunity.

• Walter was already acting like Originalter by leaving the lab. Maybe Olivia isn’t the only one who is changing.

• Cliff got loaded with a lot of exposition, but the actor really made it work.

• Two rows of teeth! Ewww! (I have tooth issues.)

• No Lincoln Lee. Sigh.

• I could list all the episodes of Fringe and other shows that “Welcome to Westfield” reminded me of, but the list is too long, so I’ll let all of you put your own in the comments.

This is a hard episode to rate. It shouldn’t have worked, but it did. And it looks like it’s heading us towards a much longed-for solution. But there are many, many unanswered questions. Maybe I’ll revise my opinion after next week’s episode, but for now, I’m going to offer this rating, free of charge:

Three and a half out of four rhubarb pies.

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

6 comments:

Celtic Marc said...

Nice review as always Josie.

Same rating from my part also. Ah, the plane crash in season 1 (ep. 13, The Transformation)

The merging of 2 Universes (on a smaller scale) (ep 2.15 Jacksonville)

Hum, I'm tempted to say that schizophrenic people (next week's ep.) are able to hear voices from the past, future, alternate realities and Universes....why not ? who (really) knows ?

Josie Kafka said...

Celtic Marc,

Yeah, next week's previews make the MPD/schizophrenia mish-mash...well, either more confusing or less.

One random episode this reminded me of was the series finale of Buffy, with the school bus.

Mark Greig said...

This episode actually reminded me more of Supernatural than Fringe. I half expect our heroes to bump into Sam and Dean at one point. And then I started to imagine what it would it like if Walter and Bobby had to team up to find out what was really going on. Which only left me bitterly disappointed when that didn't happen. Stupid TV show, why can you never live up to my wild, crossover loving imagination?

Jess Lynde said...

I'm going with "recovering her lost memories," but I kind of love that this latest development can still feed into multiple theories of what's going on.

I can't help wondering if Nina's drug is responsible for this, because the feelings/memories seemed to be returning before Olivia arrived in Westfield. Maybe this is what Nina and Jones are in cahoots on. But why?

Very enjoyable episode. Scary, funny, and revelatory. Plus, Walter on the PA was awesome!

Sam B said...

"This episode actually reminded me more of Supernatural than Fringe. I half expect our heroes to bump into Sam and Dean at one point" This!!

Goodish episode, best part being the final scene. Squealing!

JK said...

Loved the episode, m'self. I'd agree with the 3.5, with the caveat that a 3.5 for Fringe is a four for just about anything else.

To quibble with your quibbles, Cliff got his blood transfusion from Walter (who, as we learned, is type O-), so it's not entirely unreasonable that he'd be up and about by the next morning.

As for the other thing: you're quite correct in saying that schizophrenia isn't the same as MPD. However, the woman Walter commented on wasn't exhibiting multiple distinct personalities so much as she was demonstrating a great deal of confusion about what was real and what wasn't, which is in fact quite characteristic of schizophrenia. I reckon the writers are well aware of the difference. :)