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Fringe: The Consultant

“No one can be certain exactly what they’re capable of.”

As I work my way though a complete Alias re-watch, and as I’m considering a Lost re-watch for this summer, I keep puzzling over the emphasis on parent/child relationships in JJ Abrams shows (even ones, like Fringe, that he’s not very involved in). One of the great strengths of Fringe—an area where it outshines Lost and even, a little bit, Alias—is its examination of parent/child conflicts from both sides of the relationship. The challenges and anguishes of parenthood are just as important as the pain and trauma the children experience.

Alt-Broyles knows that anguish, and now we know why he betrayed his universe: to save his son. He and Walter have that in common now, although Alt-Broyles took the initiative to stop himself and sacrifice his son to save his world. That makes sense, given what we know of Broyles’s strong moral fiber. He knows the damage Jones can cause and wants to cause; Walter did not know the damage he was causing when he tried to rescue Peter all those years ago.

Walter got to experience the great joys of parenthood in this episode: his glee at Peter and Olivia walking together was obvious, and it was delightful to see how proud he is of his son and the woman who loves him. Alt-Broyles will never get to experience that joy, unless something dramatic happens to make his son’s recovery from his illness possible. (Where does Jones get his medicine? Perhaps Alt-Broyles could get more.)

Other-Astrid worked through her parental grief in this episode, in her own off-hand way. She sat outside the funeral, unsure of what to say and likely recollecting her father’s recent passing. Lincoln, on the other hand, seemed to be watching Lincoln “Deceased” Lee’s parents, who must look just like his own. Lincoln is also working through his continuing grief for his partner, of course. Right now, he seems to be channeling that grief into supporting the various characters Over There: with Other-Astrid in the car and as Fauxlivia’s new partner.

Fauxlivia also relied on Walter, whose Holmsian advice directed her to Broyles as a likely suspect for the mole. From there, Walter and friends sussed out Jones’s endgame: collapsing the universes, which I assume means smooshing them together like the crazy people-mushing we’ve seen before. Jones remains enigmatic, but not in a good way. Evil Nina believes that he will rescue her, and last week Canaan seemed equally taken in by Jones’s concern for his well-being. We know he’s the kind of man to see the killing of random people as nothing more than experimental data. We know he’s got shapeshifters and a plan.

But Jones is still not a compelling villain for me. Why is he doing what he’s doing? How does he create such devotion and faith in his followers? What is he up to when he’s off-screen? The decision to make him, his reasons, and his methods such a mystery may not have been the most effective way of building suspense this season.

In general, I sort of, kinda, a little bit…don’t shoot me!...thought this was a weak episode. It had so much potential, particularly the exploration of grief and betrayal, the great emphasis on duplication in all of the cutting between worlds, Lincoln and Fauxlivia developing a new partnership, Walter and his big step across universal divides, and more information on Jones.

But it was clear that the deaths-of-the-week plot didn’t really matter, because they weren’t given much screen time. Lincoln felt out of place and randomly stuck in because he had to be somewhere, so why not standing next to Fauxlivia or talking to Astrid? This episode could have used one more draft before production, or something. It lacked the usual grace of a Fringe episode. And that, in its own way, is a backhanded compliment: this episode was still heads and shoulders above so much of TV today. It just wasn’t up to Fringe’s usual standards. Perhaps they were busy preparing for the nineteenth episode that’s causing so much buzz.

Anything’s Possible. Even Santa Claus:

• Walter: “Most automobile accidents occur between work and home.”
Astrid: “Yeah. So does most driving.”

• Walter: “Look, it’s my son and his girlfriend.”

• Walter: “Several. Mostly recreational.”

• Walter: “Keep an eye on this universe, will you? I’ve grown quite fond of it.”

• A list of 108 names.

• I loved Astrid and Other Astrid acting as a inter-universal support staff. With coffee.

• Domesticated badgers?

• I don’t know what is more unlikely: that Walter would own that robe, or that Fauxlivia would.

Two and a half out of four eggs. They’re nature’s sponge.

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

11 comments:

celticmarc said...

Wow Josie !

Review already out !! Wow again

I have to give ift a 3. For Anna T.' awesome performance (and yes, the rest of the cast does very , very well); Understanding your frustrations about some directions the show is taking though.

Next week ? ohhhhh my !

ps FYI, I did a marathon of all five seasons of Alias in 2011. Took me 2 and a half months. I was even dreaming about the cast.

Josie Kafka said...

"I was even dreaming about the cast."

Most have my dreams lately have been very spyish. Lots of running and secrecy. I wish I had a better costume department, though.

Gus Brunetti said...

Wow, what a great surprise it is to wake up and already have a Josie review to read!

I apparently liked this episode better than you. Certainly not the strongest Fringe episode, but it provided a bridge for the last 4 eps of this season, which I'm sure will be quite eventful and arc-heavy.

One of the things I liked was how Walter and Fauxlivia have bonded. I wonder if they would have bonded too if it was the version where she took advantage of Peter's love for Olivia. Also, if what I think will happen by season's end is true, that is, everyone will remember both the Peterless and Peterful versions of the universes, what will happen to this bond?

I was a little frustrated but hopeful with the show in the beginning of the season, but now I'm mostly hopeful, I really want a 5th season, too, even if it's just to wrap up things. And I hope you're still into the show enough to give us these great reviews.

I agree with you on Jones. It seems that they relied too much on his ominous presence and our memory of him.

celticmarc, when I watched Alias, it took me three weeks. I was in an oddly not busy stage of my life. I wish I had dreamt of Sidney, but alas...

As a final note: http://chzmemebase.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/internet-memes-misunderstood-honey-badger2.jpg

celticmarc said...

LMAO for-from both of you (Josie for the dreams and Gus for the pic)

Agreeing with you Gus, loved those bonding moments. And, me too, I badly want a 5th season. (hello Fox ????)

Josie Kafka said...

Gus, that is a wonderful picture! I recommend everyone check it out.

If there's a fifth season, Gus, I'll definitely review it. Fringe occasionally loses me, but I spent a lot of time thinking about past seasons as I wrote this review, and I remembered that they always pull me back in.

Gus Brunetti said...

That's great, Josie. One more reason to want a 5th season.

I understand that Fringe may elude us sometimes. It's not a perfect show, by all means, and they seem to change the game every time they've found their footing. It doesn't always generate good results, but that's one of the reasons why it's so daring and why I like it so much.

I remember that, right before a long hiatus during season 2, there was a very bad ep, "Johari Window", if memory serves, and it was after a string of bad or ok eps. I seriously considered dropping it, but fortunately, when they came back, I downloaded the ep by mistake, and that ep was "Peter", which I still think is their best. since then, I never thought of dropping it again. I understand why people dropped it this season though. It was difficult and challenging.

Anonymous said...

Oh god, "Johari Window"! Think I must have blocked that from my memory. Luckily I was watching the boxset first time I came across that, so I never even had the option of giving up on Fringe, I could just breeze past to "Peter" (also my favourite episode). Thank god. Like Josie says, it's still better than everything else on TV these days, even with the occasional bad episode thrown in.

FYI, I quite liked this one - it had weak moments, but I thought the strong scenes balanced them out, and kept me more interested than the first few episodes of season 4 did.

I also loved seeing Faulivia tipsy and leaning against Walter for support :)

However, I did think the "big reveal" at the end was a bit of an anticlimax. Jones is trying to destroy both universes...shocker.

Still, I can't wait for the rest of the season, and even though I'm preparing for the worst, I think I might cry if it gets cancelled. :(

Billie Doux said...

I'm also not feeling Jones and his diabolical plan. But I enjoyed Walter a lot in this one. He's so happy that I'm happy for him. Poor Alt-Broyles. Awful things keep happening to him.

CrazyCris said...

Hey, anyone else wonder why we haven't seen a Charlie in this altered timeline? Prime Suspect is dead and gone...

I really enjoyed this episode, as I do each time Walter gets taken out of his comfort zone! Was surprised to discover alt-Broyles wasn't a shapeshifter! And pleased to see he finally did the right thing... perhaps they can replicate whatever medicine Jones gave him since he has some of it left?

Anyone else keep wondering who activated the machine in this timeline since peter wasn't there?

And I kind of hope not everyone gets back memories of a Peter-existing timeline... it would be too cruel for Fauxlivia and she's already been through enough lately!

TheShadowKnows said...

"Was surprised to discover alt-Broyles wasn't a shapeshifter!"

Yeah, me too. I had just assumed he and Evil Nina were both shapeshifters. I guess that means she's actually the Nina from the other universe?

Mario said...

This show elevates TV to new heights with every episode. I LOVED this episode.