Fringe tonight offered much more in the way of interesting developments than exciting or memorable moments. You already know my feelings about the Earth 2 characters—they’re well developed and fairly likable (with the exception of the Astrid-9000 Statbot) but they just don’t carry any emotional weight for me. As a result, the episode for me knocked the emotional gearshift into neutral for a week while we watched with detached interest as the child who could change everything (maybe that whole phrase should be capitalized?) was brought into the world post haste, despite the fact that Fauxlivia is a carrier of something called VPE which is often fatal for both mother and child. Whether she and Peter Jr. survived because of the rapid-development treatment given to her by Walternate’s creepy medical crew or just because Fauxlivia is a strong enough heroine to will death away from herself and her uterus through childbirth (all 45 seconds of it) is not really explained clearly. What is made fairly clear is that the child itself is less important to Walternate than his blood sample, which I assume will prove useful in creating another version of the baby, which I further assume can be raised (grown?) to fulfill the fate in the doomsday machine that we thought was unique to Peter himself. That’s speculative, but it’s the only role for the baby that at present seems uniquely fit for the offspring of Peter and Fauxlivia.
There’s also The Observer to be considered, since he “phones home” from the stairwell of the hospital to announce ominously “it is happening” at some point after the baby’s birth—and after the baby’s blood is stolen by a man in a trench coat. The show cleverly plays the theft of the blood sample for a moment’s suspense as we see, in rapid succession, The Observer, Walternate, and his lab assistant all wearing similar black coats before it’s revealed that the lab rat grabbed the sample at Walternate’s behest. Why The Observer has come to witness the birth of the child (or is it the theft of the blood that he needed to confirm has set things in motion?) is also an unknown, I believe, but there’ve been so many clandestine observations on the part of these creepers throughout the show that I might be forgetting something of note. I assume they have a vested interest in the doomsday device, but I can’t recall the dialogue in which we learn what exactly that interest is. It doesn’t matter to me much; I just find the involvement of these extraneous players in the end game to be an inherently interesting premise—thus far they’ve been mostly amoral though they often intervene to preserve the “good” side of various struggles, suggesting they aren’t content to simply let Earth and Earth 2 find their own balance, even though their conversations with one another would suggest that that is in some sense what they are responsible for observing.
If it sounds like I’m speculating a lot about what amounts to very little in the episode, that would be because not much really happened in the episode: Fauxlivia’s kidnapping and forced ultrasound/treatment/delivery is ultimately rather dull despite incorporating a few interesting shots and moments handled with some nice traditional horror trappings. The treatment of her escape and the rapid fetal development (a concept the show has played with before—way back in one of the first half dozen episodes, if memory serves) just seem to be jumping through predictable hoops in order to fill the show’s run time—mysterious dialogue exchanges from the doctor, one villain doubting her role, Fauxlivia attempting to escape, then attempting to get the help of the seemingly sympathetic nurse; none of it was handled with the interesting Fringe touches that make this more than a run-of-the-mill horror/scifi show.
It was disappointing until the fantastically nightmarish sequence in the streets after Fauxlivia’s escape. It was classic horror from start to finish, with nods to horror that are beyond my scope of knowledge (not a horror guy—I like it more as an idea than a genre), but included a shot of a strange Chinese mask on a passerby, some timely lightning strikes, and a creepy shot through a storefront window where fleshy chicken carcasses hang limply, looking just a little bit too, how to say this, baby-shaped. Blech. Fauxlivia shouts for help through the window but is mostly ignored, which reminded me of the scene in “Ghostbusters” when Rick Moranis’ character can’t get anyone in the swanky restaurant to pay attention to him. Whether it’s an intentional nod or not, the “Terror Dog” of that film is replaced here by an incredibly slow moving orderly who takes the time to pause in the street, legs spread apart menacingly, as Fauxlivia runs to safety. Like I said, classic horror tropes.
With four episodes left this season (it makes me sad to type that), I assume we’ll be getting some solid answers soon to questions about the baby’s importance and the need for it to arrive in such a timely manner, among other pressing questions in both worlds. Tonight felt surprisingly like a wheel spinner, actually, given how much is going on between the two Earths. It doesn’t seem like any of the proceedings this evening required the attention of a full episode, especially the side story wherein Charlie and Lee stumble onto the fact that Fauxlivia and Olivia were switched at one point and that our Olivia escaped with the help of one very clever and loyal cabbie. Lee is predictably upset, as it turns out he has quite the crush on Fauxlivia, but beyond that there’s really no reason at this point that they need to know that information, and with the entire confusion of that mix-up behind us, it’s hard to understand why it would matter moving forward either. Then again, if any show can reach back into its past and provide new relevance for old elements, it would certainly be this one.
For anyone who hadn’t heard, Fringe is officially renewed for a full 22-episode 4th season, so those of you who watch religiously and pester fairweather fan friends to tune in as well, good work. You can get a good night’s sleep now and look forward to a fully realized continuance of the show’s master plot (rumor seems to be that the writers may have a predetermined end in mind, which would mean perhaps Fox is providing them at least borrowed time to push towards it). Tonight was not a great entry, but a show like this is going to have these types of episodes occasionally, and given that the episode did offer a lot in the way of setup, it’s hard to complain too deeply about things, especially given what a great season we’ve been treated to so far. I feel completely secure in suggesting to you that the final four episodes of this season will apply the accelerator to the floor so firmly that you won’t remember detail one from this episode by season’s end. See you in a couple weeks.
Overall Rating: 7.9/10
Great Lines, Interesting Moments, What Not and Occasionally What-Have-You:
That needle was ridiculously big, even for Fringe medical practices
I have no idea what VPE is—is that going to play some role in the baby’s significance that we should now about?
One counterargument to my theory that Walternate wants to clone his grandson for some nefarious purpose is the fact that he’s clearly still morally opposed to experimenting on children in this episode.
What was all the talk about Fauxlivia’s joints? Is that part of the VPE thing, or is there something else weird going on here?