Fox, 18 November 2011-24 February 2012
As Olivia’s personality begins to resemble the Olivia from Peter’s universe, a major character at Massive Dynamic is revealed to be a shape-shifter.
Amid a series of stand-alone stories, this batch of Fringe episodes drive the overall arc story forward in a satisfying way, revealing more about this (third) universe’s version of Olivia and a whole lot more about who the ‘Observers’ are and what their role is.
As Peter Bishop continues to struggle with his status as a stranger in a very familiar land, the Fringe teams from two universes encounter a series of anomalies, including an invisible man sucking the pigment from his victims (‘Wallflower’), the ‘return’ of Jared Harris’s David Robert Jones—with all these different universes, it is kinda hard to keep track (in ‘Back to Where You’ve Never Been’/’Enemy of My Enemy’), and psychically-connected teenagers (‘A Better Human Being’).
In between, Fringe rediscovers its taste for experimentation. ‘Making Angels’ is a showcase for Astrid actress Jasika Nicole as the two alternate versions of the characters are brought face-to-face. It’s a sweet show, solidly built around a basic Fringe mystery-of-the-week, but also giving the two versions of Anna Torv’s Olivia some meaty material, as Walter warms a little to Fauxlivia. Interestingly, ‘our’ Astrid lies about her relationship with her father in order to comfort her doppleganger.
Also experimental is ‘Welcome to Westerfield’, which sees the team trapped in an isolated town from which they cannot escape. Almost a zombie episode (and heavily influenced by the best of The X-Files), the explanation that the people and the town is merging with the alternate universe counterpart works well, especially as we’ve seen buildings and people (almost) merging across universes before, but nothing on this scale. The episode has a great mystery set up and a resolution that works well within the established mythology of the series. Easily one of the best stand alone instalments of the show.
Even more interestingly, Fringe has got to grips (relatively speaking) with the question of the Observers, dropping major revelations about them in ‘Forced Perspective’ and (especially) ‘The End of All Things’. Perhaps there’s a sense that the show is running out of time and answers need to be provided: hopefully Fringe can learn from the unsatisfactory conclusions of both The X-Files and Lost and will build to something truly memorable.
Verdict: Fringe has rediscovered its mojo… but is it too late to save the show from cancellation?
Episode 7 ‘Wallflower’: 6/10
Episode 8 ‘Back to Where You’ve Never Been’: 7/10
Episode 9 ‘Enemy of My Enemy’: 7/10
Episode 10 ‘Forced Perspective’: 7/10
Episode 11 ‘Making Angels’: 8/10
Episode 12 ‘Welcome to Westerfield’: 9/10
Episode 13 ‘A Better Human Being’: 6/10
Episode 14 ‘The End of All Things’: 8/10
Brian J. Robb