Time and time again, though we give credit to the show’s intense science bent and mythology of the parallel universes, Fringe reminds us that all of this happens because of the actions of real people. The entire crux of the Fringe cases of the week are that they occur because of cracks in the fabric of space time due to one man’s grieving for his dead son. Much of this season has been focused on the deepening rifts between worlds, and most of that time has been centered on our main players.
Thus, it was a surprise this week when a major step forward in momentum was taken thanks to the outside acts in the weekly whodunit. The start of the problem comes when an apartment party experiences some strange phenomena, resulting in six people falling through a balcony to their street-bound death. Says Walter, “It’s like a flashmob, but with suicide.” Soon after their investigation though, Walter becomes visibly disturbed, even agitated for a good part of the episode.
It seems that the solution here lies in the supernatural. See, an old women who lives in the same apartment building the previous night’s party occurred in is connected to her dead husband. Walter speaks of an existential debate (literally) he had with William Bell over whether ghosts existed. Bell said they did by Walter thinks otherwise. The winner here is our custard-loving scientist, for reasons revealed later on. By the time our team confronts the woman, Mrs. Alice Merchant, she tells her tale. Far from a ghost story, we learn that her husband passed away after losing a coin toss to fix the apartment fuse box. She is shocked to see visions of her husband, and grows attached to these “ghosts” through a deep emotional longing to see her beloved Derek.
There’s only one problem: Olivia, who has been known to be able to see things others can’t, can see this ghost as well of a man she has never met. Suspicions arise and it is deduced that the freak murders are being caused not by a mischievous ghost, but by tears in the composition of our universe. Poor Derek is not a ghost, but a projection of his Earth-2 counterpart, longing for his dead wife: the exact opposite scenario as this world. The pair’s emotional bond is causing the two worlds to collide and a vortex to begin to arise at this particular complex. A run-of-the-mill case turns from one of physics to one of people, and it was nice to see advances on the Fate of Two Worlds™ front coming from the case of the week and some characters we just met this week than the usual suspects. Two people grieving their alternates, and the physical ramifications of heartache, was a nice touch that vaguely tied into the relationship drama happening elsewhere.
The Merchant’s mutual destruction paradox presents a challenge for Walter and the FBI. In a surprising development, Walter coaxes information from Olivia about his otherworldly counterpart’s methods in containing universal rifts. She talks about that (other) Amber Alert protocol, and Walter shockingly considers it. He has Brandon cook up the compound to create explosive amber and the FBI is set to deploy it should things go wrong in dealing with the pain and suffering of the old couple in room 6B.
Far be it for me to acknowledge the second Star Wars trilogy, but as Walter looks up the case of the amber subway from season one, and considers the effects of the “dark side” of his actions in 1985, I can’t help but wonder through the course of the episode if this will be his Anakin moment. The moment where our tortured-yet-happy scientist forsakes his morales for a larger scheme. All the way up until the end, where Broyles half-activates the Amber trigger as Peter and Olivia remain inside, I was puzzling over the potential of this development. Are Walter and Walternate, a man until now portrayed as the villain who seems of a darker hue than ours, one in the same? Can circumstances always trump convictions, and are the two personalities about to pursue the same goal on opposite sides of things? While I was ready to explore this moral ambiguity within the show, it was not to be, as Olivia and Peter stop the crisis inside. (There is a nice moment where Derek’s revelation of kids snaps his un-wife to her senses.) Toward the end of the episode, Nina urges Walter to avoid the dark side, and to study the ways of the Jedi in a far off marsh. Or perhaps I missed a detail there…
The other plot of the episode, as mentioned above, was more development on the Peter and Olivia will-they-or-will-they please-already relationship front. After starting out in a frustrating retread of the two’s dialogue from the past several episodes, a bar trip while waiting for FBI seismographs opens Olivia up to Peter’s plea that he still loves her, not the now-pregnant Fauxlivia. The two kiss at last, but not before some worrying about Peter sparkling. Between this point and the horribly stilted dialogue in this plot the first two thirds of the episode, I thought I was watching a bad Twilight fan flick. Luckily, after the emotional turmoil of the Merchant’s, Olivia warms up and the two finally kiss and make up that evening. Our long national hanging thread nightmare is over.
Next week: another flashback episode to the 1980’s! I can’t wait, can you?