Fringe recap: Good Vibrations, Ominous Tidings
Does David Robert Jones really want to annihilate the parallel worlds of Fringe? Does the glazed-faced terrorist truly want to give Rebootlandia the quantum shiv by going evil Shiva? The question is on the table after an episode that set the stage for the endgame that looms: There are only four episodes of season 4 left. “The Consultant” was heavy on foreshadowing and stakes-building, much of it presented in the form re-emphasizing recently established ideas. Peter and Olivia are really, really happy in love now that she can remember the wholly-realized woman she was prior to the reboot. Walter is very, very happy for them, and more, blossoming back into the warmer, wiser soul that he had been before the
doomsday machine salvation machine magical electromagnetic waffle iron reversed three years of spiritual gains. The “over there” world is a much, much happier place ever since The Bridge began inexplicably healing their wormhole-ridden reality. Bottom line: Things are getting back to the way they used to be, only better… which means that the time has come to threaten all that happiness with series-ending cancelation — er, I mean, a season-ending game-changer, produced, no doubt, by Mr. Jones, everyone’s favorite insidious intra-space oddity. Yet I’m not sure the wannabe god – a trippy, transgressive Transcendent Man – is truly chasing self-negating obliteration like some death cult star-snuffing Thanos. Jones is a creative spirit. He’s been making designer humans like Yahweh on the sixth day, for heaven’s sake! Or at least trying to. Have recent failures left this dark and demented Oppenheimer so depressed that he’s now decided to give up and blow the multiverse to smithereens with suitcase A-bombs? (A for Amphilicite, of course.) I say nay! I say he’s up to something else. I say: Jones wants to explode both universes so he can produce the necessary energy to produce a new big bang, one that will yield a new Earth that he will rule with his tribe of mechanical-animal genetically engineered super-humans. No, he won’t succeed. But I do wonder if we’re being set up for yet another new timeline (groan?) via the harmonic convergence or integration of both worlds … or if next season (and friends, I do think there will be a next season) will be set in another time period, like, say, the near-future glimpsed at the end of last season? Don’t ask me how that’s possible; still working it out. We shall see.
But hey: How about I try recapping the episode we just watched instead of the speculative episodes that only exist inside my head? To business! The Fringe divisions of both worlds teamed up to investigate a murder mystery that spanned and connected their universes in a terrifying new way. In the “over there” world, three men died in a suspicious plane crash. At the same exact moment in the “over here” world, those same three men also died, from injuries consistent with plane crash trauma, except they weren’t flying when they died. (No big losses: “The Consultant” made some funny out of their demise by portraying two of the victims as money-grubbing businessmen. Inspired by the title, I imagined them to be scummy management consultants, a la Don Cheadle and co. in the Showtime dramedy House of Lies.) Walter volunteered to go “over there” to work the case with Bolivia and Agent Lee, still on temporary self-reassignment in the parallel universe. The deep significance of Walter’s movement was subtly dramatized. Over the course of the season, we’ve seen this Rebootlandia incarnation of the elder Bishop re-engage the world after decades of hiding from it by screwing on the courage to venture outside the safe, controlled confines of his Harvard laboratory. In “The Consultant,” Walter took a major leap forward in his return to some kind of health by crossing over into the parallel universe for the first time since opening a portal into the “over there” universe decades earlier to save/abduct Walternate’s dying son – a mission of self-serving mercy that not only failed, but wreaked profound damage upon that reality. Walter’s long-awaited return trip began with fearful steps and sober recognition of the consequences of his ill-fated rescue mission of the past. By the end, Walter snagged some redemption (and brought into sharp relief the season’s big theme: the impact we have on each other’s lives and identities) by saving both worlds, inspiring Broyles from making a new version of his old mistake, and bringing some healing to grieving Bolivia. Now that’s one hell of a consultant.
He earned his keep by first developing a working theory for what killed the suits in both worlds. Walter explained that the two universes vibrated at different frequencies. Using a tuning fork and a severed hand smuggled across the quantum divide, he showed that someone had found a way to merge the frequencies in order to create synchronized mayhem. Walter’s speculation was confirmed after another multiple doppelganger homicide. In one world, a woman drowned in New York’s East River after her cab veered into the drink. In the other world, her mirror twin got thrown across the floor of a pet store and puked seawater until she croaked. The culprit: David Robert Jones. The deaths were tests of a grander, global plan: To collapse both worlds by affixing a modified version of the device to the magical electromagnetic waffle iron parked at The Bridge.
NEXT: Shifty? Yes. Shapeshifter? No.
As the investigation into Jones’ latest sinister scheme played out, Bolivia pushed Colonel Broyles to let her conduct an internal probe of Fringe division for the Jones mole whose treachery had contributed to the death of her pal and partner, Captain Lincoln Lee, in last week’s episode. (Plane crash + Bolivia’s list of 108 potential suspects for traitors = Fringe making coy Lost references?) Of course, the mole was Colonel Broyles himself, so he was Catch-22 screwed: If he stonewalled her inquiry, Bolivia would suspect him; if he permitted her inquiry, Bolivia might smoke him out. For those of us who figured Broyles to be a shapeshifter (present company included): WRONG. Jones was controlling a very human Broyles by supplying the colonel with experimental vaccines for his son, Christopher. (Before the reboot, Chris had been messed up years earlier by an encounter with a youth-sucking sicko called The Candy Man; see: “The Abducted.”) Bolivia tricked Jones-loyal alterna-Nina into outing Broyles, just as Broyles had been tasked by Jones to execute a potentially apocalyptic mission. Operation: Waffle Iron Sabotage. Bolivia and Lee raced to The Bridge to arrest their bad boss, only to learn they didn’t need to: The colonel had decided to stop playing for Team Jones and surrendered himself to his own doppelganger, Special Agent In Charge Broyles.
Credit The Consultant with an indirect assist. Earlier in the episode, Walter apologized to Col. Broyles for setting in motion the series of events that produced the current circumstances that Jones was trying to exploit for his own purposes. Broyles wanted to know: If Walter could do it all over again — would he? Walter explained that if he had been asked that question a few years ago, he would have said no. But now, with Peter restored to him via some wondrous miracle or inexplicable science, Walter confessed that he didn’t know if he’d do things differently. Broyles – torn between his son and bringing potential ruin to two worlds — must have realized he couldn’t live with Walter’s kind of regret or moral ambiguity. And so he did the right thing. And I do think it was the right thing, even if Christopher suffers as a consequence. (Agree? Debate!) Would Broyles have made the same choice If Walter hadn’t crossed over to goose his conscience and facilitate the epiphany? Debate that, too! (By the way: Nice work by Lance Reddick, who reminded us that he can do much more than just glower and bark.)
My favorite scene of the night had to be Walter’s sleepover at Bolivia’s apartment. Seeking to satisfy a late-night craving, Walter sauntered into the kitchen wearing a hilariously skimpy ivory robe (out of respect to his host; otherwise: naked) and found his frenemy drowning her alterna-Lee grief in booze. She wanted desperately to tell Lee’s parents that she had closed the case on their son’s murder. Walter — once again earning his keep as a consultant — gave her the idea that proved to be the breakthrough she needed by invoking a certain violin-playing, drug-addled (or enhanced, Walter might argue) great detective (Shocker! No Sherlock Holmes in the “over there” world!) and reminding her that “no evidence is evidence unto itself.” Meaning: Boss man Broyles should not be above suspicion. Yet the best moment in this sequence was the shot of Walter making scrambled eggs for both of them as woozy Bolivia leaned against him for support. Both of them beamed from the shared warmth. I dug the implicit parent-child subtext. Bolivia appreciated the nurturing; Walter appreciated being able to nurture. The last of his “vagenda” resentment and suspicion of her was whisked away in a fluffy mound of comfort food. In this way, “The Consultant” modeled some great values, including forgiveness, grace and how the mistakes of the past can produce wisdom for the present. I also loved how it formally restored to Walter, the veritable paterfamilias of Fringelandia, the identity he wants most: To be a father again. And this time, a good one.
Your turn. Opinions? Complaints? Theories?