'Worlds Apart' brought the parallel universes to a breaking point as 'Fringe' ramps up for a potentially cataclysmic season (but not series!) finale

By Jeff Jensen
April 28, 2012 at 03:43 PM EDT
Fox
S4 E20
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According to The Bible, a rainbow is no mere meteorological phenomenon. It’s a promise from God, made to mankind after The Great Flood, to never again wash away humanity from the face of the Earth. At least, not with water. In the “over there” universe of Fringe, where the fabric of space had been steadily eroding like some slow moving Armageddon ever since Walter Bishop punched a hole through the quantum wall in a failed bid to save his doppelganger’s son, nobody has seen a rainbow in 20 years. One can only wonder how theologians “over there” have made sense of that development. (Or of the whole notion of alternate universes in general.) In the season’s penultimate episode “Worlds Apart” (the next two weeks constitute a two-part finale), Walternate’s parallel world people lost another kind of rainbow: The Bridge, that miraculous steel-hued Bifrost created by the doomsday machine salvation machine magical electromagnetic waffle iron. Season 4 big bad wolf (or is he?!?) David Robert Jones 2.0 wanted to huff and puff and blow away Rebootlandia’s fraternal twin realities and reboot anew from a safe zone of unaffected spacetime with his transhuman zoo of shapeshifters and animal people. Think: Noah Gone Anti-Monitor Mad in Crisis On Infinite Just A Couple Earths. The Fringe divisions on each side realized that the only way to stop him was to collapse The Bridge, whose quantum magic provided the means for the villain to execute his catastrophic scheme. The choice represented a sacrifice for the “over there” world for it meant their world would no longer benefit from the healing energies of the machine. The teams – enemies turned frenemies turned friends – said sad goodbyes, then bravely faced each other as the power surged and Walter pulled an X-4 and hit the switches. In my head, Journey played: “Here we stand/Worlds apart, hearts broken in two (two, two)…” There was no “reaching for you (you, you)” as the ground gave way and each realm blurred and vanished from view – but there were small waves between Astrids. The rainbow connection crashed; the lovers, the dreamers, and me went kinda misty. And with that, Fringe effectively pulled the plug on the creative idea that defined the best years of the show. Permanently? Maybe. But given the double rainbow of happy happy joy joy of cancelation delaytion (the elation of delayed misery) that radiated throughout fandom earlier this week – One more season! 13 episodes! Fringe lives to die another day! (make sure you click the link for the show’s S5 teaser trailer) – I have to think we haven’t seen the last of the “over there” world. Until then, though, we share in Walter’s assessment and sentiment: “I think I shall miss them, more than I imagined.”

“Worlds Apart” began by picking up not far from where we left off two weeks ago, when Walter theorized that Jones aspired to go Dark Phoenix on the multiverse. During a briefing at The Bridge, the humbled and rumpled licorice-loving egghead briefed both Fringe divisions on the matter. He used delightfully crude drawings of colliding planets to illustrate his point. He said he had fleshed out his findings from details gleaned in a dream. The agents expressed some wth?! skepticism, but Walternate, stony-faced as The Sphinx, had his double’s back. Walter was moved by the affirmation and trust of a man whose life and world he had profoundly wrecked with good intentions. Walter’s suspicions were corroborated after the teams began investigating an outbreak of synched earthquakes in each world. It turned out that Jones had recruited 27 of Olivia’s fellow all-grown-up test subjects from Walter’s Cortexiphan trials and was using their super-powers to produce the rumblers. Their psychic havoc was having another effect: Harmonic convergence. Each universe vibrates at a different frequency, but the earthquake epicenters in both worlds were now humming in the same key. Walter believed that Jones would get the universe-smashing Big Bang BOOM! he wanted if he kept producing more transformative earthquakes with more juiced mutants.

NEXT: How great was the weeping Walters scene?

Our heroes thought they had gotten a break when the “over there” incarnation of one of those “over here” Cortexiphan Kids sought out Agent Lee. It was Nick Lane, who was first introduced in the season 1 episode “Bad Dreams,” which launched many essential mythological ideas, like how Walter and William Bell were trying to cultivate super-soldiers to fight off an invasion from the parallel world. Rebootlandia’s “over there” Nick was a childhood friend of the late Captain Lee. Agent Lee quickly and quietly decided that it would be easier to just play the part of his dead parallel twin instead of trying to explain the very complicated truth to him. Lane told Lee that he dreamed of the earthquakes before they happened – specifically, the one that shook New York City. The initial theory: Remote viewing. Lane had telepathically observed his “over here” counterpart make the Manhattan quake. The more nuanced answer: Jones’ brood of chemically-created psionic thunder gods had forged psychic links with their “over there” Others and were using them to recalibrate the frequency of the parallel world. Lee and Bolivia brought Lane to the other side, where Walter facilitated a cybernetic mind-meld between Lane and Olivia so Olivia could see into Nice Nick’s head (a nice call back to “Bad Dreams”) and pinpoint Bad Nick’s location. They nabbed Bad Nick, Bad Nick said some stuff (more “Bad Dreams” linking: Jones had won the Cortexiphan Kids’ cooperation by convincing them that they were saving “over here”), they got Bad Nick to agree to betray Jones, but Bad Nick lied about agreeing to betray Jones and used his pusher powers to get away. (Poor Agent Timmy/Tommy! Made so suicidally mopey by Bad Nick that he stabbed himself!) I’m being breezy because I thought the Nick stuff got progressively snoozy. Bottom line: Our heroes had no way of stopping Jones by simply capturing him, so they had no choice but to pursue Peter’s big idea of shutting down the machine and collapsing The Bridge.

Just when “Worlds Apart” seemed to be shaping up to be a running-in-place installment — all sound and fury, signifying stall-for-the-finale nothing — we got a final act that was so significant, so emotional that I think I got whiplash. I don’t think we can understate the passing of the parallel world premise. Fringe was floundering for an identity in season 1 before the producers boldly accelerated the mythology and captured our imagination with a conceit that nourished some great storytelling during the show’s second and third seasons. A moment of silence, please. I think I’ll miss Bolivia most of all. That smile. That strut. Those bangs. Just a fun, rich character. What a showcase for Anna Torv to show her range. That said: I found the goodbye between the two Olivias to be the weakest of the bunch. That “keep looking up” stuff was rather maudlin.  On the other hand, the moments between the two Walters were devastatingly perfect. I loved how Walter really didn’t really know what to say to Walternate in the first half of the sequence, and felt awkward enough that he basically ran away from him. It could have ended there. But Walternate pursued his Other, and found him crumpled in a hallway. The beat where Walternate sat down to join him to grieve the shared fear that turning off the machine might negate Peter’s existence: Sheesh, that got me! Just the very action of sitting, of Walternate choosing to literally to meet Walter at his lowest moment, was extraordinarily moving. It said what needed to be said without saying any a word — and that word was “forgiveness.” Amazing grace, indeed. The grace notes that followed were amazing, too. Agent Lee decided to stay on the other side; I loved his respectful nod to Olivia and the blushing smile he got out of Bolivia when he asked her to help him find an apartment. It was a sweet send-off for a swell character that wasn’t always well served this season, especially after Peter returned to the fold. The Astrid waves: Priceless. I think Fringe could have given us a better story to close out the parallel world, but I think they got the emotions just right.

But was “Worlds Apart” really the end of the road for the “over there” gang? I have to think we’ll revisit those characters at least once next season, now that we know there will be a next season. Next week, the two-part season finale begins. The big question that I’m asking: What’s David Robert Jones’ true motivation? Is he really a wannabe god that wants to design and rule his own creation? Or is he a wannabe savior trying to avert the bad dream future that is Observageddon? I look forward to reading your opinions and theories in the message boards below.

Twitter: @EWDocJensen

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Joshua Jackson, Anna Torv, and John Noble star in J.J. Abrams’ sci-fi drama
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