Monday, July 12, 2010

Fringe 2.22: "Over There, Part 1"

“Well, if none of you are gonna kill me, I think I’ll go and have a bit of a cry.”

So I know I’ve been writing a lot of really critical blog posts lately, but this isn’t going to be one of them. I’m actually quite impressed with how Fringe has improved over the past few years. It’s gone from being overly creepy and gross for the shock value without having any heart to having a pretty nice balance of well-drawn characters and compelling drama. I think Fringe really took off once they added the whole notion of the “Other Side” to the mythology late in Season 1. The show became about something greater, and it really allowed the characters to grow and deepen. This seems to be an especially appropriate time to give a nod to the journey of “Fringe,” as “Over There, Part 1” was the first part of a very mythology and character-rich season finale.

The episode opens on the Other Side, and we get our first really good look at what Fringe Division does on the other side, and we start to get a sense of why they do what they do. Other Side Fringe is part of the Department of Defense, not the FBI. They basically respond to events where it looks like a hole might have been torn between the two universes. They lack a really good method of dealing with these incidents, as we see when they respond to a call at what looks like an abandoned theatre. A decision needs to be made as to whether or not the theatre needs to be “quarantined,” and we’re told that a quarantine could mean the loss of thousands of lives. The person who makes the decision about whether or not to quarantine is a rather robotic version of Astrid. She’s essentially a computer in human form, doing calculations to figure out the extent of the threat at the theatre. At the last second, she tells the team that they don’t need to quarantine. The team discovers a body covered in sarcomas (our friend from the town where I was born who we first met earlier this season), then the camera pans back to reveal Olivia, Walter, and two others hiding in the balcony.

It turns out that this introduction was a bit of in media res, which I think is a rather played out storytelling device, especially this season. What? You really thought I could get through a post without saying something critical? The story resumes 36 hours before the introduction, right in the aftermath of our Fringe team finding out that Peter has gone to the Other Side. Walter watches surveillance video of Peter making his choice. Olivia chooses to drown her sorrows at a bar. While at the bar, an Observer leaves an old piece of paper in front of Olivia. It has strange writing, and more importantly, a sketch of Peter with flames coming out of his eyes. It sounds odder in words than it does on the screen, really. Anyway, it’s clear that the paper means bad news. This is confirmed when Olivia finds Walter frantically searching for something he once knew about Peter and the Other side, and has since forgotten. Walter tells Olivia that an Observer once told him Peter must never be allowed to return to the Other Side. Walter is convinced that Peter’s choice is going to bring about the end of the world. It wouldn’t be the end of a season of genre TV if we didn’t have a little impending apocalypse!

There are plans for a scary looking device on the paper Olivia received from the Observer, and Walter recognizes it clearly as William Bell’s work. This leads to the team bursting into Nina Sharp’s office at Massive Dynamic. Nina doesn’t think that William would have ever actually built technology that would destroy whole universes. The handy Massive Dynamic tech then gives the remainder of the Fringe team a lesson on why it’s difficult to cross back and forth between universes. When one does so, the cells of the body lose cohesion. Eventually, they could become so volatile that they explode. Walter hypothesizes that Cortexaphan kids like Olivia don’t have to deal with this side effect. It just so happens that Massive Dynamic has been rounding up former Cortexaphan kids and trying to teach them how to control their abilities. Two of the three who have shown the most promise are people we have met before. There’s Nick Lane from the season 1 episode “Bad Dreams” and James Heath from the recent episode “Olivia. In the Lab. With the Revolver.” They are joined by Sally Clark, a pyrokinetic.

Walter calls a meeting of the entire group. He starts by apologizing for all he put the Cortexaphan kids through. Nick seems ready and willing to accept the apology, but James is more skeptical. Walter is surprised that the former Cortexaphan kids didn’t try to kill him right then and there, and he’s so emotional over what he did to them that he can barely hold it together. Nick suggests to Broyles that the group be given a night off to spend how they want before taking on the extremely risky mission, and Broyles agrees. James heals cancer patients (he used to spread his cancer to others) and Nick and Sally spend the night together (they’ve been dating). Olivia wakes up Ella and gives her a necklace. The necklace is a cross, and it was given to Olivia by her mother right before her mother died. When Ella happily shows it to Rachel the next morning, Rachel is understandably very concerned. I wish that Olivia’s necklace and the story behind it had been established earlier in the series. That would have given the scene where Olivia gives it to Ella more emotional impact. Show, don’t tell, you know?

Walter leads the Cortexaphan kids across the barrier to the Other Side. James almost immediately falls down, sarcomas once again covering his body. We’re now back to where the episode started. The alt-Fringe team sees a Jackson $20 bill when they search James’ body (their $20 has a picture of Martin Luther King, Jr.), and that triggers an alert that goes all the way to the Secretary of Defense, who just happens to be Walternate. Walternate calls the team to his office at the Statue of Liberty, and we learn that he wrote the ZFT.

Meanwhile, Peter wakes up with an IV in his arm. He pulls it out and goes to explore. It turns out that he’s in a posh house, and when he walks in the kitchen, he sees his mother. It’s both emotional and kind of awkward. Peter feels bad every time he starts to talk about his “mother” from our universe. Peter’s mom says Walternate has to work, but he gave her some plans to give to Peter. He thinks Peter can figure out how to make the plans work. They’re the doomsday plans from the beginning of the episode, of course. Peter seems perfectly content in his new home and family and has no clue that his “father” wants to use him to create an apocalypse.

Walter and his team need to reach the meet-up point that Nina sent to William Bell before they crossed over. Sally didn’t fall instantly upon crossing over like James did, but she’s not doing well. It also doesn’t help that the police state government requires everyone to display a “show me” before boarding a bus, so they all have to walk. Nevertheless, the group slowly makes their way on foot to the meet-up point. When they finally get there, they are met not by William Bell, but by a police raid. All Hell breaks loose. Walter is shot and stumbles into some people who will likely take him to a hospital not yet realizing he isn’t from their universe. Nick is shot as well, but his wound is fatal. As Sally hovers over Nick’s body, she makes the decision to throw her energy into one last pyrokinetic burst, incinerating herself, Nick, and several of the officers around her. Olivia is the only one who makes it out unscathed (she hid for most of the fight, which, come to think of it, is kind of uncharacteristic of Olivia), and she decides to seek out her Other Side doppelganger. Alt-livia happens to be at home, about to enjoy a romantic evening with her boyfriend. As Olivia stands outside her doppelganger’s house, she finally meets up with William Bell.

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