Friday, February 25, 2011

Fringe 3.14: "6B"

“I’m terrified. That I can’t fix this. That this is just who I am.”

I found “6B” to be the most compelling episode the “Fringe” team has produced in the new year. It was hard for me to take down notes to form the basis of this post as I watched because I was just that drawn into everything that was happening. It was a really beautiful episode, and it was perfect for Valentine’s Day, right down to the heart that appeared in the final glyph graphic at the end of the episode. I mean, given the events of the last episode, I know this all has to implode eventually, probably sooner rather than later. There is the fetus over on the Other Side that will not be spoken of again until it’s relevant to the plot. You can bet that will at least give Peter some pause when he finds out about it. Speaking of Peter, it seemed like the moody, weaponized Peter of “Reciprocity” is gone, at least for now. I wonder if that was bad writing, or if the machine only affects him temporarily when he gets too close to it. Or I guess it could be that he doesn’t have any shapeshifters left to kill at the moment.

The opening of “6B” was my favorite introduction to the case of the week that I can remember from this show. It was creepy and haunting in just the right way. A couple is going to a party at a pre-war Brooklyn apartment building. It’s an upscale place, complete with a very friendly doorman. Every bit character was memorable in this episode, from the doorman, to this couple, to the woman hosting the party they are attending. As the couple waits for the elevator up to the party, they are greeted by a woman dragging her suitcases down the stairs. That woman tells the doorman that she’s leaving because of crazy things that have been happening around the building.

The couple happily arrives at the party, and the woman from the couple happily introduces her new boyfriend to the party host. The happiness is short lived, though. The happy woman bites into a chicken skewer and goes into anaphylactic shock. Her friend the party host yells for the woman’s boyfriend, and he comes running in from the balcony. As the doorman is hailing the woman with the luggage a cab, a number of bodies fall from the balcony above where the party was taking place. It’s very sudden and jarring and much more carefully executed than many of the typical “Fringe” openings. You had to look very carefully when the allergy drama was going down at the party to see the balcony disappear and people start to fall as the boyfriend rushed to be by his girlfriend’s side.

We next lighten things up a little (before wallowing in angst again) with a little Bishop family wackiness. Walter is making the famous Bishop family blueberry pancakes, and he’s invited Olivia over for breakfast. He’s playing his usual role of number one Peter/Olivia shipper, trying to get the two of them back together. Peter’s not thrilled, because he’s been trying to give Olivia some space. Olivia soon shows up at the house, and she and Peter make super awkward small talk. The best moment of the scene is Walter not-so-secretly sneaking out the front door to give the kids some alone time. Peter says that they should use the situation to their advantage and try to talk out what’s wrong between them, and the resulting conversation is quite painful. Both Peter and Olivia are each blaming each other for the current strained status of their relationship. Before it gets so bad that it’s irreversible, though, Olivia is saved by a phone call from Broyles. They’ve got a new case- the mysterious moving balcony in Brooklyn.

The building in question is called the Rosencrantz, and as they look up towards the scene of the accident, Walter and Peter realize that the victims fell straight down. They didn’t jump off the balcony in some crazy mass suicide attempt. The balcony moved. Walter begins to be agitated, and as they move into the building, he starts flipping a coin. Every time he does a coin toss, it comes up heads. Walter is convinced that our universe is beginning to unravel, just like the Other Side. This development (and maybe the effects of the serum Nina gave him) has made him extra irritable, especially when the team is back at the lab and he’s handing out assignments. Peter and Olivia are sent back to New York (somebody on this show seriously needs to think about the distance between Boston and New York City some time with the way these characters constantly bounce back and forth). Their mission is to deploy a whole bunch of equipment at the Rosencrantz so Walter can monitor what’s happening. Astrid’s assignment is to retrieve a file about a case the team once investigated involving a bus encased in amber.

After deploying the monitoring equipment, Olivia and Peter decide to wait in a nearby bar for further instructions from Walter. They’re actually getting along well, which is nice to see. Peter is telling funny Walter stories, and Olivia is actually smiling and laughing. Suddenly things turn more serious, though, and Olivia tells Peter that she wants to know what a relationship with him feels like (it’s something Alt-livia got to experience, afterall). They kiss, but Olivia isn’t happy about it. She looks troubled and runs outside. Peter follows her to figure out what happened. It turns out that when they kissed, Olivia saw Peter glimmer. She’s concluded that this means she’s still extremely afraid of getting that close with him, and she doesn’t know how to fix it.

As they are standing outside, Peter and Olivia see a strange light coming from a window at the Rosencrantz, and Walter’s monitoring equipment starts going nuts. They rush to the apartment at the center of the phenomenon, and they see an elderly woman sitting in her apartment looking at the glimmer figure of an elderly man. Peter can’t see the man, but the woman and Olivia can. The woman, whose name is Alice, claims the figure is her husband’s ghost. This can’t be good. Any good Doctor Who viewer knows that when you see shimmery figures and think they’re the ghosts of family members, it’s really just beings from a parallel universe, who may be out to enslave you. Olivia questions Alice about her husband, and it’s obvious that given what she’s going through in her own personal life, Olivia is affected by Alice’s story of her 45 year marriage. Olivia doesn’t say anything about it, though. Walter interrupts and asks Alice when she first moved into the apartment. She moved in when she first got married, so she and her husband Derek were there for a long time. Walter theorizes that the “ghost” Alice saw was actually Derek’s doppelganger. See what I mean about “ghosts” really being from a parallel universe? I wasn’t playing.

Walter’s concerned that the soft spot at the Rosencrantz could turn into a full-blown vortex like the one that happened in the East River on the Other Side. Back at the lab, he says he’s been thinking about how the Other Side would deal with a potential vortex situation. They would probably use amber. The bus amber attack case he wanted Astrid to look into is being investigated at Massive Dynamic, so getting the file proves to be pretty easy. Throughout the second half of the episode, Walter works on synthesizing Amber for use in our own universe and struggles with the ethical qualms of that. It bugs him that he’s making the exact same move Walternate would make. He even sticks up for Walternate in a conversation with Nina, telling Astrid that he’s sure Walternate put a lot of thought into whether or not to use Amber, too.

Peter and Olivia take a different tactic, working from Peter’s theory that there has to be “a better way.” While Walter is working on Amber at Massive Dynamic, Peter and Olivia are trying to think about why the soft spot might be happening specifically at the Rosencrantz. Derek died when he was electrocuted fixing a household problem that became his job thanks to a coin toss. Olivia hypothesizes that since coin tosses are generally the opposite on the Other Side, Alt-Alice must have lost the Other Side toss and been electrocuted. Each is mourning the other in the exact same spot because both couples had lived in the Rosencrantz (or Alt-Rosencrantz, which should seriously be called the Guildenstern).

There isn’t much time left for investigating, though, because seismic activity at the building is intensifying, and Walter and Broyles have put an Amber team in place. Before the Amber is deployed, Peter and Olivia go into the building for one last shot at another way. They think they can stop the vortex without Amber if they can just get Alice to let go of Derek’s “ghost.” As Peter and Olivia enter Alice’s apartment, Alt-Derek appears more clearly than ever. Even Peter can see him this time. Alice is not convinced by Peter and Olivia’s explanation, and the situation is rapidly deteriorating. Walter thinks the vortex is starting. Alice is finally convinced that this Derek isn’t “her” Derek when he says that “the girls” miss her. Alice and Derek in our universe never had any children. She finally lets go, and all the shaking and glowing stops. There was no need to use the Amber, but Walter is worried that this is only the beginning.

Back in Boston, Olivia shows up at Peter’s door. She’s got a bottle of some sort of booze with her, and she’s finally ready to make amends. Not only is she ready to make amends, she “wants what Peter wants.” They kiss again, and this time Olivia claims Peter didn’t glow. She happily leads him up the stairs to the bedroom. I liked how this was handled more than I liked how the first Peter/Alt-livia sex scene was handled. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about Olivia forgiving Peter to that extent so quickly, though. I suppose the case this week just woke her up to the fact that it was finally time to start her life and quit making excuses. The less rational side of the Peter/Olivia shipper in me was certainly very happy.

We end the episode with a mercifully brief trip to the Other Side. Alt-Livia and Lincoln are investigating the Rosencrantz, too. Astrid reported that a “Class 4 Fringe Event” was taking place there, so they’re really confused about why nothing looks out of the ordinary. They knock on Derek’s door. He shows no sign of recognizing Alt-livia (which is strange, because he just saw Olivia), and he insists that nothing is going on. Alt-livia and Lincoln, who are very chummy in keeping with the theme of this episode, leave the Rosencrantz to go about the rest of the day. Happily, we viewers realize that Peter and Olivia’s method of fixing each individual reason for a soft spot solves the problem not only in our universe, but on the Other Side, too.

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