Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Fringe 3.19: “Lysergic Acid Diethylamide”

“I’m pretty sure there’s a good reason why we can’t enter each other’s minds. What if we kick something loose in there?”

This was certainly a unique episode of “Fringe,” a show that has already been making a good habit of pushing the creative envelope lately. I definitely did enjoy the trippyness, even if I didn’t quite get the emotional catharsis with this one as I have with other recent episodes such as “6B” and “Bloodline.” If this is a middle of the road episode for “Fringe,” though, I’m extremely happy. I really appreciate the creativity the “Fringe” team brings to the screen each week. Even after being pushed to the Friday night “death slot,” they aren’t afraid to try something strange. Of course, this week’s something strange was necessitated by Leonard Nimoy retiring from acting, but I think Nimoy’s absence has spurred the writers on to two creative ways to still include his character in the story. First was his consciousness inhabiting Olivia, Anna Torv’s bad Nimoy impression and all. Well, her impression of his voice isn’t great, but there was one moment in this episode where I think she captured one of his trademark quizzical facial expressions perfectly. This episode was the debut of the second depiction- a cartoon.

The episode opens with the Fringe team still trying to get Bell’s consciousness out of Olivia. They’ve found a brain dead man who meets all of Bell’s specifications, and they’re trying to transfer Bell into him. The procedure fails. To make things go from bad to worse, Olivia’s consciousness comes to the surface, and she starts seizing. Peter calls an ambulance immediately, and at the hospital, things are quite chaotic. The doctors want to run a code and shock Olivia back to life, but Walter is very reluctant. The code is about to start anyway when Bell comes back to the surface and makes them stop. Back at the lab, Belivia explains that Olivia’s mind isn’t holding up to being a host for Bell as well as Bell expected. When he did experiments on rats, they were always okay for a couple of weeks. At the moment, though, Bell is keeping Olivia alive, and if things keep going the way they are, she only has about a day left before her personality will be wiped forever.

Walter and Belivia continue to work on the problem of getting Bell’s consciousness out of Olivia’s brain with new urgency. Belivia proposes that they find Olivia’s consciousness (which is hiding) inside her brain, and once that’s done, put Bell’s consciousness in a computer. They’re going to use a procedure similar to what allowed Olivia to access John Scott’s consciousness way back when. And Peter’s going to have to lead the expedition, because as Walter reminds him, he knows Olivia best. This will involve Peter tripping on LSD, which was pretty darn amusing. Broyles stops by to get a progress report, and Peter is already feeling the effects of the drug. He’s fascinated by the fact that Broyles is bald, and he openly wonders if Broyles is an Observer.

After they’re hooked up to the proper machines, Water and Peter are able to enter Olivia’s consciousness. It looks like New York City, but the World Trade Center is still there, so I’m thinking it’s probably the Other Side’s “Manhatan.” Walter notices a light blinking in Morse code from a window near the top of one of the World Trade Center towers. He roots through a trashcan for a pudding cup, and being Walter, I figured he had gotten distracted and just wanted some pudding. He ended up using the shiny lid of the pudding cup to send a message back to the World Trade Center, because he thinks the blinking message he saw is from Olivia. He tells her to stay put and that they’re coming to get her. Then Walter sees Olivia’s abusive stepfather across the street, and he knows that things are about to get bad quickly. All of the people on the street suddenly stop and stare at the interlopers Walter and Peter, “Inception”-style. Also “Inception”-style, they start trying to attack Walter and Peter. Walter and Peter get in a cab and hightail it to the World Trade Center.

Back at the lab, Astrid notices Broyles starting to act strangely. He’s fascinated by the jar of red licorice Walter keeps in the lab, and he starts waxing poetic about it. Then Astrid noties that Broyles cleaned up part of the lab, including the sugar cubes. He’s tripping on the LSD now, too. We cut back to the lab every once in a while throughout the rest of the episodes to get updates on tripping Broyles, and it’s pretty darn funny. Lance Reddick apparently has comedic chops, which I hadn’t really seen in his work on “The Wire” and in the earlier seasons and episodes of “Fringe.” I’d like to see Broyles be funny more often, because Reddick can apparently handle it. This was just as surprising as discovering he could sing in “Brown Betty” last season.

Back in Olivia’s mind, Walter and Peter enter the World Trade Center, and they’re greeted by Nina. Walter is very glad to see Nina, and Nina directs them to the proper elevator to get to William Bell’s old office (where they think the signal came from). Luckily, Walter and Peter think to be suspicious of this vision of Nina just in time, and they manage to avoid getting pushed down an empty elevator shaft. In fact, it’s Nina who gets pushed. Before dashing into another elevator to avoid the angry horde of people populating Olivia’s mind, Walter asks why everyone here is trying to kill him. I wanted to ask if he had ever seen “Inception.” It seems like Olivia’s mind is in defensive mode thanks to all the other people walking around in it (Bell, Walter, and Peter).

Walter and Peter finally get to Bell’s old office, and the door is open. Inside is not Olivia, but Bell himself. Well, a cartoon version of Bell. Apparently retiring from acting doesn’t mean retiring from voice acting. I thought this was a clever solution to the problem and worked in the context of the gang being on an adventure inside Olivia’s mind. When Walter and Peter enter Bell’s office, they become cartoons, too. The group figures out that Olivia’s fears must have been triggered when Bell entered her mind. Peter is finally useful, and he says that when Olivia’s scared, she retreats. Bell thinks that’s going to make her very difficult to find, but Peter has an idea. They need to go to Jacksonville.

A Zeppelin tethered to the roof of the World Trade Center is the perfect way to get to Jacksonville, but the gang has to fight some cartoon zombies (yep, Olivia’s mind is populated by zombies) to get to it. Peter almost gets left behind in the fight, but after some heroics and jumping only possible in cartoons, everybody makes it on board. Walter and Bell have a little chat on the bridge of the Zeppelin. Bell thinks Walter doesn’t need him for check and balance purposes anymore- he thinks Walter can make ethical decisions all on his own. This is important, but there’s no time to linger on it. Someone has cut the Zeppelin’s fuel line, and it’s going down. Peter investigates the engine room and finds the person who cut the line. It’s a random guy with an X on his shirt. I’m just going to call him X. X shoots a flare gun, which causes the engine room to depressurize. Peter and Bell manage to stay on the Zeppelin, but X and Walter fly out. As Walter hits the ground, he wakes up in the real world.

Peter and Bell arrive in Jacksonville, and Peter is once again useful, suggesting they go to the military base and find the house Olivia lived in as a girl. All of the houses look the same, but Peter remembers Olivia telling him that her’s had a red door. Her father painted it. It takes quite a long time, but eventually they find the house with the red door. Peter enters the house to find adult Olivia and child Olivia with her family. Adult Olivia rushes to Peter and tells him how scared she is. Peter, however, finally is able to recognize his Olivia, and he knows the Olivia looking at him right now isn’t her. I suppose that starts to make up for the Alt-livia mess. Child Olivia is the real Olivia. She had set up a test for Peter, and he passed. There isn’t much time to rest though, because Olivia’s stepfather appears, complete with military back-up. Peter gets run over by a tank while trying to save Olivia from being run over, and he wakes up. Walter says that saving Olivia is all up to Bell now.

Walter turns out to be wrong- Olivia saves herself. She ages up into adult Olivia and tells the attack forces to stop. Bell remarks that Olivia never feels safe, which is why their shared consciousness degraded so quickly. Before they can continue this conversation, there’s a lightning strike, caused by Walter firing up the device that’s supposed to put Bell in the computer. Before disappearing, Bell tells Olivia to give Walter a message- “the dog wouldn’t hunt.” Olivia wakes up in the lab, back to her old self again, but Bell wasn’t so lucky. The transfer into the computer didn’t work. Walter, despite the pep talk he was given on the Zeppelin, takes the loss of Bell pretty hard. He holes up in his office and doesn’t want to be disturbed.

Later that evening, Peter stops by Olivia’s apartment to check in on her. He notices she’s sketched a drawing of X. I never knew Olivia was at all an artist, so this was interesting. Peter asks who X is. Olivia replies that she doesn’t know, but the thinks it’s the man who is going to kill her. As if Olivia didn’t need another threat to deal with on top of everything going on with the Other Side! I’m wondering if this will be a short-term or long-term plot arc, but it definitely has the potential to be interesting.

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