Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fringe 4.12: "Welcome to Westfield"

“I've seen this once before. “Brigadoon.” The musical. Magical town in the forest where no one can leave. Of course that quaint Scottish village was more hospitable than our present locale.”

“Welcome to Westfield” was a quite enjoyable episode of “Fringe.” In fact, I think it may be my favorite episode of the season thus far. I liked that it pretty much followed a creepy/gross/strange happening of the week format. I also like that the Amber characters are starting to become more like the Blue Universe characters we know and love. It’s not quite the same as having the real Blue Walter and Olivia back, but it gave the episode more of the same vibe as past seasons. It was nice for Walter to actually be out on investigations again instead of staying holed up back in the lab, and it was interesting to see Olivia struggle with potentially having two sets of memories in her head. The events of this episode makes me wonder if the overall plot arc for this season will be resolved by Peter going home or by his new home becoming enough like his old home that he’s okay with it. I’m still hoping for the former, but the latter could be acceptable if Walter and Olivia remain more like their Blue Universe doppelgangers.

The episode opens with yet another dream of Olivia and Peter together, but we soon see that this time it’s Olivia who is dreaming, not Peter. It was quite possibly one of the least sexy and most forced sex scene I’ve seen on television, but it didn’t last long, so I was more intrigued about why Olivia was having this dream. Olivia is woken up from her dream by a phone call from Peter, who says he needs her help on his work with the Machine. At the lab, Walter has been spending some time trying to invent a Hot Cinnamon Roll cocktail, and it looks like Peter is tolerating Walter’s diversions and distractions a little better this week. It turns out that they called Olivia because they need Olivia to get authorization from Broyles to test their prototype of the Machine. Olivia agrees to help them out.

Meanwhile, in southern Vermont, we get our introduction to the creepy happening of the week. A tractor trailer seems to lose power in the middle of the road, and it pulls up behind a line of vehicles that have also lost power. Some of the driver’s tools float in the cab for a few second, which was really strange. As all the stranded drivers look on horrified, a plane flies over them and crashes. After the fireball of the crash, all of the vehicles suddenly turn back on. The Fringe team arrives on the scene, and shockingly, Walter is actually there in person! He’s not quite as giddy about the investigation as Blue Walter, but just the fact that he’s there at all is an improvement. Walter uses a hub cap to show that the cars are all magnetized, most likely because of an electromagnetic surge of some sort. It’s apparently why the (metal) tools all floated. This reminded me very much of “Lost,” where there was the magnetized panel in the Swan hatch in season 2. Broyles needs to go negotiate with the NTSB to get some of the plane wreckage, and Walter wants to take Peter and Olivia for rhubarb pie in the nearby town of Westfield while they wait. I thought that was sweet, and I always like Walter acting quirky.

Walter and Peter go into the diner with the rhubarb pie while Olivia tries to use a pay phone outside to contact Astrid (none of their cell phones are working). This is when it starts to really get to be more like a horror movie, which is part of what made this episode fun. The diner cook seems to take a liking to Walter, and he offers to give Walter a free slice of pie. While Peter is in the rest room, something happens that looked to me like a time slip (although it wasn’t). All of a sudden the cook forgets he offered a free slice to Walter and gets really combative. Then, all of a sudden, the cook is nice again, although he seems to forget the last minute or so. The he becomes aggressive again an tries to attack Walter with a knife. Peter has found another attack victim in a back room at the diner, and he rushes out to try to help Walter. Olivia ends up being the one to save the day by shooting the cook.

Peter, Olivia and Walter try to help the other victim by putting him in the car and driving him to the (rather far away) nearest hospital, but Westfield seems to be in some sort of a bubble. They can’t leave. We just see them going by the welcome and leaving signs for the town over and over. The team heads back into town (since they can’t leave anyway) and brings the injured man into a building that just happens to have a first aid kit with an IV set-up. I had never heard of such a thing, and as far as I know, neither Peter, Olivia, nor Walter are phlebotomists, so I’m not sure how this bit worked out. When the injured man recovers somewhat, he tells the team that everyone in town has been going crazy for the past few days. One such person was his sister, who killed her husband of 18 years after claiming she had never met him before.

All of the remaining non-infected people have gathered at the school, and that is where the team is going to head next. As an added bonus, Peter needs the generator near the school to get a signal through the bubble surrounding the town to Broyles. That bit was very “Lost.” Trek to the radio tower, anyone? Olivia mentions a nearby military base and speculates about whether or not it could be involved. She acts like she remembers first hand a case involving a military base that Blue Olivia worked, but such a case never happened in the Amber Universe. When called on this discrepancy, she tries to play it off like she’s just remembering it from Peter’s file.

The team gets to the school, and as they watch, flabbergasted, a guy walks by mumbling to himself and dragging a doll behind him. This really reminded me of season 2 of “Lost,” where some of the Losties and Tailies see a kid dragging a Teddy bear through the jungle. Outside the school, Olivia starts exhibiting some other symptoms that the “infected” of Westfield (damn…I really need to IMDB whether or not the writer of this episode was also a “Lost” writer…you’d think the folks of Westfield were Rousseau or something) such as tremors and mumbling. When she finally snaps out of it, Olivia tells Peter that it felt like someone else was in her head. The non-infected group ends up letting the Fringe team into the school. There is one woman who has started exhibiting symptoms since the injured guy left the school, and Walter examines her. Peter and Olivia take that time to talk a bit about Blue Olivia. This conversation is cut short when a scream rings out. The woman who had been infected is dead. The injured guy tells the team that he wishes he had taken a teaching job he had been offered in Philadelphia.

Walter uses the PA system to call Peter and Olivia to one of the school science labs. He has a theory to present to them. Specifically, he thinks the two universes have merged in Westfield, and the symptoms people are experiencing are a result. He then remembers to mention that Olivia is perfectly fine. A test Walter ran didn’t come up positive for what he was seeing in the people who were infected/merged. Walter hypothesizes that the “non-infected” are people whose Red Universe doppelgangers are not in Red Westfield for one reason or another. For instance, the Red Universe version of the injured guy might have actually taken the teaching job in Philadelphia. At that moment, the injured guy calls for the team from up on the roof. The Fringe team sees buildings on the horizon begin to blink in and out, and Walter says that this is “phase 2.”

Olivia convinces Peter to help Walter finish puzzling through how they can possibly survive this universe merger. Walter, with Peter’s help, finally has a plan. They’re going to try to get to the center of the merger, which is sort of like the eye of a storm. Walter and Peter do some busy calculations to a map while everybody else loads up on to a school bus. Before they can get to the eye of the storm and safety, the group experiences one more casualty. This particular merged guy ends up with two heads, which was pretty gross. He starts trying to tackle people, but Walter somehow manages to take him down with pepper spray. Which was most definitely amusing. The guy gets pushed out of the back of the bus, and everyone is safe for now.

The exact eye of the storm is in a bicycle shop, so everybody heads inside to take shelter. Things get rather dicey, but the Fringe team and their new friends somehow manage to avoid injury. After the merger is complete, the town is completely obliterated (except for the bicycle shop). Broyles and the rest of the FBI backup are finally able to get to Walter, Peter, and Olivia. Broyles says that the FBI found devices positioned around the town that were powered by the stuff David Rober Jones stole a few episodes ago. It makes no sense that Jones would have a reason to obliterate this tiny middle-of-nowhere Vermont town, so my personal theory is that Westfield’s destruction was a dress rehearsal for something bigger.

Back in Boston, Walter and Peter have a chat in the lab before Peter goes home for the evening. Walter seems a little sad at the prospect that, if they’re successful in their work, Peter will eventually be going “home” for good to the Blue Universe. On his way home, Peter stops by Olivia’s apartment to check on her. She’s happy to see him, says she ordered from Damiano’s, and kisses him. Peter is rather shocked. Earlier in the episode, Amber Olivia made it clear that she had never been to Damiano’s for food, even though Blue Olivia and Peter made a tradition of it. It looks like she may be sort of merging or being temporarily taken-over by Blue Olivia. This could be interesting, and all kinds of awkward for Peter. Here’s hoping Blue Olivia doesn’t have to hear she’s been cheated on with yet another version of herself!

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