Saturday, November 12, 2011

"Fringe" Review: "And Those We Left Behind" (***)

Peter's had quite a rotten run of luck, but then who hasn't in this show? He pretty much survived cancer as a child, only to get abducted by a man from an alternate universe, who eventually masqueraded as his father, to the point where he believed it. He then found out the truth, went back home, but then realized it wasn't worth it. He started dating a nice girl, but she lied to him and got preggers afterwords. Then he dealt with fallout from his real girlfriend, before finally getting back together with her. Then he destroyed his ex's universe, and his wife was shot in the head by his biological father. And now he's been erased from existence. I might be overshooting here, but that's the most awesome television storyline I've ever heard.

This season, on the other hand, has been something less, and this week continued on that strand. It's a weird advert they're currently going on, with Peter in this new timeline, away from the characters we've grown to love. And yet, there's been something innately charming about it. If this is merely a seasonal detour, it may be worth it depending on how it ends up. This week brought up a number of interesting theories on exactly what's going on. For the first time, we really don't know what's up. We don't know the goal of the observers, though we never have, but we've had some kind of reliance on them. We don't know the purpose of the new shapeshifters, or their eventually revealed leader. It's kind of interesting where we are now.

This season is actually some kind of blend between Season 2 and Season 3 ways of thought. Season 2 was very much marred in freak-of-the-week storylines, but Season 3 found some way to give them relevance to the overall plot of the series. This week's case was a particularly interesting one, with time-anomalies occurring with violent consequences. A woman watches her home go up in ash, and her daughter turn into a baby again. A bunch of teens nearly crash into a train that appears out of nowhere. 2007 is bleeding into 2011, and we don't learn why until Stephen Root and Romy Rosemont show up midway through.

Interestingly enough, Root's Raymond has built a machine to create a time bubble so that he may flash back to the memory of his wife Kate before she got alzheimers disease. It's somewhat heartfelt, but also kind of weird. Root comes off as kind of pathetic, but he really is. He's in over his head, in need of the life he used to live, but doesn't anymore. Remind you of anyone? This very much ties in with Peter's storyline. This episode leads him to believe that this new timeline is simply a detour, and he can get back to where he belongs. But as we know from the finale of last year, the Observers altered the timeline, and moved on from it. If they no longer care about the old timeline, does it not matter anymore? I believe so.

Peter will eventually get to a point when he realizes there's no getting his old life back, and that will probably break him. We've seen Olivia break down. We've seen Walter on so many occasions. We've never seen Peter break down entirely emotionally. Jackson is in desperate need of some strong chances to shine, and he's on the right route. Torv is working somewhat predictably, but this new Olivia is pretty predictable. She's more or less fine in this new world. She's not such a tragic figure, which kind of sucks. It means less contrast with Bolivia. BTW, where is the alternate universe this season? It's as if they've erased that aspect as well. I miss the doppelgangers!

Noble, in the meantime, is given such a rich episode for his character's disposition. Walter is no longer emotionally connecting with Peter. In fact, he utterly resents this imposter in his world. He's just a man who has interrupted the natural order of his life. He's done so much to move on from his hurt. Peter is reviving those tragic pathways, and it's utterly heartbreaking to see the denial at hand. Noble goes to a very dark place, with almost contempt for the character of Peter. You can see him almost wishing his son gone, but with a twinge of fear there. He's a very conflicted character, and that is all captured so brilliantly in a single shot of him looking at Peter and Olivia, with "Too Much Time on My Hands" drowning their words out.

In the end, what I didn't like about this episode was how predictably sweet it was, and the show shouldn't be that at all this season. It should be about Peter's melancholy for losing the life he had, and realizing that he may never be able to recover it. That's what this season is for him. It's him being beaten and broken in the same capacity as the other characters. It should be this band of tragically broken people, and the characters were waiting on in that respect are Peter and... Astrid? She hasn't had much heartache going on in this series. Can we maybe see that change? Or else kill her? I love her, but maybe her death would serve a better purpose. But again, just suggestions. This episode featured typical tropes like a dream sequence and a happy ending. We don't need that right now. Keep beating Peter. He deserves it, and needs it.

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