Monday, January 16, 2012

"Fringe" Review: "Back to Where You've Never Been" (***1/2)

That is a rather fantastic title for an episode that is quintessentially about trust. Peter has realized that there's no chance of Walter helping him out on this side, so he asks for Olivia and Lincoln to help him cross to the alternate universe. Why can't he use the bridge? Because Broyles doesn't trust Peter enough. Why doesn't Walter's portal device rip apart the universes like it did 28 years ago? Because the link between the universes seems to have halted the degradation and diminished the impact of holes in the universes. The writers aren't stepping around these plot points, but accommodating them for a much more exciting story.

With a layer of distrust still existing between the two sides, the only thing to do is to step around each other deceptively. Of course that doesn't work out, and Lincoln and Peter are caught rather quickly, and their story would be stopped right if there wasn't a shapeshifter driving their transport. Of course we don't see that he's a shapeshifter, but at this point it's assumed. The two split, Lincoln is apprehended by Alt-Lincoln and Bolivia, and Peter heads off to ask his mother for help, as you do. But this show has never been about the events, but about the specificities of the exchanges between characters. You wonder how the two Lincolns can exist in the same scene together believably, and against all odds they do, and quite hilariously as it turns out. Peanut Butter & Jam.

And Peter's interaction with Elizabeth is a lovely recount of a crucial scene from season 2's "Peter", and it results in a graceful rendezvous with Walternate. You could see that scene as simple and falling apart once you know the truth of the circumstances, but either way you see it, it's a gorgeous and dangerous waltz. One particular shot that sticks out is of Walternate walking along his reflecting floor, while Peter's reflection is stamped out by carpet. It's those small details that make the show a surprisingly fruitful effort in the areas of production design. And it's also a satisfying scene in its revelation of Brandonym as a shapeshifter in this universe.

That doesn't hit home the ideas of distrust and paranoia, but what does is the fact that Colonel Broyles too has been replaced by a shapeshifter. That is the aspect that has me clamoring so well. Just when we think he's alive, the writers turn it around on us fantastically. It's nice to have the knowledge that his death last season wasn't just swept under the rug. And it also carries a sense of dread into next week, when Olivia and Lincoln walk straight into a trap. If there's anything I don't want, I don't want them to be replaced by doppelgangers. Just now we've gotten the indication that there's no way of knowing who is who they say they are. It's only in the smallest of moments that we get that knowledge and reassurance, so they're crucial now more than ever.

A couple more small moments? Olivia cutely fiddling with Lincoln's hair just before he crosses over. Peter telling a shocked Lincoln that he killed a guy by chopping him in half via dimensional portal, and causing Lincoln to question his alliances for a split-second. Bolivia calling Olivia "a paranoid who doesn't trust anyone". Peter telling Lincoln that "at the end of the day [Bolivia is] a good person". Walter's heartbreaking recounting of his wife's suicide and why he can't help Peter. Walternate stating that Peter is "exactly the man I thought you would be". But more than anything, confirmation of a theory I've had for some time now. No matter what happens and what universe or timeline they venture into, Olivia is doomed to die. That's where "Fringe" delights me at the end of the day.

Director Grade (Jeannot Szwarc): A-
Writers Grade (David Fury & Graham Roland): B+
Actors Grades
Joshua Jackson: B+/A-
Anna Torv: A-
John Noble: A-
Seth Gable: B+
Orla Brady: B+
Jared Harris: OMFG, HE'S BACK!!!!

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