Fringe: Break On Through to the Other Side

Hey all. I’ve recently spoken to a bunch of folks who read my regular recaps/analysis of Fringe and, while they aren’t regular viewers of the fine show, they were eager to learn the back story that has led to events thus far. As such, I thought I’d preface my episode recap with a full series recap. So, without further delay, it’s story time, kids!

There was once a young man named Peter. As a young boy he was deathly ill and confined to a bed. His brilliant father, a scientist named Walter, searched Far and wide for a cure for his boy. Alas, at the moment of discovery, Walter turned away and did not notice that he had found the key to saving his beloved son. Fortunately, another Walter was watching.

You see, this was not the only universe in existence. There was another world in which a similarly brilliant Walter had already lost his son to the same illness. This worlds Walter had invented a machine to peer into other worlds and longed to help his counterpart save his son. And so the Walter who had lost his son ventured forth; defying reality itself to save young Peter.

Arriving on the other side, Walter took Peter in order to administer a cure. Unfortunately, that meant removing the young boy from his own universe. As luck would have it, Walter was able to save Peter but his actions had grave consequences for the other side. When he broke the barrier between universes, he started a premature process of structural decay for the universe in which Peter was from. The very fabric of reality was torn and no creation of science could repair it. So Peter remained in the other world.

Raised by Walter, the boy always felt out of place; and rightfully so. While he possessed brilliance nearly on par with that of his father, he never fully learned to harness it. He fell into a world of dark dealings and shady people. Meanwhile, his adopted Walter descended into madness. All the while, Peter’s true father, the Walter of the other universe, would begin a crusade to rescue his son. That crusade would lead Walter, or shall we call him Walternate, to replicate the technology that would allow him to traverse worlds.

During this time, Peter had reconciled with his adoptive father and struck up a friendship with a capable (and beautiful) federal agent. They embarked on many grand adventures together; solving all manner of mysteries and righting many wrongs. Eventually, Peter learned that he was not of this world. At the same time, Walternate returned to rescue his boy.

Peter returned to his world and found his true father to be a quite a different person than the Walter who raised him. Walternate was a stern and terrible man who believed that his world was at war with the universe that was home to Peter for most of his life. Walternate had built a device that would allow him to destroy that world and repair the damaged structure of the world.

Realizing this, Peter rebelled and was rescued by his allies. Walter and Olivia, the beautiful agent, would risk life and limb to save their ally. Walter longed to see the boy he loved safe and secure and Olivia could not stand idly by while the man she had grown to love was in peril. So they journeyed forth, once again piercing the wall between worlds.

Violence and subterfuge ensued. Walternate and the Olivia of the other world, let’s call her Fauxlivia, would enact plans to replace Olivia and destroy the other universe from within. So Walter, Peter and (unknown to the father and son) Fauxlivia journeyed back home. All the while, Olivia was held by Walternate and used as a guinea pig; poked, prodded and used to find a way to strike at their otherworldly enemies.

Upon the return to his adopted universe, Peter began a relationship with the woman he believed to be Olivia. In the weeks to come, they would foster a true romantic relationship that strengthened their crime-fighting skills. All was well…until one quiet night. As Peter and Fauxlivia lay in bed, preparing for a good night’s rest, Peters phone rang. Upon answering, the speaker on the other end of the line would deliver a message that would shake Peter to his very core: ‘Olivia is trapped on the other side.’ And with that, Peter knew that the woman he had been sharing a bed with was not the true woman he had fallen in love with.

What was he to do? Well, that would be spoiling…or this week’s recap!

Wow, well that was nuts. Recapping the entire series thus far, in the simplest of terms, was one of the most difficult things to write. Regardless, this week’s episode was in a word: AMAZING.

The opening picks up immediately after the end of the last episode and obviously deals with Peter reacting to the phone call that essentially informs him that he has been sleeping with the enemy. Peter lies down and pretends to sleep, all the while planning a way to discover if this worst case scenario is really happening.

As he sneaks out of the bedroom, he quickly grabs Fauxlivia’s laptop and gets to work snooping for whatever information he can. First off, it was a hell of an ad placement for those swanky new Macbook Pros. Damn, those are marvels of tech and aesthetics. If any of my ‘loyal following‘ feel like picking one up for me this holiday season, don’t hesitate. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

So, as Peter does his best to dig up dirt on the alternate reality star, we’re treated to a few glimpses of images from episodes (and seasons) past. Fauxlivia has been blending in to our world’s Fringe Division by literally researching everything about them. Devious little minx. Not long into his attempt to hack into her laptop, Fauxlivia walks into the room to inquire what he’s doing up so late. It’s obvious that she knows that Peter…knows. The scene plays itself out with Peter testing her by uttering the phrase “Be a better man than your father” to her. It’s a phrase that Olivia said to Peter at the start of Season Two and has been one of the thematic touchstones of the show. The scene ends with Peter being held at gunpoint and forced to inject himself with a paralytic agent. Fauxlivia escapes but accidentally takes her laptop instead of Peters. It’s a mistake that will cost her.

On Earth-2, Walternate and his Fringe Division debate about what to do with our Olivia. They are obviously going to send her back in order to meet the criteria for bringing Fauxlivia home. Here is one of the things that I loved about this episode. It was insanely loyal to the themes and events that have been set up previously. We know that the other side is a bit behind when it comes to transdimensional travel. Unlike our world, in which Cortexiphan has allowed special people like Olivia to instantly toggle between universes, Walternate and friends can’t do the Universal Mambo so easily. In order for them to bring back their Olivia, they need to replace her with an object of equal mass for a painful process that will switch the two objects.

The major point of the discussion is whether to send Olivia back dead or alive. It’s stated that Bizarro Fringe Division could stand to learn a great deal by studying her body parts. Again, the differences between the two universes is illustrated very clearly. Though Walternate claims that Earth-1 is the enemy/the villain, it is on Earth-2 where we see Fringe Division resorting to brutal and underhanded tactics. Walter, Peter and Olivia bend the rules sometimes but they would NEVER torture or kill someone simply for research. It seems that the structural decay of Earth-2 has also eroded some of their more humanistic tendencies. It’s sad to see the truth of the situation. For one world to survive, they believe they must resort to any and all available options. In trying to save humanity, they are slowly losing their humanity.

Flashing back to Earth-1, Broyles, Peter and Walter track Fauxlivia to the antique typewriter shop in the Bronx that has been featured in several episodes. This leads them to track her to Penn Station, aka Springsteen Station on the other side. It makes you wonder what happened to the Boss, no? What goes down is a scene involving an armed Peter, a shape shifter and a hostage situation. Peter put’s a bullet through shape shifters head, Fauxlivia is captured and all is well with the world. Or is it?

The shift back to Earth-2 shows us that Colonel Broyles is speaking with the captive Olivia. He seems truly concerned about what is going to happen to her, but his loyalty to protect his world keeps him from helping her. It’s a nice touch to show that, while both of them share a gruff exterior, within each Phillip Broyles lies the heart of the most noble of heroes. Broyles returns to rescue Olivia just as Brandon-esqe is about to make his first incision into her spine. Broyles and Olivia then make their way to Walter’s Massachusetts lab which, in the world, is quite close to an area that has been “ambered.” It’s an eerie sight that makes you wonder if the lengths that Walternate and Co. are going to in order to save their universe are necessarily wrong.

As Olivia pumps herself up with Cortexiphan and prepares to enter Walternate’s old sensory deprivation tank, Broyles bids her farewell and rushes off to hold off the incoming military unit. Olivia enters the tank and…

Flash to Earth-1 as Olivia emerges from the tanks counterpart, much to Astrid’s surprise. At the same time, Fauxlivia is transported home. In her place is the mangled body of Colonel Broyles. Remember, the need for an object of similar mass in order to make the exchange must be adhered to. Unfortunately, it was Broyles’ bad luck to be an unwitting ally in helping Fauxlivia get home. Symmetry is a bitch, no? It was sad to see someone who exemplified the best traits of his world meet an untimely and gruesome end. Broyles was no doubt a hero and a moral compass for the Fringe Division of Earth-2. With his absence, it makes sense to think that they would turn to more savage and cut-throat strategies to eliminate their perceived enemies.

Alas, the episode ends with Olivia and Peter reunited. Lying in a hospital bed, she says to Peter, “You were the only thing that got me through. You saved my life.” This goes both ways for, as Peter is the person who helped Fauxlivia in her transition to this universe. It seems that Peter is the key to everything that is going on, but Olivia & Fauxlivia are the wild cards. Both return to their respective universes with an expanded worldview (universe-view?) and valuable information about each side.

The first act of this season is over and boy was it an amazing ending. It’s unfortunate that Fringe is dying a slow, painful death in the ratings. Only 5.1 million people tuned in for this masterful episode. Sounds like a lot, right? Maybe so, if you’re Mad Men or the Walking Dead over on AMC. When you’re a major network broadcasting on a Thursday night (i.e. ‘a big night’) those numbers just don’t cut it. Unfortunately, I can sense Fringe slowly fading away. Come January, the show will be relegated to the Friday Night Death Slot. For a show that is arguably the best on television, that’s a kick to the proverbial gut.

Hopefully the show continues past this season or I’ll be writing about Private Practice or Outsourced. Trust me, no one wants that. See you all next week for some more adventures on Earth-1.

2 Responses to “Fringe: Break On Through to the Other Side”
  1. Robert Lee says:

    Hey Rick! Terrific series recap, and a perfect time to share it! I really enjoyed last week’s episode. It brought so many plot threads together in a fantastic and quick (for this show) manner.

    It is a shame that it is moving to Friday, but that is what we have DVRs for. And Smallville has sort of thrived in a Friday night slot for some time… Thrived might be too strong a statement. Let’s say ‘survived’ instead.

    Hope they get one more season. I’d like to see where it goes, given another 20 or so episodes.

    • rickcarrion says:

      Thanks, man. Distilling the whole series into a few paragraphs was tough but a fun challenge. I agree with your DVR comment in theory, but it’s been proven that the networks are slow to acknowledge DVR stats as a significant part of stat tracking. I want to believe that Fringe is a good enough show to succeed in a slot that only one show has thrived in, but I’m not optimistic.

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