Here’s the thing about two-part season finales: there’s the part in which everything is set up, and then there’s the part where all the really fun stuff happens. “Over There: Part One” felt like one long overture, tuning the series up to get to the start of the actual sci-fi symphony in next week’s season-ending episode. Along the way we got a Rogue’s Gallery of past “Fringe” nemeses, coupled with a fun look into the familiar-yet-different sociology/topography of the other side. What we didn’t get was anything terrifically dramatic. As such, while glimpses of the other side delighted, there wasn’t enough going on over there to truly pique my interest for a full hour.
[Full recap of Thursday's (May 13) "Fringe" after the break...]
This episode started off with the classic J.J. Abrams trope: thrusting us into the middle of the action, then pulling back with a “XX Hours Later” card at the climax. We saw Other Fringe Division snap into action after an alarm was triggered in Brooklyn. Other Olivia snapped into action at the behest of a slick-looking Other Broyles to investigate. Other Charlie tagged along as well, and while I haven’t exactly missed him in the regular universe. They found a breach in the fabric between the universes, and came close to “quarantining” the area. And by “quarantining” I mean “blowing up a few city blocks.” Looks like this version of reality takes its interdimensional rifts seriously. (Also? Astrid looks seriously hot in a beret.)
Then again, this entire world takes this seriously in the wake of what’s described as Zero Event. We know it as the abduction of Peter, but it’s unclear just how much the world knows of that. The world does know of the anomaly that occurred Reiden Lake in 1985. How? Through the publication of this universe’s version of the “ZFT,” which isn’t an obscure manifesto but what seems to be that world’s version of “Dianetics,” as written by the Walternate. Over there, “The Pattern” refers to a series of reality ruptures, the ones caused in the wake of Peter’s abduction. It’s a world in which cosmic breaches are commonplace, driver’s licenses have been replaced by “Show Me” cards, and Olivia Dunham doesn’t like wine. Dogs and cats, living together…MASS HYSTERIA.
The Walternate is the Secretary of Defense in this world, with his office parked underneath a copper-plated version of the Statue of Liberty. He lets Olivia and her crew in on the true nature of the breaches in order to stop Walter and the Cortexiphan Crew that came over to rescue Peter. The crew: Olivia, Nick Lane, Sally Clark, and James Heath. The latter were former Freaks of the Week in Season 1, but have been since rehabilitated at Massive Dynamic’s version of The X-Men’s school. Their combined skillset (coupled with their childhood drug regimen) are employed by Walter to enable him to go rescue his son.
Naturally, their face-to-face with Walter before leaving is…tense. He apologizes to them for the “barbaric” way in which they were treated, even while somewhat still defending his actions. “Horrible as it is to say, today is the day for which you were created.” He then leaves to cry. Damn you, Walter Bishop, for making me sniffle. Before leaving all four former pupils in Jacksonville get to live out one remaining night doing what they want. James uses his night to heal sick children in the hospital, Sally/Nick engage in a little psychically-laced lovemaking, and Olivia gives her heirloom necklace to her niece.
Once ready to leave, Walter stands in the middle of them, and it was creepy cool to watch him talk to the four in the way he undoubtedly did when they were children. “Spread out your arms, you remember how,” he intones, and urges them to tap into their childhood memories to cross over. They are successful, but side effects soon overwhelm them. James, the boy who can heal as well as infect, soon becomes overrun with cancerous tumors. Sally the pyrokentic can barely stop smoldering. Nick’s psychic abilities no longer work. And without “Show Me” cards to access the bus, it’s a long walk through NYC to make their pre-arranged meeting with William Bell.
William Bell, it appears, has been a bad boy. After all, the urgency with which this mission was constructed hinged upon a single piece of paper left by one of The Observers next to Olivia. The page itself reeked of Page 47 of Rimbaldi Manuscript in “Alias,” right down to the drawing of a familiar face at the center of a potential apocalypse. It’s a device with Bell’s handiwork written all over it, apparently intended to use Peter as the battery to bring about the end of the world. That might explain why there’s little face-to-face time between the Walternate and Peter: hard to go fly fishing when you’re planning on using your offspring to potentially end an entire universe.
Peter did get some face time with his mother, however, and in these moments, the show paused its “moving pieces into places” narrative in order to show a sweet (albeit bittersweet, I fear) reunion between Peter and his biological mother. I say “bittersweet” in that I fear 1) that she’ll die, or 2) these two will have to say goodbye all over again and it will be painful to watch. In either case, they sip coffee (apparently rationed in this world, for reasons not made clear) while I wondered why Peter’s body needed to achieve “temporal acclimation” before he could awake from his 72-hour coma.
By the time Walter and the Cortexiphan Clan arrive at the meeting place, they meet nothing but Fringe officers on the hunt. Nick dies protecting Sally’s life, but she subsequently burns up trying to kill Olivia’s superior officer in this world. (I’m 99% sure he’s part of the show’s Rogue’s Gallery as well, but my research through back eps is turning up nothing. Since he seemed to recognize Nick, I assume we’re seen him before on this side.) Walter takes a gut shot thanks to Other Olivia and ends up passing out in front of a hospital. Olivia gets a surprise visit from William Bell, who insists they have little time to save Walter. And Peter scans the schematics for the device already built under the Statue of Liberty.
Is the machine a weapon? A device to suck up info in Peter’s mind? Or a way to turn Peter into something else entirely? Totally unclear at this point. Looks to be light shining out of Peter’s eyes in that mysterious page left by The Observer, which could be read in a lot of ways. But this hour was primarily set up for that specific cliffhanger, with a lot of people walking around and talking about what they were GOING to do rather than actually do it. Still, some nice character moments, and a really sweet intro thrusting us into the frantic, creepy, crazy other universe. Not the best this season has offered, but it wasn’t designed to be anything other than the appetizer for the main course that is next week’s finale.
A few stray bullets about tonight’s ep…
*** Shouldn’t MLK be on OUR $20 bill? Just sayin’.
*** Love that Walter thinks that all humans use to have the types of powers that cortexiphan produces. Love that he thinks aliens took them away even more.
*** Nice callback to Charlie’s “worms,” part of what almost killed him in Season 1’s “Unleashed.” I guess that guy’s just destined to be impregnated by a hybrid animal.
*** “West Wing” is in its 11th season in the alternate universe. Over here, CJ Cregg is apparently the reason why Jacob and The Man In Black have hated each other for a few thousand years over on “Lost.” Point to the Alternate Universe in this case.
*** Seeing Nick Lane make Broyles laugh uncontrollably in the Massive Dynamics Experimental Campus might have been one of the five freakiest things this show’s ever done, and that’s saying something.
*** People on the other side seem to have similar tattoos. Anyone recognize the pattern/implication of these?
*** The map in the DoD was totally bizarre. Half of California was missing, Texas was split into two states, and the dots on it seemed to indicate that anomalies between the worlds were concentrated in New England but slowly spreading out across the country. Just another great little detail to flesh out this world.
Were you satisfied with the first half of the season finale, or did it feel like simple set-up for a much bigger episode to come? And what do you think that device is intended to do? Leave your thoughts below!