“Fringe” is currently one of the strongest shows on television, with its multidimensional plotline having provided a surprisingly strong shot in the narrative and mythological arm. But the decision to play out back-and-forth episodes, while effective, also has a finite shelf life as currently constructed. The writers have luckily recognized that having an entire season as constituted would have been creative death. With “The Abducted,” we saw the beginning of the end of that structure, and while I’ve been a huge fan of the season thus far, I applaud the decision to end it in the near future. That’s not to say that we’ll see be done Over There. We’ll just get to see new dynamics at play there.
[Full recap of Thursday's (Nov. 19) "Fringe" after the break...]
At its heart, “The Abducted” served two purposes: it aligned Alterna-Broyles more closely with our Olivia, and finally gave Peter a clue that he’s been shagging the wrong girl. The Candy Man storyline itself was fairly perfunctory: it’s hard not to get emotionally involved with a storyline concerning kidnapped children whose youths are literally yanked from them by tandem kidnapers, but at the same time it’s the type of emotionally manipulative storyline that “Fringe” often avoids.
The origin of The Candy Man himself, however, was an interesting and fairly subtle way in showing the butterfly effect caused by Walter’s crossover to save Peter. Sure, it’s fun to learn that Ronald Reagan starred in a happy-ending “Casablanca” Over There, but that film occurred pre-crossover. That difference isn’t a result of Walter’s action but simply part of an infinite worlds’ theory of existence. But events after taking Peter have to take into account the social, political, and environmental changes that ensued as well.
On the big level, The Peter Bishop Act makes Amber Alerts look tame by comparison. Walternate helped make kidnapping the most heinous of crimes by definition, if not by cultural assumption. Watching Lincoln and Charlie investigate Max Clayton’s disappearance shows just how far overboard the Act truly goes, making what should be an emotionally charged crime reduced to unnecessary legwork. It’s easy to imagine how many cases that Fringe Division might have missed while tracking down the 99% of kidnapping cases that didn’t involve interdimensional strife.
More interesting? The rise in religion based on Fringe-related phenomena. Not to compare apples to oranges here, but on September 12, 2001, I noticed overflowing crowds in the churches near my office building, filled with people suddenly seeking answers in a place many had previously omitted from their lives. That’s not a judgment on their spirituality but merely an observation that the “Fringe” writers undoubtedly tapped into when developing the Astoria Church.
What’s fascinating here is the intertwined relationship between science and religion on display inside that particular branch. Over There, in part thanks to Walter’s crossover, avian flu is an enormously deadly disease, killing the wife of a doctor who finds God amidst his grief. But Reverend Marcus didn’t abandon his scientific background, instead using the pain of fellow citizens to selectively play God himself in order to heal his flock through the abduction and exploitation of young children. He tells Broyles and Olivia that faith will heal this world, but he’s not above attaching mechanical devices to the back of children’s necks, either.
Colonel Broyles, himself directly affected by The Candy Man, could easily draw a line between his own son’s kidnapping and the Zero Event that was Walter’s crossover, making Olivia a living, breathing embodiment of the world that indirectly ruined his life. But just as Fauxlivia now has put a face (well, many faces) to her “enemy,” so too has Broyles through Olivia’s help in finding his family some modicum of peace and potential happiness. “Fringe” isn’t going to have an interdimensional kumbaya session anytime soon, but Olivia needs someone besides cab driver Henry to be on her side to facilitate her escape back to her home dimension.
While all of these ideas are solid, the execution was less so this time around. Nothing felt as tense as it could have been, especially the ticking time bomb that was Olivia’s last day in Alterna-Fringe Division. Olivia knows that her time is nearly up, and while her sacrifice to alert Broyles about the Reverend’s involvement was noble, it didn’t actually result in a different end scenario (ostensibly, she would have tripped the alarm no matter when she infiltrated the Statue of Liberty). As for involvement in the Candy Man case, the show didn’t even try to show any tension between Broyles and the woman he knows to be an imposter. Sure, he allowed her the chance to make a run for it by episode’s end, but little in his interactions throughout the episode indicated 1) annoyance that a woman from the other side was telling him how to parent, or 2) any growing respect for her as she increasingly uncovers the case.
Moreover, by shoehorning her escape plan around the case, the episode didn’t allow much time for a cat-and-mouse game between Olivia and Walternate. Everything involving Henry was too easy, given too little onscreen time, and felt tacked on to the main storyline. I’m all for more Andre Royo on my television screen, but he was a device, not a character, in “The Abducted.”
I’m all for more time spent Over There. In fact, I think it’s crucial for the show’s overall intent that it continue to do so. But I’m also glad the Olivia/Fauxlivia switch is now out in the open on both sides. Not only will this allow for Peter to subtly shift gears Over Here, but should produce some much needed tension on the other. Peter’s notion that all the best love stories end in tragedy might mean Fauxlivia isn’t long for this world, but I feel the two need to return to their respective worlds as ambassadors. So much of the war between these two universes stems from misunderstanding, creating “enemies” where merely scared, uninformed citizens exist. Both Olivias have seen these supposed enemies and recognized them as kindred spirits. They exist in slightly different worlds, but share common experiences, and ultimate, common emotional ties. In their unique vantage points can Peter’s dream of a third way truly become reality.
What did you think of “The Abducted”? Are you glad the two Olivias have been identified, or did it seem too sudden? Are you surprised Peter didn’t know all along? Leave your thoughts below!
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