And the end of Fringe Season Three, including what may be the final showdown in the series' Two-Worlds War, begins.
I'm not sure how much there is to say about the events of...
... that won't be rendered moot by next Friday. So while I can't help but ask a few burning questions, I won't really try to answer them, either, instead sticking to some random reactions and tangential tidbits. Here they are in the order of their prompts throughout the episode.
We didn't get any more intrigue about Peter's connection to what I'll just call the Device, but rather jumped straight into what appears to have been its successful initiation by Secretary Bishop, a.k.a. Walternate, and Over There's Brandon. If the Device's activity Over Here is indeed related to the detection of a "Class Ten energy surge" on Liberty Island by the Other Side's Fringe Division — which it seems safe to assume, even though curiously we never actually see the Device's counterpart — then they did so using the components of Peter's genetic profile present in his and Fauxlivia's son Henry. I expected Henry to become a pawn in Walternate's operation of the Device, and the Device to play a major role in these final episodes of the season, as I wrote the other day (and, I reckon, as most viewers expected) — but not so quickly; not before further revelations or at least further suggestions about the Device's origins, its purpose or potential purposes, and its relationship to Peter.
Question: Did they get enough of Peter's genetic profile right to operate the Device properly?
I'd been wondering whether the machine assembled at Massive Dynamic was a sort of Trojan Horse to be set in motion from Over There. It sure looks like it was — although as I type that I'm now wondering whether it might not in fact have an agenda of its own somehow, or at least have some kind of mysterious protocol inherent in its programming unknown to anyone but the ancient race to which its origins are purportedly traced.
Another question — not exactly burning, but certainly a head-scratcher: How could Walternate not think to get any samples of his son's genetic material (blood, saliva, hair, skin scrapings... I'm not sure just what they'd need) during the time Peter spent Over There after willingly following Walternate in Season Two? I just find it a little odd that they'd be relying on Henry's blood; his birth was no guarantee and he isn't even an exact genetic match for Peter, whose connection to the Device must have been known to Walternate at least as far back as when he gave Peter blueprints to it (or part of it) in Episode 2.22.
Brandon discusses a Faraday cage for containing electrostatic discharge from the Device. It's a construction that actually exists, one invented by 19th-century chemist and natural philosopher Michael Faraday — but any Fringeheads who also watched Lost must have thought upon hearing that line of Daniel Faraday, the character likewise named for the historical figure.
Walternate refers to J. Robert Oppenheimer, director of The Manhattan Project, and quotes Chapter 11, Verse 32 of the work of Hindu scripture known as The Bhagavad Gita — the same words that Oppenheimer said came to mind when he witnessed the first A-bomb test in 1945: "Now I am become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds." My introduction to the quote and its nuclear context (or at least the first exposure that stuck with me) came, of course, in a comic book, when Green Lantern repeated the line in 1983's All-Star Squadron #20; for the record, geek though I am, I knew the issue by cover and rough timeframe but not by exact number until looking it up. You can imagine my chuckle at the coincidence when the episode's first commercial break brought an extended trailer for the upcoming Green Lantern, despite the fact that the title character of the movie (Hal Jordan) is not the Green Lantern (Alan Scott) from the issue in question.
A swarm of locusts! What is this, Passover?!?
The director of this episode, Jeannot Szwarc, has helmed plenty of episodic television, including a dozen or so episodes each of Smallville, Without a Trace, and (back in the day) Kojak. Among his feature-film credits are the 1980 Christopher Reeve / Jane Seymour time-travel romance Somewhere in Time, a personal favorite; 1984's Supergirl, the disastrously received spinoff from Alexander & Ilya Salkind's Reeve-starring Superman movies; and the similarly scorned 1985 Santa Claus, in which the Salkinds attempted to do for Kris Kringle what they did for the Last Son of Krypton.
The first words spoken by each universe's Walter Bishop in this episode are "Good morning".
I continue to be impressed with John Noble's portrayals of the familiar Walter and Walternate. Noble and the writers have done an excellent job of making them distinct characters with a common core — something that the cast and creative staff have done with all the duplicates, from Olivia to Astrid all the way down to Lincoln Lee, whose "standard"-universe version was just seen for the first time last month in Episode 3.17.
Olivia: "And, uh, your father is walking around naked."
Peter: "Oh yeah. It's Tuesday. He always cooks naked on Tuesdays."
The relationship between Olivia and Peter has been handled so unconventionally and so well — which almost by definition would make it unconventional for series television — that my mind is rather boggled by just how deftly getting them together was pulled off. For most of the first two seasons, especially after the inklings of a romance between Peter and Olivia's sister, I expected and indeed hoped that the showrunners would keep Olivia and Peter respectfully platonic. Yet they were growing together, believably, when Olivia was replaced by Fauxlivia, and somehow have come back together just as believably in the wake of Fauxlivia's deception — even given how understandably deeply Olivia was hurt by Peter's inability to tell that he wasn't with an Olivia who was acting a little differently due to her experiences on the Other Side but with a different Olivia. When you look at the delicate dance of Castle and Beckett on Castle or Booth and Brennan on Bones — the will-they/won't-they tension, really more of a when-will-they tease that even in the best cases often relies on contrivance — it's an absolute marvel that Fringe has not just let its two young leads become a couple but has arrived at that point by sort-of sneaking it in right before our eyes. This is the relationship that was inevitable between Mulder and Scully on The X-Files, yet inevitably postponed until the very end of the show (and was the only good thing about the second X-Files movie).
While Christopher Nolan's first two Batman films were shot primarily in Chicago (with the third to get underway soon in Pittsburgh), and Gotham City is generally seen as a darker version of New York City, speculation among fans as well as semi-official reference material produced on behalf of DC Comics frequently places Gotham in southern New Jersey, so of course that came to mind when Astrid said that the incidents included "massive colonies of bats ... spotted above the New Jersey Turnpike."
Even though we've already had a sighting of J.J. Abrams' trademark big red ball on Fringe — it's appeared in Alias, the Mission: Impossible film he directed, and Star Trek, although disappointingly was not at the center of the Island on Lost — I thought of it when Olivia's son was shown in his red cap.
Definite burning question: Who is Samuel Weiss, alias Seamus Wiles, alias [insert anagram here]? At first he was simply presented to us as a bowling-alley manager and weird Zen master of problem-solving whom Nina sent Olivia to see in Episode 2.02. He later told Olivia that he was older than he looked, but at the time we didn't know whether that was a remark laden with enigmatic import or just a throwaway line; in Episode 3.12, Nina visited him after discovering that every edition of the book The First People, in every language, was credited to an author whose name was an anagram of his. Is Sam a descendant of the First People? Is he one of them? Is he, in either case, the last of his kind? Despite his reference to his deceptive age, I'm not completely sold on him being the one and only Seamus Wiles, et al., who authored the various versions of the book.
I don't know what that equation Sam was jotting down stood for, but the fact that the result is zero can't be good.
The building superintendent who lets Olivia into the apartment leased by Sam as Seamus Wiles says that he "never struck me as an Irish," but the character in question is played by one Kevin Fitzgerald Corrigan. I'm just saying.
Walter speaks to God movingly in the hospital chapel while Peter lies unconscious after a failed attempt to connect with the Device, and references the white tulip that he believes he received as a sign of forgiveness in Episode 2.18. It's one of the most intellectually and emotionally rewarding episodes of Fringe, featuring Robocop's Peter Weller as a very different but still tragic machine man named Alistair Peck who kept trying to alter history by traveling back in time so that the woman he loved did not die; the show repeated scenes (from different angles) to a surprising extent, letting the story breathe, and even more impressively allowed a serious discussion between Walter and Peck with the putative villain of the piece truly listening. My notes on the episode, which have never made it onto the blog until now, show that the aforementioned Bad Robot Productions big red ball appears in the form of a hot-air balloon that plays a passive but pivotal role in the plot, which I'd totally forgotten.
Potentially obvious question and parting thought: Why doesn't Olivia try to transport the Device with her to Over There and then come back? Maybe it's just too darned big. Maybe she doesn't have that kind of control over her dimension-hopping abilities. Maybe our heroes don't want to inflict the damage being done Over Here on the Other Side, although at this point it would appear to be kill or be killed as long as the Device is active, and in any event such moral qualms don't explain why such a solution hasn't even been discussed. Maybe it just hasn't happened yet.
Previously in 'Fringe Thinking': Mind Games (Episode 3.19)