TVangie and I have had several conversations about the success of the “alt-timeline” that’s been explored in the fourth season of Fringe. While many viewers have been unsure (principally because we’re unsure if we should care about these new versions of our core cast), ‘Welcome to Westfield’ – in my eyes – aptly proved that this experiment is starting to pay off.
Let’s bitch it out…
This week’s episode was the ultimate balance between case of the week and mythology. On the one hand, ‘Welcome to Westfield’ was a great little slice of genre television featuring several tropes explored in films such as The Crazies, wherein a small, isolated town goes off their rockers. Of course, this being Fringe, it wasn’t something as simple as a government experiment, but the nefarious schemes of David Robert Jones (Jared Harris) that are affecting the town. It would have been nice to have had the surprise of figuring that out ourselves, but unfortunately the “previously on” spoils that element by reminding us of the villain’s recent activity stealing Amphilicite from quarries.
Remember this is the ore that has capacity to blow a hole in the universe. Westfield is ground zero for Jones’ trial run, as he uses the Amphilicite to merge the two universes together. This has the misfortune of merging its people (and all of their memories), as well. This causes the psychotic behaviour that we see in the townspeople, as well as the physical ailments so memorably captured in fused irises and doubled heads (Fringe is nothing if not fantastically gory). And so it’s up to Peter (Joshua Jackson), Olivia (Anna Torv) and Walter (John Noble – finally out of the lab) to identify the problem and save the remaining dozen townspeople from being wiped off the map.
As a diversion, it’s a funky, freaky little case (with callbacks to previous “worlds-colliding” episodes such as 2×15’s ‘Jacksonville’ and 3×14’s ‘6B’). As TVangie has routinely stated in her recaps, however, it is the Fringe family that make this show and ‘Welcome to Westfield’ is a great episode because it has our core crew working together. Walter’s progress in leaving the lab is proof positive that he is making progress (which Olivia astutely attributes to Peter). And the dirty little dream that opens the episode – of Peter and Olivia getting frisky – suggests that Olivia is making a different kind of progress. As TVangie has maintained since this new timeline was introduced, we’re not waiting for Peter to return to our timeline – we’re waiting for everyone to realize that this timeline is our timeline. With the realization that Olivia is developing feelings for Peter, the strangeness of her remembering their cases from “our” timeline (despite not being afflicted by Jones’ universe mashing machinations) and then the final jaw-dropper when she plants a big wet one on Peter, have we realized that this timeline is the one that Peter is meant to stay in?
- Peter explains to Olivia that Walter is becoming more like his Walter. That’s clear to us in little amusements such as when Walter uses the school’s PA system to call Olivia and Peter to the biology classroom or when he uses pepper spray on the two headed man on the bus. Such fun!
- Addressing the gore/gross-out factor, Fringe is the heir apparent of The X-Files in using special effects to add an extra punch. Bonus points for the creative afflictions, including one woman’s extra set of teeth. Appropriately nasty.
- What is Jones’ end game? He clearly used Westfield to see what he can do, so what is the next step in his master plan?
I honestly don’t have much more to add because I’m still overwhelmed by the ending. Does Olivia know what’s happened, or it is Jones and the effects of his experiment after all? Will it last and, if so, what are the implications moving forward? Can Peter explore this new development or will he still want to continue tinkering with the machine? Too many questions!