He Said/She Said: Fringe recap – 4×22: ‘Brave New World Pt. 2’

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It’s finale time on Fringe! It’s time to find out if Astrid (Jasika Nicole) survives her gunshot wound, if September’s (Michael Cerveris) prophecy about Olivia’s death comes true and get some resolution to William Bell’s (Leonard Nimoy) and David Robert Jones’ (Jared Harris) plot to destroy the two universes and create a new world of their own.

Finale time also means we need two bitches on hand, so without further ado, our latest He Said/She Said:

She Said (TVAngie):

Lately I believe that Fringe has produced one amazing episode after another, so I wasn’t surprised that I was quite satisfied with the finale. The second installment of ‘Brave New World’ , when you boil it down, proved to be a pretty straightforward episode (producers called it ‘quiet’), but I still thought it was fantastic. How could I be anything but elated knowing that the show will get a proper send off with its last 13 episodes next season? The bulk of the episode served to tie-up the loose ends, but in saying that, there was one HUGE moment that did not disappoint. (Un)Fortunately, thanks to the flash-forward episode a couple of weeks ago, I knew that we’d all come out of it okay.

Of course I’m talking about when Walter (John Noble) shot Olivia (Anna Torv) in the head, ‘killing’ her with sniper-like precision. Who’d have thunk Walter would be such a great shot? But let me back up a bit: first we find out that Olivia is the key to making the whole “Big Bang Reboot” possible. After being dosed for months with Cortexiphan by evil-bowl-cut Nina (Blair Brown), it turns out Olivia has virtually every superhero power imaginable, activated by intense emotional triggers. It looks like David Robert Jones’ declaration last week was pretty accurate: he was ‘sacrificed’ in order to activate Olivia’s “Jedi Mind Trick” when she took over Peter’s (Joshua Jackson) body. I still maintain that Jones’ death was sloppy and I don’t quite understand why he would be considered the precious ‘bishop’…but we’ve already been down that road.

The finale does, however, reveal why prominent guest star Rebecca Mader was only seen for a short time last week as Jessica Holt. Turns out she was playing a long con on Olivia, working for Bell the whole time. She was sent to appeal to Olivia’s empathy and entrusted to active another one of her superhuman powers.

Which brings me to another great scene of the night: The ‘resurrected’ Jessica after Olivia successfully kills her. Good-stylish-bob Nina is brought back into the mix when Jessica’s remnant consciousness needs to be accessed (suspension of disbelief was rampant in this week’s episode) in order to get some clues about a then-missing Walter. Massive Dynamic apparently has had the technology to do this all along, but we’re conveniently finding out about it now. Once reactivated, Jessica looks amazingly creepy, bizarre and fascinating – she reminded me of a battery-powered doll rediscovered many years later – cross-eyed, incoherent, and seemingly possessed. All we get out of Jessica is that Walter is on a boat, but the scene gives the Special FX team more time to shine and proved totally worth it.

But back to Olivia. After all of her various activations (aka the reasons for the two activities in Pt. 1), Olivia is now emitting some powerful electromagnetic frequencies that is responsible for collapsing the two worlds. It was quite evident to me once we discovered this (and with September’s prediction looming) that Olivia needed to be taken out. But I had no idea that it would be Walter who pulls the trigger! Kudos to Joe Chappelle, the director of this episode, for staging the shooting in the most shocking way possible: quick and dirty. Similar to when Astrid got shot last week, I had a moment of “NOOOOOO!” but was quickly comforted by the fact that little Henrietta had not yet been born.

Which brings me to you, Cinephilactic. How did you feel about the flash-forward episode? Did it guide your viewing of the finale, and more importantly, inform your thoughts on the fates of our characters? Within the first few minutes of the show, we found out that Astrid was stable after last week’s cliffhanger shooting, but as I said in my recap, I kinda knew she’d be okay because she needed to be encased in that amber. Do you feel like the flash-forward episode primarily functions as a big ol’ spoiler for any episodes that take place before those events?

Judging by my reactions to this episode, it’s clear that I do. But I’m optimistic that next season Fringe isn’t going to waste much time building up to Observergeddon (as was noted in the final minutes of this week’s episode) and how everyone got in that amber. I’m hoping they’ll do more of the timeline jumping hinted at by September’s departure to investigate the future after he has no recollection of their conversation from 4×08 ‘Back To Where You Belong.’ Doctor Who fans will note the clear allusions to Alex Kingston’s River Song as well as some parallels to the final season of LOST when Daniel Faraday (Jeremy Davies) started writing letters to himself in the past from the future. Both instances resulted in some serious mind spinning, but richly satisfying television. I’m hoping that Fringe takes a similar path.

Would you agree? What do you think the final season will hold?

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He Said (Cinephilactic):

Well, TVAngie, I can honestly say that going into the finale, I didn’t anticipate just how much it would be informed by ‘Letters Of Transit.’ If anything, I will say that the flash-forward episode reminded me a great deal of the unaired season one finale of Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse ‘Epitaph One’, which also jumped ahead to a dystopian future (there’s no sunshine for us in the future, people!). The second season of that show kindasorta built back up to those events (with the finale addressing it specifically), but in the case of Dollhouse, that finale lent everything that followed a greater significance because we knew what effect the decisions of the characters would have on everything.

That’s the fun of playing with timelines on television shows. Although many people didn’t enjoy this week’s Revenge flashback episode, ‘Legacy’, I liked it because it was consistently structured around our knowledge of what comes next. Similarly, this quiet finale of Fringe played on our expectations: we knew that Astrid and Olivia wouldn’t die, but we didn’t know what would happen to them either. (Side Note: And if we’re being honest, Fringe has stuck a fork in our expectations several times over the years, so I wouldn’t have been surprised for them to kill someone and just laugh if/when we got upset.)

Now that didn’t make it less shocking when Walter shot Olivia (I honestly expected him to kill Bell). And while people may feel cheated that Bell engineered the end of two worlds and got away so easily, let’s remember that he gets served in ‘Letters of Transit’ when Walter not only encases him in amber, but chops off his hand for “what he did to Olivia.” So vengeance is coming, folks! And it looks like an old man who eats a lot of red licorice.

If we’re thinking ahead to the future of the show (and you can get a spoilery tease here) I think we’re going to get a few things:

  1. A balance between ‘present’ times and the future world of ‘Letters of Transit’: Where we pick-up next season is clearly the big question (this one be one that is strongly determined by that 13 episode order). It’s safe to say that there’s no way that the show won’t resolve the Observageddon, so we will see that future again at least once. At the same time, we need closure on how and why the group encased themselves in amber, which means some time in the present. Finally expect the question of Olivia’s absence in the future to be a big focus/question mark, too. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s left hanging for a few episodes, either.
  2. With these “time” questions in mind, I don’t think we should expect to see more Dystopia scenes that take place before the events of ‘Letters of Transit.’ Or, if we do, don’t expect to see Etta’s (Georgina Haig) partner, Simon Foster (Henry Ian Cusick), since his ABC show, Scandal, just got picked up for a second season. He may be able to get a loaner for an episode or two, but my gut feeling is that we’ll spend time with the team in the present, preparing for the future, and then the aftermath of the events we’ve already seen in ‘Letters of Transit’ – with very little time spent in-between.
  3. Question marks regarding key cast members: Does an Observer-centric future mean an increased role for September? Or did everyone’s favourite fedora wearing time traveler truly perish in 4×14 ‘The End of All Things’? And what about Lincoln Lee (Seth Gabel), who’s been absent since the bridge between worlds was shut in 4×20 ‘Worlds Apart’? Since Bell escaped to the ‘Other’ side, can we assume that we’ll still see Fauxlivia and the others again? One final wrinkle: Leonard Nimoy is notoriously difficult to pin down for acting gigs these days, so we can’t assume that we’ll see him in season five (a body double: perhaps). If they can’t get the Star Trek actor back, then that scuttles any plans they have to explore the ‘Other’ side with Lincoln and Faux, which would royally suck.
  4. An explanation for the invasion: I think (potential spoilers) Matt Mitovich from TVLine is on the right track that the Observers are en route now because of Olivia’s pregnancy. We learn from Walter and Peter’s conversation that the Cortexiphan leaves a residual signature (this is clearly why Etta has her powers in the future). Is it be possible that Etta is both the saviour and the cause of this horrible future – that she is somehow associated with the reason for the Observers’ decision to step in and take control?

All in all, I think that Fringe has really recovered from its auspicious start earlier this season. Remember back at the start when we were all concerned that the new timeline was going to ruin the show? Ah good times. If anything, Fringe has proven how reliable it is when it comes to entertaining storylines and careful plotting. The fact that they get to plan the final season as the final season gives me a lot of hope about the quality and emotional impact of these remaining episodes. While I’m sad to see Fringe go, I think that this is the best case scenario for both the show and fans.

I, for one, can’t wait to see more of that Dystopian ‘Letters of Transit’ future. So bring it on!

Fringe has now concluded its fourth season on FOX.

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