It says something about how well Fringe has defined its Earth-2 characters that during their long absences from this season, I’ve imagined Earth-2 versions of Anna Torv, John Noble, and the rest just sitting around, drumming their fingers, waiting for the show’s producers to call. Well, tonight, in “Everything In Its Right Place,” the likes of Bolivia, Walternate and Austrid answered the call in a big way, leading us through their broken—but healing—world. Yes, we’re back on Earth-2, where lattes are scarce, newspapers have moving pictures, and placing a bad bet can cost you a couple of Fillmores. As always, it’s the little things that distinguish our worlds. We have our Batman, while Earth-2 has their Mantis. And where our Fringe Division works in the shadows, over there the Fringe folk are so admired that even the Earth-1 agents are heroes.
The question of what exactly sets these universes apart—along with what makes someone a “hero”—is at the heart of this episode. Our Lincoln Lee asks to take over for our Astrid on a mission to the other Earth, to tell their Fringe Division about what our side has found out about David Robert Jones. But no sooner does Agent Lee arrive than he’s tagging along on a murder investigation, which leads him to a Romero-esque basement filled with 19 corpses (and only 18 heads). Examining the bodies, our Lee has an inkling of what might be behind the crime, and after he finds a photo of one of the victims, he’s able to confirm his suspicions. Austrid’s facial-recognition program is able to turn up security footage of that woman walking around days after she died, which tells Lee that they’re dealing with a shapeshifter.
Strictly on a procedural level, “Everything In Its Right Place” is highly entertaining, as these Earth-2 cases usually are. Part of the fun of the Earth-2 episodes is the exoticism of that other universe (though that’s changing some, as the bridge between the worlds has been stabilizing their side, allowing Walternate’s teams to reopen previously amber-ized neighborhoods). But also, as I’ve noted before, the Earth-2 characters are just so much more likably can-do, and have so many more resources than Earth-1’s agents do that the action over there tends to move much quicker. Rather than having to wait half-a-day for Walter to slap together some contraption, the Earth-2 Fringe-ers just pass their clues on to Austrid, who pushes a few buttons and then sends them back out on the streets to chase after the bad guys. I wouldn’t want every episode of Fringe to be this way—then the show would pretty much just be NCIS with monsters—but it’s a refreshing change.
There’s a little more tension to “Everything In Its Right Place” though, because we know that while our Agent Lee is pushing the other Fringe Division to pursue the possibility that their killer is a shapeshifter, Colonel Broyles (that damned turncoat!) is working behind the scenes with Evil Nina and DRJ to make sure that if his team does nab the culprit, then they won’t be able to bring him in. In fact, Broyles has a sniper already in place. Also adding to the tension is that in usual Fringe fashion, our freak of the week isn’t such a bad dude. As Lee learns later, the man’s original name is Canaan, and before he joined Jones’ cause, he was a nobody, whose girlfriend had just left him. There are people in this world who are “bright lights,” but Canaan has never been one of them. That said, he has been taking care to kill and “feed” only off of criminals rather than just anybody, because he’s trying to be a good person until Jones comes back into his life and helps him control his shifting without the attendant decay.
It takes our Lee to get Canaan to see what he can be. After Broyles’ sniper nearly kills Canaan—and does shoot Captain Lincoln Lee—the team concocts a clever off-camera plan to get Canaan to take on the sniper’s identity, and then to infiltrate Nina’s lair, where he gains them access to information on every agent in Jones’ network. Like I said: On Earth-2, things get done.
I have a few minor nitpicks with “Everything In Its Right Place.” This season has been very shapeshifter-heavy so far, and while the shapeshifters are a perfect Fringe nemesis in some ways—representing so much of what this show is about, from the fluidity of identity to our essential humanity—it is getting a little repetitive. (I miss the Flying Porcupine Men already.) Also, the episode ends with one major storyline frustratingly unresolved. At one point we see Austrid tentatively approach Colonel Broyles, presumably to tell him that she’s figured out his part in all of this. But that’s left dangling, and while I know we haven’t seen the last of it, I was so anxious when that scene began that it bugged me that it was a cliffhanger of sorts. [UPDATE: Or perhaps I misread the scene entirely, as many of you have already indicated in the comments.] Lastly, though Seth Gabel was terrific in this episode, I was a little bothered by Lee’s big speech to Canaan, in which he tells the shapeshifter not to wait on Jones or to let anyone define him as a nothing. This was really Lee talking to himself of course, and the connection was so obvious that I didn’t think the emphasis was necessary.
That said, everything else to do with Lee’s identity crisis was fantastic, I thought. The big development in “Everything In Its Right Place”—besides bringing Canaan into the fold—is that Captain Lee dies from his gunshot wound, leaving poor Bolivia without a partner, just like our Agent Lee. But before that happens, the two Lees have what amounts to an episode-long conversation about why they’re so different. In casual moments, and even while they’re on the case, they compare notes about their respective upbringings, which seem to be exactly alike. So why was Captain Lee so confident and charismatic, while Agent Lee is so dweeby?
Maybe it has something to do with the little trinket that Lee’s old partner Robert Danzig gave: the one with the maze, representing all the choices that we have to make every day of our lives. Maybe it’s not the big things that define us—the places we live, the people who raise us—but the hundreds of thousands of small decisions that move us further away from the person we might’ve been. Now those are the kinds of mysteries I like Fringe to keep floating in the air: the ones that none of us seem to be able to resolve, no matter how much science we throw at the problem.
- UPDATE: After sleeping on it and thinking about what some of you have said in the comments, I believe that this episode does mean to imply that what sets these Lincolns apart largely is the presence (or lack) of an Olivia Dunham in their lives. That’s a little too pat for my tastes; I prefer my thousands of little branches theory (which is still essentially true, I think). That said, it does fit with what this season of Fringe in particular has largely been about: this idea that we’re tethered to specific people, who keep us whole.
- This episode was directed by frequent Fringe DP David Moxness, making his directorial debut. Nice work.
- As you may have noticed, I’m shifting from “Fauxlivia” to “Bolivia” when distinguishing theirs from ours. The other appellation has semi-villainous implications, and their Olivia isn’t really a bad guy anymore. I still prefer “faux,” because I kind of think of it as the name that you guys invented and thus sort of our private thing. But it’s not fair to the character.
- Bolivia tricks our Agent Lee into revealing the middle-name of her Lee. It’s Tyrone: a name that our Lee thinks is cool, and that he associates with his grandfather, but that their Lee thinks is embarrassing. Just another way that these two men were un-alike.
- While our Lincoln is having his “over there” adventure, Walter, Peter and Ourlivia are taking Gene out for “grazing day,” to help the cow get over her seasonal affective disorder by getting her into the sun. Very thoughtful.
- Lee asks Austrid to “humor” him, then takes one look at her emotionless visage and adds “so to speak.”
- Lee brings Canaan back to Earth-1, where Walter says he’s looking forward to studying… I mean, “helping” him.
- The “Mantis” bit was funny, but how does the Fringe team explain the comic book covers that were on the wall of Peter’s Earth-2 apartment in the second season? This one, and this one, and especially this one.
- It probably also says something about this season that I haven’t thought of the alternate-timeline versions of the Earth-1 characters as all that different from the characters that they were before. Whether it says something good or bad depends on your take on this season, I suppose. As a fan, I’d say that this is how it should be: slight variations in Olivia, Walter, et cetera, not big changes.
- One last round of applause for Seth Gabel, who acts alongside himself a lot in this episode, and always seems to be two different people in the same room, not one actor in two different costumes, recorded separately.