Meanwhile, in the Manhattan of Earth 2, in an architectural firm working on the plans for The New Pentagon, a Mr. Ted Pratchett is sipping real coffee that his sister got for him in Hawaii, and speculating with a co-worker that the recent spate of micro-quakes and howling dogs could be a possible byproduct of global warming. Then something akin to a Quantum Tectonic Event occurs, and after a brief blackout, Pratchett comes to in Earth 1, with a beam through his shoulder, and his body merged with that of about two or three other dudes.
This has been quite the week for alternate realities in Bad Robot land, huh? First Lost, and now Fringe. But to quote Walter, when it comes to parallel dimensions on Fringe: “It wasn’t our first time.” The two-Earths concept is central to this show, and central to the lives of its characters. Why, Walter Bishop can recallhow he and Belly once sent a car from our world to the next… and how a car from that world came back. And remembering that, he realizes that while it was bad enough when Pratchett and his co-workers came crashing into our world, it’s going to be just as bad when one of our buildings pops into theirs. Because that’s what happens with this process: if an object crosses over, it must either return as Olivia did in the season premiere, or an object of roughly equivalent mass must take its place. (“Like the bag of sand and the idol,” explains my favorite Massive Dynamics tech, Brandon.)
And so a Fringe episode that starts with a killer opener gets even killer-er, as Walter drags Peter and Olivia down to Jacksonville so that the latter can get hooked up to an IV bag of Cortexiphan and regain her ability to recognize people and objects associated with Earth 2. It’s our first mind-trip on this show in a good long while, and the creative team behind this episode makes it a creepy one, complete with dark forests and a scared younger version of Olivia.
In fact all of “Jacksonville” is effectively creepy, from the strong use of blacks in the color scheme to a lighting design that has lens flares popping all over the place. There was a strong sense of mood to this episode, especially in the dusty research facility in Jacksonville, where in the old children’s rooms everything looks so small and a little desperate (“Our Kids Are Happy Kids,” one sign pleads), and in the scientists’ rooms sheets cover scary-looking kid-torturing equipment. In my favorite scene in “Jacksonville,” Olivia returns to the room where she once “started a fire with her mind” as a kid, and she settles into the un-burned corner, surrounded by ashy blackness, unable to connect to the little girl she used to be.
The episode then pushes that point a little too far when Walter realizes that his experiments with grown-up Olivia are failing because she’s not scared enough anymore to regain her homing-beacon-for-Earth-2-stuff abilities. Naturally, by the end of the hour Olivia will Know Fear, and will find the about-to-disappear building in time to evacuate it. All a tad too touchy-feely for me.
But just a tad. I liked “Jacksonville” for the way it plunged directly into the heart of the show’s mythology for the first time in a while, and even if it didn’t tell us much we didn’t already know, having the story become more personal for our heroes served to create that unsettled feeling at which Fringe excels. I was right there with Olivia, walking through a space she spent so much time in as a kid, but which now seems alien. To speak in Fringe-y, our-bodies-as-machines terms, Olivia has been upgraded so much over the years that she no longer recognizes her original operating system.
Plus “Jacksonville” ends well, with Olivia asking Peter out for drinks and suddenly seeing that he doesn’t belong on this Earth. Ramifications are on the way, surely. “Did I mention there’s excitement?”
-That fused body effect was awesome.
-On Earth-2, Richard Nixon is on the silver dollar, people drive double-decker cars, and motor vehicles had CD players much earlier than we did here.
-Walter needs pretzels.
-First, Peter’s attempt to kiss Olivia is thwarted by her suddenly Knowing Fear, and then their date is thrown off by her realizing He Doesn’t Belong Here. Man… no smoochy for Peter, I guess.
-After Olivia hears that the missing Earth-1 building is being explained away as “an unscheduled controlled demolition,” Broyles says, somewhat disturbingly: “You’d be surprised what you can make the general public believe.”
-Part of me was hoping that Fringe Division wouldn’t be able to find the building in time to evacuate it. I liked what Broyles was saying to Olivia about how “there are times when the only choices left are bad ones.” Given a choice between starting a citywide panic and Just Letting Bad Shit Happen, sometime you’ve just got to JLBSH.
-Every time Fringe pulls out the stops for an episode that features my favorite ancillary characters and a lot more locations, I think how much it could benefit from a Lost-level budget. No shortage of characters or locations on that show. (On the other hand, Lost could use some of Fringe’s special effects wizardry.)
-See you back on April 1st for the back eight. It looks like when we get back, we’re going to get the story of Peter at last, and perhaps get a sense of the timeline of Walter and William’s experiments. Like, when Walter says, “It wasn’t our first time,” was he talking about Peter? Or is there even more to be told? Guess we’ll have to wait two months.