Fringe sure does love its bridges, doesn’t it? A few episodes back, the Walternate passed over from Earth-2 to Earth-1 by crossing a flickering bridge. Last week, Peter spent time on a bridge in Twin Peaks. This week, one of the big confrontations took place on a bridge in Earth-2’s version of Central Park. I’m sure the show’s location scouts have their marching orders: Keep an eye out for cool-looking bridges.
Why a bridge? Well, it’s a hell of a visual metaphor for a lot of Fringe’s themes. Crossing over from one world to the next. Crossing over from human to machine. Moving from one known piece of solid ground to somewhere else entirely. There was a little of all of that in “Over There,” a fun, exciting episode that nicely set up next week’s finale (which is also called “Over There”… because there’s more than one of everything… also because this what we used to call “a two-parter”).
After Secretary Walternate spirits his son Peter back to his original home, our own Fringe team drowns their sorrow in booze and guilt. Then an Observer hands Olivia a piece of paper with a strange drawing on it: a sketch of a large piece of a machinery, designed to contain a man with glowing eyes. A man who looks a lot like Peter. So Olivia warns Walter, and Walter warns Broyles, and Broyles yells at Nina, and soon the Fringers are down in the MD labs with Brandon, getting a lesson in how dangerous it is to pass through to Earth-2 (because it requires a complete dispersion and reconstitution of the body’s molecules, which leaves said molecules unstable). Thanks to Olivia’s Cortexifan-itude though, she has the power to pass between worlds safely, and may even have the power to stop what’s coming… if only she had help.
Which brings us to one of the two major pieces of awesomeness in “Over There:” The Cortexifan All-Stars. James Heath, Sally Clarke and Nick Lane—all former Fringe Freak-Of-The-Weeks—have been reformed, with their powers now channeled for good. James Heath is now a healer, not a spreader of disease. Sally can control her pyrokinesis. And Nick can manipulate people’s moods, but in a positive way! (Except for when he forces Broyles to laugh. That’s pretty unsettling.)
I always have a tough time assessing multi-part episodes—finales especially—because they’re incomplete. I enjoyed part one of “Over There” pretty thoroughly, but I’m docking it half-a-point—tentatively—because I love the idea of Olivia & The Cortexifanatics so much that I’m bummed Fringe burned through the group so quickly. (Literally, in one case.) After Walter guides his former guinea pigs in the meditation exercise that allows them to make their way from Earth-1 to Earth-2, everything goes haywire. James’ cancer returns, and erupts in sarcomas all over his face. Sally feels weak and hot, and seems on the brink of combusting. Nick is fine, but powerless. And by the end of the episode, they’re all dead. What a waste.
But I can’t be too bummed, because my new favorite characters were mostly destroyed by my even newer favorite characters: The Fringe Division Of Earth-2! (I need to distinguish them from our Fringe Division, just as the Justice League was distinguishable from the Justice Society, so I’m going to call them “The Fringe Department,” since in this world they’re part of The Department Of Defense, not the FBI.) The Fringe Department is headed up by Alt-Broyles, and led in the field by a man named Lee. Also on the team: Alt-Charlie and Alt-Olivia. The latter is different from our Olivia in that she has red hair, a tattoo on her neck, and she hates the taste of alcohol. Also, she’s extra-bad-ass.
I could fill up the rest of this recap with the differences in The Fringe Department, and Earth-2 in general. Like the fact that the FD is headquartered at the base of a very bronze-looking Statue Of Liberty. And that Alt-Astrid works there as some kind of mystic/tech-whiz. And that they’ve all read the Walternate’s ZFT manifesto, and have been told throughout their careers that the Fringe events they investigate are naturally occurring, and all began with “The Zero Event at Reiden Lake.”
Now, though, Secretary Walternate is ready to tell The Fringe Department the truth: that these disturbances are man-made, and caused by dangerous people from an parallel universe. Meanwhile, Walternate is tinkering with his possibly Earth-1-killing machine, as Peter recuperates back at his home and gets to see his mother again. (A very sweet scene.) After Sally incinerates herself and a gut-shot Nick on a bridge in Central Park—burning Lee pretty badly in the process—Olivia and Walter’s only hope appears to rest with William Bell, who failed to meet them at that bridge as promised.
Bell finally does rendezvous with Olivia later that night, while Olivia’s staking out the apartment where her Alt lives with a man named Frank. Here’s what we know about Frank: He spends all of Alt-Olivia’s money, he’s about to go on a long trip, he gives killer backrubs, and on the wall of their bedroom? A photo of a bridge.
And so we’re back to the old motif, carried even further by Walter, who ends the episode stumbling towards a hospital, suffering from a bullet wound inflicted by Alt-Olivia. As Walter stumbles, he talks to himself, saying, “I’m still walking, so the bullet couldn’t have hit my spinal column.” He’s consciously keeping himself in the land of the living, unwilling to cross over into unconsciousness. Because that’s how it happens in a universe full of bridges. One minute here. The next… somewhere else.
Grade: A- (pending part two)
-They’re not worms… they’re arachnids!
-Dug those crazy red-hued opening titles tonight.
-Did I read the drawing right? Did it say “GATTACA” behind the face with glowing eyes?
-Peter’s mother starts to refer to Walternate as his father, but stops herself. Is she trying to spare his feelings, or did Walternate not tell her the whole story?
-I suppose it’s possible that we could see The Cortexifan Crew again in some way. Just before Sally scorches Lee, he calls Nick by name. So clearly there’s an Alt-Nick out there. Does he have super-powers?
-Also, Walternate makes reference to Lee’s father as being a powerful man himself. Seeds for Season Three?
-Lee might be okay, despite his burns. “Gonna need 3 months in a nanite regeneration chamber,” according to Alt-Olivia.
-Tearing sound, blue flash… the usual.
-The 1983 silver dollar on Earth-2 pictures a bell, a moon, and Richard Nixon. The $20 bill depicts Martin Luther King Jr. (and is called “a junior”). And ID cards are called “show-mes.”
-Other differences in Earth-2: Coffee is hard to come by, The West Wing’s entering its 11th season, and Cabbage Patch dolls are still big.