Fringe Review: “The Consultant” (Episode 4.18)
“Don’t judge him. No one can be certain exactly what they’re capable of, how far they’ll go to save the ones they love. I know this more than most.” -Walter Bishop
With only a few hours left this season (and possibly ever), Fringe has finally jettisoned any storyline that doesn’t directly impact the larger arc. There are three major points at play in this week’s episode, and we will take them one at a time.
First is the larger question of David Robert Jones and his eventual plan for the two universes. This week we see that Jones has the power to entangle the universes on a small scale as people are affected by the fates of their alternate universe counterparts (in typically Fringe gruesome manners) and by episode’s end we’ve discovered that these were beta tests for an eventual full-blown merging and collapsing of the two worlds. The overall effect of this merge is left to our imagination as is Jones’ point in bringing it to fruition. I suspect the results will be horrifying and the intention will be more complicated than just a mad genius bent on destruction and chaos. One wonders if Jones is actually at the top of the command chain in his spectral organization.
Second is the issue of Colonel Broyles and why he has aided Jones to this point. We meet a family and a sick son and all is revealed, albeit somewhat disappointingly. I was hoping for something a little more complex than ‘I’ll save your son if you help me destroy the universe.’ The writers wring a decent amount of suspense from the ‘will he, won’t he’ plotting, but Broyles turns out to be precisely the man we knew he was, which further diminishes the whole evil Broyles plot. Knowing the outcome, I’m not completely sure I buy that he would have helped Jones in the first place. Honestly, the most interesting thing to come out of the Broyles arc is that Jones’ plan somehow involves the doomsday machine. This shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise given that it is called the doomsday machine. And that it has already been used once to bridge the two universes.
I’m interested, but part of me is still hoping that part of Jones’ plan involves getting alt-Nina and alt-Broyles locked up in adjoining cells deep inside Fringe Division. I like my bad guys really diabolical.
Lastly there are the emotional developments, and this is where the show continues to excel and really take things to a new level. Walter acting as a consultant on the other side is a cute gimmick (though the overt rationalizations for leaving Peter and Olivia behind were eye-rollers) and pays dividends all around.
For starters, it gets the two Astrids in the same room together again, and that always makes me happy. Jasika Nicole makes every second count and there’s real meat here from alt-Astrid’s coffee reaction to how the different versions translate what they’re hearing in their earpieces. Nicole and the writers take what could have been a generic scene and used it to continually develop both characters without showing the strings being pulled. Nice stuff.
The really good stuff, however is Walter and Fauxlivia. More screen time has done wonders for Anna Torv’s second role, and she continues to evolve and become more interesting (both the actress and the role). Pay attention to her mouth (relax, this review is rated G). I have no idea if she’s even aware that she does it, but the two Olivias actually move their mouths differently when they speak. Couple that with the swaggering body language of Fauxlivia and it would be child’s play at this point to discern which is which even without the hair color.
More importantly, as Walter has grown more confident and grown emotionally, his relationship with Fauxlivia has changed. Keep in mind that this is a woman that he hated, mistrusted and viewed as just this side of the antichrist until recently.
They are now my favorite couple on the show.
Fauxlivia’s newfound vulnerability coupled with Walter’s newfound paternal warmth plays like dynamite on the screen, and the late-night breakfast scene here is maybe my favorite of the season. It’s amazing as a viewer to suddenly realize that in the history of the series we’ve never seen these people genuinely happy. This is yet another reason that I hope this truly is the end of the series. When a show is so obviously sticking the landing, I don’t want them taking another try.
Some closing thoughts:
- If Lincoln ever steps foot back in the prime world, I’ll be surprised.
- I had a thought back after the big September episode but never wrote it down. If the Observers are distant future humans and there are multiple (possible infinite) versions of humans, then doesn’t it track there are many versions of the Observers? I know the creative team has made a big deal of the Observers existing across time, but I don’t think they’ve ever specifically said that they’re the only versions that exist. Is it possible that Jones’ big timeline merge is what allows the Observers to be unique (and possibly exist at all) and that the collapse is the event that they’ve been trying to protect all along? I have no idea, but this is the kind of thing I think about when I’m trying to fall asleep at night.
- TVLine upgraded Fringe to ‘a sure thing’ this week on their renewal scorecard. I have no idea if this is based on insider information or just irrational hope. Some of the actors revealed this week that, fittingly, two endings had been shot for the finale so that they were prepared no matter how it comes out. All I know is that the title for the two-episode finale is “Endgame”. If that’s not foreshadowing on the same level as Biggie calling his last album Life After Death, I don’t know what is.