Fringe: Subject 13

by Za’chary Westbrook

3 out of 5

SUBJECT 13

I love the 80s opening credits. Something about them makes me all nostalgic for Quantum Leap. No, the QL credits looked nothing like that, but still. I can’t explain my nostalgia, sorry. Part of me wondered if this was the beginning of a Lost-esque trend and that next season we’d be seeing rotations of the three opening sequences more and more. However, tonight’s fairly dry, plot-hole-spackle episode leaves me with little hope for that.

The last time we saw 80s Fringe, it was the dynamite revelation that the Peter we know and love is from the alternate universe. Recalling season 1 and Walter’s frequent confusion about Peter’s tastes, it was pieces of the puzzle falling in place. It also went a very long way in informing, basically, the entire series. That one event began the chain of events that destroyed the alternate world and is bringing us to the grand showdown.

However, tonight’s episode really didn’t flow like the previous ones. Last week, we had the terrifying, yet inevitable beginning of cracks in our world and the slightly eye-rolling revelation that the cracks are tied to emotion. Two weeks ago, we learned that Fauxlivia is preggers with Peter’s baby. These are major factors in the rising tension before the finale. Tonight…? Um… We learned how Walternate figured where Peter was kidnapped to.

Seriously, that’s it. Olivia’s childhood was nothing knew and Peter’s trouble accepting where he was has also been covered. As near as I can tell, tonight’s episode existed solely to explain how Walternate knew. Now, we are dealing with sci-fi and sci-fi fans have a tendency towards a high detail orientation, so something like “How did Walternate know Peter was in the prime universe?” has probably popped up on a few forums, but I don’t think it really deserved a full episode. Yes, we also got to see Olivia and Peter imprinting a bit on each other, which just made me think of Korean TV series which always do that. (Seriously, no dramatic, romantic TV couple in Korea has ever not known each other in childhood.)

This imprinting event, just like those in K-dramas, has absolutely no real bearing on the main story line. In Fringe‘s case, we’ve already seen two and a half years of Peter and Olivia getting to know each other. We saw them meet and not know each other. It was completely irrelevant and just a bit too sappy for me.

The only character we got any real information about is Mama Bishop. (Tonight was the first time I realized how much she looks like ginger Anna Torv.) Mama Bishop has been little more than a footnote in the series and what development we saw in her tonight didn’t make her feel any more significant. Season 1 established quite well what Peter’s up-bringing was like and there was nothing new in Mama hitting the sauce.

Plot-wise, I can see some good yet to come out of this episode. For starters, putting on my nerd cap, what’s bugged me about the alterverse’s cracks is that we don’t have them, yet there have been just as many cross-overs on both sides (duh). So, why is it so bad for them? I suspect we’re soon to learn that Walternate caused the cracks in experiments to get Peter back. Which, again, doesn’t seem that significant. With only seven episodes left and the doomsday clock ticking, I feel kind of cheated, I guess. It’s like the writers knowing all this was ending and decided to answer a couple minor questions before things get rolling.

On the one hand, I respect the attention to detail in the writers. On the other, I just don’t think it deserved a full episode. Especially one so laden with such wooden scenes. Fringe is a fairly laconic show at the best of times, but it was just a slog to get through tonight. Here’s hoping we’re back to the story next week.

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