In the proud tradition of Fringe, tonight's new episode answered some huge questions — and posed some even bigger new ones. Chief among them: Just how much of this war between universes is in one man's head? Spoilers below...
We've been wondering for a while about the interdimensional war, and whether the Walter of the other universe — Walternate — has just invented it. I mean, it's clear that there's been a lot of damage to Walternate's universe, and it at least started with Walter's trip in 1985 when he kidnapped Peter. But we don't know how much of the damage is Walter's fault — and we also get an increasingly strong sense that Walternate needs there to be a war, in order to justify the horrible things he's done, and the even more horrible things he's going to do soon.
This episode was just bursting with great character moments and sea changes — but for my money, the most compelling arc was that of alt-Broyles, who can't help but listen to Olivia after she saved his kid in the previous episode — and can't help but believe her when she says that nobody in our universe thinks the universes are at war. And nobody on our side intended for all this horror to be unleashed:
Unlike Henry Higgins in the previous episode, whose motivations for helping Olivia seem honestly a bit mysterious and overly convenient, alt-Broyles totally convinced me this time around, because we've seen his doubts being seeded over a number of episodes. He can't let them slice up someone who is, for all intents and purposes, a member of his team. And he can't let her die if there's a chance that she's right and she can help prevent a war between worlds.
So Broyles risks everything — and ultimately sacrifices his life — to help Olivia get home. The vision of Broyles staring at his smoking, mutilated twin is pretty horrific, and it sort of bookends the sight of Olivia with all of those lines sketched on her face and body, strapped into the surgical bed and about to be sliced up with a bone saw:
I love the look on alt-Broyles' face when the bartender won't let him pay for his drink because "times are tough, and it's nice to know we have heroes." Ouch.
Alt-Broyles literally takes Olivia's place as the sacrificial lamb, and the horror that she faces and he endures is the cost of a war that may not even exist.
Before alt-Broyles dies, we get one last conversation between him and Walternate, in which Walternate gives him a jingoistic pep talk about how "only one world can survive," and "we have made strides" towards ensuring that it's theirs. Walternate seems to be almost trying to convince himself, or keep himself in a kind of fanatical trance.
And OMG, the scientist guy, the one who says that Olivia has "very valuable parts for study, and I would just have to replace their mass," is the creepiest SOB on the planet. The little smirk he gives alt-Broyles when he says, "He's ready for you," outside Walternate's office, is one of the most skin-crawling things I've ever seen.
So it seems that Fauxlivia needs to grab one particular piece of the doomsday machine that, for some reason, wasn't available on the other side. So is that the only reason why she was encouraging Peter and Walter to investigate the device — so they'd find the missing piece that had been lost forever on her side? Or was there still some other reason, like wanting the machine to be built on both sides? I guess we'll find out soon.
This episode also featured some amazing Walter-isms, including his three-day stint in the wrong woman's bed in the 1970s — "and unlike Olivia, the woman with whom I was sharing a bed didn't look like my wife at all." Although, I have to say, Walter was almost too cartoonish in this episode — perhaps to draw a contrast with the cold-blooded Walternate.
If this episode had one major flaw, it was that a lot of convenient stuff happened to make the plot fall into place, including that Olivia and Peter had the exact same computers, Olivia took the wrong one, and then she left it in the typewriter shop for Peter to find. And then of course, there's the fact that Olivia is able to cross over permanently this time, when she couldn't all those other times — it's still not clear to me how she did that, but maybe it'll be explained later. (Maybe it's something to do with traveling a far enough distance.)
But one good thing came out of the breakneck plot twisting and slightly miraculous discoveries — we got to see Peter at his absolute suavest and cleverest, including the great scene where he confronts the enemy he's been sleeping with all this time. So many great lines, including: "This from the woman standing in front of me in pajamas who just shared the same bed with me. I guess answers are where you draw the line." And then the one right after, about how he's going to get answers, and if he finds out she's harmed Olivia, then he'll kill her.
This is such a great scene:
In the end, Fauxlivia is back in her own world, where nobody even knows she's been gone — or what's happened to alt-Broyles. (I wonder how long it'll be before Lincoln and alt-Charlie get to the bottom of this.) And the squirrely typewriter-store guy gets new legs, via an injection, in exchange for handing over the mysterious, beetle-like piece of the ancient doomsday weapon.
So all of the toys are back in their original places — except that things feel considerably messier than they did before, and we're still left with tons of questions. Everybody's been in bed with the "enemy," one way or another, which makes the notion of a nice, clear-cut war harder than ever to stomach. All in all, we're on tenterhooks to see where Fringe goes next!