Monday, 31 January 2011

'FRINGE' 3.11 - "Reciprocity"

Monday, 31 January 2011

There were some elements of "Reciprocity" I really enjoyed, and it was fantastic to get forward momentum on the "doomsday device" that Massive Dynamic have managed to piece together, minus the supposed power source that Fauxlivia stole. It's a little ridiculous this machine (apparently built, dismantled and hidden by the "First People" hundreds of millions of years ago), is still in working order and was so easily reconstructed by another civilization so easily, but I can go with it.

Unfortunately, while this all delighted me, this week's storyline was ultimately rather dull and designed to make Peter (Joshua Jackson) feel more integral to the show. It's a pity, but Peter has always been the weak link on Fringe: a character almost entirely built on what he means to other people (the son Walter stole and raised as his own; the man both Olivia's fell in love with; the vital cog for Walternate's doomsday device.) The series introduced Peter as a mysterious prodigy who's been around the world and has connections in the underworld, but you rarely get a flavour of that. Occasionally, Fringe will remember what Peter was originally supposed to be and, if it helps the story, have him take Olivia (Anna Torv) to see one of his off-the-record contacts (like that eccentric bookkeeper) who may be able to deliver enough exposition to aide the plot.

"Reciprocity" again pushed the idea that Peter has some weird communion with the First People's technology, as his very presence seemed to awaken the machine and gave him an instant nosebleed. It's all quite fascinating. Is the machine reacting to Peter in particular? It would appear so, otherwise Walternate could just use someone else to power it and destroy the prime universe. Or is Peter "special" because he's spent so much time in a dimension he wasn't born in? But again, Peter's really just being used as a plot-device: a human battery. This episode was primarily about trying to stop someone who's killing various shape-shifters trying to destroy the data contained in Fauxlivia's journal that she left behind, with the twist being that the serial-killer was Peter, who claims he'd fed up being reactive to situations, making Walter (John Noble) hypothesize the doomsday device has someone "weaponized" him. If true, it's again unfortunate that Peter only exhibits interesting qualities when he's under the influence of strange technology and not because of natural, explicable changes in his persona.

It was also rather laughable how Josh Singer's script tackled an early situation with a "mole" in Fringe Division, as the episode had spent such a conspicuously long time on a scientist character Walter took an instant dislike to that the mystery was spoiled before it even had a chance to be nurtured. There was one moment where the guilty scientist was framed in the shot seconds after the declaration of a mole was made, which was almost comical. They might as well have stuck an Austin Power-style mole on the actor's cheek and referred to him as "Dr. Mol" throughout the whole episode.

Overall, "Reciprocity" was an episode of good moments hanging from the backbone of a weak storyline. It appreciated Olivia realizing Peter is embarrassed about having fallen for Fauxlivia's wiles, and deciding to give their relationship another chance, too. It risked becoming torturous to keep having Olivia chastise Peter for being unable to tell her apart from her doppelganger, so I'm glad the writers have ended that. Having Olivia realize that Fauxlivia genuinely loved Peter, from what she's written about him in her journal, was also a good move. Now it's clearer to us that Fauxlivia wasn't faking everything while on her mission and the sci-fi love-triangle has some integrity to it.

What did you think? This wasn't a bad episode, but I thought it was a largely underwhelming way to deliver some information.


  • I loved the moment when Walter himself referred to the alternate Olivia as "Fauxlivia". Fringe's writers apparently use "Bolivia" in scripts, but obviously realized that the wittier term "Fauxlivia", coined by fans, was a better option. I'm glad. It's also just fun to see a form of interaction going on between the show and its audience.
  • Walter's now re-growing the brain cells William Bell extracted from his head, in order to improve his IQ. But didn't Bell just take away chunks of Walter's brain containing specific memories?
WRITER: Josh Singer
DIRECTOR: Jeannot Szwarc
TRANSMISSION: 28 January 2011, Fox, 9/8c