Monday, 14 February 2011

'FRINGE' 3.13 - "Immortality"

Monday, 14 February 2011

This marked out first return trip to the alternate-Earth in what seems like forever, but it was unfortunately a so-so installment. "Immortality" wasn't a crushing bore, and it delivered some important developments, but the investigation at the heart of the episode didn't capture my imagination, and I found Fauxlivia's (Anna Torv) state of mind to be a letdown given the repercussions of her sojourn to prime-Earth on Olivia and Peter.

This week, Fringe Division were assigned to investigate the murder of a man at the Empire State Building's dirigible station, after he was discovered in a toilet cubicle having been eaten from the inside-out by "skelter beetles" (a species that died out a decade ago when the world's sheep became extinct, losing the beetle their natural host.) The investigation soon led them to suspect Dr Anton Silva (Alon Aboutboul), a brilliant scientist who was close to curing avian flu using an enzyme the skelter beetle produces, who may now be trying to continuing his work by genetically-manipulating beetles to hatch within human subjects. A crime Silva's rationalizing because many other famous medical breakthroughs cost innocent human lives.

Meanwhile, Walternate (John Noble) is told that their synthetic version of Cortexiphan (the chemical found in Olivia's brain that gives her the ability to traverse dimensions) is beginning to work on young test subjects, briefly giving one young man telekinesis before he dies. The secret to long-term success appears to be giving the drug to younger people, preferably children, but this is an avenue Walternate won't consider exploring.

There were some good themes at play in "Immortality". Silva and Walternate are both scientists determined to help the world, but while this episode reveals that Walternate still has principles he's unwilling to break, even if it will cost him the success he craves. But how long can he put his ethics first, if experimenting on kids is the only way to protect the dimension he believes is under threat? Contrarily, Silva's not above killing a few people for the greater good of creating an enzyme that will save thousands of people from dying of avian flu. This is all well-trodden ground as a moral conundrum, but still able to inspire some debate. The fact is, many of our modern technological marvels (particularly in the field of medicine), only exist because pioneering scientists ignored their morals. Grave robbing in the 1800s to satisfy the need for fresh cadavers to dissect, the awful experiments on unwilling Jews in Nazi Germany, etc.

What intrigued me about this episode (from a character standpoint) was seeing Fauxlivia go about her business, with no sign that she's fallen in love with Peter. We've been led to believe from Fauxlivia's recovered journal that she developed deep feelings for Peter, but there was little sign of that here. I guess it's possible Fauxlivia just isn't the kind of person who pines for a lost love, and was quickly distracted by the return of her boyfriend Frank (Philip Winchester) from his trip to North Texas to help with the outbreak of a disease? Whatever the case, I think it was a shame Fauxlivia didn’t show clearer signs of missing Peter, considering how anguished her doppelganger is over the whole situation. However, the late reveal that she's actually pregnant with Peter's baby makes for a brilliantly soap-like twist, providing Walternate with a solid reason to coax Peter back to this dimension of his own free will (which is apparently important if the doomsday machine he's creating is to work properly.) And seeing as we know Peter's love for Olivia or Fauxlivia will decide which dimension is destroyed, will he choose the woman he loves, or the mother of his child? Or is Fauxlivia both?

Overall, this was the kind of episode where I appreciated the information it delivered, but it was wrapped up in a mechanical storyline that didn't grab me. It was ultimately an hour of filler that used the time to lay some groundwork for fresh ideas the show will return to in the near-future.

What did you make of this episode, and its developments with an inter-dimensional pregnancy? The Walter's now have a grandchild to fight over! That can't be good. And how will Olivia react when she discovers Peter's got her alternate pregnant?


  • Can someone clarify: is the doomsday machine created by The First People only in existence on our Earth, or is there a duplicate in the alternate-Earth? Basically, is Walternate creating his own version based on the schematic he has of the device, or is he assembling his dimension's excavated machine? I mean, Walternate does possess the power unit Fauxlivia stole from our dimension, so that suggests he has nothing on his side and has been sending soldiers to our dimension to recover the parts he needs. That's the situation, right? Or is the device's pieces split between universes?
  • This show really loves Twin Peaks! Two more in-jokes this week: Walternate's mistress Reiko was played by Joan Chen (who played Josie Packard in Twin Peaks), and someone ordered "a piece of cherry pie" at a diner (which is Agent Cooper's favourite dessert). C'mon, they can get Kyle MacLachlan on this show, surely. Or Michael J. Anderson?
  • Does anyone else think the show would have cast Mark Valley as Fauxlivia's boyfriend, if he wasn't (a) busy making Human Target and (b) recently divorced from Anna Torv? It would have been more fun to see Olivia's dead fiance John Scott back on the show, as an alternate-Earth counterpart, in an ideal world. I just struck me because Philip Winchester even resembles Mark Valley.
  • I'm always taken by the atmosphere of Fringe Division in the alternate-Earth, as it's so fun and easygoing. This is a world where bizarre events have become so commonplace that everyone acts like they have a very normal, routine job. It's one of the key things that gives alt-Earth its off kilter weirdness.
written by David Wilcox & Ethan Gross / directed by Brad Anderson / 11 February 2011 / Fox