Monday, 21 February 2011

'FRINGE' 3.14 - "6B"

Monday, 21 February 2011

It's worth mentioning the elegant beauty of Fringe's teasers. It's rare to see teasers that do as their name suggests these days, which the investigative sci-fi genre is particularly adept at. You watch the opening minutes of Fringe with the giddy expectation of seeing something startling and gruesome. In "6B", we followed two New Yorkers attending a party in an apartment block, and were thrown various red herrings (like a woman going into anaphylactic shock over the hors d'Ĺ“uvre), before six partygoers (apparently) jumped off a balcony and hit the ground beside a horror-struck doorman. An impulsive mass suicide? You'll certainly keep watching after the advert break to find out...

Fringe investigated the "jumpers", with Walter (John Noble) quickly theorizing they died because the balcony they were stood on temporarily vanished, hence why the fallers were joined by tables and chairs. It transpired that the apartment block is the epicenter of inter-dimensional cracks (similar to what the alt-Earth has to deal with on a daily basis), and Walter is frightened the block's an early sign that their universe is starting to suffer more noticeable damage. However, Olivia (Anna Torv) developed a different theory when she realized an elderly resident called Alice Merchant (Phyllis Somerville) could be to blame, as her grief for the recent loss of her husband Derek (Ken Pogue) is tearing a hole in reality and allowing her to see her late spouse's (or, rather, his surviving doppelganger from "the other side".)

Season 3 of Fringe has found interesting ways to keep the case-of-the-week stories anchored by personal touches and deeper relevance for the regular characters. Obviously we had Walter's innate guilt that these tears in reality are ultimately his fault (which resulted in him being particularly sarcastic to everyone), but there's also Olivia and Peter's (Joshua Jackson) rocky relationship, in light of Peter sleeping with Fauxlivia, which appears to have come to a temporary resolution now Olivia's accepted Peter back. Undoubtedly, it won't be long before their rekindled romance is dealt another blow, when Fauxlivia's pregnancy becomes known.

This wasn't a bad episode, although it was noticeably slow to hit a stride. A show like Fringe needs to be several steps ahead of the audience at all times, but once Walter theorized the balcony had vanished I was already ahead of the investigation in linking everything to cracks in the fabric of reality. And from there, I was ahead of the curve when it came to realizing Alice was seeing what she believed was the "ghost" of her dead husband. The story didn't hide its hand very well, giving the audience too much time to think ahead, which meant all the characters looked obtuse for the majority of "6B". Admittedly, it didn't help that this episode opened with memory-refreshing clips of relevant episodes from the show's history, which means you were primed for a story involving the "glimmers" Olivia sees when in a heightened emotional state.

Still, it was great seeing our Walter realize he's just as willing to use the "amber" his counterpart created to seal reality-cracks, knowing how it can be more trouble than it's worth. I'd also forgotten that the amber was seen way back in season 1's "The Ghost Network", which we were reminded of here. "6B" built to a rather tense and exciting finale, with Broyles (Lance Reddick) poised to use the amber before Alice unwittingly creates a vortex that destroys half of Brooklyn, while Olivia and Peter tried to convince Alice that her belief in the spirit world is misplaced. A great example of the show keeping its eye on the personal angle of the show, as Alice's torment was surprisingly affecting, with touching work from guest star Phyllis Somerville as she severed her emotional tie to her life partner.

A potentially great episode, undone by some limp storytelling and predictability, but still satisfying enough to leave a good impression. Do you agree?


  • Did anyone else notice the clear similarities between this episode and Doctor Who's "Army Of Ghosts"? Both involved people from other dimensions being mistaken as ghosts, and Walter smashing a pane of glass to demonstrate the worst case scenario of inter-dimensional instability echoed David Tennant's own demo as The Doctor. There were also touches of Ghostbusters throughout, particularly when we saw Walter floating around the apartment with what resembled Egon Spengler's PKE meter.
  • Interesting to hear that Walter doesn't believe in ghosts -- although I assume he believes in the possibility that people can somehow be recorded on the environment for later playback. Maybe he does. There's a story in that.
written by Glen Whitman & Robert Chiappetta / directed by Thomas Yatsko / 18 February 2011 / Fox