Monday, 28 March 2011

'FRINGE' 3.18 - "Bloodline"

Monday, 28 March 2011

I wonder if the idea of an accelerated pregnancy was pursued because the writers weren't sure they'd get a fourth season, so decided they should draw as much of the current narrative together as possible in the remaining time. "Bloodline" was one of those episodes that offered things we've seen before (inscrutable doctors kidnapping someone to perform a bizarre medical procedure, as Fringe Division tried to locate the victim), but it was a notable episode for how much it enlightened the alternate characters, and pushed Fauxlivia (Anna Torv) into a brand storytelling direction.

In case you'd forgotten (as it's been weeks since we were last in the alt-universe), Fauxlivia is pregnant with Walternate's (John Noble) grandchild, after sleeping with his son Peter in the other universe. "Bloodline" set up the possibility that Fauxlivia's inherited viral propagated eclampsia (VPE), a lethal virus that killed her sister during childbirth, before she's kidnapped by mysterious doctors and taken to a secret location to have her pregnancy accelerated. Meanwhile, Fauxlivia's colleagues at Fringe Division did their utmost to find her, with Lincoln (Seth Gabel) and Charlie (Kirk Acevedo) coming to suspect kindly cab driver Henry (Andre Royo) is the abduction. When it became clear that's not the case, Lincoln and Charlie were nevertheless perturbed by Henry's story of having helped Fauxlivia escape, and his belief she's suffered recent memory loss. It's enough to plan the seed of a theory that, as Charlie once absentmindedly speculated, their Olivia was once replaced by the Olivia from the other dimension...

As I said, Bloodline wasn't offering us much that felt original, as I recall Olivia being kidnapped by scientists and having to escape back in season 1, and this storyline felt similar to how things played out there. But it was still an entertaining ride, brilliantly performed by Torv -- particularly because the stakes for Fauxlivia were so high because she could die if forced to give birth. It was also fascinating to speculate on who wanted to expedite her pregnancy, and the twist that it was a secret operation sanctioned by Walternate, worked well. Perhaps it should have been obvious in retrospect, given the very limited options, but I guess I was too distracted by Fauxlivia's plight to give it too much thought.

It was also a nice touch having Walternate earn our admiration earlier in the episode, by restating his policy never to experiment on children, only to show he's not above risking the life of his own grandchild's mother. But you have to now wonder why Walternate's was in such a rush: simple impatience? A desire from the writers to get the story moving quicker without nine months of waiting? Or is Fauxlivia's love child going to be capable of operating the Doomsday Machine, if Peter becomes a dead-end?

One lasting effect of "Bloodline" was moving many of the alt-universe characters to a position of mistrust. Charlie and Lincoln are now very suspicious of Walternate, knowing he sanctioned the exchange of Olivia's without telling them, and they'll perhaps come to realize the situation with the alt-universe isn't as black-and-white and the Secretary has made it seem. Will they collaborate with our side one day? Olivia should also be worried people are after her baby, even if we know the danger has actually passed.

Overall, Bloodline had much to recommend it, particularly in Torv's tough performance, but also because it deepened the emotional stakes of the season. Lincoln admitted he loves Fauxlivia (which complicates the whole love story element of the series, now he's been added to the Olivia-Pete-Fauxlivia triangle), the birth of a child undoubtedly means big changes to the makeup of the show (especially when Peter learns he has a son), and Walternate's grip on the propaganda he's been feeding everyone is undoubtedly going to slip now he's exposed as a liar to key Fringe agents.

The great thing about Fringe this season is how it's found a way to make the characters and their tangled relationships rise above the simpler pleasure of sci-fi craziness. It was missing this level of emotional complexity and humanity in its earlier seasons, but I'm so glad it's found a more compelling voice now. And respect to Fox for giving Fringe a fourth season, allowing this confident voice to continue, despite the fact its Friday night ratings have fallen to lows of around 3.5 million.


  • More alternate universe fun: Francis Ford Coppola directed Taxi Driver, not Martin Scorsese; The West Wing's about to begin its twelfth season; and Henry reads "Opus The Penguin" comic-strips, not "Opus".
written by Alison Schapker & Monica Owusu-Breen / directed by Dennis Smith / 25 March 2011 / Fox