Monday, 2 May 2011

'FRINGE' 3.21 - "The Last Sam Weiss"

Monday, 2 May 2011

The penultimate hour of the three-part conclusion to season 3 was a more enjoyable and eventful hour than last week's preamble. It was a little slow to get going, but then launched into a sprint that took us towards a key moment we've been waiting this whole year for: Peter (Joshua Jackson) stepping into the Doomsday Machine, as intended by the mysterious First People who built that contraption eons ago. It was a very enjoyable episode, despite some perfunctory story beats, and actually turning Sam Weiss (Kevin Corrigan) into a less interesting character than hoped. He's just the latest in a lineage of people who keep naming their children "Sam Weiss", sworn to protect a few artifacts and secrets they don't fully understand themselves? He's just Oded Fehr from The Mummy movies? I'd hoped for more.

This week, the alt-Earth's Doomsday Machine's activation was still causing unnatural disasters in our universe, here exemplified by a static lightning storm that caused chaos on a main road and hospitalized dozens of people with third-degree burns. Peter was hospitalized for the majority of the episode, recovering from having attempted to get inside the "malfunctioning" Machine to deactivate it, while Walter (John Noble) realized the end of the world can be delayed if they move their Doomsday Machine to the same location as its counterpart: Liberty Island, New York City. The reason being that both devices are acting like separated magnets, so the damage they cause can be localized if they're unified. Meanwhile, Olivia (Anna Torv) went on a mission to find a so-called "crowbar" that can supposedly turn their Machine off, according to an rare parchment written by the First People in Sam Weiss's possession. However, after retrieving the inconspicuous tool from an ancient stone tablet in a museum, they discovered it only opens a mysterious box containing a scroll suggesting Olivia herself is the "off switch" -- if she can wield her latent psychic abilities and turn the alt-Earth's Machine off remotely, allowing Peter to step inside their own universe's device. Got all that?

"The Last Sam Weiss" was another of those episodes that, when you stop to think about it, amounted to a simple by-the-numbers treasure hunt. And there's still no serious contemplation about how a pre-human civilization could have predicted Peter and Olivia's birth, and how they'd both be capable of interacting with a machine created and buried millennia before they existed. Of course, the fact the denouement shows that Peter entering the machine has transported him to the year 2026 is perhaps hinting the First People were time-travellers. More evidence that the First People and The Observers are one and the same, or is Fringe about to widen its mythology to encompass a new group of beings? It's not that I expect solid answers, but it would be nice if the characters at least commented on the extreme weirdness of this whole situation. Instead, they hardly bat an eyelid that scratchy illustrations of Peter and Olivia have been found on scrolls that predate the dinosaurs.

Still, despite a few disappointments, it was another episode that built that sense of excitement Fringe does so well, as events reached a crunch. I particularly like how the World Trade Center keeps being used as a symbol of momentous change in Fringe's mythology. Its existence signified the emergence of an alternate Earth when Olivia crossed over in season 1, and now Peter's jump into the future was confirmed by seeing a memorial to the WTC on the war-ravaged streets of the city. I have no idea why the Doomsday Machine has revealed itself to be a time machine, exactly, but hopefully that will be explained next week. Perhaps Peter must first see what the end of the world will bring, before deciding which universe will suffer that fate?

Overall, "The Last Sam Weiss" was a bit of a mish-mash, but it contained some memorable moments, and the ending was a genuine thrill. I'm a little frustrated Olivia's "super powers" continue to feel like lazy ways to get the story going, Peter's subplot as he made his way to New York in a deranged state of mind was a pointless addition, and Sam Weiss's background was a real disappointment -- particularly considering he got his name in the title. But I can't help responding positively to the idea Olivia and Peter are not only lovers, but prophesied instruments of creation/destruction. Hopefully the next episode will deliver the knockout punch we're waiting for, as Fringe's season finales have traditionally given us momentous changes.

written by Monica Owusu-Breen & Alison Schapker / directed by Thomas Yatsko / 29 April 2011 / Fox

Next time...