A few quickie reviews of recent Fringe episodes, as I try to get through a mountain of catch-up TV this week...
"Making Angels" is ostensibly a long-overdue focus for diligent lab assistant Astrid Farnsworth (Jasika Nicole), who's perhaps one of TV's most undervalued supporting characters. Unfortunately, this episode wasn't enough of a showcase for Nicole, although she had a few good scenes playing opposing versions of Astrid—and it was a relief to finally have someone behave realistically when faced with their doppelganger.
It was still a pity the majority of this episode worked perfectly well without either Astrid's involvement, so their part of the story almost became a glorified subplot. Instead, this was primarily just another freak-of-the-week outing, concerning a brilliant MIT scientist who discovered a way to see into the future and resolved to become a compassionate "angel"—painlessly euthanizing those who are destined to die in gruesome or painful ways. There were juicy ideas swimming around here, but nothing we haven't seen Fringe do before in slightly different ways. (In fact, the preceding "Forced Perspective" also dealt with precognition!) Still, it was great to see Walter (John Noble) warming to Fauxlivia (Anna Torv), and to see more of the ongoing Observer mythology (including the first on-screen instance of one disappearing from sight, I believe). Although I have to wonder why superior beings who've mastered Space and Time have taken so long to realise Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) has been restored into existence!
More entertaining was "Welcome To Westfield", although it fell into a common trap with Fringe with the audience being several steps ahead of the plot after awhile. This was another of the show's occasional forays into "spooky town" territory, with the team discovering the remote Westfield (undoubtedly named after Dorothy West from The Wizard Of Oz) that was riddled with unusual phenomena: levitating metal objects that crashed a plane, people suddenly behaving abnormally or speaking about dead relatives as if they were still alive, and eventually disappearing buildings. It didn't take a genius to work out that Westfield was at the epicentre of an event where the two universes were merging, with disastrous consequences, but the episode had a lot of fun with the repercussions of this happening (a two-faced man attacking people on a bus), and it was one of the show's best episodes on a purely visual level (lots of apocalyptic scenery, even some approximations of "zombies").
For committed fans, it was also great to see some movement with The Machine that Walter and Peter are trying to fix (setting up the Oz-like comparison of the town being bombarded by a "tornado" of sorts), and it looks like the writers are laying some groundwork regarding exactly how Peter's going to get back to the original timeline. Fans, myself included, have been worrying that the season will effectively hit a bit reset button and we'll lurch back to where season 3 left us... but instead it looks likely people in this alternate timeline will simply come to remember original events (Olivia recalled a case she didn't investigate with Peter, and the episode ended with her kissing Peter as if she was the version of Olivia he left behind). I don't think any of this will feel logical when the big explanation is spelled out to us, but it should be a nicer resolution than what many have been dreading.
written by Akiva Goldsman, J.H Wyman & Jeff Pinkner (4.11) & J.R Orci & Graham Roland (4.12) / directed by Charles Beeson (4.11) & David Straiton (4.12) / 4 & 11 February 2012 / Fox