Saturday, 24 March 2012

FRINGE, 4.15 – "A Short Story About Love"

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Most definitely a turning point episode for season 4, as "A Short Story About Love" confirmed that Peter (Joshua Jackson) is living in an altered timeline, not a new timeline. This means the characters we've been following this year haven't been alternate versions (which would've meant season 4's been a weird tangent), but still the characters we know-and-love (albeit with changed or suppressed memories about Peter's existence). I'm so relieved Fringe has finally made this distinction explicit, because it was starting to really bug me. It's just a shame the reason given is so wishy-washy, with The Observer (Michael Cerveris) claiming "love" is the variable that managed to draw Peter back from erasure. Pass the sick bag.

Love was, unsurprisingly, the primarily focus of this hour. It would have made a great Valentine's Day episode! Olivia (Anna Torv) realized she's fallen in love with Peter; Walter's (John Noble) love for his son ran deeper after learning Peter was heeding his advice to leave Olivia alone (proving he's the bigger man); and Nina (Blair Brown) had to deal with Olivia's decision to embrace her memories of Peter, even if it likely means she'll lose the memories integral to her relationship with Nina in the process. I need to mention the fantastic scene between Torv and Brown at a restaurant talking this through, with its parallels to people facing a future with Alzheimer's. Beautifully done by both actresses. I prefer season 4's Nina, too.

The episode's freak-of-the-week was also linked to love, with a burn victim (Michael Massee) trying to create the perfect love potion using pheromones extracted from the bodies of men he kills, in order to woo their grieving widows. It wasn't the best standalone story the show's done (not even this year) but the strong thematic link was appreciated and Massee's performance transcended his character's rote writing—although there was a great scene of him listening to "The Friends Of Mr Cairo" by Jon & Vangelis that single-handedly deepened his character. Plus it was a refreshing change to have a villain arrested and sent to jail, rather than be killed or commit suicide.

There was also a very unexpected callback to "The Arrival", Fringe's fourth ever episode, which also served as the debut for The Observer and that popular branch of the show's mythology. The mysterious, burrowing capsule from that old episode (which was never explained) made a very belatedly return here, after Peter tracked one down using an address The Observer left on his eye, shortly before being dragged away and imprisoned by his own kind. It turns out these capsules are "beacons" (that Observers use to triangulate entry points in Space-Time?), meaning "September" could return after Peter successfully activated one.

Overall, I really enjoyed "A Short Story About Love" and particularly what it means for the rest of the season, now that Peter's had confirmation he's truly home and he's won Olivia's heart again. I wonder if Agent Lee (Seth Gabel) is going to let his jealousy get the better of him and sabotage things between them; or is that too out-of-character for him? It should also be interesting to see what The Observers do about September, now the genie's been released from his lamp and is back to full health. Are we headed towards some kind of Observer mutiny, with September leading the revolt with help from the Bishops?

A strong episode, I thought. Do you agree?


  • Always worth mentioning when Michael Massee makes an appearance in anything. You may recognise him from 24 (as season 1 villain Ira Gaines), Lucius Belyajovin in Carnivale, Dyson Frost in FlashForward, and many others.
written by J.H Wyman & Graham Roland / directed by J.H Wyman / 23 March 2012 / Fox