Sunday, 6 May 2012

FRINGE, 4.21 – "Brave New World: Part 1"

Sunday, 6 May 2012

I enjoyed Part 1 as an hour's set-up and (almost literal) moving of chess pieces, but I'm glad Fox have renewed Fringe, because it's hard to imagine Part 2 being anything but unsatisfying as a would-be series finale. Strangely, there's still little indication we'll return to the future-world from "Letters Of Transit" (which feels more and more like a bizarre indulgence), unless next week's climax works as a dual setup for those events. I guess we'll have to see.

"Brave New World: Part 1" was in many ways a standard investigative episode of Fringe, told in a slightly garbled way, but enlivened by its connections to the four-year-long plot-arcs: such as the return of David Robert Jones (Jared Harris), but more importantly the reveal he's working for William Bell (Leonard Nimoy, the actor who keeps coming out of retirement for "one last job"). It's great to see Star Treklegend Nimoy back on the show, but more for his status in geek culture than anything else. Although I was initially confused about Bell's return because I thought he'd died, leading to those divisive season 3 episodes where Olivia (Anna Torv) was possessed by his croaky-voiced spirit. But this was, of course, the alternate-timeline's version of Bell, conspiring with the alternate-Jones? Confused yet? Unless you have Fringepedia bookmarked and regularly re-watch the box-sets, the answer's probably yes. (There are so many alternate-versions of characters wandering around you forget who's who and what's what.)

There were some excellent scenes that helped keep this episode rattling along, though; from the brilliant teaser (where a group of commuters "spontaneously combusted" after using an escalator tainted with nanites), to a fun-if-clichéd moment where Jones and Bell discussed their masterplan via a chess analogy (the second such moment for Harris post-Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows), and a lovely F/X shot of a reflected sunbeam destroying a high-rise building in Boston. That's how someone like Bell gets people's attention, forget unsigned letters.

But I was also disappointed by Jones' climactic moment and death scene, considering he's arguably Fringe's greatest nemesis. Harris is certainly the best guest-star they've ever had on the show. The magnificently slimy Jones deserved more than a rooftop tussle with a wounded Peter (Joshua Jackson), being physically-manipulated by Olivia. (Although Jones' disintegrating face after being electrocuted on an antenna was beautifully done). This episode also contained two significant examples of Olivia's super-powers quadrupling in strength: first by helping lower someone's body temperature by willing it to happen, then with the aforementioned scene where she seized control of her boyfriend's body from afar. (As a girlfriend, this talent will undoubtedly be very useful.) It's ludicrous stuff, to be sure, but Fringe is the master at making bullshit work on screen; as a scene where Walter used pig's brains and lemon cake to regenerate almond-smelling fingerprints on a scrap of paper can attest. I'm still shaking my head in bafflement over that one...

Overall, I had fun watching "Brave New World: Part 1", but like most two-parters a lot rests on how well the second half of this story wraps things up. I'd certainly like clarity with Bell's motivation, a better understanding of the logic behind collapsing two universes to create a third, and possibly something to make "Letters Of Transit" feel less like fan-fiction they arbitrarily chose to film. But my abiding thought is one of gratitude this show's coming back for a fifth season, because it's clear the writers need more time to give Fringe the send-off it deserves.


  • The imperilled Jessica Holt was played by actress Rebecca Mader, who should be familiar to fans of Lost, where she played Charlotte. Mader splits opinion as an actress, but I thought she did remarkably well here; crafting a character who felt more rounded than her negligible screen time should have allowed. It was just strange how that entire subplot with the nanites dissolved to nothing halfway through the episode.
  • Does anyone think Astrid will die from her gunshot wound? Might she become leverage for Bell to get "old friend" Walter to help him with something? The great thing about Fringe giving most characters counterparts is it means nobody's safe. Astrid really could die, and Jasika Nicole will simply continue playing her autistic counterpart next season. But I somehow doubt that will happen...
written by J.H Wyman, Jeff Pinkner & Akiva Goldsman / directed by Joe Chappelle / 4 May 2012 / Fox