This week’s episode of Fringe began with what was possibly the stupidest cold open in the show’s history, a badly-acted mess of tragic clichés, capped off with an awkward, wordy speech and a death so predictable that it made me scoff with laughter. So, “Making Angels” didn’t exactly make a great first impression, which might have coloured my opinions about the rest of the episode. Thankfully, the rest of the episode was astronomically better than the cold open, but it still felt like kind of a mess.
“Making Angels” was the first Astrid-centric episode since season 2’s “Snakehead,” which aired at a time before we’d met everyone’s doubles in the alternate universe. But now, “Making Angels” was able to take advantage of the Other Side, giving us a long-awaited meeting between Our Astrid and her doppelganger (known to some as BadAsstrid). Most of the characters have met their alternate-universe counterparts through confrontation, and as a result, have somewhat of an adversarial relationship with them. By contrast, the two Astrids have no beef with each other, and I was interested to see how they’d respond to each other. Unfortunately, their meeting didn’t really amount to much. We were unceremoniously informed that Alt-Astrid’s dad had died recently and she had Crossed Over, then we had a few overwrought, anvilicious scenes where she wondered if her father would have loved her more if she had been different (it paralleled the case, geddit?), and then Our Astrid assured Alt-Astrid that none of it was her fault; Our Astrid claimed that she wasn’t too close to her father, and that he didn’t show really show affection. (Which is the exact opposite of what we saw when Our Astrid got home, meaning that either the director was completely tone-deaf or Our Astrid was lying. I’m leaning towards the latter, but the directing was bad enough in spots that there’s a slight possibility it could be the former.) None of this was egregiously awful in execution, but it all felt kind of clunky.
In fact, “kind of clunky” more or less describes this entire episode. I can’t recall who was behind the camera this week, but the directing was a little “off,” for lack of a better word. There were too many distracting, unnecessary stylistic flourishes, such as the close-up shot of the gin bottle that one of the victims was purchasing. Moreover, the editing for this episode was a little “off” too. “Making Angels” seemed sloppily cut, as if too much had been removed from the first half while leaving a lot of dead space in the second.
The plotting this week also left something to be desired. There were too many moments this week when I was shaking my head at the contrivances needed to make the case work. I didn’t believe, not even for a second, that Alt-Astrid would be the only one smart enough to figure out that all three victims had dealt with the same TSA employee. I also didn’t believe that Neil would be able to escape the airport and evade the FBI; even if Peter and Olivia would be prohibited from passing through security, couldn’t the FBI order the airport to be put on lockdown? As for the atomizer being left behind in Neil’s safe, there’s no way that the FBI wouldn’t have combed the entire house, and there’s no way they’d just let his mother sleep there; it was the site of a freakin’ FBI investigation!
What I did appreciate about this episode – aside from the delightful subplot about Our Walter beginning to take a liking to Alt-Olivia – was that the case had some interesting concepts at its core. The euthanasia debate takes on a whole new dimension when the ability to see the future is added to the mix. “Making Angels,” like most other episodes of Fringe, didn’t pick a side, but merely asked audiences to consider, “Is it right to act on behalf of others if the future is known with certainty?”
Overall, now that I’ve more or less scrubbed the memory of the laughable cold open from my brain, I think that “Making Angels” was a mixed bag. However, I liked the concepts behind it enough that it entertained me. Fringe might be B-grade sci-fi now, but at least it’s entertaining B-grade sci-fi.