Fringe is in a confusing position at the moment. From what I can glean, the Olivia in the new timeline (a.k.a. Amberlivia) is becoming the Olivia in the old timeline (a.k.a. Ourlivia), because Ourlivia’s memories are becoming Amberlivia’s memories, and Amberlivia is forgetting her own memories. This might be due to Nina dosing Amberlivia with Cortexiphan, but it might also be due to some as yet unexplained scientific phenomenon. Moreover, Nina might not be the Nina we think she is. In fact, she might be Alt-Nina, or she could even be a Shapeshifter. Whatever the case, there’s a version of Nina who is now tied up in a dark room with Amberlivia-cum-Ourlivia, and she’s probably not the same Nina who dosed Amberlivia with Cortexiphan, but she too could be an alternate version of Nina, or maybe even a Shapeshifter. And Amberlivia-cum-Ourlivia may or may not be experiencing migraines, which may or may not be linked to becoming Ourlivia, and/or which may or may not be linked to being dosed with Cortexiphan. Though I might get a migraine myself from trying, I’ll attempt to make sense of it all after the jump.
I’ve been enjoying Fringe a lot more since I’ve stopped thinking, “What interesting piece of character development or mythology are we going to receive this week?” and started thinking, “What crazy shit are they going to pull now?” Let’s face it: Amberlivia becoming Ourlivia belongs firmly in the realm of “crazy shit.” Applying logic to the increasingly convoluted plot of Fringe, where any character can transform into another at the drop of a hat, is a fool’s errand.
Now, don’t get me wrong: “A Better Human Being” was a very fun episode of Fringe. In fact, it might have brought me the most pure enjoyment of any episode this season thus far. But I’m also aware that it’s an episode that would fall apart under further scrutiny. The case was paper-thin, cobbled together as an excuse to get Amberlivia into a mental hospital so that she could recall Ourlivia’s memories, and the episode didn’t spend enough time on it. However, I found the concept behind the case very compelling. To my knowledge, Fringe hasn’t really tackled eugenics before, and it’s a topic that the show could stand to revisit again with a more substantial case. Anyway, I liked how Fringe approached the issue here. Rather than treating the doctor’s creations as freaks, “A Better Human Being” portrayed them as people who were so desperate to lead a normal life that they would rid the world of anyone who knew of their genetic powers. These weren’t people who showed off their superior genetic makeup; the hubris lay entirely with the doctor for creating them from his own genes.
I also appreciated how “A Better Human Being” drew Shawn, the man who was hearing the voices, as a sympathetic character. The reassurances he received from Astrid were heartwarming to watch, and it’s nice to see that the show is expanding Astrid’s role beyond just being Walter’s lab assistant.
The main focus of the episode, however, was the Olivia/Peter relationship and how it has been affected by Amberlivia turning into Ourlivia. This is probably the eighty-third version of Olivia that Anna Torv has had to play, and though some of her performances near the start of the season were a little wonky, she completely nailed this one. It was a little creepy to see her constantly smiling, but I think the idea was that the audience was supposed to feel Peter’s discomfort, and with good reason: as Peter said, we’ve seen this before. We’ve seen what happened when Peter struck up a relationship with Fauxlivia. We’ve seen the hurt and the betrayal. What happens if Amberlivia-cum-Ourlivia is not his Olivia?
That being said, I think that Fringe is done personality-swapping for now. (Or maybe I’m just projecting my naïve hopes onto the show.) It seems as if rather than going home, Peter has brought his home to him. The show is trying to tell us that home isn’t a place, but rather something you build. It has taken us most of a season and a hell of a lot of confusion to get here, but Fringe is finally making progress towards building that home.
Other random thoughts:
- Walter was talking to a mental patient who thought he was “circling Venus.” Tee hee!
- The writers don’t have a damn clue what to do with Lincoln. Our Lincoln has all the personality of a floor tile. It makes me miss Charlie from season 1. His mentor-student relationship with Olivia was far from superfluous.
- Where the hell did Walter get all those bees from? Honestly, I wouldn’t put it past him to keep a beehive in the back of his lab.
- The last minute or so was a giant WTF? moment for me. How the hell did Olivia’s kidnappers know that she was at a gas station? And where the hell did they take her?
- I haven’t been a fan of Joshua Jackson in the past, especially in the first couple of seasons, but damn, he really brought it this week, showing how conflicted Peter was about starting (or resuming, depending on how you look at it) a relationship with Olivia.
- If you didn’t immediately guess that Walter was going to drink one of the vials of faux-Cortexiphan, then you haven’t been watching this show long enough.
Overall, a very enjoyable, if slightly nonsensical, episode of Fringe. Do you like where this seems to be heading? Or are you even more confused than I am? Feel free to sound off in the comments.