I was in the minority about last week’s episode, “Everything In Its Right Place.” While many thought it was the best episode of the season, providing a propulsive force for what may possibly be the series’ final episodes, I thought it was ham-fisted, steeped in cliché, and devoid of sensible plot progression. But now, after watching “The Consultant,” I can say that I’m feeling a bit of what everyone else was feeling last week. This week’s installment of Fringe was the kind of episode needed to kick the season into high gear.
Here’s one thing that Fringe’s writers should remember: universe-hopping is always a good thing. It has turned episodes that were otherwise plot-hole-ridden messes into enjoyable viewing experiences. And when it happens in an episode with a sound foundation, like this one, then it’s even better. To be fair, “The Consultant” did have its fair share of plot-related issues. David Robert Jones, a known fugitive, was just walking around in public with no attempt to disguise himself. Plus, even if the general public weren’t aware, wouldn’t Broyles’ wife know that Jones is a fugitive? Also, Over There, it apparently takes only ten minutes to get from Downtown Manhatan to Liberty Island. I’m just going to assume that Lincoln and Alt-Olivia got there via magical hovercraft. That being said, there was nothing as egregious as Our Fringe team crossing over using the very device that created the rift between the universes in the first place, so I wasn’t too irritated. Fringe has always had issues with plotting. Some weeks, it’s merely a minor annoyance. Some weeks, it makes me want throw rocks at baby unicorns. This week was an example of the former.
Universe-hopping not only delivers interesting cases like this one; it also gives the opportunity for previously unexplored combinations of characters to play off each other. Walter going Over There provided plenty of humour, but it also gave us some terrific scenes with Alt-Olivia and Alt-Broyles. It makes sense that Alt-Olivia would have to be resolute in public and only allow herself to get emotional in private or in the company of a relative stranger, and seeing her open up to Walter’s kind heart was a joy to watch. On the other hand, the story behind Alt-Broyles’ treachery was about clichéd, badly written, and emotionally manipulative as a story can get, but the scenes between him and Walter still worked because they reminded us of a much better-written tragedy: that of the loss of Walter’s son.
No, “The Consultant” didn’t really “fix” anything, per se. The ongoing plot about David Robert Jones’ machinations is still disastrously nonsensical. Now we know that he wants to collapse the universes, which makes no fucking sense because he would die in the process! But that doesn’t matter so much to me anymore, because I’m past the point of caring if Fringe makes sense at all. As long as Jones keeps finding new ways to wreak cross-universe havoc, we’ll get exciting cases like this one that require both Fringe Divisions to work together. Some might argue that making the two Fringe Divisions too friendly with each other runs the danger of turning the entire show into a giant Kum-ba-yah session. That’s a valid concern, but I don’t think we’re near that point yet. Plus, I’m of the belief that there’s just as much rich character material to be mined in friendship as in animosity. As long both Fringe Divisions are facing some enemy, there’s some entertainment to be had. Jones is unfortunately an enemy that hasn’t done anything that makes sense, but in some episodes, especially this one, the repercussions that stem from his actions can be a delight to watch.