Fringe Does Some Soul-Searching

Fringe has hit a crucial moment in its life. The last two episodes have been so important to the series, not because of what's happened with our Fringe team or close calls involving the near-destruction of our universe, but because it indicates a fundamental shift in tone for a show that was predominantly about science.

"Stowaway" dealt with issues of the soul, fate, and destiny and practically dropped a halo and a harp on us as well. But whether you like the addition of these timeworn concepts to your new-school science show shouldn't depend on whether you spend your Sundays hanging out at His house or looking at biology books, because so far, Fringe has tackled the subject of spirituality in ways that even a non-believer can enjoy.

I always have my reservations when sci-fi shows suddenly go metaphysical, but instead of rolling my eyes and muttering, "Here we go again," I've decided I'm on-board with Fringe doing it, at least for now. Though Walter and William Bell's explanations of souls and the like won't send evolutionists to their knees, they work for the purpose of the story. The writers' biggest task right now is to tap into science-minded viewers' brains and plant a little doubt, and with Walter and Bell holding our hand and feeding us simple explanations based in scientific theory, they're succeeding. I'm not going to change my day-to-day thinking because of Walter's discussion of magnetic forces, but I'll buy what he says while I'm watching Fringe.

And what better subject for a scientist to investigate than the existence of souls, the afterlife, or even God? I love the childlike enthusiasm Walter and Bell share for this journey. They're not trying to disprove anything one way or another, because they are true scientists. They raise a question and investigate it objectively, rather than obsessively setting out to prove something they think to be true or false. And that's how Fringe is approaching the whole soul question as well. It's not being preachy, it's being teachy.

But enough of me trying to explain why I don't hate Fringe's new religious undertones even though I normally would—let's talk about the episode. I'm assuming the biggest question on everyone's mind has to do with the Bell-Olivia body-sharing experiment. Not everyone is thrilled with Anna Torv's performance as Bellivia, but what's making it work for me is this: The show hasn't just injected her body with the soul of a man and mined it for "I have boobs!" jokes (aside from Bell's early recognition of Olivia's bra. Bell was around in the '70s, why doesn't he just burn that sucker and let those ladies free?) like a bad Ellen Barkin movie. Fringe has put a fully formed person inside of her. I LOVED Bellivia's crush on Astrid, that little detail goes a long way when fleshing out the new Bell. John Noble's performance as a man giddy with excitement at being reunited with an old best friend also helps the situation greatly. Given the disastrous results we've seen with body-swapping in movies and on TV, Fringe has pulled it off quite well.

This week's standalone story required some suspension of disbelief (due to the events surrounding the train and the FBI investigation happening in one day, Bellivia and Walter running some quick calculations to figure out which train the bomb was on, the fortuitous meeting between Dana and the man who planted the bomb), but it was paced fantastically and posed all the questions the episode wanted to ask. The resolution was great as well: Whether you believe Dana was finally able to die as a result of carrying out her fate to save the train passengers and because she'd suffered enough in the eyes of those above, or because it was frickin' bomb, the point is that you're thinking about it. And we're all better off when television makes us think.

Notes from the Other Side

... It's a good thing Bell took over Olivia; otherwise, she would have freaked out when she saw blue-universe Lincoln Lee (Seth Gabel). I'm hoping he comes back for more episodes in our universe.

... Paula Malcolmson (Deadwood, Sons of Anarchy), who played Dana, is great in everything she does.

... Bellivia's pervy advances on Astrid were awesome (milking the cow?), and Jasika Nicole played a creeped-out Astrid perfectly. Does this storyline make way for the Fringe porn parody?

... I know I said I liked the way the show executed the body-swap, but how much longer do we really want Bell in Olivia's body? Not much longer. I'm with Peter when he said, "Weeks?! Not a chance." Hopefully Fringe will find a good home for Bell next week. Early in the episode.

... PETER DON'T DRINK BELLIVIA'S TEA YOU IDIOT!


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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Seth Gabel was confirmed this week as a series regular for season 4.
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I think Olivia as William Bell is perfect! And it illustrated how much Walter needs a friend as not to be creepy.
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@Tur42, you make a lot of great points and your Abed icon is killer. Last year around this time, all the key plot movements were coming together and it resulted in a string of fantastic episodes. But instead of building the tension up to the finale over the last third of the season this year, they're taking too many detours and making the first people and the machine seem less important. This is clearly going to change with the last 4 or 5 episodes of the season but they took a little too much time slowing things down that they've lost momentum. This and the current Bellivia situation are probably my only issues with this otherwise incredible season.
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I never really mind elements like souls, destinies, afterlives, or god(s) pop up in shows I like, (Lost, Battlestar Galactica, Supernatural) if it doesn't come from out of nowhere. Fringe never really seemed to against those ideals, so it becoming a small part of the show itself isn't a problem with me, especially seeing as in Fringe's case, souls and destinies and all that stuff could be explained away in sciency ways because of the way the show is set up. Also, my hope is for Bell to actually settle in Gene, (the cow) only sort of able to speak because of lol science.
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I was really hoping the team would end up using Paula Malcolmson's body for Bells soul, considering the fact that she was almose un-killable. it would have made sense, and she's a really good actress... As for the episode itself - Once again I'm annoyed with Fringe. It's a little symbolic to me that what I consider to be the worst episode of the season also had the worst ratings ever for Fringe.... The story needs to get back on track, and focus on mysteries and arcs that we really care about! I don't care if you can transfer a soul after someone dies (Oh wait, I do care - I hate that idea.) What I care about is the universe decay, the war between universes, The First People, The Observers, The Shapeshifters (where did they all go??), Peter's research, the doomsday machine, and a million other things that I can't even remember at the moment. Fringe is becoming dangerously similar to Lost. And dont get me wrong, I LOVED Lost, but talk about same song and dance - you have a gazilion mysteries and great arcs, but you decide to shelf all of them so you can talk about souls, religion and destiny. Been there, done that, move on. if not for the viewers' sake, then at least for the shows sake - 1.3 is horrible, and it might have a bit more to do with the direction of the story than march madness..
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This episode added another dimension of awesomeness to Anna Torv's acting abilities! She has now played 3 different characters on the same show while still remaining "herself." **Also, regarding the religious overtones, I have always thought that Fringe has taken a very scientific approach to all of these things which, as an atheist, I totally respect and am ok with. Especially given that the characters themselves are not particularly religious. **Blue universe Lincoln is great. And, his mind is much more open than he thinks it is. At the beginning of his working with Peter and everyone he didn't quite know what to make of their work, since it is so unconventional, but by the end of the episode he was suggesting theories and working right alongside everyone. I think (and hope) he'll be back!
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Ok I'm back, I have to admit Fringe is taking its own approach to religious issues, but I'm not 100% digging it. Now if this is just one brush stroke in the painting of the mythos, I'll accept it (cuz it is a relevant issue after all). HOWEVER, if this becomes the predominant theme in the First People and parallel universe stories, I will barf. V dealt with souls, Lost with the afterlife, and Supernatural with souls and purgatory... I want something different from Fringe: the crazy weird science it has become known for. Azriel and such belong on a different show. Take heed Fringe writers, don't f**k this up!! Not now!!!
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This episode was amazing, and the stand-alone case was amazing too. Loved Bellivia's voice. It was funny but creepy at the same time. Wow, Lincoln in our world is so much different from the alternate Lincoln! It's like nerd vs. hotshot. Anyway, great episode and best show period.
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I want more Blue Lincoln Lee. I love how different he is from Red Lincoln.
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I'm generally not with the people who hate even the thought of a sci-fi show using the ideas of souls, destiny, and stuff like that, especially when it's done right (Battlestar Galactica/Caprica and Lost come to mind), but here, I am not so sure it works, especially with the explanation of destiny being why it worked. I also don't buy your "it's a bomb" theory, because even though her previous experiences weren't as bad, they still proved that she could survive a lot of things. Instead, I've come up with my own theory. In this episode, they stated the idea of her being a "soul vampire," who purposely sucked the souls out of her victims. Once they realized she wanted to die, this idea was kind of dropped, but my thinking is that the idea behind it (being close to people who die causing her to live longer) might have been true. She didn't die in the accident that killed her family because she was near them when they died. She didn't die when she was with any of the people who commited suicide. The thing is, she didn't quite figure out why she didn't die. And why should she? The whole situation seems so crazy, and she'd try to grasp at any straws she can, hence try to hitch a ride with other souls, even though that's the opposite of what she should have been doing. Once she was away from other people when she was in an experience that should have killed her, it did. As for the idea of the soul in the whole series, I'd say it depends on what they do with it in the future. It doesn't seem very Fringe-y, and so far they haven't really convinced me it's the right direction to take with the series. After all, the one case of soul experiements, Bell returning in Olivia's body, is one that I absolutely hate. I was excited at the end of the last episode, when it was just one line with him/her, but I couldn't stand watching any of the scenes with this new Bell. So much of it was just so silly that it destroyed the integrity of the episode. It's saying something when, until the ending with the bell, the best idea from the writers was putting Bell in the cow. I agree with you that the "I have boobs" direction wouldn't have been that great, but I'd almost prefer that over what they did in this episode. But more than that, I just want to see [i]why[/i] they felt the need to do this. In the last episode, I was excited to see Bell back, because I thought it would move the story forward, with his knowledge of the other universe, the destruction of that universe, Walter's brain, the weapon, etc. Given this show's puzzle format, I didn't exactly expect to get [i]all[/i] the answers from him so soon, but I expected there to be more to it than "Oh look, Bell's back and he's getting having fun with Walter and hitting on Astrid." Hopefully the next few episodes make me change my mind about the story, because, as much as I hated some of the love triangle stuff in the past (especially the "whoever he chooses will determine which universe is destroyed" idea and the baby), I've finally come to terms with that, and view this as the best season despite that part. If this keeps up, I'll definitely have to lower it on my season ranking, possibly to my least favorite season. Anyway, going back to the stand-alone story, I don't think it was quite as good as it could be, though it did have a few good moments, specifically once they figured out what her true intentions were. I also liked some of the references to Caprica (her name being Gray, and her being placed in the shoes of Amanda Graystone's daughter Zoe with the bomb on the train). I do think that Paula Malcolmson played the role well. But as a whole, I'd have to say that this is my least favorite episode of the season so far. Hopefully next week's will be better.
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Fringe needs to this bullcrap about soul and crap so the idiots from fox can give green light foe 3rd season.Explanation is so simple
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i love Fringe. it does not push aside religions for science althogether, and i am sorta religious person, so Fringe is really good at balancing the two!
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I'm slightly disturbed with the show moving into all this"soul and afterlife" stuff. It never ends well. Because that is a field there is no evidence for so everything has to be made up. The more they do this, the more they get tangled up in a web of questions which can't be answered. Even though so much is made up, ridiculous (like the guys becoming lighter than air because of some heavy elements. WUT?!) and doesn't make sense, as long as it sounds somewhat sciency (by Hollywood standards) I can live with it. But this "spiritual" stuff or whatever one wants to call it always ends up in a dead end. I hope the show takes a turn before they end up that far.
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I love Bellivia. I don't understand why everybody is bothered by the new metaphysic aspects. I mean, it's not even like they definitely tell us that it's all about fate. Just like in the end of last episode, they let the audience interpret for themselves.
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awesome ep
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Well, energy can't be created or destroyed, it can only be transformed into different types of energy. That in itself is the biggest empirical evidence for the afterlife that I can possibly think of and Walter acknowledged that so I was willing to accept it all. If they didn't have any sort of science edge to it and if it had played out like "William Bell has Jacob-like powers! Who cares why", I'd probably be frustrated. Overall it was a good episode but I have to agree that Bellivia needs to go asap, they can't keep this up for another full episode.
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Wasn't Olivia debriefed about he time on the other side? The name Lincoln Lee should have been familiar to Broyles.
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I'm pretty much taking the same approach as you Tim, but I would be lying if I said I'm crazy about Fringe's new-found religious zeal...
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hahaha YES.
As soon as I saw Peter drink the tea, I went "oh no, you dumbass...".
but i really do hope Bellie gets his own body. preferably leonard nimoy's body. it would totally be feasible for him to have made clones of himself and stored them in the basement of massive dynamic, right?
for a guy who's a friggin genius who managed to find a way to come back to life you'd think he'd have a body waiting for him...
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I love how Torv impersonates Nimoy, it's almost uncanny.
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i love the way Bellivia and Walt enjoy their company! and how Peter reacts when Olivia kinda comes through in the end... And me, for one, LOVE Ana Trov and think shes rocking all the characters theyve made her play.
I LOVE FRINGE!! hehe
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Fringe has never been about science. It's always been about what Hollywood thinks science is, which has as much to do with actual science as Charlie Sheen's rantings have to do with actual reality.



Unanswered question: How come she kept going back to the other universe when they sent her over here? They never bothered to explain why that would happen. She spent all that effort trying to find a way home, then they sent her home, and... she went back?
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Haven't they talked about God in the show before though. In White Tulip Walter wanted a sign from God.
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Fantastic episode. Loved Ana Torv's take on Nimoy. Some great dialogue and great character moments. One of the best and most interesting shows on TV. Let's hope it gets one more season.
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i'm a non-believer but i think the way fringe is handdling the metaphysical stuff is great! and i am loving anna torv as bell and i think over here's Lincoln is adorable!!
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Absolutely hate the religious under-tone the past couple episodes have had. Fringe is struggling to garner NEW viewers, the last thing they want to do is turn-off there die-hard viewers that they've had since season one. I'm nervous.
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This episode was absolutely fantastic!!!! Anna Torv is doing an amazing job as Bellivia, but I too want Bell to find another host so we can have Olive back. I agree that the aproach on religion and fate in this series is not preachy. They discuss this possibilities but they don't force them; they are theories not facts.
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Fringe fans! Don't worry about the Bellivia storyline if you do not enjoy it! It's a setup for the finale and Olivia will be back soon; she IS strong after all. More importantly, please watch LIVE on friday to support FRINGE during March Madness! We cannot risk low ratings so please tune in to give the series a season 4: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=137291516340511
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There are 3 things that always turn up in a sci-fi TV show: The time loop (already done), the memory wipe (not yet done) and the body swap (sort of done).
So far I'm on board with the soul magnets but you're right, I hope it doesn't go on for too much longer just because it did feel slightly odd not having Olivia around in some shape or form. I do wonder who they'll find to be the vessel and if it'll be someone we might've previously seen.
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Paula is a great actress but her character on Caprica was annoying to no end.
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Was anyone else thinking Caprica during this episode, when Paula Malcolmson was sitting on a crowded train with a bomb in her bag. Shades of what her "daughter" Zoe was accused of on that show.
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