Fringe: Love Stinks

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Fringe S04E15: "A Short Story About Love"

Apologies for my tardiness; though Fox has been pretty good about pre-screening Fringe episodes to the press this season, Fox did not send out advance copies of last week's episode. And to top it off, my weekend was spent building a giant used-Kleenex monster with the help of my friend Mr. Flu. But I'm 10 percent better today, thanks for asking.

There are such things as happy endings that aren't necessarily satisfying endings, and that's what I got from Friday's episode of Fringe. "A Short Story About Love" examined the L-word (not THAT L-word) on multiple planes, and proved that love does indeed conquer all. Even scientific reasoning.

Fringe is a science-based show that requires its viewers to take more leaps of faith than a blind kangaroo, and the pay-offs are almost always worth it. But a lot of those leaps have to do with the science-y gobbledygook that attracted us to the show in the first place; Fringe has also succeeded in being emotionally powerful on a character level, and maybe it's because I trend geek, but when the show asks us to take those jumps based on feelings, I'm a little more hesitant to spring forward.

Last week month, Peter mind-melded with September, who said (and I'm paraphrasing), "I'm a super scientist from the fuuuuture! One of several possible fuuutures because universes split and there are all kinds of outcomes and it's really complicated, but trust me, I'm scientist! I've seen the Big Bang! I've witnessed Benjamin Franklin harness electricity! I've seen all kinds of crazy science things! Science rules!" And Friday's "A Short Story About Love," September said, "I have no scientific explanation. People love you so much that I can't erase you no matter how hard I scrub." Perhaps instead of being a scientist from the future, September should have been the author of those "Love Is..." comics from the future.

I accept that Peter was in his timeline all along and that this Olivia is HIS Olivia so-to-speak, because theoretically speaking it's just memories and experiences that differentiate this world from the world we knew. I can't stress how fully on-board I am with Peter and Olivia (the correct Olivia, be it this one or some other one in the ether) building a white picket fence together, and seeing Peter and Olivia do that spin-and-hug-and-kiss thing at the end of the episode warmed my icy interior. But am I wrong to have hoped for a little more of a scientific explanation? That's always been Fringe's double-edged sword—integrating the emotional with the scientific—and to the show's credit, it's done a wonderful job most of the time. However, the ending lacked a bit of the impact (and sexy time) that Olivia walking Peter upstairs did last season. As great as it was to see, it just sort of happened because a bald stranger gave Peter his blessing (as opposed to Peter and Olivia actually doing anything to achieve it).

I think there's more to this story than we know right now, because things are never this simple on Fringe and there are still seven episodes left in the season. Whether the September who told Peter that he's already home turns out to be a clichéd hologram or Lincoln and his longing love-glares come between Peter and Olivia, it'd be foolish to assume that it's smooth sailing for Peter and Olivia from here on out.

Meanwhile in the case-of-the-week, a killer in bad need of some moisturizer was stalking couples, killing off the dudes, turning them into jerky and extracting the dudes' essences, using the essences as pheromones (pheromones again? Already?) to make moves on the widows, and then killing the ladies when they didn't fall in love with him. Pretty gross stuff. There wasn't a ton of meat to this story and we never learned much about the killer himself. What happened to his face? What happened to his wife? What's his background and how did he learn to do what he does? And you know what they say about pet owners looking like their pets? Of course he had a pug.

I'm also having some difficulty tying his story into the Olivia-Peter story, as Fringe normally does so well. Was it supposed to parallel the idea that Peter is somehow subconsciously "willing" Olivia to like him and give us a hint that, like Mr. Pheromone, his attempt is doomed? Or was it just a love-themed case the writers shoehorned into what was really the selling point of the episode: Peter and Olivia's future?

Though it featured a huge development in the season's biggest story, "A Short Story About Love" was slightly lower in quality than previous episodes. But I get the feeling Peter and Olivia reuniting was a small victory en route to more obstacles.

Notes from the Other Side

– Do you buy Olivia's choice to not try to regain her old memories based on the idea that "It's better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all?" How emo is that?

– Can we talk about Lincoln? Poor guy has the hots for Olivia (who can blame him?) and has to stand to the side while this huge love story between her and Peter is written right in front of his face. We haven't seen a clear-cut confession that Lincoln writes "Mr. Lincoln Dunham" in his notebook with hearts around it, but it's painfully obvious. We need to find this guy another chick. Astrid!

– Bad News, friends. Fringe hit a low in the ratings on Friday. Not just a season low, a series low. As in it's never ever done worse. Only 2.9 million people watched, which was good for a 0.9 rating in the adult demo. The episode was up against the NCAA basketball tournament, and its long break and lack of reminders that it was returning this week didn't help. Rally the troops next week, kids! We're fighting for a fifth and final season!

– I think we need Walter to get back into the main part of the story. Right now he's practically a background character.

– Pugs: cute or not cute? (The only acceptable answer is cute, by the way.)

Follow writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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