Hey Fringe, slow down! Jeepers creepers, part one of the Season 4 finale, "Brave New World: Part One," was a mouthful, starting out like a normal case-of-the-week episode before churning out one of the most heavy, action-packed, stakes be high-as-a-kite episodes the series has ever produced. And you'd have to be high as a kite to say everything was perfect, because as thrilling and entertaining as it was, there was something off about it that kept it from being great. But there's still an hour left in Season 4, and it's still one of the most anticipated hours of Fringe ever.
The case that got things going involved infecting former Lost actors with nanites, one of science-fiction's favorite theoretical sciences because the special effects required to visualize it are nil. Tiny robots were replicating inside people, and kinetic energy was heating up those teeny-tiny bots to the point where they'd make adorable little explosions that killed their hosts. Translation: If you move, you die.
But all that was just a device to put us on the trail of the episode's first huge-gantic jaw-dropper. Walter got a good look at the nanobots and saw that they were Chimeric in structure (I noticed that too)...and he knew only one man could have made them that way, and it wasn't David Robert Jones because DRJ is too stupid. It had to be the work of William Bell, Walter's old partner who "died" years ago. Moments later, the exaggeration of Bell's death was confirmed when DRJ met with Bell in a secret lair with a cool-ass chessboard that was perfect for heavy-handed metaphors. Seriously, I hate chess metaphors. Why not Candy Land or Chutes & Ladders? I gasped AND groaned when Bell said, "A bishop must be sacrificed." On one hand, the thought of Walter of Peter dying sucks, on the other hand, come on, Fringe, you can do better than that.
However, I have to hand it to the Fringe showrunners. It was just Wednesday that they dodged questions about Leonard Nimoy's future role in the series to the tune of "we're trying to get him back," so I wasn't expecting Bell to return so soon, if at all. And you know what? It was great to see Nimoy on-screen even though I'm convinced he's actually the animatronic Abraham Lincoln that escaped from Disneyland's Hall of Presidents. Plus, he makes a kick-ass enemy (if indeed he is an enemy). Good villains don't think they're villains, but believe they're doing something good. This could be the case with Bell, because I believed Nina when she said Bell would never do something as crazy as destroy two universes to create a third universe. Or maybe he has a God complex and really does want to press the reset button on life as we know it.
From there, "Brave New World: Part One" took off like a greyhound on a missile on a rocket, though the sting was taken off of Walter trying to prove that Bell was still alive by the fact that, you know, we'd just seen that he was still alive. Sometimes the audience knowing things that the characters don't know works, sometimes it doesn't. This was one of those "doesn't" situations, though there was so much more going on that I'm just nitpicking.
One of the coolest things going on was Olivia's transformation from plain old FBI agent to The Human Thermostat and a Super Xbox Kinect Controller. She cooled off Jessica to save her life just by holding her hand and concentrating, and she remotely controlled Peter to kick the snot out of David Robert Jones (embarrassing for Peter that his girlfriend had to save his life like that). Her Cortexiphan was kicking into high gear, allowing her to become the super subject that Bell and Walter had always hoped she would be. There's some weird stuff going on between Bell and Olivia. Obviously Bell was triggering her hidden powers, probably with that literal bell he used to ring, but why? If last year was Peter's time to step up and fulfill his destiny, it looks like this year is the Year of the Olive.
One thing the episode relied a bit too much on was the hooey science that Fringe sometimes asks us to accept without question. Bell's plan of bouncing around sunbeams to concentrate them into a single ray of super light, which may have just been a really complicated distraction to set a trap for Olivia and Peter, was a bit much, and Walter's regenerative lemon cake with pig-brain center and Cortexiphan frosting was a lot much. I'm sure there was a more believable way to get to Bell than regenerating biological matter on St. Claire's visitor log and tracking down the oils left from almonds back to the importer that Bell frequently purchased almonds from decades ago and discovering that not only was the importer still there, but in the same place where Bell's super plan to create a third universe full of porcupine men was being hatched. The guy's nuts about his nuts, I guess. Wacky stuff. Read this paragraph over again if you aren't convinced. Yes, that's what happened.
Then came the moment where we hung on to dear life by our fingertips as the floor dropped out from beneath us. Walter and Astrid headed to A-1 Imports to see if Bell had been there, but instead they walked right into Bell's headquarters. Those crates holding the porcu-people that were on the boat from a few episodes ago were there, as were a bunch of guys carrying guns. Either these were the best almonds in the world and they needed heavy security, or these guys WEREN'T SELLING ALMONDS! It was the latter, Astrid discovered, so she did some kung fu (yes!) on the guys and ran off with Walter, dodging bullets shot by those men with guns who just so happened to be really, really bad shots. Like HORRIBLE shots. But it was still plainly obvious that something bad was going to happen. ASTRID GOT SHOT, and every Fringe fan who doesn't have a heart as black as night screamed. I would rather see a real-life person die than see Astrid, a character on a TV show, die (only sort of kidding). Nooooo!!! Whyyyyyyyy!?!?! However, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say she makes it. The old saying about Fringe? This is Fringe, no one REALLY dies. Except Charlie. And Other Broyles. And Other Lincoln. And that dwarf in the subway whose head exploded. And half the population of New England.
So that's what happened in "Brave New World: Part One." Again, it wasn't perfect, but hoo-boy did it move at a sizzling pace and deliver major developments! I'm going to wait until the second half to make a final judgment (you don't review only the first half of a movie, right?), but so far it's a thrilling, if far-fetched ending.
Notes from the Other Side
– What was up that orderly's ass at St. Claire's, antagonizing Walter like that? Someone needs to shove a nanobot suppository up his ass and throw him in a microwave.
– St. Claire's may have dickish janitors or whatever, but it also has some SEXY administrators! Hubba hubba! Who is that filly? I'd like to dig through her records and write my name in her visitor log if you know what I mean. What? That's John Noble's real-life daughter
Stephanie Samantha? Ummm. Sorry, Mr. Noble. What I meant to say is that she's very lovely. (Thanks for the correction, SalKhayer)
– I'm not one of those people who is going to complain about product placement. In fact I find it kind of amusing in Fringe. I kept waiting for that pay-by-phone Sprint feature to amount to something more, but nope, it was just that. Fine by me if it helped Fringe stay on the air.
– Peter and Olivia had a great in-bed moment while apartment hunting. Olivia is getting baby crazy! She wants a nursery. Though later, she acted a bit hesitant after wondering if they could lead normal lives. I'll answer that for you, Olivia: Remember those porcupine people, the telepathic mold, the giant slug parasites, the alternate universe, and every other case you've worked on? No, you cannot lead a normal life. But make a baby anyway, the universes depend on it.
– I'm a little confused about DRJ's death. First, that was a pretty weak way to go out for a master villain. I guess with Bell now the uber-villain, we can just let DRJ go? Second: How did he die, exactly? He got punched, then shocked, then half his face fell off? So was there some weird connection to the other timeline when he was cut in half trying to cross over that caused him to lose part of his head here? I wanted a better send-off for him.
– Billy Idol's "Eyes Without a Face" as muzak actually sounds pretty good.
– Walter: "So peace out!" Too awesome.