There is a scary truth we all need to face even though we don't want to hear it: Fringe might only have four episodes of left...forever. And that point was driven home in "The Consultant," Friday's great episode. We've been through a lot this season, seemingly more so than in others. Much of it was spent figuring out where Peter was, where he belonged, and which Olivia he should be going home to. There have also been hints of a shapeshifter war on one or both universes as maestro'd by David Robert Jones, but only now do we have a clear sense of an endgame: DRJ wants to collapse both universes like empty soda cans. I'd say that's a pretty universal problem that all Olivias, Astrids, and Walters can get behind to stop.
One thing that made "The Consultant" work so well was the way it unfolded, moving from a (relatively) simple case to the exposure of Broyles as the mole to the episode's bombshell ending. There was a lot to cover, and it was all done without feeling patchwork in any way, and that's a product of the build-up that's taken place over the last several episodes.
But let's start with the episode's case. In our universe, a jerk boss found himself tossed in the air just as he was Trumping an employee, but the wounds that killed him didn't match what'd happened. Soon Walter figured out that the guy's death was linked to the other universe, and sure enough, a quick text to the Other Side confirmed his man's injuries, along with the injuries of a few other people, were consistent with injuries that occurred to their counterparts in the other universe. Basically, what affected these folks in the other universe (a plane crash) also affected their doppelgangers in our universe. The needle on our implication meters bounced so hard that it broke the darned thing.
Later, a similar event took place in reverse; a woman traveling via taxi in our universe plunged over the guardrail of a bridge into a river, and her counterpart on the Other Side drowned while shopping in a pet store. As if being gouged by the price of gourmet dog (or domesticated badger) food wasn't enough.
Both instances were orchestrated by DRJ, who's created devices that can auto-tune the frequencies of a nearby area to match those of the other universe so that the effects of what happens in one universe also exist in the other. The reach of the devices isn't yet clear; in this week's cases they were attached to a plane and a cab, and only those vehicles were affected. But holy moley! That's a pretty nifty way to increase efficiency if you're planning on killing two universes. David Robert Jones may be a bastard of epic proportions, but at least he knows how to save time.
We've known for some time that DRJ had a mole in the other universe's Fringe Division, and that Colonel Broyles was somehow in his employ. What we didn't know was whether Broyles was a shapeshifter or not, and that answer has now become clear. Broyles isn't a shapeshifter, he's just another dad trying to help his kid. DRJ has been supplying Broyles with medication for his son in exchange for Broyles tipping DRJ off so he can stay a step ahead of the Fringe Division. It's pretty standard television storytelling, the ol' "bad guy keeping someone's loved one alive so he can have that someone in his back pocket" trick, but things went off the rails at the end of the episode when Broyles turned himself in. If you ask me, that's pretty hardcore. Broyles' kid was just getting a taste of the popular life at school, and I never thought Broyles would do anything to jeopardize his son's good fortune. We all know it's wrong to keep one kid alive while the rest of the world suffers, but we've been conditioned by television to think that parents' love for their children is insurmountable, and that they'll do awful things to protect them. But not so with Colonel Broyles, who said, "Sorry, kid!" and turned himself in. Good work, Broyles...even if your kid gets picked last in kickball, then I'd say it's a good trade. Hook Walter up with a phat joint and some Peruvian psych-rock on vinyl and he'll whip up a concoction that will be even better than what DRJ was giving you. There's no need to jump in bed with the enemy's pharmacy when you have top scientists at your disposal.
Also of interest was Alt-livia's fiery drive to catch the persons responsible for Captain Lincoln's death. The Other Side has always been looking for a strong central character, and an Alt-livia motivated by revenge is just what it needed. In partnering her with our Lincoln, the writers have established a greater connection that's transformed the Other Side from "cool gimmick" to "essential element of the show." And that's going to be more and more important as the two sides work together.
"The Consultant" was a grand set-up for what's likely going to be Fringe's end. It seamlessly jumped from universe to universe, answered lingering questions, and most importantly, established an endpoint. Next week is the season's "weird episode," but after that it's going to be a three-episode bullet train to the end.
Notes From the Other Side
– It was great to see Walter get back in on the action and take on a role of importance. But ever since he accepted Peter there's been a lack of gravitas on his part. I love seeing Walter walk around in a robe and make eggs, but there's been such a focus on his lightness that he's almost become a caricature of what he used to be.
– We have now seen a fifth version of Olivia. Alcoholivia!
– How adorable are the two Astrids together? They should totally be BFFs.
– There wasn't a mention of the fate of the black cab driver. But a white woman drowns and a multi-universe search party is dispatched!
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom