Episode Title: "Reciprocity"
Writer: Josh Singer
Director: Jeannot Szwarc
Previously on "Fringe":
FBI Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) was trapped in an alternate universe and replaced by her double, (referred to from here on as Fauxlivia). After Olivia’s escape, she broke off her potential romantic relationship with Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) because he had unknowingly become intimate with Fauxlivia.
More recently, The Observer (Michael Cerveris) returned and set up an elaborate test to see if Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) would be willing to let his son die to serve the greater good. Walter’s own life may have been saved when he did, when Peter wound up drinking a serum that nearly killed him and would definitely have had a harsher effect on Walter. But The Observer was more interested in the change to Walter’s character and said to his partner that Walter will be willing to risk Peter’s life again in the future…
Olivia, Walter, Peter and Agent Broyles (Lance Reddick) arrive at a Massive Dynamic facility, where Nina Sharp (Blair Brown) shows them the nearly completed Doomsday device. Although their leading scientists can’t figure out how the device is powered or even how to turn it on, the machine hums to life when Peter gets near it. At the same time, Peter’s nose starts to bleed and tells the assembled group that his presence triggered it. That night, Peter sneaks into his home very late and tells Walter that he had actually been in his room the entire time. The next day, someone comes across a murdered shapeshifter.
Continuing his quest to regain his full intellect, Walter has Nina provide him with three possible (blanks) which can regrow his missing brain matter. He quickly takes one of the unlabeled samples without even identifying if it was meant for humans. He eventually discovers that it was meant was meant for primates and begins displaying chimp-like behavior. Later, the Fringe team is summoned to investigate the shapeshifters’ body and they recognize that it was using the appearance of a man whose name was on Fauxlivia’s computer files. Their theory is that Walternate (the evil Walter from the other Universe) sent over a mole to tie up his loose ends.
Fauxlivia’s files actually contain several diary like references to Peter, which Broyles initially keeps from both Peter and Olivia. But eventually Olivia dives into the files to get some insight into her alternate self and who the other targets may be. One of the other shapeshifters appears across the city and attempts to take the form of a homeless man, only to be gunned down by the killer… none other than Peter himself. Around the same time, Walter realizes that Peter has been keeping something from him and investigates his room. He finds that Peter has tracked and eliminated all of the remaining shapeshifters except one.
When Peter catches up to the last shapeshifter, it’s ready for him and quickly gets the upper hand. Only a timely arrival from Walter saves Peter, who kills the final shapeshifter. Olivia cracks the code from Fauxlivia’s files and identifies the last shapeshifter herself, with the Bishops escaping only moments before she and the rest of the FBI arrive. Later, when the Fringe team reconvenes, Walter does not betray his son’s secret. But he later shares his concern that his son has been "weaponized" by the doomsday device. An almost emotionless Peter asks Walter what they should do, but Walter admits that he has no idea.
I have to admit, I’m getting a little concerned about "Fringe." The show is still good and it says a lot about how great this season has been when a good episode qualifies as a disappointment.
But this was a disappointing episode and also one of the weaker installments of the current season. In baseball terms, I’m concerned about my home run hitter giving me singles when what we need are more home runs. "Fringe" definitely feels like it’s lost a lot of momentum since the Red and Blue Universe episodes stopped a while back. It’s like the wall that every season of "24" hit near the middle, as the story just kind of treaded water for a few hours before eventually getting back on track. That’s what this feels like.
The reveal that Peter was the one behind the death of the shapeshifters was a great twist, but part of the punch came out of it because of Jackson’s intentionally cold performance. He brings a menacing side to Peter’s character fairly easily and there were even a few moments when it seemed like he might hurt Walter to keep his secret. However, the lack of a payoff in this episode felt like a cheat. I wanted to see the truth come out now instead of being dragged on for multiple episodes. I loved the Fauxlivia storyline and I felt that was wrapped up too quickly. Now my complaint is essentially a reversal of my previous stance. But Fauxlivia was definitely the more interesting of the two storylines.
In terms of comedy, I loved Walter’s emerging primate characteristics like his banana cravings and his display of dominance over Astrid. John Noble is just an actor’s actor. He can be really funny, but his serious moments still carry weight. And Walter does get a lot of the more ominous scenes, from his discovery of Peter’s secret to his silent stare near the end when he keeps his mouth shut instead of warning Olivia about Peter’s changes. I liked the way the camera just lingered on Noble’s face for that shot.
After last week’s episode seemed to get Peter and Olivia a little too chummy again, this week’s show felt a little bit more natural in their interactions. I liked that Olivia is more or less over the idea that Peter slept with her alternate self. Peter’s fear was that his Olivia would read Fauxlivia’s diary and agree with her counterpart that he was a fool for being conned so easily. And that was actually very relatable. The most surprising thing out of that situation may be that Fauxlivia seems to have actually fallen for Peter. For her, it stopped being an act at some point.
Before I forget, I have to mention something that Sax Carr, my partner on The Idiot Box podcast pointed out in our latest episode: It makes no sense for the characters to believe that Walternate was having his shapeshifters killed. Those are assets in the field and when their identities are compromised, they can literally TURN INTO OTHER PEOPLE. And amazingly, no one brought that up on the show.
Regardless, I still really enjoyed the episode. I just hope that the Friday audience keeps coming back. I want "Fringe" to go on for a long time to come.
Crave Online Rating: 7.5 out of 10.