Here’s my review for episode 1.19 “The Road Not Taken”, looking at the good and the bad:
- Astrid out of the Lab. The character is still under-developed but this is progress and that’s all we can ask for. It was great to see her join the gang for a change of scenery. If I recall correctly this is only the third time we have seen her out of that dusty laboratory (the other two occasions being the FBI offices after Walter stabbed her in the neck, and during the pigeon GPS thing from “Power Hungry”). This latest venture was a positive step in the right direction.
- Dense with mythology. That’s the way I like it. I’d rather have to engage my brain during an episode of Fringe than have characters that I don’t care about. Mythology is often the glue between episodes, and indeed, seasons. Dissolve that glue with too many episodic episodes and it creates a disconnect. A bit more of a serialized effort wouldn’t exactly hurt, in my opinion. More of the same, please!
- Harris death by fire! Need I say more? He was an arrogant, sexual assaulting sorry excuse for a douche. To be fair to the actor, a distinction should be made between not liking the character and not liking the portrayal of that character. Michael Gaston did a pretty decent job at making the character dislikeable. Harris was clearly designed to be a contemptuous character and the payoff was satisfying. Just a shame it wasn’t Olivia who sent him to the oven.
- The Harris reveal. It wasn’t completely surprising to me because I did question his true association from the moment he arrived. But it was nicely done — making him part of the central conflict made him entirely more interesting.
- Walter getting Astrid’s name right for the first time! Not only that, but it happened at such a pivotal time when many of us were probably distracted by the Observer’s arrival in the Lab. I don’t think they could have chosen a better moment for Walter to finally call her by her first name – shame she wasn’t there to hear it.
- The Chapter of Ethics. The missing chapter may re-contextualize the original intention of the ZFT manuscript. I think this is a clever move from the writers – not only will it make us reevaluate the manifesto, but also those who interpret it. This could be important when we’re finally able to work out who to root for. After all, when all is said and done, ethics is one of the few areas in which to accurately judge scientific exploration.
- The Observer. When he came to whisk Walter away – that, was awesome. He’s such a gentleman that he even took his hat off. It’s just a shame the Fox marketing peeps had to include his arrival in the Lab in their trailer. Seriously people, make things a bit more suspenseful for me please.
- Nina. It’s no secret that she’s my favourite character, I just love how she’s written and the way she is portrayed by Blair Brown. There’s something so cheeky about her personality, yet she has that iron fist that scares the hell outta me. I love that she keeps world Presidents waiting and walks with a swagger when facing a confrontation. Then there’s her vulnerable side – she was wary as she entered the lift – that was good to see because it humanises her character a little bit. I mean, if she’s fearful then the other side (and I don’t necessarily mean the Observers) must be pretty fearsome. I do hope she’s OK though – those were tranquilizer darts and not bullets, right? Hmm..similar to the kind Olivia was hit with in “Safe”, I wonder? Oh Jones, tell me you didn’t!?
- Olivia the question machine. It’s always bothered me that Olivia can discover that she was Cortexiphaned as a child and realise that her life and her memories are not what she thought, and yet fail to confront Walter with questions. This is no doubt due to the episodic nature of the show, rather than a lack of tenacity on Olivia’s part. It was pleasing therefore, to see her apply some pressure on Walter in the cafe. What I particularly loved, was seeing Torv display a myriad of emotions whilst doing this – pity, anger, disgust, confusion – each of these emotions being perfectly believable on their own, but even more meaningful together, given the nature of the situation and the relationship she has with the delicate man who she does care about.
- Momentum. This episode really gave me the feeling that we’re building towards something big. Sure, we had to endure some contrivances along the way, but all of the pieces are beginning to fall into place and this was a crucial episode in contextualizing so many of the intricate touchstones that have been mapped out.
- I really like Peter and I adore the way his present made his old man’s face light up. Brilliant moment when Astrid said he’s just like his father - maybe he has found his calling after all? BUT..and there had to be a but. The timing of the project was utterly contrived. Don’t get me wrong, I know that the Universe is guiding our Fringies, just as the clues are guiding those of us who are interested in finding them. But to make Peter’s project come into play on one of the few fringe-science moments that it could possibly have any use is a bit too convenient. I don’t have too many problems with the idea of retrieving audio from an impression on a molten glass, after all, stranger things have happened and I’m so far down the frickin’ rabbit-hole. But sometimes the coincidences in the show are a bit too forced. All that said, they have been building up to Peter’s project for a few episodes now, so it’s not totally out of the blue.
- The other problem, and it’s something I fear they will always have to suffer, is the fact that so many of their experiments and gadgets could be used to glean information in previous or future cases, and yet they are not. To their credit, we’ve seen the tank and the halo whipped out on more than one occasion, and that’s fine in the context of the show as it makes things more realistic (after all, if a piece of tech works, you’d probably use it more than once). But in future episodes if Peter’s project isn’t used to glean some information in a similar way as it was in this episode, then it will seem like the characters are either forgetful or can’t be bothered to reach back into their treasure trove of solutions.
- Peter’s insistence that there was only one copy of the ZFT manifesto (the one they got from Bookstore fellow in “Ability”). I find Peter’s logic to be extremely short-sighted. It took them all of 3 minutes to find that first copy from Malkin. Seriously, they hardly broke sweat to find that copy. The law of averages would suggest that with a bit of application they could easily find another copy – couldn’t they just go to another of Peter’s underling’s – they seem to have one of everything! Peter being so certain that there was only one copy took me out of the show a little bit. It’s true that for all we know they could have had Astrid or Gene running searches for more copies since “Ability”, but they’ve given us no indication that they’ve been actively searching. I guess I have issues with Peter’s mindset – he’s so sure that an answer is “no” without due consideration. It’s like the “Midnight” episode when he thought that the paramedic dude wouldn’t want one of Walter’s home-made cookies. Guess what Peter, dude was hungry and he was grateful for that cookie.
- I know that Harris is a douche, but using his personal number as a contact for his ZFT buddies was a bit brainless. And then, answering the phone without some kind of code name? Totally stupid. THEN to make matters worse he receives a call from someone who hangs up (I assume that’s what Dunham did) and a few minutes later he trots off to to his lair without any concern that someone might be on to him. The only reprieve here is if he knew that Dunham was tailing him, but there’s nothing to suggest that he did. And frankly, I wouldn’t like to give him that much credit!
Observing The Observer
Although he was seen in Walter’s Lab at the end of proceedings, he also appeared in his normal ‘fleeting’ fashion when Nina showed Broyles her surveillance reports. I wanted to include this so that we can reference each ‘classic’ Observer appearance, and not just those flamboyant actual speaking scenes.
Walter “Hello Agent Dunham! Let me guess, you’re a Cornflakes girl. Am I correct?”
- Everyone flinched when Peter’s audio equipment picked up too much noise – except Walter. I wonder why…
- Susan Pratt had a wardrobe full of “grays and blacks” just like Nick Lane and Olivia. No surprise there, but I have to wonder whether the intention behind them ‘blending in’ is more a mindset than an actual strategy. If they were to wear bright colors it wouldn’t exactly make them identifiable as Cortexiphan kid’s now would it. I guess the point of this blending in is more to inform the viewers that at one point the potential soldiers were deactivated and let loose into the world, perhaps in a bid to hide them from those who seek to sabotage or use them for their own agenda. It’s also worth pointing out that whereas Lane clearly had some memory of these clothing instructions, Olivia had forgotten – so it’s probably a subconscious thing on her part. Although I find it interesting that she does retain some locked away memory of those instructions. What other childhood instructions does she subconsciously follow that play a part in her every day live, I wonder?
- Nina was in Washington DC at one point in this episode. She also received a very important phonecall. Moreover, wasn’t Harris oringally based in DC?
- This episode gave us further insight into the idea that Olivia is an all-in-one Cortexiphan Kid. Not only has she got telekinetic skills and excellent foresight, but on some level she’s a pretty adept empath (notice when she was able to glimpse her alternate path whenever she was really emotional, similar to how Nick Lane’s ability works), and we have ‘evidence’ that as a youngster she had a tendency to start fires (ala the Twins). No wonder Jones has so much faith in her — when it matters, when push comes to shove..Olivia can get the job done. She’s an Arsenal of Cortexifunk.
- Notice the blue hue whenever Olivia interacted with her alternate reality – we’ve been noticing blue lights since the very first episode. Could this tie-in somehow? I’ve long said that the blue lights are either indicators of observation from another reality, or signs of ‘travel’ between worlds. Of course it should be noted that the creators would need some way of allowing viewers to distinguish between ‘realities’, so the blue filter may just be one way of doing that. It’s also worth pointing out that some fans have noticed similar blue flashes in JJ’s Star Trek Movie.
- I’m off to have a bowl of Berry Boom.
Overall, a very good episode and a nice way to lead us in to the season finale. For me, it didn’t quite have the resonance or gloss of previous heavy-hitting episodes, but it was littered with outstanding moments of real significance, particularly towards the end.