Welcome to our Fringe review for chapter 3.17 – “Stowaway”.
In this review we provide completely honest opinions on the good and the bad aspects of the episode. We identify the answers that were provided and the mysteries that remain locked away. We take an in-depth look at other aspects of the episode that made an impression on us, before rounding off with our final thoughts and episode rating.
- Seriability baby. Fringe has embraced greater serialization over the course of the last year or so, but I sometimes find myself wanting more bleed-through – for events to pick up from where they left off previously. This episode pretty much did just that, setting the tone and facilitating a level of continuity befitting the show’s DNA.
- The themes of fate, destiny, freewill and the soul have always held great weight in this story. I really enjoyed the way these notions were further explored. It felt both natural and meaningful, adding value to the main story arc.
- It’s a Team Thing. Not a weak link in the chain. Stowaway was highly engaging because of its story, but also due to the teamwork displayed by our heroes. I enjoyed the way they put their heads together, eliminating the mysteries to find the answer.
- Bellivia. The William Bell impression was not perfect, but I found it to be an enjoyable performance. You have to allow for some ‘disconnect’ from the real thing, but for the most part I felt Bellie’s presence in this episode.
- New Blood. I enjoyed Over Here Lincoln’s contribution. He could so easily have been a weak Linc, instead he brought an interesting vibe to proceedings and gave Peter someone to shake hands with.
- Dana Gray’s story was interesting in its own right.
- Good pacing.
- Not Sharp Enough. I found the absence of Nina to be a bit strange. Surely she would be with Bellie in the immediate aftermath of his return? I guess those new cup cakes at Massive Dynamic wont sell themselves? Sure, I’ll buy that Bellivia and Nina reconnected ‘off-screen’, but a dash of Blair Brown wouldn’t have hurt.
- Gloss Over. I expected the team to have more questions for Bellie, particularly Walter. He’s happy to have his friend back, but let’s not forget everything that went before. And I still feel that the “soul magnets” could use a touch more grounding, even in a post Subject 13 world. I also thought Bellie took his return into a physical body rather easily. No consequences?
- Two words: Decoder Key. I was hoping we’d get to the information on the shapeshifters memory disks since it was a big issue in the previous episode. I appreciate that not every story element can be squeezed into 43 minutes, but a perceived lack of continuity or natural progression will be noticed. To be fair, the episode did a fairly good job at masking it.
- Lack of Urgency. I continue to have trouble with the Fringe Team waiting for signs of decay to fall into their lap instead of actively pursuing the problem, particularly now that Bellie’s back. It’s somewhat masked by the continued relevance of fate and the way it seems to dictate the ebb and flow of events, but even so there’s a level of disconnect because their inertness.
- Fate or Freewill?
- What’s going on with Olivia and her momentary return? What is Bellie’s end game? What will he do now that he’s hit a road block?
- As speculated, Bellivia confirms that he gave Olivia the soul magnets in the cup of tea she drank while in his office on the other side.
- The soul magnets drew Bellie’s consciousness into Olivia’s body after his physical body died.
- Olivia’s consciousness is essentially asleep.
- Bellivia says that Olivia’s brain can accommodate his consciousness for several weeks before she suffers any negative consequences.
- Dana was unable to die because her molecules were bound extremely tightly; they were super-charged due to being struck by lightening twice. Rendering her soul trapped inside her physical body.
- Dana tried to go the afterlife by stowing away on the souls of the recently dead. In the end she tried to increase her chances by killing a group of people.
- Olivia’s consciousness seems to be aware of her cohabitation with William Bell.
- I guess I better start this by un-RIPing William Bell. Clearly dead isn’t always dead on Fringe. Maybe I’ll give it back to him if and when he bites the dust again. MAYBE.
- It was always going to be interesting to see how this episode opened up. It was good to see Peter and Broyles’ reaction to ‘Bellivia’. They care. I was also grateful to discover that Olivia is OK. She’s essentially been put to sleep and “is perfectly safe”, according to Bellivia. Like Peter and Broyles, I have problems with Bellie violating Olivia..again.
- That being said it’s interesting how the cycles continue to repeat themselves in new waves. Bellie manifesting his dreams, his ambitions through the girl he re-created. She may be the “strongest of all the children” but there are questions to be asked about Bellie’s ethics.
- To hear him say “this is exactly as I planned it” didn’t fill me with a great deal of confidence, but the timing of his return does lend itself to Bellie’s awareness of the workings of certain things coming to pass.
- I appreciate Bellivia making the distinction between physical existence and the consciousness. The natural comparison is the relationship between a computer and software – the latter being the consciousness, the “ghost in the machine”, if you will. Concepts we’ve discussed a great deal over the past few years, but Fringe actually has the fortitude to explore these notions in ways that are relevant to the main story.
- Bellivia quips that he “never realised that a bra was so binding”. Good to see the old fella on such good form, though I’m sure it’s not his first time wearing a bra.
- Loved Peter’s reaction to hearing that Olivia might not be back for a while:
“A WEEK!? No chance! I’m NOT going THAT long without sexin’ Mylivia!”
- I loved Broyles even more for demanding to know when he’d get his agent back. In case you don’t know, he’s in the business of looking after all his agents – especially Olivia. That said, he did the right thing by ignoring Peter and giving Walter 48 hours to find a suitable host. Bellivia calling him “young man”? Priceless!
- Bellie chimes:
“If I were to leave Olivia’s consciousness now I would die. Don’t you think my life deserves an extended lap?”
- I find it fascinating that a soul who’s essentially getting a second chance at life believes he “deserves” to remain “alive”. Why does he believe he deserves it?
- Much like the question of whether shapeshifters dream of electric sheep, I find this equally intoxicating. I wonder whether Bellie has a certain obsession with immortality? Is it ego, or does he truly believe that his role in this grand game has more essential hands to play?
- It’s probably a bit of both, but it does somewhat diminish his so-called redemption at the gates of reality in “Over There”. A possible retcon, maybe, but it’s about perspective. I can find value in the notion that, for Bellie, his ‘sacrifice’ was merely a necessary hand that he needed to play. He basically died so he could level-up, and there’s some interesting ingredients in that.
- Peter is very interesting in this episode. I was glad that someone was more concerned about Olivia than anything else. But there was another underlying context – the return of Bellie resurfaced the question of fate, in particular his future with the Boom-Boom-Machine (BBM). I don’t question his desire to keep Olivia safe, but just as interesting was his re-encounter with these anxieties.
- The rooftop scene with Dana Gray was one of the best ‘case-of-the-week intros’ that Fringe has done. Atmospheric and mystery-filled. I thought that Paula Malcomson was poorly used on The Event, but she was excellent here. Perfectly cast as this mysterious woman who couldn’t die. I loved the fact that we’re asked to piece together her story from these words of ambiguity:
Jim: “That was fast”
Dana: “You said I didn’t have much time, Jim”
Jim: “You didn’t. You don’t. You were right, it’s gonna rain. There is hope in raindrops, isn’t that what you say? What does that even mean?”
Dana: “It means..that every drop of rain, holds the promise of regrowth, each has a purpose, even if they don’t know it. I think, we can feel that way. That we don’t have a purpose. But we do.”
- I quickly found myself intrigued by Dana’s story. I like that Jim is asking her questions even though he’s on the brink of killing himself – it gives the sense that he’s not beyond being talked out of it. I also find it interesting that Dana’s story about the raindrops is essentially the framework for her own purpose.
- The problem was she didn’t really believe in what she was saying. She was giving people hope but she was so frustrated about her inability to die that she had lost hope herself. What hope she had left was purely in reuniting with her family in the great beyond.
- The scene were Dana crawls from the wreckage – wonderful. It almost carried a tinge of comedy, but it held firm.
- Bellie suggests that maybe Peter is fated to power the BBM. Peter reminds us that he doesn’t believe in fate. Of course, Peter is big on choice, on finding ‘another way’. And when that fails, he finds value in the notion of hope – as underlined in “6955kHz“.
- Peter’s belief in freewill is very much rooted in his past, growing from those seeds that his adopted mom planted in his head. Seeds that cultivated a culture of imagination and dreams. Perhaps also fueling his ideology is his desire to be a “better man” than his father, not to mention holding on to what has with Olivia.
- Bellie, meanwhile, seems to accept the notion of fate:
“I’ve lived a long time, Peter. So believe me when I tell you, that sometimes when one walks away from his fate, it leads one directly to fate’s doorstep.”
- This speaks of the cyclical nature of events, the entanglement that Peter is caught up in. While freewill is a player in this story, the question is also whether certain events are laid out for a reason by a controlling force. It’s certainly interesting that Bellie is planting these seeds in Peter’s mind.
- I guess Bellie is also talking from experience about fate’s doorstep. I’d like to hear more on his own perspective.
- I found it a bit strange that Walter should think Dana’s falling was a possible sign of decay, given that she got up and walked away. That said, I liked the fact that Bellivia instantly knew what he was thinking, and that Walter’s fear of his world crumbling around him is still on his mind.
- Bellivia says he’s “surprised it’s taken this long”. That’s an intriguing nugget. What led Bellie to think it would happen sooner? And what, if anything, prevented the decay from happening Over Here sooner? Why has nature taken so long to seek direct balance in that regard? Could our own characters ‘reflective’ mindsets have anything to do with it now that they’ve reached a specific point?
- Yikes, Peter can barely bare to look at Belliva, such is his angst.
- It’s strange to see an ‘outside agent’ brought in on an investigation. Under different circumstances I’d say it was a touch contrived, but we’re working under the premise of entanglement, so it makes more sense.
- Lincoln seeing the Lab for the first time was very funny indeed. “This is the place where the mysteries of the universe get answered” Oh Peter, you’re a grower.
- Was it just me, or did Walter do his best Walternate impression when talking about Dana’s molecules being held together? “An unusually strong electromagnetic bond”. Reminds me of Walternate’s amber, which in turn reminds me of Walternate’s resolve.
- Walter says that the attraction [between her molecules] was almost unbreakable. I imagine that’s also a reference to the level of entanglement between the two universes, as well as the notion of fate. Can it be broken?
- LOL at Astrid being creeped out by Bellivia. To be fair, he did cross the line and I could see him getting worse.
- Dana’s boss said that she had an uncanny way of dealing with those feeling helpless. Was she good at her job because she needed to be to fulfill her ‘death quest’, or because fate attuned her that way to fulfill its broader purpose?
- Brian tells Dana that she didn’t convince him to let her help, that in actual fact he was pulling the strings – he wanted her to come so he could tell her about the bomb. Another nod towards the notion of fate masked as freewill.
- He says that he doesn’t like his purpose and tells her about the location of the bomb before he kills himself:
“Like Azrael, let his angels carry my damsel to heaven”
- Causing Dana to miss her hopeful jump to heaven, but providing her with the symbolism of Azrael which in turn led her to some interesting symbolism.
- I don’t agree with Dana’s attempt to get to heaven by using the combined deaths of the people on the train, but you can see how her warped mind would have associated her situation to Azrael’s:
“The Ascension of Azrael. It’s about a sinner named Azrael, whose soul was condemned to purgatory, after years of watching him suffer, the angels asked God to let Azrael free, but God ignored them. So to angels went down to purgatory and lifted Azrael up to heaven. When God asked why they did this, the angels said Azrael had suffered enough, and the combined innocence of the angels souls outweighed Azrael’s sins. Finally God agreed, and Azrael’s soul was welcomed into heaven.”
- Bellie actually suggested transferring his consciousness into poor old gene, huh? Now is probably a good time to mention that Walter’s lack of concern for Olivia was rather disappointing, for me personally. I’m sure he cares but I wanted to see more from him in that regard.
- Peter’s past has parallels with Dana’s situation. She tried to kill herself to be with her family. Peter experienced something similar when he almost killed himself as a child (although not intentionally) to get back to his real family. And there’s also the fighting fate situation they were both faced with.
- It was good to see Peter tell Dana that she did have a choice. Though again, it raises the question as to whether some things are inevitable. While Peter clearly believes in the notion of freewill, it’s possible that this is in part driven by fear – his own anxiety of being responsible for the destruction of a universe or two. It must be a huge weight on his shoulders, and I think it’s interesting to see him battle with these demons.
- Dana describes her situation as an “impossible comic joke”. It must be hard to have hope in such circumstances. Though even if she did have hope, it seems that her fate would have remained the same. So in this context, hope is merely a mindset – it’s the choice within the framework of fate.
- So what’s the message here? Is it about letting go, not being control? Would this have brought Dana more happiness or peace? How does this inform Peter’s situation? Should he enjoy his time with Olivia while he can and let fate do its thing, or should he actively try to fight the future in order to change it?
- If there’s one thing I do like about Peter it’s his optimism.
- Great to see Walter and Bellivia working together solving problems and finishing each others sentences.
- Their solution nudges Dana out of the train and onto an open field where she tells God: “I don’t understand”. She is unable to see that her purpose in perma-life was to save all those people from the very bomb that she’s holding.
- Be it the work of a benevolent creator or the intricity of entanglement, it seems that someone, something, didn’t want those people to die. But is that perspective too narrow? It should also be considered that Dana both influenced and was influenced by the Fringe Team. This web could be larger than them all.
- I often talk about how events appear to manifest themselves as reflections and solutions to our heroes problems. The same could be said here with Dana’s trapped soul serving as a ‘convenient’ mirror for the return of William Bell’s consciousness.
- I just think that perhaps Dana’s dance with fate (even the very idea of it) puts down somewhat of a marker for our team, particularly in regards to Peter’s role with the BBM. Will these events influence Peter in any way? Will they open his mind to a higher order, one that seeks to impinge, or control, this fearless architect? It’s hard to say, but if ever a case mirrored anxieties, it’s this one.
- Sad to see Dana die, but that’s tinged by the fact that she wanted to die and the fact that her motives weren’t altruistic. She may have mostly targeted those who also wanted to die, or those seemingly fated to die, but ultimately she didn’t have good intentions in her heart.
- Interesting, though, how her perspective on fate was actually turned upside down. She believed those people on the train were bound to die, yet her ‘choice’, influenced by the ‘choices’ of the Fringe Team, averted the passengers so-called fate and granted Dana her death, which is implied to be the intention. So how much can fate be trusted? Again, I point to the possibility that fate and freewill can both, at varying times, be illusions.
- Lincoln signs out by telling Peter to give him a call if they ever need help. Peter continues his fine run of great lines by telling him to “be careful what you wish for”. That lends itself to wish-fulfilment being a major component of the story.
- Peter’s absolutely right, people should be careful what they wish for – especially in this heightened reality where the subconscious mind can creep up on them and manifest deep-rooted desires and fears into being. In other words, choose your wishes carefully.
- And what are wishes but energy. And we know all about energy, don’t we Bellie?
- For a horrible moment I thought Peter was sneaking home from killing another batch of shapeshifters.
- I don’t think Peter was too appreciative of Walter allowing Bellie to stay the night. Poor guy, just when he gets himself some good lovin’ something happens to take it away.
- For a brief second, Bellivia looked like Olivia again. The expression was softer and the voice smoother.
- If I were Peter, I wouldn’t be too quick to accept tea from Bellie - not after he put soul magnets inside Olivia. Indeed, if Bellie were really ambitious he might want to hijack Peter’s mainframe and grant himself access to the BBM. But this is Bellie we’re talking about, we can trust him! Right?
- Bellivia says that the energy in the bomb reset the electromagnetic charge in Dana’s body, enabling her to die permanently. But then he says that it might be about something different altogether:
Bellivia: “What if, Peter. This isn’t about biology, or physics. What if, what we witnessed was the very reason Dana Gray couldn’t die? Because, she needed to be here to save those people’s lives”
Peter: “You think it was here destiny?”
Bellivia: “Well, destiny. Fate. Jung called it synchronicity. The interconnectedness of apparently unrelated events. Don’t you think it’s curious that we meet a woman who is unable to die at the exact moment my consciousness seemingly returns from the grave? As a scientist, I like to believe that nothing just happens, that every event has some meaning, some sort of message. You just have to be able to listen closely enough to hear it.”
[A bell rings in the distance]
Peter: “It’s a church bell. So tell me, what’s the meaning?”
Olivia Returns!: “Petah…”
Petah: “Olivia, is that you!?”
Bellivia Returns!: “Oh noes..”
Peter: “What the hell just happened right there?”
Bellivia: “I think I may have been wrong. This might be a little more complicated than I first thought!”
- What to make of this? It seems that Bellie was trying to transfer over to Peter (what with all that tea around). As I speculated above, he might want access to the BBM. To his surprise the entry didn’t work – possibly because Olivia is fighting back, or because he is bound too tightly to her.
From time-to-time I come across an episode that takes me by surprise. Stowaway is one such episode. It’s not that I didn’t think it would be good, it’s that I wasn’t expecting it to engage me in quite the way it did.
Best Performer: Anna Torv.
Best Line: “Welcome to the Fringe Division. Every answer you get just leads you to more questions” – Peter to Lincoln.
Best Moment: End scene with Bellivia and Peter discussing fate/Olivia’s brief return.
Episode Rating: 8.5/10