Every episode of Fringe thrills and delights me, in just the way that great writing, tight plots, and fantastic characters can do. But watching last night’s episode, “Reciprocity,” I couldn’t shake the uncomfortable feeling that something was just slightly off with my show. At first I thought it might be awkward writing, or a jarring transition from last week’s slower paced, albeit fabulous, episode. But I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was that was bothering me, which of course only served to bother me further. So I watched it again. And again. And I should have figured it out sooner. But it wasn’t until that third rewatch that I realized: the minute we see that machine on screen, it begins sending waves of dissonance throughout our story, throwing everything off kilter. Like Walter’s says at the episode’s end, the machine’s affect is reciprocal; it touches and changes those that touch it. Certainly this makes for a chilling and uncomfortable episode. But given the plot for this week, wow is it effective.
Fringe writers, you should know that I never doubt you for long.
It’s interesting that the story of Peter’s little jaunt over to the dark side was shown alongside the slow healing of Olivia and Peter’s relationship. Frankly it’s happening faster than I thought it would (which rather makes me worry, see above re: uncomfortable!). Still, I couldn’t help but enjoy the moments we had between them. When Olivia shows up at Massive Dynamic just as Peter’s tests are about to start the look on his face is just… Josh Jackson has always done wonders with showing so much of Peter’s feelings in the smallest of reactions—it was unmistakeable how happy and hopeful he felt to see her there. And when Olivia asks for his forgiveness (and it doesn’t take a genius to see who was really being forgiven there), both of their faces lighting up as she says that “we can get past it,” who can’t help but root for them? But it is a startling leap forward from Olivia’s heartbroken confession of a month ago, and I’m not exactly naïve enough to believe that that everything will be resolved so simply quite yet. Especially with that little curveball thrown at us of Peter’s new machine induced shapeshifter-killing hobby: can’t exactly see that working out well at building trust in relationships.
The more I watch this episode the more I enjoy it despite the discomforts. I love Astrid and Broyles playing co-conspirators as they try to protect Olivia and Peter’s relationship from the other Olivia’s files. I love the funny relationship between Nina and Walter—played with a sort of exasperated incredulity from Nina’s end, while she still holds him in great respect and regard thanks, I believe, in large part to his connection with William Bell. I loved when Olivia finally did begin to go through the other Olivia’s files, she found a connection to the woman who—despite Walter’s new nickname—is not a fake Olivia, but every bit as much Olivia Dunham as ours is.
WALTER: It was a song lyric. Fauxlivia ruined U2 for all of us
Everything in this season so far has been rushing headlong toward a showdown between this world and the other side, and each episode makes me more and more excited to see it happen. What will happen now that Peter has taken the offensive against his father’s encroachments, and when are we to find out how much of his behaviour is motivated by his relationship with the machine and how much is his honest frustration at always being a step behind? What will the consequences be if Walter does manage to restore his brain function? And what will happen when our two Olivias meet again (because I trust that it will happen and it will be awesome) now that they have both lived each other’s lives?
Fringe always manages to leave me with more questions than answers, and the only thing I can trust—especially after the chilling ending to this episode—is that things are going to get much darker before they get better. But that thrill is still there after all, even if it is mixed up in both delight and fear, and so I for one will be on the edge of my seat each Friday, watching each and every thrill unfold before my eyes.