In last week’s quick post about “Over There, Part 1” I said that it would be difficult to throw out judgments about the first hour until I’d seen the second. Now having experienced both efforts, I’m surprised to say that the first hour was certainly more effective in terms of expanding the mythology, while the second provided us some nice character moments without really accomplishing much for the larger story. So all together, “Over There” was a nice combination of both elements, but still somehow lacked a little from both sides. If that makes any sense.
If you think about it, what did we really learn in “Part 2?” There were a few nuggets and beats along the way, but none of them provided us with overwhelmingly important answers. Peter figured out what we already knew in that Walternate wanted to us him to power the machine that would “destroy” the universe-1, but there was no clear indication of what exactly it would do or why Walternate really wanted to do it. Hell, we didn’t even get to see the damn thing power up. Additionally, we were told why William Bell removed Walter’s memories way back when — because Walter asked him to — and that the alt-Belly died in a car crash, but those were far from revolutionary either.
And really, that was it.
Thus, after providing answers a fairly steady rate since the tail-end of last season, this is the first time the writers have subverted expectations in a sense and withheld things in a more Lost-ian way. That’s intriguing because I would imagine most people would say that while Fringe better at providing answers, the characters could be more fleshed out amid a sea of procedural episodes and mythological mystery. For me, the brake-bump to develop a few character beats in the second half of a finale is far from a bad thing. I will be interested to see how the fans who have praised Fringe all season for said approach react to this one because the writers are obviously setting up season three to be way more gung-ho than even things looked to be coming into this season.
On the other hand, “Over There, Part 2” provided a number of fantastic character-centric sequences that felt organic, honest and heartfelt. Really the centerpiece of the episode occurred early on when the action cut back and forth between two conversations: Walter and William Bell and Olivia and, well, Olivia.
Let’s start with the lady(ies) first. I think most people would agree that Olivia has been pushed to the back-burner throughout season two while the Bishop men (rightfully) have taken their place at the foreground of the story. And that doesn’t even consider how her character was mostly boring and bland throughout season one. However, I think the extended conversation between both Olivias not only illuminated us with information about alt-Olivia, but helped us feel something for the character we’ve spent the last 43 episodes with. Peter told alt-Olivia that Olivia-1 is always trying to overcompensate or stop something that isn’t there, she’s haunted by the things that she’s seen and Anna Torv really sold that side of Olivia-1 throughout this episode. While the other Olivia has never really had a sister, Olivia-1 has been missing her mother for a very long time. And now that she’s seen this red-headed Olivia with a somewhat steady romantic relationship and a lack of twistiness inside her, Olivia-1 finally realizes that she can’t ever get past the experiments, the job, her trader ex-flame, any of it without someone to share all that with — and that’s obviously Peter. Of course, that realization makes her current capture in world-2 by Walternate while alt-Olivia takes her place in world-1 that much worse.
The other conversation I mentioned between Walter and William was also very solid. It was something we have been waiting for since the pilot episode really and though it didn’t answer a whole lot of questions, it provided enough information for us to fill in the blanks on our own. Plus, John Noble and Leonard Nimoy made sure that every little line of dialogue was charged with intensity and history. I’m still partially disappointed that Nimoy ended up being Bell and then deciding that he wanted to retire from acting, because it feels like the character is going to end up being less important than originally thought on a grand scale. It’s confirmed here that he’s been using world-2 tech to improve life in world-1, but also make money for Massive Dynamic. He also fesses up to helping Walternate and the shape shifters, but just as a way to keep an eye on them. Okay, great — but what’s the overall goal? Is it just to stop Walternate from destroying the other universe? That’s fairly broad, and I hope (and assume) we’ll get more of that story, with or without Nimoy’s Bell around in the future.
In the end, Peter is convinced by Olivia’s heartfelt remarks and kiss to return back to world-1 and he seems to be on the road to forgiving Walter in some respects. Peter really didn’t have much to do in either hour of the finale, but Joshua Jackson sold his inner conflict about who he was and who really to trust very well. His line about having nowhere to belong was fantastic, and surely the series will play up Peter’s identity crisis more in the future. This is especially true given that Olivia is now trapped over there and Walternate is using Olivia-2 as a way to spy on events in world-1. Again, this isn’t a totally shocking development, but one that means things should ramp up fairly quickly in season three. And if the writers can catch up to their own mythology by continuing to build up the three main characters — and Astrid! — like they did here in the finale, I can’t imagine that season three would be anything but fantastic.