Fringe, “Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?”

Although I find “Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?” to be the weakest of Fringe‘s opening four episodes of season three, it still provides an intriguing look into the psyches of the title characters and furthers the confusing situation Fauxlivia currently finds herself in.

Since the shapeshifters were introduced into the series in the season two premiere, they’ve been just as enigmatic as the Observers in the fact that we know little about them, what their real mission is and how they came to be. We’ve seen them in action only a few times and most of our contact with them has come through the Newton character (who has been a real treat to-date).

Thus, while “Sheep” doesn’t gives us too many answers about the shapeshifters, it does serve as a nice exploration of how these beings tick and how they relate to one another when not trying to kill the Bishops and Olivia. In that sense, though it’s not as good or as informative, we can look at this episode as serving a similar purpose that “August” did for the Observers.

Unsurprisingly, like the Observers, the shapeshifters over in Earth-1 aren’t all murderous, blood-thirsty killers. Well, they are, but when they’re not being given an assignment, they are infiltrating major positions within government or posing as police offers with families. It sure seems like some of the shifters are just going about their business, living fairly normal lives that have led to them growing some sort of connection with their human families. And they are so good at their jobs that even Broyles can’t believe it when he discovers that one of his old friends is a shifter and seemingly has been one for a very long time.

Meanwhile, when things go haywire with the execution of that shifter, Newton activates another one to finish the job, but this “guy” can’t really bring himself to follow mission protocol, which involves shifting again and killing his “family” to cover his tracks. He disobeys Newton and takes care of the other shifter without changing himself, and well, it’s probably not a good thing to disobey Newton.

Like I said, the episode doesn’t provide a whole lot of information on the shifters, but we now know that they just don’t kill and they can get personally attached to targets, covers, etc. I’m not sure if that means some of them have officially turned against Newton and the cause (whatever that may be), but now the story is opened up for something like that. “Sheep” also divulges some technical information about the shapeshifters in that they have a separate brain or hard drive down on their spines and one way to kill them is to give them some sort of Listerine Breathstrip thing that includes a chip which someone destroys their systems and spurts the mercury. Baby steps, but definitely nice layers to the mythology.

As expected, this episode also explores Fauxlivia’s growing struggles to protect her cover around a bunch of smart people, mostly notably Peter. Newton, who seems a little annoyed that he has to take orders from this newcomer anyway, consistently belittles Fauxlivia throughout the hour by telling her she can’t handle it and at some point her inner goodness and integrity will cause her to slip up and reveal the truth.

This discussion is an important one because it emphasizes that although Fauxlivia is an impostor who is surely a part of Walternate’s evil master-plan, she’s probably still a good person. I mean, she’s Olivia, just a different version of her. Therefore, by making sure to remind us of this fact, the series almost forces us to feel sorry for Fauxlivia’s struggle with the mission, or at worst, have complicated feelings towards the whole thing. This entire plot wouldn’t be as effective if Fauxlivia was completely evil. Thankfully, the series has made a big effort in keeping her a complicated threat that might end up being something of an ally in the end.

And although she cleans up two messes by episode’s end in helping Newton kill himself and proving him wrong posthumously by crossing the line of intimacy in having sex with Peter, Fauxlivia’s battle is not over. Peter’s a smart guy, he’s already picked up on the fact that she’s almost a totally different person. Sex can surely only cover that up for so long. But the real question is can she even take it for too much longer? Are we headed towards a place where two Olivia’s are fighting for Peter’s love?

Unfortunately, Fringe is off for three weeks because of FOX’s baseball coverage, but boy is it off to a strong start. I’ll definitely miss it.

Couple of other things:

  • I’m actually sad Newton is dead, I really started to like him as an antagonist. Just like Jared Haris’ David Robert Jones, he’s gone much too soon.
  • I have to admit, I didn’t care for Walter in the Massive Dynamic lab. I missed the Harvard basement and Jean almost immediately. I’m sure this is all leading somewhere great for Walter as a character, but back to the lab!

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