I haven’t been able to write about the last few week’s of Fringe due to some traveling and odd scheduling matters and I’m actually glad about that since the season seems to be transitioning into a place that I’m not fully ready to embrace yet. I have no problem admitting that I really want Peter and Olivia to be together and for the majority of the season, I was fully happy with how the writers were tinkering and toying with their relationship. I was in no hurry for them to be together and I thought moments like their conversation in “Marionette” was probably one of my two or three favorite moments of the season. It seemed as if the writers had figured out how to balance their relationship with the series’ larger narrative concerns.
But the last few weeks, including last night’s episodes, “6B,” I’m not so sure. I have no problem with full episodes being built around Peter and Olivia’s relationship or finding out that Fauxlivia is actually pregnant with Peter’s child. Yes, it’s soap opera-y, but only in the abstract definition. Most sci-fi series use soap elements, what is important is the actual execution of those elements. Up until the last few episodes, Olivia/Peter/Fauxlivia had worked as well as something like Sawyer and Juliet on Lost. The last few weeks? More like Sawyer, Kate and Jack on Lost. A series like Fringe should be able to work in love, relationships, etc, and for the most part, the series’ writers have gotten it right.
In the last two “over here” episodes, “Concentrate and Ask Again” and last night’s “6B,” they haven’t done so well. Relationships like this become “soapy” when they’re repetitive, and that’s the sort of problems the last two episodes have run into. Olivia and Peter’s conversation in “Marionette” was fantastic, but ever since, they’ve more or less danced around the same beats about how Olivia thinks Peter still has feelings for Fauxlivia and he tries to tell her that he only does because he thought it was her, or some variation on that framework. And they’ve had this conversation multiple times an episode, which makes it even more frustrating and eventually, annoying.
It seems like the writers were trying a little too hard to keep them from being happy for even in a moment or two. This made sense after “Marionette,” but after Olivia started to warm back up to Peter, the stupid things in “Concentrate and Ask Again” happened. And this week, she starts to warm to him again, but then she sees him glowing. Because we have the knowledge of Fauxlivia’s pregnancy and know that this relationship is going to be blown up fairly soon anyway, it’s fairly frustrating to watch them continuously get it wrong in the present as well. I feel as if the two of them should probably have a few happy moments before the pregnancy bomb drops and thankfully by the end of this episode, it looks like we’re going to get that.
And perhaps what is more problematic with “6B”is how this episode tries really, really hard to make us realize everything is about Peter and Olivia or Peter and Fauxlivia, even when the case is in progress. I enjoyed the sequences with the older woman because it felt like the script really tried to make us care about her with all the details of her marriage, but by the time Walter figured out that quantum entanglement was the reason for the possible universe-breaking fissure and Peter was giving the woman a speech about love and all that, it was just too on-the-nose for me. Fringe works the best when it lets Peter and Olivia have their little moments in between the insanity of their daily lives, not when it makes the insanity of their daily lives all about their relationship.
Even more troubling is both what this episode could mean and what I saw in the teaser for next week’s episode. The last few episodes haven’t been shy in the fact that they’re setting up the device endgame to be fully hinged on what Olivia Peter decides to be with and that’s a very, very dangerous road to go down. I think Peter’s choice should be a big part of the narrative for the rest of the season and I understand tying it to easily digested stakes like star-crossed lovers, but it doesn’t feel like the Fringe we’ve grown to love over the past two and a half seasons. Now we know that if Peter does have stronger feelings for Fauxlivia, he could presumably bring on the vortex without even messing with the machine. Ugh.
Similarly, it looks as if next week’s episode is all about how Peter and Olivia actually met when they were children and their relationship might be all pre-ordained destiny and let me tell you, that pisses me off to no end. I have no idea why people think it’s always so romantic or impressive when characters are “meant to be,” but it’s just a cheap way to raise the stakes in a false way. Peter and Olivia’s relationship has been so well-developed up until these last few episodes that I think everyone in the audience is invested in their future together just fine. We don’t need to see that this is part of some larger plan. We already care. It’s just stupid and cheap and annoying. I can’t believe how frustrated I am with the series right now.
- Despite my apparent rage, I did like the two scenes where Peter and Olivia weren’t being mopey or worrisome. The one in the bar was really fun and Olivia bringing over alcohol and obviously trying to be more fun was cute.
- Thank god for Walter Bishop. His frustrations over the fact that the only good idea he could come up with to stop the universe-crippling vortex was amber, making him no better than Walternate, were so well-played by John Noble. Those are the kind of beats that dual universes allow you to explore and I hope that it continues.
- Nice little moment at the end of the episode in the other universe with Olivia and Lincoln. Seth Gabel is great, I want to meet his “over here” version.