Fringe Review: Olivia Dunham, Superhero!

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Well now. Was that the shortest hour of television in the history of television or did I somehow miss half of "Brave New World, Part 1?"

The last few episodes have all been quite similar in that respect. Before I have time to wrap my head around the enormity of what's happening, the credits roll! That's an incredible combination of my somewhat thick skull and the extraordinary craft that goes into making an episode of Fringe.

Blast to the Past

We were duped!
I  have to give credit to producers who can hold a press conference and successfully retain the big secrets. As a writer, I've come to trust Joel Wyman and Jeff Pinkner when they say something, so I didn't think twice during a recent Fringe interview when they said they had so far been unsuccessful in begging Leonard Nimoy to return to acting and had resorted to planting signs in his yard. A slight exaggeration, maybe.

But when a legend in his field retires, to come back is one hell of a nod the material being written for him.

William Bell was undoubtedly pulling the strings of David Robert Jones.

The viewers knew that for certain, but it was anything but easy for Walter to convince others what we already knew was true. It was absolutely comical watching Walter in the institution, smelling the visitor logbooks and taking tentative licks like a monkey in an attempt to determine if Belly had been there after his death, as he surmised. You had to wonder if that was written into the scene or if John Noble just came up with that Walterism on his own. Either way, it was a hoot to watch.

The bishop without a capital B
It was odd that David Robert Jones planted the nanites device in plain sight, don't you think? He didn't even make the slightest attempt to mask his appearance. Of course, if he had, it would have taken longer for Walter to track down Belly, and that wasn't want dear Mr. Bell wanted, was it?

While Jones had normally been played tough and impenetrable by the ridiculously talented Jared Harris, we saw instead a man in awe of William Bell and easily bendable to his whims. He greedily lapped up the lesson given to him by Bell on how to plan a long-term vindictive revenge plot, and he didn't hesitate when told to take out the bishop afterward.

William Bell: In this game of skill one must have above all else, Patience. The board changes, but very slowly. The art of chess, the art is knowing when a piece is most valuable and then, in that very moment, being willing to sacrifice it. For in the vacuum created by the loss of what is most precious, opportunity abounds, influences maximize, and desire becomes destiny. For example, on this board, the most valuable piece is the bishop. Therefore, for the game to be won...
David Robert Jones: The bishop must be sacrificed. I'll attend to it.

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Jones learned a painful lesson. Diabolical mentors aren't the most trustworthy. The bishop wasn't a Bishop, but a Jones, and he was the sacrificial lamb.

Alex the asskicker!
Well, we all know her as Astrid, but Walter was on a roll and she was Alex. It's so wonderful to see things back to normal; as normal as they can be when your arch nemesis and the only other person with a brain capacity equal to yours is found to be alive and well. Astrid finally admitted to Walter that she enjoys her role as his mother hen and asked him to just let her enjoy it. That feeling came in handy when they happened upon Bell's lair and guns started blazing. Using some fancy footwork, she bought them enough time to run.

Unfortunately they were easily out manned and just as a severely shot Astrid fell into the arms of Walter, William Bell appeared to Walter to say hello to his old friend.

Olivia and Peter play Wii
When Jones was dispatched to take out the bishop in Bell's 20 year game of chess, there were two choices. One was to literally take out the Bishop. Peter. But there was a little detail revealed with one of Walter's experiments using pig brains and lemon cake - cortexiphan is regenerative. That's quite the puzzle piece to have lying on the floor, so I jumped right on that one! Who would be Jones' bishop?

In the end, we knew it was Jones himself, but Jones believed it to be Peter. I wasn't sure why Peter and Olivia had to be on two separate rooftops to lose the reflection of the sun through the antenna, but it served a great purpose. Olivia had to watch Peter get pummeled from across the street. She was aiming to shoot Jones, but two mall cops stopped her in her tracks.

Earlier in the episode we witnessed some of what the cortexiphan shots had unearthed in Olivia. She's no longer relegated to turning light bulbs on and off, but could stop computers, and nanites, in their tracks. Even armed with that fun fact, watching her crease her brow and become a Wii controller for Peter to fight against Jones when he was injured and couldn't continue was beyond what I expected of the dynamo that has become Olivia Dunham.

What's next?
First, another thank you FOX for the extra 13 episodes, because I don't think I could imagine having only one episode left in this stupendous series. When it's said you won't see something coming, you most likely won't see it coming. How often is that bargain held up? Rarely.

Astrid's life was left hanging in the balance. Does Bell have a reason to deny her treatment? I can't imagine why so my fingers are crossed that she will receive it. Think of it as hospitality. We've been told repeatedly that Olivia has to die, but until tonight we didn't see a lemon cake laced with pig brain lace itself back up. Why does that matter? Because if cortexiphan is regenerative, and with the extra doses Olivia has received as an adult, perhaps fate has been rewritten. If she is injured, will she regenerate? If a lemon cake can, why not the human Wii?

What about regeneration from death? Even in the first universes Massive Dynamic had learned to siphon memories from the dead. With as much cortexiphan as Olivia has flowing through her system, maybe the bullet we believed Olivia took to her death in 2036 lead to her seclusion or isolation instead. My head is spinning with ideas on what's to come, and I can only imagine the great thoughts you are having. Share them in the comments!

Brave New World, Part 1 Review

Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 (132 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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Fringe Season 4 Episode 21 Quotes

Jessica: What are you?
Walter: I'm human, what are you? Is this some sort of alien invasion? Are you part of a strike?

Peter: Three bedrooms and a dog run...
Olivia: Nursery?
Peter: Nursery?