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Fringe – Enemy of My Enemy

Almost everything Fringe did wrong in the previous episode, “Back to Where You’ve Never Been,” was corrected in “Enemy of My Enemy.” The second half of what was obviously designed as a two-part story within a larger storyline was an episode that showcased every single quality that has made Fringe the best sci-fi series on TV today.

“Enemy of My Enemy” built on what was clumsily introduced in the previous episode, telling the story of the encounter of Fringe Division with David Robert Jones (on both sides) and its fallout. The episode also touched on the theme of forgiveness from an angle that was not only surprising but was also so compelling in its execution that Walter had no choice but to comply, and the audience no other choice than to quietly admire the writers’ skills.

The episode “really” brought back Astrid, both versions of her, with The Other Side version clearly less reserved (than the one in the previous timeline) but also showing more signs of autism. The valued and under-utilized Astrid was necessary in both universes to do what she does best, relay things (the audience needs to be aware of) and allow some characters to display their insecurity, anxiety, and feelings they might not show to others. We understood that Olivia’s little operation with Peter and Lincoln was not sanctioned by Broyles and confirmed that she didn’t have the authority, something the previous episode totally ignored.

Walternate and Peter
The story also brought back the assertive, self-assured Peter of this timeline, so much more interesting than its previous iteration. In this better-written second half, Joshua Jackson’s Peter drove the plot in both universes, gently pushing everyone around (including the toned-down Walternate of this timeline). And even if not all his scenes were substantial, they all had cinematic value, like his interrogation of Jones. The conversation troubled Jones, yes, but when Peter nudged Walternate into letting him talk to the man, he seemed to suggest he had more up his sleeves. Then there were scenes like the one with his hypothesis on what Jones was really up to and the one with his radio call to Olivia that showed his broad understanding of events, confirmed his origin to everyone (including Fauxlivia and poor Alt-Astrid) and made them all realize he was without a doubt an asset.

About David Robert Jones, the show redeemed itself in more ways than one. The episode rescued the character from the abyss of aimless villains who died prematurely in season one without convincing anyone there was any substance to them. And although it is true his threats and other tactics gave a déjà vu feeling while being somewhat entertaining, the achievement of the episode rests in the connection revealed in the final scene. On his own, Jones would have just been a petty criminal with a bright mind, but with Massive Dynamic behind him, suddenly there is more gravitas to the threat, which now has the backing of a giant, similar to what we had with Walternate who could muster all the power of the DoD in the previous timeline. To make things even better, the conniving party includes Alt-Broyles (whose motive would be interesting to know) and an unsuspecting Olivia, which of course makes it more personal to viewers who can’t resist the beguiling Olivia Dunham in all her iterations. With such a web of deceit at the center of which sits Massive Dynamic’s Nina Sharp, Fringe is finally giving to its viewers the villains it flaunted to their faces for more than a season before replacing them with The Other Side.

Before reaching its emotional climax, the episode developed a bit more what appeared as a very different iteration of Walternate last week. Secretary Bishop in this timeline still has an edge, but is far less confident or in control than what we are used to, leaving room for Alt-Broyles to maneuver, Peter to assert himself, and his wife to grow into a pivotal character.

The Other Side Fringe team with Peter and Lincoln
Elizabeth Bishop is well known to viewers in as many iterations as all main characters, but she’s never appeared more than an accessory, even in “Subject 13” where she had a lot of screen time and was arguably more involved. Her conversation with Walter in “Enemy of My Enemy” and its fallout included some of the best moments of this season of Fringe so far. It used cross-timeline backstory very skillfully, giving viewers the impression that what we learned mattered in all timelines, which it did to some extent. This was the first conversation between the two of them since that fateful night 26 years ago, and because that fact is true in both timelines, it made the conversation relevant across those boundaries.

Using God is always tricky in science-fiction and I believe Fringe earlier attempts didn’t particularly shine (White tulip…) but how could the exchange between Elizabeth and Walter about absolution have worked so well without a deity? Without the possibility of being forgiven by higher forces than the human victims? (Walter: “There is no absolution for me.” Elizabeth: “I forgive you Walter. I forgave you a long time ago.”) If she could forgive him, surely a cosmic justice could. After this, Walter had no choice but to comply. His visit to Peter was another gem, touching on the theme of expectations with the same command. Walter’s introduction about how wonderful his wife was, in all her iterations, and the way Peter immediately understood Alt-Elizabeth came over was a very good start to a conversation with great lines from Peter on his expectations about Walter and Walternate in this timeline.

Those emotionally effective scenes were not only well written, but were also very well acted. Fringe has always benefited from a wonderful cast and now Seth Gabel has joined the list of cast members who can switch seamlessly between slightly different versions of their character in a way that is never confusing for the viewer.

With such a rich story — revealing a set of villains worthy to follow in Walternate’s footsteps — and so much care put in a small storyline designed only to allow Walter to change his mind about helping Peter, you will understand why I have completely sidestepped the details of the main plot of the hour. The production team again outdid themselves and brought me back into the fold.

Rating
9.5

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