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“Forced Perspective” was one of Fringe‘s trademark quasi-standalone stories. They are typically set after episodes that delved heavily into the main storyline and are designed to deal with a specific fallout of the previous story arc, in this case Olivia’s predicted death and the events — driven by Nina Sharp — that might make it happen.
The final scene of “Back to Where You’ve Never Been” saw our favorite Observer warning Olivia of her impending death. He had apparently looked at all possible futures and there was none in which she survived. Caught between more pressing matters, she didn’t bring that up until the opening scene of this episode. We understood that Observers (not known as such in this timeline) had been spotted by the Fringe Division which has been on the look out for them for three years. Although relevant to the conclusion of the episode, our bald men in dark suits didn’t feature in the the story beyond other similar indirect references.
“Forced Perspective” was about Emily Mallum, a teenager who received pictorial premonitions of the final moments of people about to die when near them, and always proceeded to hand her sketches of the ultimate scene to the person. We first meet the pretty but sad looking Emily when she is interrupted in her representation of beautiful flowers by a “forced perspective” prompting her to draw the death scene of a man who, when handed the drawing, is quick to conclude that like all teenagers, she is just trying to make him as miserable as herself.
Emily’s life story has been like that introductory scene, a repeated pattern made of her protective father’s attempts to give her a normal life (in which she can draw flowers) always interrupted by the “forced perspectives” from her ability, making them all run away from government agents and Massive Dynamic’s eager interest. The episode did a good job gradually unveiling the reality the Mallum family has to deal with, and how relatively well-prepared they are with practiced procedures. Vibrantly portrayed by Alexis Raich, Emily and her father helped explore the theme of destiny and purpose in life, mirroring Olivia’s own questions on the subject of fate and helping her in her quest to understand the meaning of her conversation with the Observer.
When told over the phone of the man’s death, Olivia immediately thought about her own brush with the future at the opera house and asked Lincoln if the person who handed the fateful drawing was a bald man. For those not quick to follow, Olivia explicitly asks Emily later if she is feeling any urge to draw something when around her. They are interrupted before the teenager can answer, but having followed her up until that point and given her relationship with Olivia — who in all timelines has a way with young people — it was obvious Olivia’s death wasn’t imminent, which is not to mean it is not going to happen rather sooner than later.
After failing to warn a man on a bus, Emily Mallum turned to the sky and said simply: “I tried.” The sad and beautiful scene showed how well the episode handled the character. Unfortunately, things were not always so well done in the events that followed her decision to cooperate with the FBI. When he’s not driving the story in this timeline, Peter Bishop gets busy as he can, and here, after pushing Walter to perform what looked like his first hypnosis session, Peter transformed the session into something that had so many people talking to Emily that it felt odd. Also, everything that happened at the court building was simply wrong, from the bomb squad (and Peter) sticking around a bomb that was about to explode to Olivia’s easy success in her plea to the bomber.
We don’t yet know what the main story arc has in store for Olivia, but it was interesting to see the subject of her migraines brought up officially by Broyles. It was also interesting to see their connection to Nina Sharp through the experimental drug she will be sending to her adoptive daughter. It will sure be disappointing if it turns out to be simply a drug for migraines.
That said, what really brought together what the episode was edging toward was Olivia’s scene with Peter after Emily’s death. Not only was he able to tell her who the Observers are, but he could explain (to her and to the audience) how our bald friends interact with time. There we saw Olivia drawing her own conclusion on the prediction of her death, something that certainly pushed her in the following scene to express her feelings for her adoptive mother, trying without a doubt to settle her earthly matters before her impending end.