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Fringe – Lysergic Acid Diethylamide

Since the beginning of this season of Fringe Olivia has become (in both universes) even more central to the story than she was before. Despite the revelations surrounding Peter, she has remained the emotional epicenter and has been consistently used to move the story forward in both universes - though arguably a bit more over-here. This is why following William Bell's "soul transference" I felt episodes over-here had to be either strong stand-alone cases or cases drawing heavily on some aspects of the doomsday arc, in order to play down the absence of Olivia by relying on William Bell and Peter. The writers seem to have taken the stand-alone route. Stowaway, the previous episode set over-here succeeded with a tragic and beautiful story, this week's episode of Fringe though good wasn't quite as impressive.

Walter and Bell's attempt to transfer the latter's soul/mind to a rare compatible body fails, and the other members of the team discover they all have about a day to bring back Olivia. The reason is that a human brain cannot accommodate two minds for too long and the natural tendency of our Olivia to recoil when in trouble is not helping; she has apparently retreated in her own endangered mind. As desperate times call for desperate measures, our pair of geniuses (that would be Walter and Belly or Wally as Astrid coined) devise a way for the two of them plus Peter to get into Olivia's mind and "retrieve" her before it is too late. It is achieved through ingesting a significant amount of LSD, hence the cryptic and very Fringe-like title: Lysergic Acid Diethylamide.

Like most episodes set over-here this season, this one started slowly and it wasn't until our wanderers got into Olivia's mind that it picked up some momentum and delivered its first surprise: Olivia's mind was a re-creation of our world in which they could interact with characters that seemed to roam on there own, escaping the host's control. Guided by a rather intuitive Peter - I guess love would do that to you, they achieve their goal but not before delivering the second surprise. We discover William Bell is a cartoon in Olivia's mind and as soon as Peter and Walter (who were together upon "entry") get in touch with him, they all turn into cartoons.

Olivia's back
I will skip the whole debate on why cartoons, but rather discuss the integration into the story. Was it seamless? No it wasn't. For one thing, it seemed to follow William Bell, plus I had issues adjusting to Peter and adult Olivia. Was it effective? Yes, sometimes extraordinarily so. Among other things, it enhanced the contrast between our reality and Olivia's mind superbly. Each time a character died in the alternate world and awoke in our reality, the transition was much strongly felt.

I found it interesting and I must admit consistent with Olivia's character that Nina Sharp turned out to be untrustworthy in our heroine's mind. I also found it curious how passive Walter was in this episode and in "Stowaway" around William Bell. I saw it as an elegant way to show the dynamics of the relationship they had. Though I think switching from cartoon to humans for the scene in Olivia's house was the right call, I feel the I-see-it-in-your-eyes bit could have been skipped. Trying to redeem Peter on "that" wasn't necessary and didn't ring true.

I liked many details. One of my favorites was the title. Just like for Os the writers made the right choice. Avoiding the acronym "LSD" here was an elegant touch. Also, it is so easy to be engrossed by Anna Torv's and John Noble's performances that we sometimes overlook the others. Jasika Nicole first caught my attention as alt-Astrid and now I find I am enjoying Astrid's little scenes a lot more than before. Her zinger "Just about Wally!" and her quiet assessment "It's OK Peter. Walter we're ready!" were subtle but excellent. By the same token, watching Lance Reddick under influence was refreshing: I never realized Broyles could laugh!

This was a good episode of Fringe but the absence of Olivia was deeply felt, so having her back bodes well for upcoming episodes set over-here.


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