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Fringe – Merciless Destiny In ‘The Consultant’

"The Consultant" saw Walter crossing over to the Other Side for the first time and had a case featuring the collaboration between the universes in real time as never before. Interestingly, the story also seemed to show how the wheels of "Destiny" can be implacable, no matter the timeline.

The episode starts with Captain Lee's funerals, during which Fauxlivia promises to do everything in her power to bring the culprits to justice. The story then quickly moves in that direction with her interrogating the Other Side Nina Sharp to try and obtain information on the mole in the DoD responsible for her partner's death. The conniving Ms. Sharp is not only unwilling to share any information, but she warns Fauxlivia of an impending escalation of issues with the fabric of the universe. What follows is our introduction to the case of the week, one that shined with its simplicity and brilliance.

Walter, Fauxlivia and Lincoln

On this Side, a company executive is about to fire an employee after going on at length on his incompetence when he (the executive) is lifted at several feet in the air, and then driven down to the ground (or table in this case) by some unseen force. The same uncanny lethal event takes the lives of two other people on this Side at exactly the same time. The Fringe Division team is called in to investigate and, first Peter, then Walter quickly put the pieces together when they see the type of injury and learn that one of the other two victims is an airplane pilot. Walter, who has "posited" that the three victims on this Side died of a plane accident that happened on the Other Side, crosses over to gather evidence in the universe where the actual accident occurred.

As Walter is about to cross the bridge between universes, he is asked some routine questions and is provided the sort of information you apparently need when entering another universe. When asked if he is under any medication, he replies without hesitation, "Several, mostly recreational." The marine is understandably shocked and, Olivia, Walter's escort, has to vouch for him with a smile and a yes-that's-our-Walter face. Things get awfully more serious though when Walter is on the Other Side and sees what his actions, of several decades back, have done to Fauxlivia's universe.

I found the case brilliant due to the idea of connecting two versions of the same person across universes, and it was simple in explanation. I believe the best of the science in Fringe is made not when the series dabbles into obscure subjects like say, emotional quantum entanglement, but rather when it uses the laws of physics to offer an explanation that we can intuitively find "understandable." The frequency as a way to explain how the universes can occupy the same space without interacting was neat and simple enough for the audience to understand: by having two versions of a person vibrating at the same frequency, a connection can be established. If we think more about it, many questions obviously arise, but, at first, it works perfectly for a TV show.

Once that was established, the second test case for David Robert Jones—now initiated on this Side—could be shown by alternating breathtaking images of the two victims as the accident occurred, something very impressive for a show on a budget. That second incident brought the two Fringe Divisions together in a real time collaboration across the universes and through the bridge with the two Astrids, each connected to their respective universe communication system. It is always refreshing to see Astrid dealing with alt-Astrid, the way she seems to treat her autistic doppelganger like a friend who needs or requires some attention. Bringing her gifts (who else would do that in the team?) and telling her how nice it is to see her again. Their interactions reminded us of the differences in their personalities as well as in their responsibilities: while alt-Astrid merely reports every communication, including contradictions from Walter that had even her puzzled enough to look Astrid directly in the eye, Astrid translates her communications back to this Side ("Walter has no idea how it looks like!").

The episode also showcased the best the series has to offer in the realm of doppelgangers. Whenever Olivia and Fauxlivia are shown in the same episode, the differences between them are striking enough to create two vividly different and likable characters in our minds, but the underlying similarities also jump to our face. The odd scene with Walter—whose choice of dress made things a bit uncomfortable at first and raised the question as to exactly why he calls her a "prostitute"—was designed to drive that home as well as steer Fauxlivia toward the answer.

Colonel Broyles and Diana His Wife

As good as the case was, it paled in comparison to the cornerstone of the episode, which wasn't so much about "The Consultant" as it was about Colonel Broyles, a man who found himself struggling with the same choices Walter struggled with a couple of decades earlier. The storyline once again demonstrated (and at this point, I know I am starting to sound like a broken record) how refined this season of Fringe is. Last season, we were introduced to Christopher Broyles, alt-Broyles's sickly son who was instrumental in solving a case in the Other Side. While the young boy and his mother barely smiled during that episode, "The Consultant" introduced us to a radiant Diana Broyles and a healthy Christopher. When David Robert Jones and his cure came into the picture, the backstory needed to understand what the family had been through was already in our minds, even if we know a new timeline means things have been slightly different. What is refined is how the show is juggling with elements we have already seen and manages to re-tell stories, not only in a riveting way, but also a way that systematically improves on the previous storyline.

Through alt-Broyles, "The Consultant" revisited a perennial theme of Fringe, fatherhood and its sacrifices. The episode brought Walter and alt-Broyles together and had them discussing how far one should go for the love of a son, and even had Walter advising Fauxlivia not to judge her boss too harshly. It is striking how, just like in season three, alt-Broyles met what could be considered his end because of his son's condition. While last season, it was for protecting Olivia who had helped his son, here it was for actively collaborating with Jones to try and help his son. Inexorably, whatever the angle of approach and no matter the timeline, the fate of alt-Broyles seems linked to his son's health, and not in a good way. All that made me wonder about Fringe and its ultimate story. The Observers have not managed to erase Peter and Olivia, and now, we see that even with very different circumstances, some things are bound to happen. All things that make me wonder whether Fringe is ultimately a story about the unshakable wheels of Destiny, at the center of which sit our two "love birds."



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