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As a rule, I avoid exposure to any material about an upcoming episode before it airs, even promos. That is why when the week's episode starts, memories from the previous one rush through my mind, sometimes triggering a flurry of excitement, especially if there was some type of cliffhanger. It happened this week and as it did, the reason behind one of the major differences between stories set on This Side and those set on The Other Side dawned on me.
I understood from this beginning why there is often, for me at least, a difference in the pacing of stories depending on each side they are set on. On This Side, writers tend to use characters we know and care about or even total strangers to give a sense of normalcy before unleashing whatever they have in store that day. It works extraordinarily well but comes at a price. Sometimes, depending on how the introductory elements flow, we may find that the story starts slowly or slows down if this is not at the beginning. Another case where it worked well on This Side was the "hope in raindrops" scene on the rooftop in "Stowaway". On The Other Side we rarely see an effort to have us feel for a character. I think we had a brief tentative with Fauxlivia's in the park with her baby, but even that barely qualified.
The Last Sam Weiss starts in Peter's room at the hospital. Astrid, the worried "mother", tries to rekindle Walter's spirits and almost cunningly gets him to leave Peter for a short while for food. From this touching and gentle scene we move to a family on a road trip. We see through their eyes lighting strikes appearing literally out of thin air leaving a trail of wreckage and casualties. The camera work in and around the family's car was impressive, even considering the blatant product placement. From the teenager's skin to the quick tour (visually introducing each passenger) before following the father on his walk to a vantage point. Showing the destruction through his eyes made it much more gripping.
Olivia teaming up with Sam Weiss in his attempt to understand why The Machine was acting up was fundamental to the episode. The two ended up in a quest for a means to breach The Machine's defenses; a means that turned out to be her. Now, let me take a minute to say I don't mind the ancients (The First People) having a "thing" for human DNA as key for their contraptions, but I want to stress here that DNA doesn't give the ability to predict a person's hairdo. But then again why am I complaining? The prophetic feel so far hints to some level of prescience anyway... Before delving into Olivia as more than what she was until now - which was already a lot - let's discuss the first revelations from the short-lived team. We finally got to know a bit more about Sam Weiss and it made absolute sense but it was also slightly disappointing. Somehow, some part of me was expecting more. Here I would say my mind was satisfied, but my senses got a whimper and not a bang.
Olivia has always been the cornerstone of the series for me, so occasionally when it felt like Peter was supposed to be the lead and they gave her a supporting role, it felt odd. One of the reasons is that Anna Torv carries an episode much more easily than Joshua Jackson. Now with what has happened, the balance has been restored. The way I see it, the warrior (Peter) can only wage a war with The Machine if she allows it. Which means, to put it simply, that the real power lies with her. What bothers me with this new development is that it puts the romance at the center. Saying the universe with the chosen Oliva would be the one to survive could be explained away with DNA and the inner workings of The Machine. However, having an actual role for Olivia in the dreaded events changes everything. And what about Fauxlivia?
This episode was filled with delightful moments between Astrid and Walter, but my favorite sequence involved Walter, Olivia, and the typewriter. There is nothing new here. It's the classic scene with the master trying to infuse some self confidence into the doubtful student. I was expecting it to be boring, but Torv and Noble made it a masterpiece. In terms of intensity, it was much better than when she actually did it on The Machine. The build-up outshined the actual event. Finally, there was something about Peter that got me worried. It might have been just bad acting, but I had the feeling he wasn't quite back to himself at the end. One of the things I like the most about Fringe is the way it always surprises us like it did in this episode.