Fringe season 3 episode 19 review: Lysergic Acid Diethylamide

There’s more than a hint of Inception around this episode of Fringe, as events spin off into marvellous, drug-induced anarchy…

This review contains spoilers.

3.19 Lysergic Acid Diethylamide

Last season, Fringe tried something radical by making Brown Betty a musical story. As interesting as that experiment was, it didn’t really succeed for this reviewer.

I’m so happy to say that those behind this unique show weren’t influenced by me, or those who didn’t care for such flights of fancy. Because Lysergic Acid Diethylamide isn’t just a walk on the creative wild side, but something marvellously anarchic that rarely makes it onto TV.

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The story flips off last week’s revelations that the occupation of Olivia’s body by the soul of William Bell wasn’t something that could be easily managed.

After an aborted attempt to relocate him to a brain-dead subject, a more direct course of resolution was decided where, by using LSD, Peter and Walter would enter Olivia’s mind and find her before her personality was lost forever.

The scene where they appear on a crowded street inside her mind had me, and most people watching this, I suspect, screaming “Inception!” at the top of their lungs.

Except very soon it was obvious that, while some inspiration was taken from that movie, it was only the tip of what the Fringe creative team had planned.

Things really went off the deep end once they located William Bell within her mind, an event that was in danger of contradicting Leonard Nimoy’s assertion that he’s retired from appearing in person these days. He’s in this episode, but not in person!

Because once Peter and Walter reached him, the show turned into a stylised cartoon. They did this briefly before, I think, in Brown Betty, where William Bell was on the TV in a single scene. But here, a good portion of the narrative takes place where Peter, Walter, Bell and Olivia, along with their surroundings, are all drawings.

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While the cartoon versions of the characters don’t look perhaps as a cartoon artist might have wished, I was too impressed by their ambition to really care. My jaw was resting on the ground as Peter fought off zombie scientists on the roof of a high building before escaping in an airship.

Cleverly, the animation was only limited to the dream world, because out in the lab, Broyles had inadvertently become dosed with LSD. And some of his experiences under the gentle support of Astrid where visible, including a cute little animated bird that he imagined.

Overall, this story was not only one of the most imaginative we’ve seen on Fringe, but also neatly ended the return of William Bell, in the way that it could only ever be resolved. They try to transfer him to a computer, something he knew beforehand was doomed to fail, and so is lost forever.

One person I saw talking about this story called it “Fringe-ception”, but actually it was much more than that would suggest, and a brilliantly fun ride from beginning to end.

While it did draw on some of Inception’s ideas, Fringe took them to a wholly original place which, as a fan of this show, was the very least I’d expected.

Fringe appears to be snubbing Fox’s best attempts to kill it off, and with productions like this, I hope it can pull off this act of network escapology and secure another season!

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Read our review of episode 18, Bloodline, here.