Fringe season 3 episode 4 review: Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?

Has Fringe developed into the must-watch show of the new season? Billy thinks so...

3.4 Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?

There’s an unrelenting focus in the new Fringe series that’s undeniable. Where it’s generally always been interesting, it’s had its diversions into indulgence in the past, most notably the music episode last season.

But, so far season 3 has executed like a narrative machine, driving forward plot, possibly at the loss of more character moments, at a significantly enhanced pace.

The Philip K. Dick-referenced title, Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?, goes to many of the same issues as the source material of Blade Runner. Specifically, do artificial creatures develop their own emotional responses emulating the morphologies they’re attempting to copy?

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To my mind, or I’ve not paid sufficient attention, this story shows a subtle shift away from the idea that shapeshifters were once real people, modified for the purpose of inter-dimensional travel into entirely machine devises (ala Terminator) that think they’re human. And, more interestingly, once they’ve become integrated into a persona for a long period of time, they become emotionally attached to being that person and the connection with family members and acquaintances.

This all comes to light when a senator is ‘killed’ in a road traffic accident, but still appears to be alive, revealing his shapeshifter credentials. Thomas Jerome Newton must get to him quickly to avoid the Fringe team finding out what he knew, specifically the true identity of Olivia.

I’m not going to say any more about this episode in plot terms, because where it ultimately takes us isn’t for me to spoil. What I will say is that I’m now pretty convinced that Peter has worked out Altivia’s secret, or his subconscious has, at least. And that, while the shapeshifters believe that once they’ve done with their clone bodies their minds return back to the other dimension, that might be rubbish in quasi-religious belief manner. Heavy philosophical stuff, for ‘entertainment’.

Whatever the truth of either of those statements, Fringe is firing on all cylinders currently and I can’t wait to see the next story. Sadly, I’m going to have to be patient, because episode five doesn’t screen until the first week of November after a brief hiatus. I’m not really keen on shows that do this stop-start nonsense, although they all seem to do it to greater or lesser degrees. I just don’t hope they don’t mess around with the latter season in the way they mucked around with season one.

On a positive note, I’d also like to comment on the total lack of standalone stories, the inclusion of which always seemed to emulate The X-Files, but in an unflattering way. Their omission is allowing the bigger plot to drive things on and develop momentum that’s previously been missing. May it continue.

The only thing I’m slightly lacking at the moment is my Walter quotient, which seems noticeably down. However, given how much he dominated the previous season, it’s about time that the others got some action, although I’d still like to see an Astrid centric episode, as she lights up this show in a very charming way.

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Overall, season 3 of Fringe is, with the possible exception of Dexter, my favourite TV show currently, and well worth your time to catch it.

Read our review of episode 3, The Plateau, here.