This review contains spoilers.
3.5 Amber 31422
I have three words for the latest Fringe episode, and they’re all ‘brilliant’. Season three has moved gracefully, like a big cat stalking its prey, from the outset, playing a flipside game where we cleverly alternate between our universe and an alternate one where Olivia is currently resident.
Amber 31422 takes place entirely in the alternate universe, where Olivia, having been convinced she’s from that dimension, is starting to guess that maybe she’s been manipulated to think that. As such, Peter only appears as a figment of her subconscious, continually prodding her in the right direction, while helping her solve a mystery to prove his credentials.
The conundrum in question revolves around the weird amber chemical that is used to plug holes in the fabric of space and time in the altiverse, which can trap people in its matrix. The revealing opening sequence shows that anyone caught in the amber isn’t dead, and can be revived if removed from it.
This isn’t something that the government wants to become public, so the alternate Fringe agents must track down a man removed from it before that happens.
Enough of telling you the plot, what’s so good about this story? Well, they’ve got the Ashmore brothers, Shawn and Aaron (Shawn was Bobby in X-Men) to play two identical brothers, one who got caught in the amber and another who got him out.
They’re both rather good actors, but also the way that’s it’s revealed that the one they think was in the amber is actually the one who gets him out is a nice twist that’s cleverly played. This is also a nice analogy for Olivia’s situation, where two identical people have exchanged places.
I won’t talk about where this ultimately goes, but it’s actually more about where it takes Olivia’s character that’s truly interesting. She agrees to undergo some experiments to better understand how she can move between universes, but this presents a whole boatload of unanswered questions. If she can move between universes, then why doesn’t she just flip back to ours? Are the drugs she’s taking designed to stop that happening? We must know more!
But I must go back to the old nugget: how did Altivia make the journey over, if she doesn’t have this ability?
There’s something anchoring her to this universe, which she can only break briefly. It’s also interesting that when she travels between the two locations she arrives in the same physical location (under the Statue of Liberty), as she was in the alternate dimension.
What it also tries to do is give us a better perspective on Walternate, and his motivation in creating Amber 31422 in his personal battle against the destruction of his reality. I find it fascinating that his personality is not remotely like Walter, except he’s still a mad scientist at heart, even if he’s not insane in the same fashion.
What I also know is that the next story is set in our universe, which is slightly disappointing news, because I want to know what happens next to Olivia in this one!
That said, it’s indicative of how well season three is going that I’m gripped by the need to know what happens next.
On a less positive note, I’ve noticed that the show hit a season low for viewers, which, given how good it’s been, doesn’t make much sense to this reviewer. The only problem that I can see with the direction they’ve taken Fringe this year, focusing on the altiverse story arc, is that if you weren’t a fan beforehand, you’ll not be able to follow what’s going on now.
For those of us that did step onto the Fringe elevator early, it’s a great ride, but I can see that it’s a difficult proposition to attract new viewers.
Let’s hope the slide is at least halted, because I’d be crushed if they’re forced to wrap up this well crafted narrative because of cancellation.
Read our review of episode 4, Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?, here.
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