This review contains spoilers.
3.6 6955 kHz
I’ve seen a few people complaining that Fringe is now so focused on the bigger plot that it’s actually missing out on the quirky and odd stories that were at one point its trademark.
Up till now I haven’t accepted this, because I’ve been enjoying the larger narrative, but 6955 kHz has made me consider that the sand piling exercise they’ve got very deep into now isn’t delivering on some levels.
I’ve noticed that peripheral characters have almost entirely disappeared, like Olivia’s bowling guru, and Walter’s character has become much less involved in general.
In this story, they set out a rather thin idea, number stations, and then became quickly distracted by the big plot imperative.
For those not versed in all things unexplained, number stations are radio transmissions that allegedly first appeared in World War I, where a voice reads a stream of numbers or letters. It’s always been assumed these are coded transmissions to international spies, and they have been used for this, but the origin of them has always been clouded in mystery.
This might seem an ideal, if slightly tired, subject for Fringe, but the story ultimately has very little to do with number stations, or even the people who have their minds wiped by listening to sounds on a 6955 kHz frequency.
That was one of the disappointments, because the case isn’t really solved in respect of revealing the number stations, but it’s purely a mechanism that Walternate is using to prod the Fringe team in the direction he wants.
As one of his minions achieving this, Kevin Weisman (Marshall from Alias) turns up very briefly as Gemini, a shapechanger with a specialist interest in gravity-defying electronics. He was in it so briefly that I’d only worked out that they’d given his character different coloured eyes (which all geeks know is called Heterochromia iridium) about five seconds before Altivia dispensed with his services from a high building.
I was left wondering why they even signed up someone so recognisable, only to kill them off after a couple of lines of dialogue?
I’d have been more worried by this if I’d felt that the whole number station aspect was ultimately important, but it wasn’t, really. It was just a means to get Astrid involved in solving the puzzle, and Peter another piece of his doomsday machine puzzle.
A more relevant part of proceedings was the conversation that Peter and Altivia have towards the end, where she reveals that she’s looking for a degree of reinforcement from him for what she’s doing. The snag for her is that she can’t tell him what she’s doing, so he’s hardly likely to see her perspective and give that support.
The way she kills Gemini so he wouldn’t harm any more innocent people definitely suggests that Altivia is going rogue. It’s been hinted before, but it’s now definitely on the cards, and an interesting prospect. That and the brief glimpse of the other dimension, where Peter’s apparition tells Olivia that she needs to get back to her own dimension before Walternate decides to tie off the experiment she was part of by killing her. How long before we have two Olivias running around in the same dimension? Quite soon, I’d suggest.
This is all a good foundation for future stories, but it made this one seem like more like a narrative structural support than an actual self-contained story.
If they did achieve anything, for me it was that at the start of the episode Walter seems overly paranoid, but by the end it appears that his worst fears are well founded. I guess in this world of shifting allegiances, the audience is also being pulled from one point of view to another.
By the end of this, are we going to feel that the other dimension is a more worthy candidate to survive than our own? Possibly.
I think Fringe needs a solid self-contained story to get back on track and reunite us with the craziness of Walter, but I’m not sure what they’ve crafted for this year allows for that possibility.
Next week’s story is focused on the alternative dimension, which I’m looking forward to, as so far this season, those ones have been by far the strongest. Hopefully it will have a more effective story to tell than this one managed to squeeze in between all the forward planning.
Read our review of episode 5, Amber 31422, here.
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