Fringe season 4 episode 12 review: Welcome To Westfield

This week’s Fringe episode is full of TV and movie references, and it’s a great one. Here’s Billy’s review of Welcome To Westfield…

This review contains spoilers.

4.12 Welcome To Westfield

Fringe on occasion has been twinned with X-Files, the show that dealt with odd events and the FBI Agents who investigated them. Except this week didn’t remind me of X-Files, but more of classic The Outer Limits or, for the slightly younger viewer, The Twilight Zone.

In search of rhubarb pie, the team blunders into the sleepy town of Westfield, and discover that as a destinations, go it’s a remarkably hard one to leave.

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But it wasn’t just The Twilight Zone that got a nod, because when the Westfield effect becomes apparent, the impact on the truck driver and his truck bore a strong resemblance to a scene from Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.

Those two sources had a very different tonal feel, and that’s what Welcome To Westfield ended up as – an odd mixture of tone and action. The sequence with the queue of traffic had an alien encounter vibe, until the plane crashed, and then the diner sequence was pure horror. In this, the shot where you realise that the guy working behind the counter has a body at his feet got my attention in a way that the previous scenes never did.

That whole sequence, with Walter telling the man that he’d not renewed his license since he got out of the mental institution, flowed remarkably well, and the actor that played the cook made him seem remarkably creepy. I think the cook had a name badge that read ‘Big Willy’, presumably useful information for those in the local population of 584 that don’t know him intimately.

The rest of the story was a nice unravelling of the mystery, where they work out what’s happening, who is behind it, and how to survive.It was a good story, slightly denuded of impact by the lack of a bigger effects budget. There wasn’t the money-shot of the whole town being ripped to pieces that I was hoping to see, although some of the prosthetic work with merged faces was top quality.

The explanation of how some people weren’t driven mad, because in one reality they’d left the town was an interesting diversion, although they never actually went so far as to explain how you could drive one way and loop around to come from the opposite direction.

In the story’s defence, perhaps too much exposition would have ruined the build up of tension and contributed little to the unfolding drama, so it was best to leave it in the large Fringe pile of ‘general weirdness’ that the show generates on occasion.

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But with Fringe, there is always a subplot, even if it’s subtly wedged between the small gaps that the stand-alone story allows. In this one, the entire story is almost like a projection of the subplot with Olivia, and the fact she’s starting to remember things from Peter’s timeline.This is cleverly brought into sharp focus in the closing scene, where she kisses him after ordering pizza, much to Peter’s surprise. The message seems to be that Peter doesn’t need to go anywhere, as his timeline is coming to him, or at least Olivia’s bit of it is. But then Walter’s attitude to him is changing too, so perhaps it’s not just her?

When these elements were blended with the Westfield story, the combination provided possibly one of best Fringe stories we’ve had for a while, which is why the core fans of this show love it so much.Perhaps it could have done with a tiny scene for Dr Jones to appear, but there seemed little doubt that he was behind the destruction of Westfield and most of its inhabitants.

Last week I was lambasted in the comments, somewhat, for not catching that Lincoln was away at his goddaughter’s birthday. Sorry. So where is he this week? I’ve probably missed another comment haven’t I, or was he at a huge birthday party that lasted for days…?

Read our review of Fringe season four episode 11 here.

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