Fringe season 4 episode 22 review: Brave New World – Part 2

The unexpected advent of an extra season for Fringe seems to have wreaked havoc with the season finale. Read Billy's review here...

This review contains spoilers.

4.22 Brave New World – Part 2

Since it screened, I’ve been trying to form my thoughts about Brave New World – Part 2, and like the proceedings, they’re something of a mess. For everything that was good, there was something equally rubbish. I wish it was one thing or the other, personally.

William Bell’s god complex was a lovely counter-play to the overwhelming humanity of Walter, and the fuller explanation of the vision that Walter had brain surgery to forget. Yet this was horribly marred by a CGI sequence at the beginning that looked much less inviting that Bell’s interpretation of it. How does a couple of flying porcupine people and another two that it was hard to see constitute a new Eden?

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But the low point for me was the jump from the helicopter, which seemed silly in the extreme. The better parts were all those to do with character interaction. Walter and Astrid, Phillip and Nina, Peter and Olivia, they all had touching scenes.

Last week I’d mused at what needed to happen before the season ended, forgetting that most of the characters don’t need to be locked in amber for a few years yet. Perhaps because of the fifth season, which must have altered the narrative dramatically, relatively few things were resolved or explained. The exception was the Olivia-must-die plot, which was concluded with the appearance of September, and him being shot. The irony of this was that he was shot by the character I assumed was bad last week, which she turned out to be this week. Does Rebecca Mader only play women who lie for a living these days? It seems so, as there appears to be no shortages of these roles for her. That said, I loved the scene where they interrogated her dead body, especially the way they made her eyes move independently.

In the fun bucket, they also threw in a timely allusion to The Avengers, when Broyles tells them to ‘suit up’.In the end his wasn’t the gripping drama that we’ve previously had as season enders, although the shooting of Olivia was genuinely unexpected, I’ll give them that.

What I wasn’t so keen on was the way that they gave her super-human powers, and then after she’d used them at three critical junctures, then they got Walter to say that she would be back to normal, saving the scriptwriters from assuming she can kill someone with telekinesis to get out of any bind.

I can only put the lack of narrative cohesion down to adjustments they made after securing the extra, but shortened season. As for the season, it was possibly the most inconsistent yet. After a strong start, and some great alternative dimension yarns, they introduced a few irrational ideas, like Walter’s aversion to Peter and Olivia getting together. It didn’t make any sense, and eventually the characters were forced to conclude the same, disturbingly. The return of Dr Jones seemed at first inspired, but he turned out to be simply yet another minion, rather disappointingly. After he turned to dust I wondered why they’d given one of the better supporting actors on the show such a poor exit, and not exploited him better.

The great Fringe moments were rather thin on the ground, though they weren’t missing completely.The most memorable generally didn’t involve mad scientists, but ideas like Astrid’s alternate visiting her. Though I did like the scientist story about the theoretical physicist who bends time around his home to fix his wife’s neurodegeneration, which was marvellous.

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And the low point was undoubtedly the porcupine people, wings and all. The show also took a seeming eternity to emerge from the dimension complexity they’d so finely crafted. This created a situation where it was almost impossible to know what past any character has actually experienced, and made reading situations almost impossible at one point. Eventually they managed to unravel the dimension spaghetti before the viewers got entirely confused and wandered away. The viewing figures for Fringe aren’t great, but they’re stable, which is more than can said for some of Fox’s other offerings.

Despite such a lumpy season, I’m glad Fringe will be back this fall, and perhaps the shortened 13-episode run will force those  writing it to be more focused than they’ve been recently. I just hope they don’t make the last thirteen shows about bringing up baby Bishop…

Read our review of last week’s episode, Brave New World – Part 1, here.

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