This review contains spoilers.
4.8 Back To Where You’ve Never Been
According to various reports, this episode should have bookended the 2011 episodes, but instead got bumped to the start of 2012. This explains plenty about what was almost entirely a main story arc plot, which if I’m being honest was exceptionally messy in places.
I’ve recently introduced my wife to Fringe by showing her some of the recent self-contained stories, and then I hit her with this. As the episode progressed, I found myself pausing it repeatedly to provide huge amounts of exposition, and after a while I began to wonder if it was as much for my benefit in following the nuances of the show, or hers.
Peter’s not getting any satisfaction from Walter, and so logically, wonders if he’ll get more from Walternate. But travelling between the two dimensions officially isn’t going to be possible, so Peter and Lincoln use the theatre soft-spot to travel to the other side. What is passed over rather significantly here is that using Walter’s original dimension busting gate doesn’t cause a crack in space-time and the whole place isn’t secured in amber. Why?
But then, so much in this episode wasn’t really explained, as the writers seemed more intent on moving the story forward than actually clarifying what was occurring. As a result, I ended up feeling somewhat disconnected, as in the final ten minutes I was hit with a number of revelations, none of which had been prepared for.
I’d guessed a while back that there would be consequences to the Watcher not entirely erasing Peter from time, and it appears one of those is the inability to predict his own future. Or at least his turning up shot strongly hints at that.
The other big reveal was the origin of the shapeshifters, which wasn’t Walternate after all. The beauty of their currently temporal diversion is that they can bring back any character from previous shows, even if they’ve died, as they might have survived in the new timeline. And arguably the best villain the show had was the bullet proof Doctor David Robert Jones, played by the excellent English actor Jared Harris (yes, that’s Richard Harris’ son). The last time we saw him he was cut in half while attempting to dimension travel by Peter, in season one episode 20, There’s More Than One Of Everything.
This is something Peter comments on in this story, as a minor prelude to his reappearance. I’m delighted he’s back, as it introduces a desirable instability, as most of what Dr Jones got up to was generally inexplicable but very entertaining.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy this story, but some of the season one and two episodes, like the last Dr Smith appearance, did have an edge and urgency that appears to be missing these days.
The ongoing problem I’m having with Fringe is that it was already very complicated, and now they’ve just added a few more layers as though it didn’t have enough depth already. I’ve tried to assess if my issue is talking about the show in these reviews, or following it myself, and this week I realised it’s a bit of both.
But then Fringe has bigger issues than it all getting like the rats-nest PC cabling under my desk, and that’s the likes of Fox president Kevin Reilly, who’s noticed that the viewing figures for the show don’t really tally with the cost of making it.
That’s concentrated minds, because season four is quite clearly now the final Fringe run, and the show needs to get itself into a mode where it can finish gracefully and not in mid-stride. I think they need to work on clarifying some parts of the show before it all ends with more questions left in its wake than the final episode of Lost.
You can read our review of season four episode seven here.