JJ Abrams’ Fringe episode 19 review

In its penultimate story of season one, Fringe nears its own neutral zone. Just how many Star Trek references can you get in one episode?

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After having something of a downer on it mid-season, I’ve since become convinced that this show still has plenty to offer. The Road Not Taken is a veritable cornucopia of what it has, spilling out its goodies onto the TV screen in quick-fire succession.

As usual, we begin with the weird happenings and then move swiftly to the mystery surrounding those events, except with only this and the next story left this year, the story is decidedly big and story arc orientated, intrinsically linked to the unseen William Bell. Yes, the founder of Massive Dynamics and previous scientific partner of Walter Bishop. They actually keep his identity secret, but I can assure you that people will be blown away when they find out who it is next week!

A woman bursts into flames on the street and the Fringe team turn up to identify the victim. But the weirdness of this even goes beyond the combustion. As Olivia stands over the body, she briefly sees two victims before one disappears. These time splits happen repeatedly through the story, as she gets glimpses into an entirely parallel dimension that’s subtly different from the one she normally inhabits.

This becomes a sub-theme for the story, as they discover who the exploding woman was and how she relates to the terrorist organisation called ZFT. And soon they’re tracking down a blogger who documented a previous flammable person of interest.

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When they meet, all sorts of magic happen, because behind the numerous locks of his home is Emmanuel Grayson, played by no less than Clinton Howard. Yes, Clinton Howard, brother of Ron Howard, who famously played Balok in the Star Trek first season story The Corbomite Maneuver. At this point my long range sensors detected an anomaly on the edge of the neutral zone. Was this yet another Trek reference? After all, Clint also appeared with Zachary Quinto in a recent episode of Heroes, which was a less than subtle Trek nod. And Chuck kept making Trek references through the later part of its season. And the movie just came out. The chances of this being a purely coincidental connection seemed incalculable.

Their conversation starts reasonably normally, as Grayson seems to know plenty about William Bell and what he’s been up to. It all goes well until they get to the bit where they start talking about genetically engineered super-soldiers, like ‘Khan Noonien Singh’ to defend us in the coming war. At which point I looked skyward and shouted, KHAAANNNN!

Any confusion that he isn’t entirely bonkers is dispelled when he then tells them it’s against renegade Romulans, in all seriousness. It gets even better – he’s the son of Sarek, i.e. Spock. The Fringe team must have laughed their socks up coming up with this, and the timing is impeccable.

Peter and Olivia leave ‘Spock’ after wishing him Live Long and Prosper, and yet they are offered no Tranya for their troubles.

But the FBI’s interest in William Bell isn’t popular across the universe, and the Machiavellian nemesis of Olivia, Sanford Harris, appears to try and halt their investigation.

Just after he visits, Olivia has another of her alternate reality moments, and realising what’s happening, she uses the knowledge to determine the identity of the second body she originally witnesses. It happens to be the identical sister of the victim, and they try to find her before she’s toast also.

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Someone gets there first however, and all they find is a melted window, which then Peter uses in some ridiculous pseudo-science technique to extract recorded sound from the glass it recorded when it was soft. This is very far fetched, but they manage to hear a ringtone from the scene, which Olivia gets her phone to then call. Bingo! Mr Nasty himself, Sanford Harris, answers and they’re on their way to finding the girl and getting some answers.

They follow Sandford and find the identical twin who is experiencing the changes that manifest themselves as pyrokinetics. Olivia gets locked in a room with her by Sanford, who clearly hasn’t thought this through. She helps the woman focus on something outside the room and the soon-to-be-ex-FBI agent is the one who is flame grilled.

That effectively wraps up the main narrative of this story, but there is at least nine minutes running time left. This time is used to pre-load the chambers for the season finale.

Olivia confronts Walter in a diner about what it was that William Bell and he did to her and the other children in the experiment. John Nobel is incredible as Walter Bishop, and when he completely breaks down, telling her he can’t remember, he’s entirely convincing.

From this we move to Nina Sharp, who turns up at Phillip Broyle’s home late at night with pictures of The Observer, telling him that the number of appearances recently indicates something big is about to happen. Back at the lab, Walter is listening to vinyl records and looking for another copy of the ZFT document he knows is in the lab when The Observer walks in. He tells Walter it’s time to go, and Walter leaves with him.

In the final scene Nina returns to her apartment, and is met by ski-masked men as she exits the elevator, who then shoot her with a silencer.

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That’s a great set-up for the season finale, where I’m told more Trek references become apparent, and some answers about the Fringe universe will unfold.

I enjoyed this story lots, and can now look forward to this conclusion and the new season that’s now been ordered by Fox.

Check out our review of episode 18 here.