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Fringe Review: “One Night In October”

Originally posted here.

On the latest episode of FOX’s Fringe, we learn that people are kinda like herpes: just when you think they’re gone forever they find a way of staying with you.

When the other side asks for Olivia’s help solving a string of murders, she brings our side’s version of the killer to aid in the investigation. Meanwhile, Walter attempts to ignore his flashes of Peter.

Major spoilers ahead:

The latest Fringe is a curious episode, as it follows a formula decidedly less true to itself, yet still successful. By taking procedural elements seen in something more like Law and Order, Fringe created a stand alone adventure that proved to be a surprising potent outing thanks to some excellent acting. Yet at the same time… are well done procedural episodes the reason why we watch Fringe?

Right off the bat, I need to congratulate Anna Torv, who no doubt spent a great deal of time in make up and wardrobe between takes. Her interaction between the two Olivias works very well, helped by some excellent camera and effects work. Both characters reactions to each other really kept the episode afloat, but the biggest problem is that many of the scenes don’t play out quite as well as could have because of the new reality. We don’t know the exact details of their history the way we did before, so the nuances between them don’t have the same impact knowing they no longer have relationships with Peter. Still, alternate Olivia injected some much needed personality in the show now that Peter’s wit is missing.

The other element that made the episode work better than expected is guest star John Pyper-Ferguson, who played both versions of McClennan. What could have been a very easy to overact role, Pyper-Ferguson finds the right amount of subtly and pathos. Really, the premise makes a great deal of sense and went through a logical progression, so when you get the confrontation between the two versions of McClennan, you’re invested in the guy enough to be curious how the situation resolves. I was honestly a little shocked when the other side’s McClennan assaulted his counterpart, but the resolution was honest and fitting… if just a tad heavy handed. The episode really hinged on the character, but succeeded because they got the right actor for the job.

As for the mythos, we got lots of little tidbits regarding the new continuity. First and foremost, alternate Broyles is back. Last season, Walternate killed him due to him helping our Olivia escape back to her side, which immediately raises the question on how our Olivia escaped in the new timeline. The fact that the writers are being so vague is frustrating and hurts the context for the current stories, but at the same time… we can presume that everything will be reset once Peter comes back… so why bother? Another rather shocking revelation is that Olivia now actually killed her father. Again, we aren’t given any details, but my theory is she accidently killed him with telekinesis. It would help contribute to her cold Peterless world.

As for Walter’s plotline, there really isn’t much to say. Without Peter around, Walter is surprisingly boring, even with the flashes of his son and his attempts to suppress them. Hopefully, Peter’s involvement will intensify and Walter will get more of a story with his attempts to bring back his son.

Overall, “One Night In October” is a solid episode of television, which means that it deserves a good score. The emotions were well conveyed and the acting was great, but at the same time the feel of the show felt pedestrian compared to what the show is capable of. Fringe can be so much more than catching a serial killer every week. It’s worth noting that a stand alone story involving both universes working together had to happen, if only to cement their trust and bring in new viewers. As a result, it’s hard to be too hard on the episode, especially when it did its job so well. Let’s just hope we can get the same emotion out of stories in the future without losing the fantastical elements in the process.

8/10

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