FRINGE: 4.21 Brave New World: Part 1 — REVIEW

brave-new-world-part1-review

Was the opening part of the Fringe season finale as brave as we hoped, or was it something of a let-down? Read our take.

THE GOOD

  • Pacing, action and significant developments.
  • Various overarching mythologies woven back into play, adding texture to ongoing story.
  • The return of an emotionally committed Olivia.
  • The return of William Bell as an antagonistic figure.
  • The positive nonlinear implications derived from “Letters of Transit”.
THE BAD

  • The episode felt forced in places, taking something away from my overall experience.
  • Jones’ demise: the resolution of his arc largely unsatisfying once again.
  •  Walter’s science bordered on contrived science, at times.
  • The negative nonlinear implications derived from “Letters of Transit”.
THE OVEREVIEW

The opening was classic, ominous Fringe. Though it’s somewhat amazing that the survivors were able to combat David Robert Jones’ nanite attack. It’s not out of the realm of possibility, but still pretty fortunate.

Still, this sets the stage for Olivia’s own moment of inspiration. But before then, we see her in a marmalade moment with Peter making plans for a family — foreshadowing the arrival of their bundle of joy, Henri-dontcallmehenry-Etta.

Intriguingly, the baby foreshadowing opens up a side to Olivia that arguably hasn’t been seen since the third season. It’s certainly good to see a more emotionally engaged and determined Olivia; one who cares about the people she’s trying to protect, though it does feel forced when she saves Jessica essentially because she has a daughter.

That said, the value of having Olivia invested outweighs the slight forcing. What is perhaps harder to swallow on first consideration is Olivia’s surprise over her ability, given that she saved one of her Cortexi-pals in a similar manner back in “The Road Not Taken”. It’s fine lines though, as it’s only right that Olivia questions how the ability works, particularly as she’s still making the transition between timelines.

The reemergence of Walter as a leading figure and the return of William Bell were also important aspects of this opening salvo, helping to contextualize their upcoming amberization.

I didn’t take well to Walter dismissing Jones’ intelligence after lauding him in the previous episode, but again it’s another case of the narrative rearranging the pieces to suit this episode, figuratively sacrificing Jones before his actual fall. Still, Walter linking the nanite compound to his former lab partner (more on that in the upcoming Observations) works well enough in itself, as it’s the kind of pattern he would pick up on.

The scene between Jones and Bellie was one of the episode’s highlights. Jones’ anxiety when giving Bell the ‘bad news’ was interesting to note, particularly given his desire to be special in Bellie’s eyes. Bellie’s cavalier attitude dwarfs even that of Jones, as it’s confirmed that he has been pulling the strings all along.

Bellie’s chess analogy was a bit convenient, to the point where I wondered how else he would have conveyed his double-edged message about sacrificing ‘the Bishop.’ Good thing Jones didn’t comment on something less ‘metaphor-able’. That aside, it was good to scratch the surface of Bellie’s psychology. We get an idea of his patience in ‘playing the game,’ and his willingness to sacrifice important pieces at the right time.

I do feel that Jones, as smart and similarly-minded as he is, should have known that Bellie was referring to him as “the Bishop”. That aside, I almost take Bellie’s explanation as a little twisted nod of appreciation, which (in essence) is what Jones originally craved other timeline, and possibly in this iteration too. Though it might also be a case of their ‘brave new world’ not being big enough for the both of them.

The notion of sacrifice is important, not just in relation to Jones, but to the bigger picture. So much of this story is about sacrifice, a concept intertwined with love. Whether it’s Walter sacrificing an entire world, Peter sacrificing an entire timeline, or Olivia giving her past life the boot, it comes in many forms.

Another major thread running throughout the episode was Walter struggling to convince the team that Bellie was alive. Though Nina’s resistance is easier to accept, (assuming she’s on the up and up) she probably doesn’t want to think that he kept her out of the loop.

Bellie’s earlier nod to patience is reflected when we get more insight on the night he faked his death. Before then, he visited Walter in St. Claire’s to say goodbye, but Walter can’t remember what he said due to the extra helping of shock treatment.

It was interesting to see Walter return to St. Claire’s to look for evidence of William Bell. It may not have captured the heartache of “The Equation” but it’s another glimpse into the trauma that place represents for Walter.

The Olivia/Peter scene at home represented a change of pace, scooping up some emotion dust for later. Worryingly for Olivia, Peter tells her in no uncertain terms that he wont lose her again, which pretty much guarantees that bad things are ahead for the Dunhamnator, with X marking the spot.

Peter’s hopes of a home-cooked meal are shattered by operation Kill Bishop, as Bellie illustrates the might of his power by destroying a building using the sun’s rays. An impressive feat, even though the scale of devastation and sense of actual loss isn’t quite conveyed. How different from “Ability,” when the threat to civilian life felt more palpable because Olivia was such an emotional Titan. Forged in the rings of Saturn, and all that.

That said, the ‘ease’ with which the building is destroyed kinda works in illustrating the god-like power Bellie is acquiring — though clearly he still wants Olivia, his proudest creation. Natural and unnatural.

Jones’ final stand was rather out of character, reduced to a crowbar hack. This is the first time we’ve seen him so physically aggressive, as a result it felt contrived. There are so many questions, including: why Jones would attack Peter himself?; why he didn’t just use a gun?

Of course, it’s for the drama, but I do wish it wasn’t at the expense of a great character. What came next was probably as close to “soul magnets” as Fringe dares go again, as Olivia, unable to stop Jones kicking Peter’s ass from the other rooftop, ‘projects herself’ through Boy Wonder, controlling him like some kind of Real Steel Bad Robot. WHAT. THE. FRINGE!?

Questions as to why Olivia would even think to go avatar on Peter are somewhat tempered by the earlier scene with Jessica. Aside from the contrivances, I enjoyed the moment, as it represents a new tool in Olivia’s arsenal, but mostly because she reminded us who really wears the trousers in that relationship. (which means Peter wears the bra and panties?).

While Jones’ death pains me, Jared Harris gave an excellent final turn with his “I was the sacrifice, I was the Bishop!” realization. I prefer to view the crazed look on his face as a  kind of twisted joy at the thought of being so special that Bellie would sacrifice him. For me, that offers the better closure, as it suggests that Jones got what he really wanted in the end (it’s still rather pathetic, but I’ll take that over another tame exit).

Sure, he was an antagonist, but his value to this season and the serialized arc of Fringe in general is not to be underestimated. While others were picking flowers and drinking rainbows, Jones was plotting and driving the overarching conflict. He was damn committed. I may have wanted to delve deeper into his actual psychology, but he gave me flickers where he could. As disappointing as his demise is, it’s fitting that Olivia had a fist in his exit this time. RIP David Robert of Jones. May we forever swoon your memory.

Walter’s use of Cortexiphan and pig brain to track down Bellie was a bit of a reach. Though it was good to see KickAstrid kick some ass before getting shot (so this is why she stayed in the lab in the other timeline). We know Astrid wont die, since she’s alive in 2036 — one of the unfortunate downsides to nonlinear forays, they can take the weight out of the room.

The face-to-face meeting between Bishop and Bell was fitting, though it undercut the significance of Astrid ‘dying’. Still, it was hard not to feel a slight shiver down my Cortexi-spine at those words, those patient, patient words: “Hullo, old friend.”

He may have had more lives than a cat trapped in Westfield, but I must admit its good to see Willum again (aside from the whole killing Jones, getting Astrid shot, and destroying universes thing). But make no mistake, he has some ‘splaining to do..

CAST NOTES

  • Love Walter throwing up the deuces. Love Astrid’s bemusement at yet another name-fail.
  • Cortexiphan being regenerative feels a bit contrived due to the convenience of its use in this episode, though it’s not a real surprise given the role it plays in limiting limitations. Highlighting this aspect now also feels like a pointer to future events.
  • So, this week Olivia plays Geppetto, and Peter plays Pinocchio — the Fringe/Once Upon A Time parallels are getting scary. Next you’ll be telling me September is The Blue Fairy..
  • I hope Petah doesn’t sue Olivia.
ANSWERS

  • As foreshadowed in the past couple of episodes, William Bell is indeed alive. Jones was working for him.
  • Bellie was dying before he faked his death.
  • Bellie used Jones as a sacrifice to open up new ‘opportunities’ (presumably he has designs on Olivia).
  • Olivia discovers a new ability in her Cortexiphan toolkit.
  • Cortexiphan is apparently regenerative.
MYSTERIES

  • How will Astrid be saved?
  • Bellie’s ultimate goal?
  • Is Bellie still dying?
  • Does Bellie want Olivia so he can control her? What are his aims for Dunham?

Best Moment: Olivia showing real steel by going Bad Robot on Jones through Boy Wonder.

Best Performer: John Noble

Best Quotable: “I was the sacrifice! I was the Bishop!” (Jones to Jones)

9/10 Seriable Stars

Comments

  1. YourPique says

    The Microsoft pitch has been around since at least the season 2 finale (when Bolivia was watching the hospital surveillance tape at the beginning of part 2). ;)

    Good read as usual…but it still begs the question…was this Bell’s intent all along? Did he set up the world(s) around him to keep from dying, to stay immortal (he’s come back twice now)? Did he pretend to be friendly in Over There and LSD, only to use the Fringe team(s) as pawns in his macro chess game? Sure seems like it.

    If this is true, then all of the animosity towards Bell in season 1 (that was quickly displaced for the last 3 seasons) was major foreshadowing.

    Remember, Nina said at the beginning of Over There that the BBM was William’s design…as were shapeshifters, quantum entangement devices, the Mr. X-brand nanites…is Bell the elusive Fringe narrator that you keep looking for?

    Like: Thumb up 4

  2. says

    I’m still reeling from Astrid’s shooting. I would like to stay as positive as Dear Astrid would, and say she doesn’t “die”. This is Fringe however, and who is to say that Astrid as we know her doesn’t “die”, and out of utter devastation, Walter goes and conjures himself up an Astrid-Shapeshifter? That could be who we see in the 2036.

    Also, 2036 as represented in ‘Letters of Transit’ is only one of many possible “futures”. I am going to stop myself because I am playing a little much Devil’s advocate here. I DON’T want Astrid to die, I am as curious to see the aftermath of that incident, as I am to see part 2 of ‘A Brave New World’.

    P.S.
    I was going to save this for the Observations, but I just knew something was going to happen to Astrid because she was out of her usual jewel toned wardrobe (deep violets, burgundies, deep navy), and wearing white paired with taupes

    Like: Thumb up 3

    • fedorafadares says

      I noticed the wardrobe change, too! At first, I thought she’s wearing white because someone’s going to “make an angel” of her. This thought was followed closely by, “well, a blood stain wouldn’t show up on a plum blouse…” LOL!

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  3. ToxicCrusader says

    I dont think that the 2036 future seen in ‘Letters of Transit’ is something that will happen definitively. Hell, even the 2026 future in 3.22 was negated by Peter’s actions at the end of the same episode, so it’s obviously possible that the same can occur in this season finale.

    Like: Thumb up 4

  4. Adam says

    “Walter’s science bordered on contrived science, at times.”

    To be fair, that’s a valid criticism of practically every Fringe episode (I think my all-time favorite was “emotional quantum entanglement” from 6B). It’s Fringe, the writers do not know science, and that’s fine! Take the show for what it is :)

    Like: Thumb up 8

    • hal says

      No.. this episode was definitely 60′s-batman-style pulling science out of walter’s ass.

      Like: Thumb up 1

  5. Scott42444 says

    I don’t believe that 2036 (4.19) is a future that will be changed without further exploration.. The future of 2026 was changed based on the actions of that episode, but that is not the same feeling I received from “Letters of Transit”. I recently rewatched all of Season 4 and have a new appreciation for it. I believe that I was expecting something a bit different so I was a bit disappointed the first time around. That being said, Fringe CANNOT keep altering the show to where the things that its’ characters have done don’t mean anything. Technically, everything that happened in Season 1, 2, and 3 don’t have any repercussions on the current show (with the exception of Peter and Olivia’s relationship). If the possible future offered in “Letters of Transit” ceases to be a possibility (and unlike “The Day We Died”, none of the main characters knowingly did something to change it) it means we might as well start basing episodes around the characters dreams. It would carry the same emotional weight.

    Like: Thumb up 3

    • Rick Terry says

      My thoughts exactly. Although I have not yet rewatched the season I do plan to after the finale. As was mentioned by the producers and even some of the cast, I think the Letters of Transit Future is one we will be revisiting, and one we need to revisit if the show is to have any cohesion moving toward the ending.

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      • Scott42444 says

        Yes, I agree. I think Joshua Jackson was the most vocal about “Letters of Transit” being a glimpse of the direction the show is going next season. Not Lance Reddick though, that guy is always so careful about keeping a secret. You could tell him the real JFK killer and he would tasking to the grave. Even when he is getting interviewed for Fox promos, which they can obviously edit before releasing them, he is always doing the waltz in his mind with what he can and cannot say. I guess he has been in the “Bad Robot” family the longest so he knows how tight lipped they want him to be. Pushing Locke’s wheelchair around with a grin on his face. Boy, has he played Broyles differently.

        Like: Thumb up 3

  6. Scott42444 says

    Also, the Season 5 teaser promo that was shown right after the renewal announcement had the same lettering as the “Fringe” title on episode 4.19′s intro title sequence.

    Like: Thumb up 2

  7. lost_stef says

    Great Review once again Roco.

    I was also glad to see a glimpse of season 3 Olivia showing her emotions and being all bad ass Dunhamnator.

    cant wait for the finale!

    Like: Thumb up 6

  8. Denny says

    I don’t want Astrid to die, but she may. This may be a way for the producers to show that the world of 2036 is not set in stone.

    Like: Thumb up 1

    • Underseer says

      No, I think the showing of cortexiphan’s regenerative properties may give you a clue as to how both Astrid’s and Olivia’s upcoming ‘Man X’ fatal wounds may be dealt with.

      Like: Thumb up 2

  9. Underseer says

    “why Jones would attack Peter himself?; why he didn’t just use a gun?”

    Or even just send a group of henchmen? Or get suspicious, as you said Roco, when asked to do it himself? He has never come across as a mindless follower, but a leader. It would be an obvious move for Bell to dispose of him when he’s outlived his usefulness and may challenge him for leadership – a smart man would know that. Did DRJ take dummy pills this episode?

    Absolutely agree on the jarring absurdity of an older intellectual man suddenly turning Rambo. In the real world it would be a very one-sided fight with a younger fitter man. DRJ’s exit felt like a hasty plot device and was extremely anti-climactic and disappointing.

    Feels like Sam Weiss’ disposal by Broyles in season 3 “OK, you saved the world by helping Olivia to open the machine, now sod off ‘cos the writers don’t know what to do with you. K, byeee!”

    “So, this week Olivia plays Geppetto, and Peter plays Pinocchio”

    Why didn’t she just zap DRJ directly? Smack him with her telekinesis? The Pinocchio scene was the one of the most contrived and ridiculous in Fringe so far. I actually burst out laughing when they showed that. And not in a good way. It was embarrassing.

    Another bit of silliness: apparently Olivia and Astrid have forgotten a cornerstone of FBI training: call for back up. Fringe division sends Olivia and Peter to investigate a major attack on Boston: alone? That’s like sending two firemen to the twin towers in the 911 attacks – but in this case you could prevent the disaster – and this is on a potentially far more massive scale.

    Really? Are you kidding me? No agents along to help? Knowing that Jones has plenty of henchmen at his disposal, you send two people? Because all the other agents are eating doughnuts? Even if one has telekinesis, she’s hardly invulnerable and she doesn’t always get it to work. Broyles, (or rather writers of Broyles) what were you thinking? Did you take the same dummy pill as DRJ?

    And Astrid recklessly follows Walter like a puppy dog, bumbling with shocking ineptness for a trained agent, into an unknown situation in a warehouse?

    No calling for back up there either, (or telling anybody where you’re going, unless I missed that?), because hey, if there’s trouble she’s got Walter’s foul flatuence to nauseate any henchmen into submission, right? If you’re in law enforcement you know one cardinal rule: call for back up, first, last and always. Only in Hollywood do law enforcement change into a unpredictable situation where they’re likely to be outnumbered. Especially when, I dunno, the fate of two universes may depend on it?

    I’m pretty dismayed at a seeming return to the sloppy writing of the first half of this season. I’m also shocked that Akiva Goldsman is involved in this episode when all of his others have been awesome.

    I really hope next week episode ups its game. They gotta do better than this for a finale.

    Like: Thumb up 3

    • Underseer says

      “law enforcement change into a unpredictable situation” should be “law enforcement charge into a unpredictable situation”.

      Sorry about the long ranting post above. Wont’ do it again (yeah right, brevity is my middle name ;) )

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    • Hatch says

      What’s even more frustrating about Jones is that he sent a sniper to kill someone just a few weeks ago. And picks a fight with Peter using a crowbar. I still can’t get over it.

      I’m usually not one to nitpick, but this episode had me eye-rolling all over the place.

      Like: Thumb up 6

      • says

        Oh but it was a beautiful death !
        I laughed at it, but I loved it … ate it up.
        Jones is only half the man he use to be in all timelines. Lol !!!

        Like: Thumb up 3

    • D says

      I’m usually a stickler for logic, but I actually forgave Olivia’s failure to call for back-up on the grounds that if they’re evacuating a large area of Boston, it may take time for backup to arrive … who knows, she may have called for them, but they haven’t yet arrived, and no sense in waiting around.

      (But OK, it was pretty contrived.)

      Like: Thumb up 2

      • Underseer says

        Well to my knowledge, a city-wide evacuation would never be headed up by the FBI, but by FEMA and other related disaster management organs.

        FBI agents (again to my knowledge, I stand to be corrected on this) have no real training in mass evacuation protocol. They’re a crime fighting organ of government – prime authority belongs to FEMA in this case.

        And if there’s a lot of traffic because of the evac (but we saw no evidence of that though), you go in a helicopter gunships armed to the teeth, right? You don’t skimp on resources when somebody is trying to end the whole damn universe.

        This is the FBI, not some understaffed neighbourhood watch group, although you’d think so watching this episode. The President would be in the loop and the Fringe team would have all the backup they could ever want on permanent standby at a moment’s notice – SWAT, Seal teams, Bomb disposal etc etc you name it.

        Something else that upsets me is that if you’re going to drag a well-loved iconic actor out of retirement yet again, you should make damn sure that the story he’s in, is the best you can muster. They didn’t. This episode was one of the worst yet of the season.

        I’m hoping next week’s ‘final’ finale will make me forget the cringe-worthy Peter Puppet Show.

        It gets 4 out of 10 from me, and that only because of the great Nimoy.

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  10. edgesight says

    Jones went out like a bitch. I like that he was cut in half but the way it happened didn’t make sense.

    Next episode clue “EDEN”.

    Like: Thumb up 1

  11. starman says

    The only weak excuse I can find for Jones’ carelessness in going after Peter by himself (instead of using henchmen which he had always previously done) is that he may have been pissed off at Peter for making him uncomfortable during the interrogation scene in episode 4.09. Peter knew about the teleportation causing his scars and told Jones that he had cut him in half. Jones may have considered this humiliating, so when he was given the nod to kill Peter he wanted to do it personally. Still, going after him alone and with a crowbar was a stupid move, and it diminished Jones from a criminal mastermind to a common thug.

    Like: Thumb up 5

  12. Brian says

    Moment of the night, for me, was Astrid kicking ass. I have been waiting so long to see her character be a part of the action. It was such an epic moment; one of my favorites in the series. I really hope she survives. She’s such an important part of this show.

    Like: Thumb up 3

  13. D says

    Olivia realized she could turn into a puppeteer when her throwing down her gun caused the rent-a-cops to throw down their guns.

    Also, although the call backs to Road Not Taken are definitely there (even the colorings of the twin in that episode and Jessica’s in this episode are similar), Olivia defused the two women in very different ways. In Season 1, she caused the twin to focus her heat on Harris, causing him to combust. In this Season, heaven knows what she did, but no one burned.

    Like: Thumb up 5

  14. MNTwinsFanNV says

    Thank you, Roco, for reminding me there is a future (not necessarily the future, but a future) where Astrid is alive. I actually said “NO!” out loud when she was shot.

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  15. says

    I love reading Roco’s reviews. I find them both enlightening and many times quite entertaining. Thank you.

    I also love the comments. As someone who has watched way too much television, I am simply amazed at the dedication and the intelligence of Fringe fans.

    With that said, I thought I’d add just one (silly) observation. Did anyone notice that not only did Peter have on his Peacoat from past season(s), but Olivia is now wearing the style of wool hat that she wore in season 3? Love the way the writers tweak even the small stuff. Love this show and love Fringe fans!

    Like: Thumb up 2

  16. Red Balloon says

    Great points Roco, very funny and spot on…thanks

    Indeed, I welcome the Dunham and Astrid action, but I’m feeling a little bored because even though they advanced the story a lot in these couple of episodes, there’s nothing new in my book of theories, but at least they’ve been confirmed. I would’ve prefer Alt-Nina as the big antagonist with God complex because in real life, money and power is what drives bad people to unimaginable outcomes, and Bell is somehow more of a scientist achieving freak than an actual Baddy. But it plays well for both.

    So, how does this new world Bell is creating linked to the 2036 Observers’ world?. It didn’t happened I assume, right?, cuz Bell was ambered, and ***SPOILER ALERT*** no sight of any dinos and all***SPOILER END****, lol. Is that considered a spoiler from the trailer?, anyway, this is what drives me crazy: all of the possible futures we’ve seen, are actually very different from the developments that we in the present are witnessing. Either we are in a very slow motion time-line, or they were just used to show others what the show was capable of, if there were more seasons in the future. And now that we’ve seen that Astrid lives, Olivia is nowhere/what have you, and Bell didn’t ruled, the finale has become a little non-surprising or climatically null in my opinion. We should be worried for Olivia’s demise, but I don’t think they’d dare to remove
    her from the first season five episodes…would they?. I’m really exited to watch Nina/Bell/Walter and the “POWERS” glyphs spelled Dunhamnator action, so I’m thrilled about that.

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  17. Red Balloon says

    About DRJ, I think it would’ve fit more if he faced Olivia “his girl” with another opened question before he died, like when he planted doubts about loyalty and stuff. I mean, he always treated Olivia as the special one, but he never had closure with her, with his motives and admiration of abilities or origins, and at the end neither did I. I guess Bell will explain what that was all about.

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