Entertainment Magazine

Review #3134: Fringe 4.6: “And Those We’ve Left Behind”

Posted on the 15 November 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: John Keegan

Written by Robert Chiappetta and Glen Whitman
Directed by Brad Anderson

This was a difficult episode to evaluate. Not because it was a bad episode by any means, but because there were a number of elements that simply required a bit of consideration. The ongoing tension between Peter and the familiar members of Fringe Division is explored at a measured pace, even as the central “case of the week” informs the audience’s desire to “turn back time” to when things were the way they used to be. It is also a reflection of Peter’s desire, which makes it all the more interesting that the solution to the problem is acceptance of fate.

Review #3134: Fringe 4.6: “And Those We’ve Left Behind”

Considering that the circumstances of Peter’s restoration were related to unusual and dangerous anomalies just a couple episodes ago (something difficult to remember, given how long it’s been during first run), his own reaction to the time slip phenomenon raises the possibility that he is causing the kind of destabilization at the heart of the story. And this is a reasonable worry, since Peter is already struggling with the notion of how the universes were breaking down in the first place, from his perspective. It’s not hard to see how he would be concerned that his restoration was, in fact, the trigger to resuming the degradation of spacetime.

Meanwhile, the real source of the problem is an imperfect “time bubble” machine created by an electrical engineer who has watched his theoretical physicist wife fall victim to what appears to be Alzheimer’s disease over the past four years, and wants to find a way to create a space for them to exist where that has never happened. Each time he opens the “bubble”, his wife works out the theory more completely, which in turn allows him to open it even longer. But that also means that the consequences to the rest of the world escalate.

This may seem like a bit of an overdone plot premise, it actually fits very well with the underlying pattern of the season, touching back on elements from earlier seasons. In particular, there are shades of “White Tulip” in this episode, with someone trying to turn back time to change what has come to pass. The underlying message of both episodes seems to be that time should not be rewritten, which defies our assumptions regarding Peter.

It’s been a reasonable assumption that Peter would need to “fix” the timeline to restore it to what it was. And on some level, that’s what we’d like to see happen; we want the previous three seasons to “count”. But that brings to mind that old adage of changing the past: does one have the right to wipe out the versions of every man, woman, and child that currently exists, all to make things “right”? And even if Peter could convince himself that it was the right choice, how could he convince Fringe Division?

But it also serves as a reminder that the writers already told us, in the first season, that this is technically not the same universe/timeline. The current Fringe Prime and Alt-Fringe, according to that theory, may effectively represent two entirely new versions of the familiar two universes that we saw for three seasons, and Peter may have to shift back to the original timeline(s) to find himself where he belongs.

While this would set certain minds to rest, particularly those who weren’t happy with the thought that the original timeline(s) were directly altered, it would represent a doubling of the universes within the narrative, with Peter’s restoration and potential return merging them all (perhaps at the Liberty Island intersection point). It wouldn’t be impossible for the audience to follow such a multiplicity of alternate worlds, I can see how it would make some viewers pass out from overload.

That said, if the writers aren’t playing to new viewers quite so much anymore, and just going where they feel the story needs to go for the dedicated fans, why not go in such a complicated direction? Or it could be that Peter is wrong, and there is no “home” for him to go back to, given what the Machine did.

But this episode tossed all the obvious solution in doubt, which is precisely the right way for the writers to go. Instead of simply understanding what is happening with Peter, we are being drawn into the same uncertainty, anxiety, and frustration. It’s a very difficult line to tread, but thus far, the writers are doing one hell of a job of making it work.

Writing: 2/2
Acting: 2/2
Direction: 2/2
Style: 3/4

Final Rating: 9/10

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