Fringe Review, Season 4, Episode 6: “And Those We Left Behind”
Written by Robert Chiappetta & Glen Whitman
Directed by Brad Anderson
Airs Fridays at 9pm (ET) on Fox
This week, on Fringe: Walter gains respect for Peter, Olivia is perceptive, and Peter Groundhogs Days it up.
After last week’s less than winning investigation of the new shapeshifters, this week Fringe is back on form with an episode that demonstrates just how great the series can be. Other than the continued underuse of Jasika Nicole as Astrid, “And Those…” fires on all cylinders, providing an intellectually, emotionally, and cinematically satisfying episode that ranks among the series’ best.
The episode opens with a sweet scene, a dream of Peter’s, reminding the audience of just how much he has lost. It’s simply played and brightly lit, contrasting starkly with the dark cell he awakens to. The cinematography here is beautiful, with incredibly rich blacks (make that very dark greens) broken up by only a sliver or two of light from the hallway. The episode features several other visually effective scenes, particularly the transitions during Peter’s time jumps. The early part of the episode unfolds well, offering up intriguing mysteries and spending time with the team as they struggle to piece together what’s happening.
Wisely, we quickly learn that no one’s body is moving about in time, just their consciousness. Or so it would seem from Peter’s experience. The woman who’s house and daughter travel back four years receives no such explanation, but this is absolutely for the best. Neither is an explanation given for why Peter is the only one at the train scene experiencing such distortions. This would be annoying, but Robert Chiappetta and Glen Whitman don’t allow the pace to lag, continually pushing forward to the heart of the episode, the introduction of Raymond and Kate. The characters comment briefly on the bizarreness and unpredictability of the situation and Peter struggles, and fails, to explain it, and that’s enough to satisfy viewer’s desire for answers.
By the time Stephen Root and Romy Rosemont pop up as Raymond and Kate, the episode is well into its run time. We’ve seen people bend and break the laws of physics in a desperate attempt to save their loved one before, even several times on Fringe alone. Root and Rosemont’s performances keep this been-done storyline fresh, compelling, and tragic. Some will compare the episode and its central tragedy to “White Tulip”, the excellent season two episode that featured similarly-motivated time travel. That episode succeeded due to the narrative parallel between Peter Weller’s time traveller and Walter, two men who broke the world trying to save their loved one. This episode similarly parallels Raymond’s struggle with Peter’s, though far more subtly than in “White Tulip.” Raymond is a likely foreshadow of Peter, a man who can’t accept spending every day with the woman he loves unable to remember him, desperate to get back to his world, in his case, a world before Alzheimer’s. The episode ends with Peter determined to do what he has to to get back to his Universe. Only time will tell if he sees his parallel with Raymond and has learned from this experience.
Obligatory Groundhog Day time loop reference aside, this is an original and affecting story elevated further by excellent performances. The technical side of this is also very well handled. The visual effects, from the time transitions, to the bubbled train, to the iridescent time bubble itself are all executed seamlessly and are examples of just how great sci-fi can look on a TV budget. There are a few entertaining touches as well, such as the Frankenstein lighting in Raymond’s basement when he flips the switch on his machine and yet another 47 (fans of Abrams series will note that the number 47 comes up a lot in his work). There are also some nice bits of humor, particularly from Walter who is handling the Peter situation about as well as can be expected. He makes a lot of progress this week, gaining grudging respect for Peter’s intelligence. It’s notable that Walter has no qualms of sending Peter into the time bubble with their mobile Faraday cage, despite its potential for ‘splosiony failure.
Anna Torv and John Noble are solid as ever, but Joshua Jackson’s take on Peter is the regular cast standout this week. It’s easy to forget just how lost he is, how alone. That is a credit to Jackson’s performance and the writing for the character since his return. It’s perfectly in keeping with Peter’s personality and experience. He’s incredibly practiced at compartmentalization and has spent enough time in the Other Universe to be able to easily separate these versions of his friends and family from his own. He’s withdrawn as a starting point, very rarely letting emotion through when talking with others. Olivia comments on it this week; she’s noticed the difference in how Peter acts towards her and how he feels about her, or more accurately, his Olivia. This is not the easiest dichotomy to play, and it’s certainly not showy, but Jackson is handling it well.
None of the regular cast, however, match the power of Root and particularly Rosemont’s performances this week. Someone should grab them up- they’re successful character actors, but both would be excellent dramatic leads, or even additions to an ensemble cast. (Imagine what they’d do with a nice juicy arc on The Good Wife or Justified!) That aside, this is a fantastic (mostly) standalone episode that demonstrates just how fantastic the series, and dramatic network sci-fi, can be and puts Fringe back in contention as one of network TV’s best.
What did you think of the episode? Think we’ll see Peter pull a Raymond later this season? Post your thoughts below!
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