Fringe, Ep. 4.18, “The Consultant”: Continued focus on character keeps series on track
Fringe Review, Season 4, Episode 18: “The Consultant”
Written by Christine Lavaf
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
Airs Fridays at 9pm (ET) on FOX
This week, on Fringe: Walter takes a trip, Fauxlivia has a good poker face, and Foeyles isn’t a shapeshifter after all
Last week, Fringe gave us one of their best episodes of the season by focusing on character and substituting anonymous villains with far more personal threats. This trend continues in “The Consultant”, with Lincoln moved out of the spotlight in favor of Walter and Foeyles (the Other Broyles). However, while the previous episode kept a fairly leisurely pace, this week the tension is ratcheted up by the return of the man himself, David Robert Jones.
Lance Reddick has been a consistent strength of the series, when given the opportunity, but he’s been almost continually sidelined. In fact, we’ve gotten far more insight into (both of) the Other Broyles than the character we’ve followed from the beginning of the series. Given Foeyles’ increasingly shady actions over the past several episodes, many, this reviewer included, assumed he’d been replaced by a shapeshifter. Instead, the writers go in a much more interesting and compelling direction, continuing the Other Broyles’ unfortunate familial luck as well as the series’ examination of the lengths parents will go to for their children.
Reddick’s scenes with his family are moving and handled with a light touch. Lavaf wisely skips the melodrama in favor of small exchanges between husband and wife and father and son, allowing the performances, rather than the dialogue, to carry the scenes. The direction is similarly restrained. Fringe is no stranger to bold visual choices when appropriate, particularly in differentiating between universes or memories and reality, but Szwarc opts instead for a simple approach, trusting his actors and keeping the audience’s focus on the characters.
John Noble is always great as Walter, but he’s been particularly entertaining in the past few episodes. His joy at Peter’s regained relationship with Olivia is a note we’ve seen both the actor and character play before, but it’s still fun to watch. More than anything this week, Walter, as he notes, makes a big step forward. The progress isn’t in his trip to the Other Side, however, but in his caring for Fauxlivia. Walter is rarely able to care for himself, let alone others, and his delight at being able to help out makes these scenes endearing, to say the least. Anna Torv has always done an excellent job differentiating between Olivia and Fauxlivia, but this week we get to see her develop Fauxlivia beyond OliviaWithoutChildhoodTrauma. She seethes with anger in her scenes with Meana (Other Nina), she’s desperate and sad with Walter, and she’s betrayed and uncertain with Foeyles. She is a rounded, developed character with motivation to spare and watching her go after David Robert Jones will, if this episode is any indication, be a pleasure.
Which brings us to the man himself. There’s been a lot of talk about Jones over the course of the season, but he’s been disappointingly sparingly used. Or perhaps a more accurate assessment is that Jared Harris has been disappointingly absent. His performance walks a fine line, adding stakes and gravitas and just enough heightened panache to give the character swagger without pushing him, or the season’s larger arc, over the top. (Though the Batupines may have already irreparably taken care of that.) Jones’ scheme this week is bold, logical, and deadly. The effects are fantastic, particularly the opening sequence, and the threat is a straightforward one. Though it’s not always the case, usually the simpler baddies and motivations are the most successful, and this is no exception. Hopefully, the Batupines were a blip and the few episodes left this season will be closer to this week’s in design and structure.
Only four episodes remain, and that’s including a two-part finale. The ratings have decreased over the past few weeks, and they weren’t strong to start with. Though renewing Fringe for a 13-episode fifth season would bring the episode count up to the magic 100, even that feels like a motivational stretch for FOX at this point. This hasn’t been the series’ most consistent season, but if they continue the way they’ve been going in these past two episodes, Fringe has the potential to go out on an incredible high. Fingers crossed that, if this is indeed the end of the series, the PTB’ll stick the landing.
What did you think of this episode? Was I the only one who thought Foeyles was a shapeshifter? Think we’ll get any more Batupines? Post your thoughts in the comments below!