Allow me to continue by saying that the second season of Fringe has so far been what we in the know refer to as “awesome.”
And “Olivia. In the Lab. With the Revolver.” is making the season truck on and on into more awesomeness. An episode that works on almost every level that I’ve come to love from Fringe, I am only saddened by the fact that I realize only a handful of episodes are left before I have to wait on Season 3 to start.
2×17 (as the episode shall henceforth be known because as awesome as it is, “Olivia. In the Lab. With the Revolver.” is a little much to type/read over and over again) mixes Fringe exactly like I want it. The episode deals with the Pattern mythology and Olivia being experimented on when she was a kid and Peter being crossed over from the Other World, while still having them deal with a Monster-of-the-Week in a contagious cancer patient I dubbed Mesothelioman.
Most episodes of The X-Files and Fringe tackle one aspect at a time. The episode either illuminates the Pattern or they find some wacky science. 2×17 somehow does both. The majority of the episode is spent tracking down Mesothelioman and detectivising just why he is giving people cancer. But at the end, we find he only gives people from Liv’s Jacksonville test group the illness. I honestly didn’t see that one coming for a while. I thought the only Pattern we were getting in 2×17 was the “Peter” references and discussion. So I was happy to see that the writers have now found a way to evolve the storytelling from the binary content that plagued XF.
I don’t want them to blend the two sides too often, though. If every Monster-of-the-Week were to connect to Olivia or Walter or Peter or Astrid or anyone else, the gimmick would get tired. As it is, 2×17 sits in a good place in the series.
The episode also puts Olivia back in the bowling alley with Bowling Alley Guy, who I’m sure has a name I just can’t remember. This just makes me happy. I mean, I can’t help but love his pseudo-Zen talk about wisdom through menial tasks. He’s like a trailer park Jedi master, and I, for one, am quite glad to see that once Liv got finished with her “woe is me” accident depression, we didn’t see the end of this little plotline.
And was 2×17 the first time we’ve seen one of Walter’s old students? If they’ve thrown one at us before, I obviously missed it. And let me tell you how this scene may be one of my favorite Fringe scenes yet. Not only do we get to see what kind of teacher Walter Bishop was—a self-professed “slave driver”—we get to see what his students thought of him: he was good enough to make at least this one guy stick with a major he was concerned about.
Now let me take you aside for a moment. As a teacher, one of the things that weights most heavily on my mind is finding that delicate balance between challenge in the classroom and learning. When a class is too hard, students shut off. When a class is too easy, they don’t remember anything because they are not invested. Good students will almost unanimously say (in retrospect) that some of the best classes they have taken are the hardest, too. However the majority of the other students will cite the easiest ones as best, whether they learned anything or not. It’s just a culture thing (or a generational one).
So to see Fringe point out that a hard teacher can be the kind of teacher who actually makes a difference and provoke life-changing decisions does my academic heart a world of good. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.
One thing I am tired of already is Olivia’s “I have to tell Peter…no, I can’t tell Peter…I have to tell Peter…” cycle. To me, it’s not a clear cut issue like the characters on the show act like it is. Telling Peter he’s from the Other World can do absolutely no good. None. Sure, he’ll know the truth, but he’s built a life in this world, become close with this world’s Walter and Olivia, and adapted to our thirty-years-behind technology. Telling him what might have been can serve no good.
It’s a gray area. And I was very happy when Olivia had decided—seemingly—to let it slide. And then Walter caves and says they have to tell Peter the truth. Why? Because he says he’s caused damage to the universe by taking Peter from the other side. And admittedly, he has. But in 2×16, “Peter,” they established that the damage he had done to the universe those 20ish years ago was already done and irreparable. So if Peter were to be told the truth, the world would still end. So why upset every one and break up what Peter said was his happy little family?
I bet eventually, they’ll find a way that his knowing will fix the tear in reality, but as for now, I don’t like how the characters are disregarding what a previously episode seems to have established.
Minor gripes aside, I feel that “Olivia. In the Lab. With the Revolver.” is one of the strongest episodes that has aired this season. I love the show, and I think the second season is doing the same thing the first one did: start slowly and ramp up to a crazy, epic finale. I look forward to what the rest of the season holds, even if that means I don’t get any new episodes for a while after that.