Recap: “Fringe,” Season 3, Episode 14 (CL Atlanta)
On the episode “6B,” Walter theorizes that this week’s potential reality-ripping phenomenon has its roots in “some kind of emotional quantum entanglement.” That phrase could be Walter’s geekspeak definition of true love — two souls, bound together in ways undetectable and unquantifiable. Sci-Fi shows and movies sometimes turn to true love to resolve a cosmic menace (in The Fifth Element, the title referred to love, for instance), but on “6B,” love also instigates the problem.
The episode presents us with three couples, counting Peter and Olivia, at different points in their relationship: the beginning, the end, and somewhere in-between. First we meet that instantly-forgotten pair at the beginning, who swap clichés about how they’re in the first bloom of their romance and meeting her friends at the Rosencrantz building. Presumably she survived the allergy scare and he avoided the subsequent disaster (I don’t remember if he was one of the bodies), and possibly they’ll grow old together.
I like the subtle detail about the older woman leaving via the stairs. The episode doesn’t spell it out, but she clearly no longer trusted the elevator given the building’s recent history poltergeist-style behavior. She’s about to get in a cab when bodies begin plummeting from the sky, unfortunately reminiscent of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening. “Like a flash mob — with suicide!” Walter exclaims. The real cause proves consistent with the “Fringe” universe, as Peter and Walter theorize that the guys at the party died when the balcony suddenly turned intangible, plunging them to their deaths. (Too bad there were no balconies below them.) Water deduces that, as in Earth-2, the building is becoming a “soft spot” with the potential of becoming a black hole-style vortex.
Meanwhile, the “b” plot has Peter and Olivia still grappling with their personal awkwardness. Peter says he still thinks about Fauxlivia because, “I’ve seen what the two of us together looks like, and it’s beautiful.” Olivia protests, “Peter, she’s the one who took it away from us, not me,” but he points out that she’s the one keeping the breaks on their relationship. Later they kiss, and Olivia notices Peter glimmering — a shout-out to her ability to see evidence of the other dimension when her emotions are high. She also sees a room glimmering at the Rosencrantz. (I always love any show or movie that does that ‘Poltergeist’ style shot of door with unearthly light glowing through gaps in frame.)
They discover that in apartment 6B a widow, Mrs. Merchant, has been seeing the ghost of her husband, Derek which they deduce is in reality the alternate universe’s version of the man. Here, she’s the widow, there, he’s the widower, and their parallel grief and devotion is causing the soft spot. Mrs. Merchant talks about their lives together, laying out a vision of a happy marriage brought short by death. When their bond is on the verge of opening a vortex, Peter gives a speech about their happy life together and how she has to move on. (It lays the touchy-feely pop therapy on a little thick.) Fortunately the alternate Derek says “I miss you — and the girls miss you,” and since the couple had no kids in our universe, Mrs. Merchant realizes his the wrong guy. Crisis averted. Maybe.
While the Fringe team worried about the onset of a vortex that could destroy half of Brooklyn, Walter realized that the only means at their disposal to combat it involved “the amber,” which encases soft spots in the alternate universe, often to disastrous effect. I like that “6B” more deeply explored the implications of the amber (one of the show’s weirdest details), particularly when Walter realized that he was planning to do what Walternate had already been doing. Does that mean Walternate isn’t as evil as Walter had long believed? More evidence that Earth-2 is not an “evil twin” universe after all.
To get back to the emotional quantum entanglement, Olivia and Peter’s relationship, in this episode, seems like the famous thought-experiment about Shrodinger’s cat being simultaneously alive and dead. This week, the relationship existed in a state of half-life, with the potential of ending irrevocably or finally starting. Anna Torv, as usual, movingly conveys Olivia’s divided emotions. And, in fact, the relationship starts: at the end, Olivia visits Peter and takes him upstairs as the stereo plays the Velvet Underground’s “Pale Blue Eyes.” In contrast to the soap operatic twists, this week the episode ends on a note of generosity toward the characters, although pregnant Fauxlivia will show up to make things complicated soon enough.
The Rosencrantz Building no doubt refers to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from Hamlet, a play with another beckoning, enigmatic ghost. It also evokes Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, which hinges a great deal on imagery of flipped coin and the rules of probability turning unreliable. A flipped coin made the difference whether Mrs. Merchant or Mr. Merchant died in their respective universes. I guess they couldn’t have named the episode “2B” (for “To be or not to be”) because the second floor would have been too low for the fatal tumble. Maybe “6B” refers to the three couples.