'Fringe' winter finale recap: 'Jacksonville' glimmers

Dedicated to putting emotion, humanity, and a sense of real-world history into the fantasy-show genre, Fringe went into its winter-season finale with a tremendously moving, startling episode. The hour began by adhering to its pleasing formula: one gross-out scare before the first commercial break. In this case, a man caught in what was thought to be an earthquake-rattled building was discovered by our heroes to suddenly possess many more than four limbs, plus an extra face protruding from his chest. That the face(s) belonged to Jim True-Frost — Prez Pryzbylewski from The Wire and therefore enjoying a brief reunion with his Wire co-star Lance Reddick here — only added to the striking oddness.

Walter quickly sussed out that what had occurred was actually the exchange of this entire building with another one of equal mass from Fringe‘s alternate universe. How’d Walter divine that? By asking the wounded True-Frost what buildings were struck on 9/11. “The Pentagon and the White House,” the victim gasped. And as we know from Fringe‘s first-season finale, in the other world, the Twin Towers never fell, so this version of Jim True-Frost was a smooshed-together version of his Earth-One and Earth-Two selves. Plus, he was working, Walter also noticed, on blueprints labeled “New Pentagon.”

Yes, Walter is becoming more and more the lucid explainer: his often-comic fog is lifting, and John Noble is modulating into this new-ish Walter with grace and restraint.

Based on his earlier research, Walter predicted that another earth-rumbling building-exchange is imminent. So the plot was then set in action-mode: How to find out which structure in Manhattan would be affected next? The answer lay in Olivia. Literally, inside her Cortexiphan-flooded brain. Walter repeated the experiment he and William Bell performed in the 1980s on a group of 30 children including Olivia, who was the only subject who was able to discern this other dimension, the energy-mass, which to Olivia gives off a “glimmer.”

“We gave you the ability!” said Walter in his usual tremulous, trying-to-be-upbeat manner. But this week, what results is not comic relief.

Peter uttered a grim reproach: “Illegal drug trials on children — don’t make that sound like charity work.”

Later Walter faced a similar charge from Olivia. He protested, “We were trying to make you more than you were!”

Olivia, enraged: “I was a defenseless child!”

As violated as she felt she’d been, Olivia also hoped to stave off a building-exchange that could kill many people. So she sat in a chair that looked a little like Topher’s mind-wipe throne from Dollhouse, her brain subjected to a Cortexiphan-drip. Pretty soon, she was driving a speeding car, headed to a glimmering building to save the day.

But as in the best episodes of Fringe — and this was indeed one of its finest hours, written by Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz, and directed by Charles Beeson — there was increased dread over what is to come as we and the show’s heroes get ever closer to passing more permanently than Olivia has into the alternate universe that threatens to make everything go (if I may use a technical term) ker-blooey.

In a lesser series, the threat of cataclysm would be a familiar sci-fi convention. But for Fringe, the danger is rendered on a most personal level. True to the countercultural era that inspired Walter and “Belly” to conduct their freewheeling research, the personal is political, as we used to say. I was a bit worried that by bringing Olivia together with her little-girl, alt-universe self, adult-Olivia would be infantilized, rendered weak, and in need of saving by Walter and Peter. Instead, as Walter said, the very fear that little-Olivia experienced has resulted in adult-Olivia’s empowering anger and bravery.

The hour even avoided what the past few episodes have been (dismayingly, to me) building toward — a Peter-Olivia smooch — by having Olivia realize that the fright that drives her into Peter’s arms is precisely the emotion she can use to defeat the forces of evil.

And, oh yes: To see Peter as he truly is — a glimmering Peter, a Peter from another planet, but innocent of his own fate. Walter begs, “Olivia, please don’t tell him,” the genius brought low with a mixture of shame and a bursting love for his son. We knew this was coming. We just didn’t know it was going to be so powerful.

I cannot wait until Fringe returns from its eight-week break.

Did you watch?

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Comments (221 total) Add your comment
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  • Jo

    Unbelievable. I expected the reveal that Peter is from the “other side” to be a huge emotional blow-out. Instead the slow burn of Walter begging Olivia was fantastic. Emmys all around! I can’t believe we have to wait until April!

    • Bryan

      Someone please tell me this show is NOT going to be cancelled…

      • sawyerf8

        This show is NOT going to be cancelled!!
        At least it´ll definitely get a third season! Don´t worry man

      • Nat

        I’m would love for it to go for 5, and state that publicly. JJ has already said he wants to have an end date, which I think would be great in terms of storytelling. I hate it when shows limp to the finish because they’ve dragged it out.

  • JaySin420

    Great episode and the ending was incredible.

    • Dug

      Totally concur on the incrediblitiy of the completeness of this episode from the writing to the acting. Outstanding work by all!

    • Q

      Love it, love it, love it. I am actually much more intrigued and moved by Fringe than Lost right now. I kept waiting for Olivia to look at Peter and see it – but when they delivered the moment, it was so much more wrenching and provoking than I imagined. This show just gets better every week. Is it still on the bubble or has fox committed to season 3 yet??

  • Anjali



    i can’t wait till April!!! I just can’t!!!!!

    • Sherry in The Lou

      HEAR! HEAR!

      • tvfan

        It was so moving and powerful. I can’t wait for more1

  • Cris

    Agreed. We all knew it’s the parallel world Peter, and we knew it was only a matter of time before it was revealed on the show … so while it wasn’t a shock, it certainly was moving. Very well done.

    • Ames

      To tell the truth, the fact that Peter was from another universe somehow got by me. The first I heard of it was on the ew website. I wish I hadn’t read that b/c it would have been such a mind bender to see that for the first time last night. BTW, when did we all “know” about parallel Peter?

      • luke

        parallel peter was talked about in season 1 and pretty much confirmed in the finale of season 1

      • Dave

        The first episode with the bald head man, who eats hot peppers. He stopped Peter in the grave yard from seeing his headstone.

      • kim in kentucky

        we also see Walter crying at Peter’s grave

  • HAH

    Awesome Ep. I can’t believe we have to wait till April. So sad :( Oh, and yeah the Emmys need to acknowledge this show.

  • ashley

    WOW! this has got to be one of the best episodes of fringe! it was very well written, the acting was great, and the effects were amazing. I am so glad that i watched this on tv instead of watching my other shows tonight!

  • Grem

    I really…really hope that the writers forget about the budding romance between Peter and Olivia. Their relationship is more akin to playful siblings. Brothers and sisters don’t kiss! Not even in the south!

    • Stace

      I disagree. I love it. I love that Peter lightens here up and allows her to let go. I love how she seems to have grounded him allowing him to fully invest in Walter and I love how Walter is so excited about the prospect of the two of them getting together. Love the budding romance. Though I think it should be handled with great care and it probably will take some time.

      • ctesdahl

        I disagree too. I have never seen Peter and Olivia as brother and sister.

      • cass

        I agree with Stace. I can understand seeing it as sibling affection, but I see their relationship as blossoming friendship that eventually develops into something more–and yes, romantic. I think they’re great for each other, but I’m fine with it developing slowly. I loved that Olivia took down her hair and smiled and seemed almost giddy (as much as she would get) about going out with Peter. And I feel so bad for both Peter and Olivia, because they seemed so happy and then “wham!”–welcome to Walter’s grim world. Poor Peter. Poor Olivia. Poor Walter.

      • Zoey

        I doubly agree. I’ve always felt that as long as they developed the relationship in tasteful, gradual way that it could work. And you know what? I think they’re doing pretty well. I’m actually glad they avoided kissing, as I feel it’s too soon. They’re good for each other. But the ending really was emotional. Walter seemed so desperate, Olivia so…I dunno. She seemed appalled and saddened.

      • p.j.

        I’ll make three. I LOVE the connection between Peter and Olivia, all the more because the show doesn’t turn it into some huge melodramatic thing but just lets it be part of what’s going on with them in the middle of this larger story. I thought it was wonderfully, naturally handled here. Do some people think that putting down romances automatically, without ANY consideration of what they mean for the characters or how it’s handled on the show, makes them “more discerning” or some kind of crap ? It just makes them grumpy. Fabulous episode, fabulous ending.

      • Nic.

        I agree with all of you. I couldn’t have said it any better! Fringe is the most intelligent show on TV right now. I just can’t believe we have to wait until April 1 :(

      • Mells

        @Stace – I’m totally with you on this one. The slow gradual buildup of mutual respect and attraction between two unrelated grownups is being very well created. I am also glad that they have not yet kissed but I enjoy their scenes together immensely. It is clear they care for each other and its cute how giddy Walter gets at the idea of them together.

      • S

        I agree also. The show last night was so intense, emotionally. The Peter/Olivia interaction, from the beginning, has felt so organic. Last season there wasn’t a spark that there is this season, especially recently, and that goes to the acting and writing. Most crazy is this question – Olivia was finally ready to connect with a man, and open up emotionally, and then she sees that Peter is from the other world. Will that affect her feelings for his? Will she feel like she now doesn’t know Peter or will she feel sympathy for him and will it draw her closer?

      • allie

        Must join the Olivia & Peter bandwagon – I really like the idea of them as a couple. But I suspect that once the truth gets out about Peter it will be a long time before we actually see that happen!

      • Maddy

        I enjoy the Peter/Olivia relationship and watching it slowly grow in an adult manner. But what I’m really REALLY looking forward to is how Olivia is going to handle her knowledge that this is alternate universe Peter. Will she tell him? Will she do as Walter asks? She is completely justified in her anger at Walter over the childhood experiments — how is this going to further effect that tenuous situation now that he’s dumped this additional burden on her too? Is telling Peter protecting him or is not telling him? Peter is going to find out himself eventually, we know that must happen. How will it affect him? What about the people who knew Peter on the other side — has he just gone tragically missing all these years? All good stuff. I can’t wait to see how the writers handle this.

    • Mike

      OK, I want to get to the bottom of this “brothers and sisters” crap. People throw it out ALL THE TIME to decry relationships they don’t want, and the only time I have EVER seen where it was coming from was with Justin and Rebecca on, yes, “Brothers & Sisters,” who literally did think they were siblings and so yeah, it was an issue. But since when did it become something to say about ANY two people who happen to have known each other for more than a month without jumping each other? Sometimes, you know, people actually interact like human beings and friends for a while before getting involved. It doesn’t make them “brother and sister.” It makes them mature and realistic, and I think throwing out that tired canard makes people look foolish.

      • Ally

        Well said, Mike. I have never thought that Olivia/Peter had a sibling type relationship. Instead they have supported each other like friends who are constantly being forced to deal with very strange realities. And it seems like they had similar childhoods, so it isn’t unlikely that these two characters would fall for each other. And honestly, if you are watching a show with a male and female lead who are roughly the same age, you should probably expect the writers to suggest a relationship at some point (X-Files, Bones, Castle, etc.).

      • Amy Leigh

        ITA. When that’s the only argument that detractors can come up with against a pairing, it just feels lazy to me. Apparently, two people of the opposite sex can’t be just platonic friends without being called brother & sister. Sometimes platonic friends become more than that, but that doesn’t make the relationship incestuous, it just means that the relationship has changed to something more than that. I guess some people think that if you start out as platonic friends then that’s how it should always be. People are never allowed to grow or change which would be just poor writing on a tv show.

      • Barb

        You said it, Mike! I couldn’t agree more.

      • chattypatra

        You and Stace are right, Mike. Since when is it mutually exclusive in real life for people to be friends and then fall in love. That is completely ridiculous! I too love how the writers have let their relationship evolve slowly, building trust and affection in a very believable way. These are two ‘broken’ people who were exploited as children by the same person and the saddest thing is, Walter does love them both and vice-versa. Fringe is fast becoming one of the best television shows I have ever seen. Outstanding work by all.

    • PatrickKelley

      I agree one hundred thousand percent. For one, to me they just don’t have that kind of chemistry together. For another, I get sick of shows diverging into romance. Why does every program with a male and female lead have to have a romantic component? Is that some kind of unwritten law or something? Frankly, I thought it ruined the X-Files. Most men and women who work together, believe it or not, DO NOT engage in romantic relationships. Most of the ones that do are only sexual, and most of the ones that are more than that don’t last. I’m tired of viewers living their romantic fantasies vicariously through their television shows. It ruined Prison Break, for just one example, and its ruined a lot of other shows, so I guess its only fair it will eventually ruin this one too.


      • JDMB

        What ruined Prison Break wasn’t the romance, it was the writers having the prisoners bust out of Fox River at the end of the first season (too soon) and then not having any idea what to do with the guys. And all the loose ends!? It lost all believability midway through the second season. Shows are ruined by poor writing, which Fringe has not shown even once…

      • Daxx2513

        Here, here! Well said. The whole “will they or won’t they?” crap is just lazy storytelling. ‘m far more intersted in a complex relationship with all that goes into it (yes, even romance or sex if it makes sense) as opposed to a sappy fairy tale.

    • Donnabee

      WHoa… what is that ridiculous comment about The South???

    • levelheaded

      I agree that a romance between Jackson and Torv’s characters ‘might’ take a way from the show. But if any show could do it right, it would be Fringe. I am impressed by how its gotten better. And I think that Torv’s character having this secret she can’t/won’t (?) share with Peter may keep her from getting romantically involved, but it may just make more tension for their relationship(?) So exciting!

  • Caitlin

    I got the chills running down my spine from John Noble’s last line. I dont know how I’m going to get by these 8 torturous weeks. :(

  • Anjali

    Please there is so much of sexual tension btw Peter and Olivia!

    Poor Olivia, her look at the end when she found out about Peter was heartbreaking!

  • Liz

    I think you meant Belly not Willy. But, yes it was fantastic. I’m a big LOST fan and about a month ago I decided to start watching the newest Bad Robot production. Boy am I happy I did. I’ve quickly caught up and now Im hooked. I thought Anna Torv’s face at the end of the episode expressed exactly what I felt. I barely dealt with what happened to Charlie. I couldn’t deal with anything happening to Peter.

    • ctesdahl

      Omg me too. I miss Charlie =(

    • Chuck

      Although Walter called him Billy on the show, Willy also works. Short for William.

      • thorswitch

        I use the closed captioning, which is taken from the script. It consistently shows Walter calling William Bell “Belly,” presumably drawn from the last name.

    • Tovi

      Why does it matter that Ron is a sex oeefndfr at all???? OLIVIA WAS NOT SEXUALLY MOLESTED OR ABUSED IN ANY WAY!!!!!!!!!!!! What the press has not published is that Olivia was a very sick little girl who had 50+ doctor’s visits in her short life. It is my finding that her medical history had more to do with her death than that her stepfather, who was her daddy,has to register as a sex oeefndfr for a stupid reason.

    • Abdssamad

      Are you referring to the money Norman Hsu enerdsod her with?She promised to return the money if Hsu was found guilty, and she promply did. What violations?I don’t know about the peter paul scandal, but I don’t need another to tell me not to vote for her. She was never my choice anyway.

  • Jay

    did you notice that the lock combo of the facility was 5, 20, 10…in other words the date of the season 2 finale 5/20/2010.

    • Nic.

      Good catch! I was going to watch the episode again this weekend to try and figure out the symbolism of the combination. Thanks!

    • Aimee

      Yes! I said something is going to happen on May 20th!

    • Lorie

      So that’s what the lock combo stood for! Thanks. I knew it meant something, but I couldn’t figure it out.

    • Sherry in The Lou

      i thought that too!

    • Psac

      Me three! I noticed that right away.

  • MB

    Couldn’t figure how they would reveal Peter to be Alternate Peter. But they did it brilliantly. Great work all around.

  • ctesdahl

    Dismayingly!!! OMG Peter/Olivia scream sexual tension! Can’t wait!

    I was hoping for a bigger climax/cliffhanger to the story though…

  • Lee

    I found the episode refreshing and back on track with the mythology for the show. Aside from the core plot of the episode (which I enjoyed) I’m finding the alternate universe very interesting. Two story cars and a possible ‘outlaw’ on coffee only adds to the mythology of the show and I hope to see more of that world.

    • Amy Leigh

      The first clue that something was up in the beginning was that Manhattan was spelled “Manhatan”. At first I was thinking somebody did not do a very good job on their graphic and proofread it. So I hit rewind and checked it just to make sure I didn’t misread it (I didn’t). So when they started talking about the coffee, I figured that “Manhatan” was intentional. I hope we find out more about the AU when it comes back.

      • Anitamargarita

        I noticed that too! And I definitely want to know why “real” coffee is rare there.

      • Anitamargarita

        Seriously though – coffee is not grown in the United States. Is it just too expensive? Has Alt U.S. banned trade with those countries like current US did for Cuba? Have the other countries done it to the altU.S.? And why can Hawaiians get it. Is altHawaii not part of the altU.S.? This will be fun!

      • Mells

        Holy Crow!! i feel like a moron I never even caught that the show started in the ‘Other-verse’. I heard them talking about the coffee but missed the misspelling of Manhattan. Man, I feel dumb.

      • Lisa

        I totally caught that “Manhatan” thing too! It was the first thing I noticed that triggered something was up. And also the conversation about ‘is that real coffee?’ like it was a commodity not readily available, or perhaps illegal! It’s little things like that that keep me looking for more than meets-the-eye in this show and what makes it my all-time favorite thing on TV right now! This was the best episode yet, I think!

      • Lisa

        coffee is grown in Hawaii, maybe that’s why they have it in the altUniverse…but perhaps there are shipping issues that keep it from mainland US.

      • Amy Leigh

        Anita & Lisa, I want to find out what’s going on with the AU!US as well. That’d be interesting to find out that trade embargos had been placed on the US b/c of the fringe science that they seem to be so deep in. The coffee was just one of those things that made me even more curious. It didn’t seem like coffee was banned, it just was something that they couldn’t get easily. Sort of like ranch dressing in the UK. It’s not something that you can just pop into a local grocery store to purchase, somebody has to actually send it to you.

      • Lisa

        Amy Leigh, I think you may be right about coffee just not being readily available in the altUniverse, rather than being illegal or something. I keep thinking about it because it is curious and maybe we’re just reading into it too much, but I’d love to talk to the writers and ask them why they did that! Was it just somethin to see if we were paying attention, like ‘Manhatan’ or the New Pentagon blue prints, or was there something more to it…

      • Anitamargarita

        So, Lisa – you think maybe it was just to blow our minds to imagine where there isn’t enough market demand in the US that coffee is readily available? Totally makes sense, but I have to say misson accomplished! The thought of a New York City where its residents aren’t “into” coffee is WAY weirder than a New York City with an intact World Trade Center.

      • Lisa

        As a coffee-drinking, New Yorker (born and raised), I can definitely agree with that Anitamargarita!!! If I walk three blocks and don’t see a Starbucks, I panic. LOL

      • jen

        I missed the ‘Manhatan’ but saw that the blueprints the man was looking at were for the new Pentagon.

      • Donnabee

        LOL – I paused and rewound the show and pointed it out to my hubby..

    • Akasha

      Man o man! Can someone tell me the Coffee part?!?!? I can’t believe I missed it! I am the only person in the universe – this one or the alt-one without a DVR!

      • Amy Leigh

        The architect guy had a cup of coffee in his hand and the lady that he was talking to asked him where he got the coffee and you would’ve expected him to say “I made a pot in the breakroom”, but instead he says that he has a cousin in Hawaii who sent him some that I guess he’s been using sparingly since it’s so hard to come by. I hope that helps. It was just a passing comment that could be easily overlooked.

      • Psac

        I saw on another sight that in an earlier episode they mentioned “the blight” in the other world. Maybe that makes it hard to grow coffee in most places (along with other fruits/veggies/etc?)

  • Bob

    Ok I might be flat out wrong, but if the alternate universe needed to match all of the mass that was taken, wouldn’t that include all of the people that were inside the building in the normal universe?

    Since at least Prezbo and a few others were in the first building, and the news report said no casualities from the second building, wouldn’t that mean the masses weren’t exact?

    • Bubbles

      Exactly. Unless you consider that the universe may not as be as random as we think it is and the exchange anticipated that the people would be evacuated. Having written that, I do agree, the evacuation of the people in the building makes me think there is no an imbalance and something else has to “go over.”

      • Brad

        Actually, the first building was receiving it’s altenative building from the other side. Note the people in that building were identical or weren’t form fitting. The other building’s disapperance would appear on the other side and with no one in the building, no one would be hurt. Only the building would be in synch.

      • Samantha

        What the hell inspires me??? When I close my eyes at night and see corlos, designs, shapes and space dancing in my head, I am inspired to quit my job and give myself more time to find that place during the rest of my life. Since it started happening about a year ago, I have found more and more time to create and enjoy sharing my work with others. I plan to be a full-time creator in the near future because it’s as if it is calling me.

    • Jarrett

      All of the people left in the building had their alternate person fused with them. I think the body total equalled itself out. They died in one universe and disappeared in the other. The other side just needed the building, and yes, I am making this up as I go along.

      • Anitamargarita

        What Jarrett said. (Yes, you pulled it out your a–, but I think you’re right).

      • Liz

        I think you and your heiny are right Jarrett :). Plus, if they needed the bodies to help make up the mass it would need they exact # of people and I think that goes beyond possibility even for this show. So, I’m going with they pick a building with the same mass. The people in the alt really equal out the people in our reality who are in the building. And now I’m pulling things out of my a–.

      • Anitamargarita

        Okay, how about this? Walter “stole” Peter away 25 years ago, right? Did someone vanish to the otherworld afterwards (therefore making Walter more certain about the building now) or did Peter’s death in our world enough to “break” the chain of events?

      • Nihilistic

        Yes, Anitamargarita, Peter already died in the first universe. Therefore there was no need for someone to vanish from this world after Walter brought Peter back from the second universe. The balance had already been attributed for.

      • GTC

        I wonder if in Walter retrieving Peter from Alt 2 universe, he was saving him from imminent death. Curious how this all plays out. If this sounds completely ridiculous, sorry I’m new at being a sci-fi geek.

      • Bob

        That makes some sense Jarret. Maybe the fact that everyone died in the real universe “cancelled” out the mass that left from the alternate universe in the form of the melded bodies we saw. Therefore all that needed to match was the masses of the buildings? I guess? Oh well, still a very good episode that I’m sure I got too nit-picky with…

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