'Fringe' winter finale: The Jacksonville glow

John Noble and Joshua Jackson on The "Fringe" winter finale answered many questions, but in true form, introduced even more by the end of the hour.

To prepare us for the "Fringe"-less weeks to come, we were left with a startling cliffhanger -- one that was foreshadowed long ago, but would carry unexpected weight -- to tie us over the hiatus.

The episode starts off (after a rare "previously on" to remind us of the cortexiphan and multiple realities threads stemming from Season 1) in the usual formulaic way: engross us with an inexplicable event. The event is a mini earthquake in Manhatan that rattles a multi-story building, but the building suddenly gives way. The team arrives in New York City to investigate and finds that the only survivor (guest star Jim True-Frost) has more than enough arms and legs for one person, and another man's head merged into his chest. When Walter questions him about which buildings were hit on 9/11, after seeing a blueprint of the New Pentagon in the shape of a circle, his suspicion is confirmed when the victim answers, "The Pentagon and the White House." (When we were privy to the other side in the finale episode "There's More Than One of Everything," the Twin Towers were still standing post-9/11.)

According to Walter and science, every action has an opposing reaction; the world acts like a balance, which means a building from this reality will disappear into the other universe in a matter of time. When the two universes are about to collide, there is a glow that emanates just before the collision happens, but Olivia is the only one who can see it because she's seen it before during he and Bell's cortexiphan-testing days in the '80s. For Olivia to retrieve her ability, the team travels to Jacksonville, Florida, where Olivia was tested on as girl. Out of 30 young test subjects, Olivia was the only one who was able to perceive things from the other reality.

Olivia, Peter and Walter enter into a classroom of the abandoned daycare center, and Olivia can't recognize the 16 objects in the room from the other side. So in order to elicit her ability, Walter injects cortexiphan into her system. They go back into the classroom, but Olivia still can't differentiate those that don't belong.

Back in New York City, Massive Dynamic's Nina Sharp hears dogs howling (a warning sign that catastrophe is about to strike) and calls Broyles, who tips Olivia off with the impending disaster. Olivia finds Walter in a room watching an old videotape of a young Olive the first moment she saw the glimmer representing the other side. "We were trying to make you more than you were," Walter says, believing every word he is saying. Olivia, haunted by Walter and Bell's experimentation on defenseless children including herself, angrily asks: "Was that what you were doing? Or were you searching for answers you shouldn't have been asking in the first place?"

Walter makes the connection that the reason the cortexiphan isn't working is because Olivia isn't the same scared little girl anymore. She doesn't feel fear, and that is the prime ingredient for her to see the glow. Back in New York, the team resorts to Plan B since Olivia failed with her cortexiphan mission. As Walter utilizes math to calculate which buildings' mass are similar to the one that appeared from the other universe, Olivia goes to the one person who she can talk to: Peter.

She's a mess, having failed a mission that may in turn kill hundreds of people, but Peter consoles her by laying a stunner on Olivia. "I've never met anyone who can do the things that you do," he says, as he caresses her cheek. This is the first real moment we get more than a friend vibe from both and it isn't as unexpected as one might think. (Some of you may be wondering though, Where did this come from? Season 1 dropped hints throughout.) The partners almost kiss, but Olivia realizes she's scared. ... Ding ding ding! It's her fear of getting close to Peter (or anyone for that matter) that saves New York City, and probably the rest of the world.

Sure enough, Olivia sees one lone structure glow, and evacuates the entire building before it is nothing but a hole in the ground. Mission accomplished, Olivia. The feds end up calling the building's disappearance an "unscheduled controlled demolition," and well, conspiracy theorists will have a field day with that one.

Olivia drops by the Bishops' for drinks (in other words, a semi-date) with Peter, but the cortexiphan is still in effect. When Peter answers the door, Olivia notices something different about him; he's glimmering just like the building was. Walter sees her lingering look and quietly pleads, shameful of his own deceit, "Olivia, please don't tell him." And that is all we need to know.

The countdown to April 1 begins.

Bottom Line: One of the best Season 2 episodes to date. It certainly makes you wish the two-month hiatus would move along a little quicker, doesn't it?

Highlights & Observations:

  • When Peter tells Walter that they've just won an all-expense paid trip to New York City, Walter's excitement takes over as he cheerily responds, "That's fantastic! I've never won anything before."
  • We learn a rule about multiple universes existing via Walter, who says: "The universe seeks balance." So when an object travels to another universe, something else from the other universe (of similar mass) must take its place.
  • Since Jacksonville is one of the only places where the cortexiphan was successful, is it one of very few "soft spots" in the world that can be the gateway to the "other side"?
  • When Walter unlocks the chains to the daycare center in Jacksonville, he uses the following numbers but can't remember why they're significant: 5-20-10. If you refer to a calendar, you'll notice it's a Thursday. Is this foreshadowing the impending war (aka season finale) between the two universes?
  • The progression of the Peter-Olivia romance (almost-romance?) was prevalent in recent episodes, but the underlying thread was always there and was even more prominent in Season 1. But "Jacksonville" is the first true indication that Olivia might have more than a "just friends" vibe.
  • "There are times when the only choices you have left are the bad ones." -- Broyles to Olivia, after he tells her they may have to sacrifice hundreds of civilians for the sake of their reality.


What are your thoughts on "Jacksonville"? What are your theories on the upcoming episodes? 

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