Episode Title: "The Consultant"
Writer: Christine Lavaf
Director: Jeannot Szwarc
Previously on "Fringe":
In the alternate universe, Lincoln Lee (Seth Gabel) watches the funeral for his counterpart from a distance alongside the alternate Astrid Farnsworth (Jasika Nicole) aka Kick-Astrid. The alternate Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) or Fauxlivia tries to comfort Alt. Lincoln's parents by promising justice for their son. Hours later, Fauxlivia visits a holding cell containing the alternate Nina Sharp (Blair Brown) or Meana and she tries to cut a deal with her in exchange for the man pulling the strings, David Robert Jones (Jared Harris). But Meana laughs off the offer and tells Fauxlivia that things in her world are about to get much worse.
In our world, an executive named Brian Bauer (David Lewis) browbeats his hapless employees in a business meeting before he seems to telekinetically rise and then fatally crash into the floor. Soon enough, the Fringe team of our world is on the scene as Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) and his son Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) note that Bauer's injuries appear to have been sustained from a plane crash. Upon learning that two other men suffered similar demises, the Fringe team reaches out to the other universe and they discover that all three of the victims' counterparts died in a plane crash at the same time on that world.
Meanwhile, Fauxlivia goes to Colonel Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick) and gets him to sign off on her surveillance request on 108 possible moles within her Fringe division, unaware that the Colonel is the mole. The Colonel signs off on her request shortly before Walter travels through the Bridge to act as a special consultant on the case. At first, Walter is delighted to be in the other world… until he is grimly reminded of the damage he caused from his first visit. With Lincoln and Fauxlivia by his side, Walter soon demonstrates that someone linked the three men who died in the plane crash to their counterparts in our world.
Walter also admits that this stunt far exceeds his experiments with the late William Bell. Walter speculates that a device was planted on the plane to accomplish this, but since it crashed in the ocean the theory can't be proven. Elsewhere, Jones is briefed by one of his operatives on the success of the first device and he greenlights a second attempt. Jones then drops in on Colonel Broyles at home, where he meets the Colonel's wife, Diane Broyles (Karen Holness) and their son, Christopher Broyles (Curtis Harris); whom Jones is healing in exchange for the Colonel's cooperation.
In our world, Jones' operative leaves the device in the back of a cab. And when a woman gets in the back, the device soon activates and kills her and the driver along with their counterparts in the alternate world. To coordinate between the two Fringe teams, both Astrids reunite at the Bridge and relay information between their respective teams. It's Peter who finds the device in the cab and discovers that it contains amphilicite, linking it to Jones. Back at the alternate Fringe headquarters, Walter is crankier than usual over his inability to decipher what Jones is attempting to do.
Fauxlivia offers to let Walter stay with her that night and Walter remains behind for a moment to apologize to the Colonel for his outburst. The Colonel asks Walter if he would save Peter again if he knew what it would lead to for both worlds. Walter admits that his answer would have been "no" until he got to know his adult son. Outside the office, Kick-Astrid informs Fauxlivia that none of the 108 can be tied to Jones. The hunt for the traitor has hit a dead end. Hours later, the Colonel is summoned to meet Jones and given a device to attach to the strange machine powering the Bridge.
When the Colonel points out that the Bridge is healing his world, Jones curtly reminds him who is healing his son. That night, Walter finds Fauxlivia distraught and more than a little drunk as she tries to deal with her inability to find the mole. Walter treats her gently and even makes some eggs for her while invoking Sherlock Holmes and pointing out that even the Colonel should be considered a suspect. The next morning, Fauxlivia tries out the theory on Meana and says that they've already arrested the Colonel.
Meana confirms the Colonel's complicity by saying that he's just a pawn. Fauxlivia shoots back that Meana is also a pawn and she shouldn't expect Jones to save her. As Lincoln and Fauxlivia attempt to figure out how to prove the Colonel's treason, Kick-Astrid informs them that the Colonel has gone off the grid and can not be found. Tracking him through his ID card, Lincoln and Fauxlivia race to the Bridge in a desperate attempt to keep the Colonel from sabotaging the machine. But when they get there, they are met by both versions of Broyles. And the Broyles from our world says that his counterpart has just turned himself in.
Fauxlivia looks stunned as the Colonel apologizes for the death of her partner. The Colonel is soon locked away in the same area as Meana. At the Bridge, Walter and Fauxlivia part warmly, while Lincoln elects to remain behind again to help stop Jones and stay close to Fauxlivia. Back in our world, Peter and Olivia are told by Walter that the device that the Colonel was told to attach to the machine could have been used by Jones to collapse both universes simultaneously, destroying everything and everyone.
It's somewhat disheartening that "Fringe" is delivering great television week after week, but the ratings just continue to slip. At some point, even the faint dream of a shortened fifth season won't be feasible if "Fringe" can't hold on to an audience on Friday nights.
That would be a real tragedy, because "Fringe" continues to fire on all cylinders after a brief midseason creative hiccup. The story of "The Consultant" was engaging, but the real triumph is in the characters themselves and how they interact with each other. Walter's joy at seeing Olivia and Peter together has transformed him into an almost completely different person than he was at the beginning of this season. Remember the Walter who was scared of his shadow and reflective surfaces? It's hard to picture that guy embracing his adult son and eagerly traveling to the other universe.
If the Bridge is healing the two worlds, then Peter's very presence has slowly healed Walter. He's not the same Walter that he was before the timeline changed, but he's close enough. And the change in Walter gave him the capacity to relate to Fauxlivia almost like a father figure. As much as it would have been hilarious for Walter to mention Fauxlivia's "Vagenda" again, their scene together in her apartment had an unexpected warmth. Also, the visual of Walter wearing Fauxlivia's bathrobe kept making me laugh.
"The Consultant" also marked one of the few times this season that both Fringe teams have worked together concurrently on the same case; which allows for some interesting pairings. It was a treat to see both Astrids together again and I loved Kick-Astrid's minor freakout when she thought that her counterpart had illegally smuggled coffee into her world. But in a world without much coffee, are coffee machines really going to be that easy to find?
The team of Lincoln, Fauxlivia and Walter was also a lot of fun to watch, but the episode seemed like a missed opportunity to pair Walter up with his counterpart, Walternate. Actually, it seems like the minor role of Walternate this season was a deliberate choice by the "Fringe" writing team. Keep in mind, this season is almost over and we've only seen Walternate three times. And to paraphrase Walter's Sherlock Holmes analogy, that absence may prove to be very significant.
Like almost everyone else, I had Colonel Broyles pegged as one of Jones' shapeshifters. But it was a smarter choice to actually have the Colonel betray his team for the sake of his son. I remember the Colonel's son, Christopher from an episode last season in which he was gravely ill after being tortured years ago by a killer; but this episode didn't bother to explain what it was that Christopher was being healed from. Admittedly, some of the scenes between the Colonel and his son were a little mawkish and emotionally manipulative, but they still worked and allowed us to understand his motivations.
It seems like Colonel Broyle is destined for tragedy in both timelines. In the original chain of events, he was killed and dismembered for aiding Olivia's escape. And now he rots in a cell next to Meana Sharp. For everyone but Peter, "Fringe" can get away with writing out at least one version of themselves because there's a spare in the other universe. But the way that the last few episodes have played out, it feels like the writers are starting to wrap up the series and they're hedging their bets if it doesn't get picked up.
I have a hard time believing that Jones would go through the effort of creating evolved animal men and shapeshifters just to destroy both universes. There has to be more to his endgame than just that. Regardless, Jones has been a better villain this season than he was during his initial stint on the series in season one.
Next week's episode looks like it's going to be wild. A trip to the future and a war with the Observers?! Awesome.