Fringe 2.15: "Jacksonville"

It’s been a while since the writers of “Fringe” delivered a big chunk of the season arc. At least this episode was well worth the wait. While structurally simple, this brought a number of lingering items back on the table in a sharp, efficient manner.

The nature of the Jacksonville experiments, and their relationship to the experiments surrounding Alt-Fringe, has been a huge question since the revelations late in the first season. It certainly seemed at that point, with all the talk about multiple levels of training for warriors under the ZFT mindset, that Olivia would progress along a steady path of unusual growth. The fact that her abilities have barely been explored this season is one of the reasons why it has been somewhat disappointing.

But now there is some insight into the Jacksonville experiments, and as one would expect for this series, one key part was altered perception. It’s hard to imagine that this was the full extent of the experimentation done on the children, but it was the part that pertained to this particular situation. If Walter Bishop and William Bell were interested in creating someone with the ability to combat the imposition of Alt-Fringe on Fringe Prime, then detection and identification was always going to be a primary concern. And that meant altering perception.

As interesting as the methods were, especially in how they affecting Olivia, I found her reaction to the realization of what had been done to the children to be the most powerful. It really is something that cannot be dismissed. As horrified as Olivia has been of Walter’s past activities, this is the first time that she has been this judgmental. Coming on the heels of his actions in the previous episode, it serves as a perfect prelude for how Olivia will react to her discovery of what Walter did with Alt-Peter.

That was one of the biggest surprises of the episode, and it didn’t even occur to me that it would be a consequence of Olivia’s revived ability until the trigger was pulled. One could quibble that the writers didn’t play fair with the audience; after all, if Olivia’s fear of admitting her feelings for Peter was enough to allow her ability to manifest, why didn’t she notice anything odd about Peter right in that initial moment? But given the dramatic punch at the end, it’s easily forgiven.

While I have enjoyed the subtle progression of Olivia and Peter’s attraction and budding relationship, I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the notion of them taking matters further. There is something to be said for the early Mulder/Scully model of professional distance despite attraction. I think it’s safe to say that any romance is going to be on serious hold.

The real question is where the season arc is going to go from here. This is a perfect example of why the previous run of stand-alone episodes didn’t make sense after Newton’s escape. What should have kicked up an even greater sense of urgency seemed to result in little change to the status quo. Now Newton is ramping up his efforts, and everyone in Fringe Division is well aware of the potential consequences. If the writers slip back into stand-alone mode again, all but ignoring the need to track down Newton, then it would be an even greater misstep.


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