A number of people have expressed frustration and disappointment with the decision to âstring outâ the mystery of what happened in the meeting between Olivia Dunham and William Bell. The fear, that the answers would never come, seemed to be built around frustrations with other shows of similar pedigree (âX-Filesâ, âLostâ).
Iâve found the balance between dramatic delay and revelation to be well-balanced on âFringeâ, perhaps even more so than past JJ Abrams productions, and this season has been no exception. If anything, I think the resolution to certain plot threads has been too quick at times, such as âCharlieâ and his fate in this episode. On the other hand, it does keep things moving in the right direction.
As it happens, there are still mysteries to be resolved in terms of the meeting with Bell. Oliviaâs memories are coming back at a remarkably convenient pace. But the gist of the meeting has now been revealed, and it is essentially exposition that links the revelations of the first season with the plot arc of the second season. The âfirst waveâ of engineered soldiers has come to Fringe Prime to prepare the way for invasion, and they need their leader to open that door. (I like that âCharlieâ was successful, in that it defies expectation.)
Apparently William Bell and Walter Bishop anticipated this turn of events, which led to their experiments and preparations over the years. The Pattern of the first season now appears to have been an unanticipated side product of those efforts. Massive Dynamicâs role is still unclear: are they driving the underground work to prepare a defense for Fringe Prime, or are they trying to mitigate the damage caused by unauthorized work to that end? It may be a bit of both, based on what weâve seen.
Itâs no surprise that Olivia is seen as the key to that defense; it was all but said in the first season. It brings the prominence of the three main characters into context. Walter stole Peter from Alt-Fringe, possibly the act that started the conflict in the first place (since Alt-Fringeâs Walter would be a logical adversary on the other side), and Olivia is the culmination of everything Walter and William did to make up for that grave mistake. Since they were critical to the beginning of the story, one would assume they would be critical to the end of it.
The trick will be sticking to the mythology as it has been revealed, and avoiding the âX-Filesâ trap of shifting focus and direction. It all comes down to that balance I mentioned earlier. By striking a balance between the âmonster of the weekâ roots of the show and the overarching elements, the writers can mitigate weaknesses in the one through the strengths of the other. âX-Filesâ often suffered from putting all the eggs in one basket within a given episode.
I also liked the dynamic between Walter and Rebecca. Itâs not clear if they had a physical relationship in the past or not. Just when it seems to be confirmed, the dialogue speaks to something more emotional, built out of a shared psychotropic experience. That could have been frustrating, but somehow, itâs exactly the kind of odd relationship that one would expect from Walter.
One final word on the performance of Leonard Nimoy. The casting has been almost universally praised, and it seems like many feel the actor can do no wrong. I confess myself disappointed. Sometimes it sounds like Nimoy struggles to deliver the dialogue and work through the scene, and that makes it difficult to discern the character being portrayed. Iâm trying to find William Bell in the performance, and instead, Iâm just seeing Nimoy delivering lines. Iâm sure this is all a matter of Nimoyâs age, and not a lack of effort on his part. His keen interest in the material and appreciation of Abrams is a matter of record. But I wonder if this âcasting coupâ was better in theory than in practice.