As ‘Fringe’ barrels forward toward the inevitable war between universes, the walls between the two worlds are starting to weaken. In addition to the obvious suspense this sets up, the show is also making its characters face up to some fascinating ethical dilemmas that really set the series apart from the ‘X-Files’ clone that it started as in its early seasons. It’s just a shame that the show took this long to really find itself.
‘6B’ starts out seeming like a typical case-of-the-week episode. Spooky goings-on at an apartment building have caused the deaths of a bunch of people at a party who all fell from a balcony. They didn’t jump or fall over the balcony; they fell directly through its solid surface. Residents believe that the building is haunted, but Walter dismisses that out of hand. “There’s no such thing as ghosts,” he says. To which Peter sarcastically adds, “That’s where you draw the line? Ghosts?”
Walter theorizes that this is a tear in the fabric between the universes, and is terrified by the prospect. He believes that what happened to the alternate universe is going to happen to ours – that these breaches will break our world apart. He immediately sets to work developing the same sort of amber containment system used on the other side, all the while acknowledging that he’s making the same decisions that Waltnerate made. This forces him to question whether Walternate was ever really evil, or just a man struggling to protect his world the only way he can. Would Walter do anything different in the same situation? Is he doing anything different?
Olivia and Peter discover that the building’s anomalies all stem from apartment 6B, where an old lady named Mrs. Merchant (Phyllis Somerville from ‘The Big C’) has been visited by her dead husband’s ghost. (The man was electrocuted after losing a coin toss to fix a faulty circuit breaker.) However, it’s not really a ghost she’s seeing. The powerful forces of her grief created an “emotional quantum entanglement” that opened a window to the other universe, where her husband’s alternate doppelganger has been doing the same thing she has. In that universe, the wife lost the coin toss and died.
Peter and Olivia try to explain to Mrs. Merchant what’s really happening, but she refuses to let go of her grief until finally hearing the “ghost” speak. He tells her that he and their daughters miss her terribly. But our Mrs. Merchant never had children. She realizes that she’s not talking to her husband. As soon as she finally lets go, the breach closes. Strangely, this experience brings her some contentment. Seeing something as strange as this happen gives her hope that she will meet her real husband again one day.
Despite averting disaster, Walter is still unsettled by the events. “Today wasn’t a victory. Today was a vision of things to come.”
In the B storyline, Olivia has been trying to forgive Peter and to move forward with their relationship. This is made difficult when she kisses him and sees him glimmer, which totally freaks her out. Since the theme of this episode was all about letting go, I assumed that she would eventually decide to let go of her desire for a relationship with Peter. Quite the opposite, in the end she sleeps with him. I guess what she’s really letting go of is her anxiety over his relationship with Fauxlivia.
If the fate of our universe depends on Peter choosing the right Olivia, I suppose it’s a good thing that she’s finally putting out for him. However, something makes me suspect that Fauxlivia is probably more fun in the sack. After this night, I foresee Olivia stressing about Peter comparing the two of them, and worrying that Peter is only doing things in bed that he knows Fauxlivia likes. Seriously, that kind of thing has got to be pretty weird.