Okay, sure: a good chunk of this week’s episode of Fringe resembled Inception. And yes, the elaborate acid-tinged adventure of “Lysergic Acid Diethylamide” ultimately amounted to little more than an opportunity for one character to say goodbye and another to reach the scared little girl inside and say, “I’m not afwaid.” You could excise this episode entirely from the overarching Fringe story—and for that matter, excise much of the recent “Bellivia” detour—and not much would be lost so far as the War Of The Universes plotline is concerned. Right here at the top, I openly acknowledge this, and acknowledge as well that some of you more restless Fringe fans may feel about “LSD” the way you felt about “Brown Betty” last season. I respect that. I do.
But me, I enjoyed the hell out of “Brown Betty,” and I enjoyed the hell out of “LSD.” I’ve always been a “journey not the destination” kind of guy, and so long as a TV show entertains me, I’ll never consider my time wasted.
What entertained me about “LSD?” Let me tally it up:
1. Bellivia. As I mentioned a couple of episodes ago, I find Anna Torv’s Leonard Nimoy impression delightful, and the whole Bell-inhabiting-Olivia concept gutsy. I was no less jazzed by either in this episode. I loved the comic timing when Walter fails to transfer William Bell’s consciousness into a brain-dead body, and Bellivia curtly says, “Walter. Didn’t work.” Then later, when a lightbulb pops, Olivia briefly returns to the surface, and she’s rushed to the hospital, I liked the moment when Bell regains control and warns the doctors that if they continue to shock him/her, “You will kill me and the young woman I’m living inside of.” There’s even a poignant moment where Bellivia explains to Broyles, Walter, Astrid and Peter that based on his previous experiments, one consciousness will fade from this body eventually. So when Peter tells him to get out of Olivia like he promised, Bell asks, “Are you suggesting that I die?”
2. Drugs, man. Walter and William concoct a plan called “Whole Brain Emulation,” which is very self-explanatory, according to Walter. Basically, William’s consciousness will be transferred into a computer, while Walter and Peter go into Olivia’s head to try and bring her back to the surface. This is helped along by the LSD of the title, which leads to a scene of Peter being entranced by Broyles’ bald head (“I think he is an observer,” Peter mutters), and later a scene where an accidentally dosed Broyles gets entranced by licorice.
3. Fringe-ception. Since Fringe has been doing “let’s journey into the mind” stories well before Inception, this episode can’t be called a copy per se, though for the first few minutes in Olivia’s brain, it sure looked and felt awfully close to Christopher Nolan’s film. (But hey, maybe Olivia watched Inception recently.) Walter and Peter find themselves in a city, where they quickly get noticed by one of the inhabitants—Olivia’s stepfather!—and have to flee a horde. Very familiar stuff. But the chase scenes were still eye-catching, and there were some nice Fringe-y touches, like William communicating via morse code from the World Trade Center, and Nina trying to kill our heroes before getting pushed down an elevator shaft.
4. “Belly, why are you a cartoon?” I’m not sure I can properly convey how big I grinned when Walter and Peter walked into William Bell’s WTC office and found themselves talking to an animated figure. Based on pre-episode buzz, I’d guessed that the return of Leonard Nimoy as Bell might be facilitated by some kind of animation, but I was not expecting the whole episode to turn into a cartoon for about 15 minutes. It was a nifty way both to bring back Nimoy without overtaxing the actor, and a nifty way to pump up the episode’s action. I doubt in a live-action Fringe we would’ve gotten a scene where Peter is attacked by a mob of zombies in lab coats and has to hop on a zeppelin to escape; or a scene where a mysterious man on the zeppelin rips the side open with a flare-gun, causing himself and Walter to get sucked out and go into free-fall. (The mystery man has a parachute. Walter, who tries to grab the man and fails, does not.) Animation even added to the climactic scenes at Jacksonville Military Base, where Peter and William go looking for Olivia by searching endless rows of identical houses for the one with a red door.
5. Goodbye, Belly. I was so sure that the Bell-downloading experiment would work that at one point I even made a note along the lines of, “This is cool to look at, but there’s no real suspense here.” So yes, I was genuinely surprised when Olivia made it out of her own head while William disappeared, saying, “Tell Walter that I knew the dog wouldn’t hunt.” I know that bringing Bell back just to get rid of him again is kind of pointless in the grand scheme of things. But it was nice to see the two old partners enjoying each other’s company for a couple of episodes, and nice to hear William tell Walter that, “Now you possess the wisdom of humility,” which is something that Walter needs to understand about himself right now. (It’s what sets him apart from Walternate.) And essential to the storyline or not, it was touching to see Walter back in his office, mourning all over again, while Astrid tries to comfort him with a download of an old Zoom episode.
“LSD” wasn’t perfect. I found the insights into Olivia’s psychology shallow, and the big moment where the young Olivia stands up to her fears to be cor-neeee. (With extra “e”s.) But I loved the shot of Live Action Peter waking up in the lab after Cartoon Peter gets hit by a jeep, gasping, “I lost her.” And I loved the straight-ahead way this episode delivers its strange trip.
Mostly, I appreciate the gusto with which the Fringe team is approaching their show: their willingness to do the unexpected, and to impart a sense of awe. It’s like what I wrote a couple of reviews back, about how Fringe is making a yeoman effort to be memorable. The writers are like William Bell, who finds himself in a surreal mindscape and decides, “I would love to ride on a motorcycle.” Hell, yes! So would I. How wonderful.
- “Please tell me that the plan doesn’t end here.”
- Astro tries calling Walter “Wally,” just to switch things up.
- The neuro-sensors are kept by the fish-food.
- Hey, Nimoy said “logical!”
- With a phonograph tube, tinfoil, instant glue and a 60-watt light bulb, Walter can do almost anything.
- I should mention the dramatic stinger to this episode: Olivia eating toast and sketching the mysterious zeppelin-man, whom she describes to Peter as “the guy who’s going to kill me.” Hello!
- We need an episode where Anna Torv gets a chance to be Olivia, Fauxlivia and Bellivia in the same hour. Otherwise the Emmy voters will have no idea how amazing she’s been this season.