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TV Review: Fringe – “6:02 a.m. EST”

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The common thread that weaves each episode of Fringe together is the fundamental truth that every action has a reaction. Nothing goes without consequences. Throughout Season 3, we have observed the continuous butterfly effect of Walter’s decision to keep the alternate version of his son Peter. As a result, the balance of both the alternate universe and our own has been significantly unhinged with tragic disasters on each side. However, the alternate universe has experienced far worse damage. Quarantined Amber sites have become permanent reminders of the sacrifices they have made in order to ensure their survival. In an unprecedented verdict by Walternate, the decision to go forward with the destruction of our universe has begun in this week’s Fringe, ominously titled “6:02 a.m. EST.”

We are still left to consider many questions. Which universe will survive and which will pay the ultimate price in order to restore balance? Is there a possibility that instead of destruction, the machine can create a world in which the two universes can exist harmoniously?

These last three episodes are of the seasons promise to be the most intense yet and I can hardly stand it. To say I’m not biting my nails at 9:00 p.m. on Friday, while on the edge of my seat, would be a lie. Fringe is just so cleverly written that the pieces of the puzzle are finally falling into place, leading to what could possibly be the most exciting of all conclusions.

This week’s episode contains various accolades to past episodes, with each of them being essential and fitting in their own way. Beginning with a quote from J. Robert Oppenheimer, Walternate fights an internal battle, clearly troubled with the decision that lies before him. In the eyes of some viewers, Walternate may be seen as the villain, ruthlessly pursuing methods in order to destroy our world. But his unvarying apprehensiveness suggests otherwise. He has not only dealt with the kidnapping of his son, but the ultimate crumbling of his world as a result of his alternate’s actions. The sacrifices made to protect his people have led him to the point where he is willing to be responsible for the death of an entire universe, parallel to his own. “Now I become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” This isn’t the first time we’ve heard this phrase. Back in Season 2, Carla Warren mentions this phrase to Walter before he crosses over to the other side. Only this time, the quote has more meaning in Walternate’s case.

At approximately 6:02 am, the machine intended for the destruction of one universe is activated causing a series of catastrophic events in our world. Using the chromosomes found in Peter and Altlivia’s newborn baby, Henry, Alt-Brandon is able to uncover a way to initiate the machine using only half of Peter’s genetics. Everything from the decimation of vegetation and organic life forms to the mini quakes and seismic activity occurring in all parts across the country has begun to occur over here. Before the activation of the machine, an entire flock of sheep, including two farmers, disappears due to the opening of vortex over their farm. In a past episode, ‘Immortality’, it is revealed that sheep no longer exist in the alternate universe. The same occurrences happening over there are beginning mirror what is to happen over here.

There already exist soft spots in our world beginning to rip, causing potential vortexes to open on both sides. With the activation of the machine, our world is beginning to deteriorate, with tears constantly popping up in numerous areas. While the team at Massive Dynamic scramble to make early detections of possible danger zones, the Fringe team in the lab continues to find alternatives to shutting down the machine. Each suggestion is shot down due to the fact that their knowledge of the machine’s mechanics are weak at best, but Peter knows another way, one that Walter has been avoiding at all costs. Peter reveals to Walter that he must merge with the machine and try to stop it from destroying our world. He’s willing to sacrifice himself in order to ensure the survival of everyone else. A poignant Walter recollects the moment in the episode ‘Firefly’, where the observer tests Walters’s ability to let go of his son. “Give me the keys and save the girl.” Walter is able to let Peter go then and a touching look between the both of them reveals that Walter must do the same again.

The moments between Peter and Walter are my favorite. Their relationship is revealing and not of the conventional sort, but they love each other despite everything they’ve gone through as father and son.

Walter’s love for Peter has taken him from one universe and back. He has crossed over twice, risking the world’s safety and his own, just to save his son. As Peter preps to enter the machine, they share their potentially last moment together. No words are said, but nothing has to be. ‘I love you’ doesn’t have to be said, it is understood. Broyles, Astrid, Walter, and the team of workers watch Peter as he is carried up to the machine. His hand reaches out to touch the mechanism in hopes that it would respond to him as it has in the past. Instead, he is shocked and thrown so severely that he is knocked unconscious. In the hospital, it is made known that Peter is physically okay, but the doctors cannot seem to wake him up.

Walter takes the news particularly hard and makes his way to the chapel. In Season 2’s episode ‘White Tulip’ Walter bonds with a fellow scientist who is also on a mission to save a loved one that has died in the past. He reveals to the MIT professor that he believes God is punishing him for his actions and that maybe with time; God would forgive him for disturbing the balance between both worlds. John Noble was so incredibly moving and powerful in his conversation with God. Walter admits he found solace in believing that God had forgiven him. “I’ve changed. That should matter!” He was willing to let Peter die when he couldn’t do so before. On his knees, he prays to God to punish him, not Peter and to spare our world. This emotionally driven scene was the highlight of the episode. Walter’s evolution as a man, a scientist, and most importantly, a father has not only profoundly enriched his character, but will eventually give Walter the strength and determination needed to redeem himself for what he has caused.

Meanwhile, Olivia desperately searches for the increasingly mysterious Sam Weiss, who has gone missing since the activation of the machine. Weiss is shown doing several observations. When we first see Weiss, he takes out a Newton’s Cradle and places it on a desk. He watches the iconic device and eventually the metal balls start moving on their own. Perhaps there is another unseen force present?

Could it be there was a significant change in energy to cause the cradle to be set in motion? The next time we see Weiss he is continuing his observance on the effects of the machine, while solving a mathematical equation. If you watch closely, his equation equals zero. The look on his face suggests that there is something seriously wrong with the way events are unfolding.

Olivia is distracted from her hunt for Weiss, when she hears the news about Peter. As she sits and processes what she has just learnt at the hospital, she observes the shadows on the ground. She walks outside to see the sunrise, her favorite time of day, when the world is full of potential. At the moment, Sam Weiss appears and tells her to trust him because they don’t have much time. Desperate for answers, she follows him as Weiss takes her to the machine.

On the other side, Altlivia learns of Walternate’s plans to destroy the other universe. The information doesn’t sit well with her, as this would mean the annihilation of people from the other side, not to mention that the father of her child is over there as well. In a bold attempt to bring Peter back, she tries to cross universes with the device stolen from Alt-Brandon. Her attempt fails, resulting in her lockup in the same cell that Olivia was once in.

Walternate explains to her that she has the luxury of sticking to her ideals, while he must remain realistic. Walternate feels as if this is the only solution to their crisis. He then says she will remain there until all of this is over. Although, I have a strong feeling she won’t remain locked up for much longer. She’ll escape either on her own or with the help of Charlie and Lincoln.

On a side note, Altlivia could also be easily seen as the villain much like Walternate. Nevertheless, after her complicated relationship with Peter and the birth of her baby, she has become a more likeable, complicated character. She’s out to protect her loved ones as much as Olivia is protecting hers.

Although unprepared for the final events that are unfolding right in front of them, the Fringe team seems to be where they need to be in these tragic times. Walter taking huge strides to let his son go, Peter bravely facing his destiny with the machine, and Olivia preparing to hear answers from Sam Weiss. This episode sets the stage for the countdown to the end of one universe. Next week’s Fringe marks the episode right before the season finale. From the looks of it, we’re in for one hell of a ride.

Fringe airs on FOX at 9:00 p.m. EST/PST

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About Jamie Keh