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TV Review: Fringe – “Bloodline” Part I

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The third explosive season of Fringe continues and, because of the vagaries of life, I am quite behind on the show. Others are ranting and raving about the season finale, and I am only at episode 18. On the one hand, I am dying to know what is going to happen and what everyone has been talking about. I am also looking forward to catching up so that I can start scouring the web for other people’s opinions on the season, as well as start writing for The Fringe Report again. But that’s another story altogether. On the other hand, another painful summer hiatus has started and having only another five episodes to watch makes me want to take my sweet time.

Such is the life of a writer.

The episode “Bloodline” is the 18th of the season, set in the universe parallel to ours. Altivia deals with the until-now unknown potential heartbreaking consequences of her pregnancy. She has an 80 percent chance of carrying an infection that killed her sister and her unborn niece.

She is kidnapped and her pregnancy is forced, within the span of hours, from approximately six to eight weeks to full term. In the course of their investigation to find where Altivia was taken, Scarlie and Lee find out that they can’t quite trust Walternate, a hunch that proves correct when, in one of the final scenes of the episodes, we are given proof as to his involvement in the plot to kidnap Altivia and force the pregnancy along. But in one of those twists of life, the accelerated pregnancy ends up saving both Altivia and the unborn child, a son whom Altivia names “Henry”, after the cab driver who delivers her son.

The production quality of this episode of Fringe is, as always, quite impressive, with a tight script giving a lot of information and details in sometimes subtle ways we don’t catch on the first watch. One particularly well-filmed moment that scared the living daylights out of me comes near the beginning of the episode. Altivia is in her apartment; she gazes for a few moments at the screen of her tablet, flips the screen down, turns around and out of the blue, is tazered. I have watched this episode thrice, I know what’s going to happen, and each time, I jumped. Being someone that doesn’t often get scared watching movies, this is saying a lot.

The Observer doesn’t for once, make it hard for us to find him. Quite the contrary; he makes two obvious appearances in this episode. The first time we see him, he is watching Altivia enter her apartment building at the beginning of the episode. The second time we see him, he ‘observes’ the mysterious doctor giving Brandonate Baby Henry’s blood sample. This makes it quite obvious that the events in this episode, namely, the birth of Baby Henry, is not only potentially very important to the overarching mythology, but is actually so.

The only potential Easter Egg I saw – and there is a reason I am referring to it only as potential – is the butterfly Altivia is watching in the animated painting inside the doctor’s office.  There are two symbolic meanings for butterflies that can apply here. On the one hand, it could simply be the symbol of a buttefly as long life, which ties in well with the title “Bloodline”, by we can, in a way, “live forever”.

On the other hand, a butterfly is also a symbol for reinvention and transformation; the increasing suspicions of Altivia, Scarlie and Lincoln Lee could lead them to transform for the single-minded obedient soldiers to the kind of people who would find a way to team up with our Fringe division, seeing, just like Alter-Broyles did, that there are a lot of shades of grey, and that we might not be as bad as they have been told we are.

The glyphs spell out “FATED”, which ties in with Peter’s journey to discovering if his demise as drawn in the mysterious drawing left behind by September is actually his fate or something that can be changed. The implications for Baby Henry are, unfortunately for such an innocent soul, quite chilling.

One of the ethical questions I wondered at while watching this episode concerns the acceptability of Walternate’s actions. After all, Baby Henry is alive because of them. VPE, or Viral Propagated Eclampsia, is a condition similar to the real life condition of eclampsia. In our universe, eclampsia is neither viral nor propagated. Women rarely die from it in countries like the United States and Canada, where there are great prevention and treatment tools in place.

However, on the Other Side, there seems to be both a viral aspect to eclampsia as well as a genetic component, and we find out that this is the condition that killed Alter-Rachel and the unborn Alter-Ella. It’s quite a sad condition to have, actually. Not only does it have ridiculously high maternal and foetal mortality rates, but it also has a very strong genetic component. It’s nowonder that the usually light hearted Altivia was so glum and negative during the blood test that kicked off this episode.

Interestingly enough, it gives the character another dimension to enjoy as a viewer. After all, we have been all this time discussing how Altivia is so positive and light hearted and Olivia is so serious, but in the last couple of episodes once again were conceptions spun on their heads, as we have been seeing a much lighter side of Olivia and a darker side of Altivia. It’s just like Walter and Walternate, who started as diametrically opposed people with nothing in common only to slowly but inevitably overlap in personality more than either of them would ever care to admit.

The introduction of Viral Propagated Eclampsia puts the focus again on the fact that the two universes are so different from each other. Again we are struck by how the Other Side, so much more advanced that ours on the technological front, isn’t as advanced in other areas, namely, in all things virus-control related. It could be that the viruses on the Other Side are stronger than those on our side; whatever the case, it reflects the same sort of parallel between Walter-Walternate as well as Olivia-Altivia previously mentioned. It will be interesting to see how the lines between the two universes will be further blurred in upcoming episodes, as both struggle to find a way to survive the destruction of the fabric separating them.

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