William Bell's final message to Walter Bishop, earlier this year, was "Don't be afraid to cross the line." And now it seems like Bell has been taking his own advice, being all too willing to cross some huge ethical boundaries.
Last night's Fringe episode was one of my least favorite — but at least it raised a few interesting questions, and gave us some new insights into the show's legendary patriarch.
So last night, the main storyline of the episode had to do with William Bell occupying the body of Olivia Dunham. It turned out that Bell had non-consensually picked out Olivia as his vessel the first time he met her — and at that first meeting, he'd given her some tea containing his "soul magnets." And now he's occupying Olivia's body and seems to have no problems (other than her constricting bra) with the arrangement. (Even though, as is hinted towards the end of the episode, the ghostly possession may actually not be as harmless as Bellivia originally claims.)
There were a few cute moments in the "Bellivia" scenes. In particular, Bellivia's constant flirtation with Astrid (as seen above) is equally cute and creepy. When Walter and Bellivia are talking about putting Bell's consciousness into Gene, and Bellivia suggests that Astrid might be assigned to milk him, the creep factor sort of hit maximum levels. And it was neat to see some of the old rapport between Walter and his best friend — even as we got more hints that William Bell is/was sort of a creep with even fewer ethics than Walter had before his partial lobotomy.
I do love the way Astrid starts buttoning up her shirt after Bellivia gives her the bracelet in the clip above, until Astrid is as covered up as she can possibly be. Nice bit of business there.
Sadly, I have to say that this storyline mostly didn't work for me though. The whole "soul magnets" thing, which had seemed to be a throwaway comment a few episodes ago, is turning out to be sort of a weak plot device. And the whole bodily-possession storyline is just perhaps one level of wackiness too far for me. I also had the feeling that this might finally be the acting challenge that was beyond Anna Torv's considerable abilities, as her Leonard Nimoy impression quickly started to grate on my nerves.
I don't know why — after already having accepted a storyline where Fauxlivia impersonated Olivia, who was brainwashed using DNA to think that she was Fauxlivia, who was meanwhile impregnated by Peter — I have a problem with a story where Olivia is now being inhabited by the ghost of Leonard Nimoy. Perhaps the whole "katra" thing is just the wafer-thin mint that makes me explode. Or perhaps it's just one coincidence too many. Or maybe it's just that it doesn't seem to be going anyplace interesting so far. In any case, I had some misgivings about this storyline when it was set in motion last week — but now that it's fully in motion, those misgivings have blossomed.
In any case, apart from helping to solve the case of the week (more on that in a moment), hit on Astrid and search for a body, Bellivia mostly took time to give Peter some weirdly new-agey and mystical advice. In particular, that there is such a thing as fate, and that you can't always escape it.
(Although just because Peter is shown in a drawing getting zapped by a machine, why is that automatically his fate? Does anything that's drawn on a piece of paper automatically become someone's fate in the Fringe universe? That must make cartooning a very weighty profession. Sure, I know the machine responds to Peter and seems like it was designed for him — but you could design a bomb that would go off if one particular person touches it, and it wouldn't automatically be that person's "fate" to touch it.)
You know how there's a sort of rule that when characters start pointing out how nothing in the story makes sense, that's a sign that the story's possibly gone off the rails? There should be a similar rule governing situations where a character points out that an episode's "A" plot has uncanny thematic resonance with its "B" plot. This is the umpteenth episode of Fringe in a row where the team just happens to be investigating a random set of crimes that thematically jazzercizes in some way with the team's own personal issues. This time around, it's a blonde woman who cannot die — while meanwhile, William Bell has come back from the dead. And just as the zombie lady wants to be a "stowaway" on the journeys of other dying people, William Bell is a "stowaway" in Olivia's body.
But having Bellivia point out the uncanny coincidence doesn't make it profound — it just means that even the characters are starting to notice how formulaic the writing is getting.
And unfortunately, of all the show's weak "A" plots lately, the story about Amanda Graystone trying to die was probably the weakest. Even the first appearance of our universe's version of Lincoln Lee couldn't liven it up. Amanda Graystone, it transpires, was killed in a "home invasion" robbery along with her family. But she came back to life and now she can't die, because of magnetism — sort of like William Bell's soul magnets, but not really. And so she's working as a suicide counselor, giving people platitudes about special raindrops in order to goad them into killing themselves so she can try to die with them. Until one of her suicidal people turns out to be a serial killer who's going to blow up a train, because... I'm not sure why. Probably something to do with raindrops.
But let's focus on the positive: there are bomb-sniffing dogs. In FBI vests. They look so bouncy and eager to do their job. And none of them dies or has its body inhabited by William Bell — although actually a few episodes of Scooby Bell might be kind of awesome, now that I think of it. Any episode that has cute dogs in vests can't be all bad.
The good news is, next week's episode looks like it's going to take place entirely "over there," meaning we get a break from the Bellivia storyline. And some of the show's other storylines are going to move forward. Fingers crossed that it'll feel a bit more purposeful. Here's your first sneak peek of next week's "Bloodlines":