Fringe “A Short Story About Love” REVIEW

TV REVIEW Fringe 4.15

Episode 4.15
“A Short Story About Love”
Writers:
JH Wyman, Graham Roland
Director: JH Wyman

THE ONE WHERE A killer is subduing his female victims using concentrated pheromones taken from their dead lovers. Meanwhile Peter receives a secret message from the Observer September and sets off on his trail. And Olivia chooses to succumb to the memories of “our” universe and stay in love with Peter.

UNIVERSE Over here – orange credits.

VERDICT Perhaps it’s because this season has been so compelling so far that this episode disappoints. We return from a short hiatus with a tale that’s unashamedly about love; as always with Fringe we are also given a few blessed answers to the ongoing arc but this time they don’t completely satisfy, at least not on a rational level – amor vincit omnia can deliver an emotional payoff, but at the expense of logic.

We learn that this “orange” universe has been our universe all along. But that feels like hand-waving, a cheeky attempt to untangle the series’ continuum without any further universe-hopping. No need to get Peter “home” now or figure out what happened with the machine – he can settle down here now thanks to the power of love. This Olivia is going to turn into our Olivia so they can carry on where they left off. It’s a heartwarming reunion in the closing moments but from a plot perspective it just feels like expedience.

And in order for it to play out the case of the week is rushed. What exactly are Anson Carr’s motives for killing women with clingfilm? How did his face get burned in the first place? His quest for a (phony) taste of love neatly echoes the story’s main theme but there’s little context, as though some explanatory dialogue was left on the cutting room floor; he’s just another mad scientist MacGuffin and it’s a relief when we cut away to see what Peter and the Observers are getting up to.

The episode is of course well acted with great details in every scene (did you spot Shaggy and Scooby on one of Walter’s monitors?) but some of the script and direction are jarringly unsubtle. When Walter is talking about how we decide “who we give our heart to”, the camera focusses on Lincoln gazing at Olivia. The same trick is pulled again later when Mrs Sutter is explaining the difference between loving somebody and being “in love”. I like Lincoln and I even enjoy the soap opera-ness of the relationship dilemmas, but it verged on clumsiness this time.

THIS IS HISTORY Did you spot all the newspapers on the wall in September’s apartment? I saw a Titanic headline, “VICTORY”, “MEN WALK ON MOON”, a front page about the 1932 Lindbergh kidnapping, “PRESIDENT KENNEDY IS DEAD”, “LAST US MARINE AIRLIFTED FROM EMBASSY IN VIETNAM”, and one about the great earthquake of 1906.

THE BEACON At least we know what the bullet-shaped burrowing device is. It was introduced back in season one (episode four, “The Arrival”). I’d almost forgotten about it. But it’s “a beacon, of sorts” according to September. One of the reasons I like Fringe is that it does remember to answer its own questions, eventually!

LMAO Olivia talking to Nina:
“I wish time would move a little quicker!”
“That’s a coincidence – we just filed a patent on that last week.”

GROSS Fringe cases typically deliver some delicious body horror but there’s very little of that here, beyond Anson Carr’s burnt features. I did wince when Walter pops the microdot out of Peter’s eye, mind you.

BEHIND THE CAMERA This is the first time that JH Wyman has directed an episode himself, although he’s been responsible for writing many of Fringe‘s more memorable stories, starting with season one’s “Midnight” (1.18).

TIME TRAVELLER FASHION I love the way that when Peter opens the Observer’s closet it’s full of those little Observer hats.

TRIVIA Anson Carr is played by actor Michael Massee, who had the misfortunate to discharge the gun that accidentally resulted in Brandon Lee’s death during filming of The Crow.

OBSERVING THE OBSERVER Many instances in plain sight. We first spot Observers on the slowed-down video tape in Walter’s lab but then of course later September pops out of the beacon.

BEST LINE
Walter:
“I went beaver hunting in eastern Canada in the ’70s. Of course in those days beaver meant something else entirely.”

Dave Bradley twitter.com/SFXDaveB

See all Fringe season four reviews

Fringe airs in the UK at 10pm on Wednesday nights on Sky 1. It’s repeated on Sky2 on Thursday evenings if you miss it!