If X-Men's Bobby Drake and Smallville's Jimmy Olsen were to have a scene together what would it look like? No, not so much a comic book crossover but maybe more like an Ashmore family reunion in this case. After a month waiting, Fringe returns with a double dose of Canadian talent having Shawn and Aaron Ashmore guest starring in "Amber 31422".
Our short Fringe hiatus is over and we are back safely in the alternate universe. Olivia has agreed to Walternate's series of experiments to see if she is able to cross over between universes. Olivia's visions of Peter are getting more intense and frequent, starting her to question her sanity again when his advice starts making sense. Meanwhile the Fringe team is working on case involving a person being stolen from an amber quarantined zone. "Amber 31422" provides some excellent back story to how there is a Fringe division in the alternate universe and why they operate the way they do. As well as present a great side story to help create some sympathy for this alternate universe.
When I first hear that the Ashmore brothers, Shawn (X-Men) and Aaron (Smallville), were going to guest star on Fringe I thought they were going to play the same character but just in different universes. As cool as that angle would have been, them just playing twin brothers works perfect for this episode's motive. This story pits Joshua (Shawn) as high-tech bank robber and Matthew (Aaron) as his twin brother that tried to stop him but was too late. During a heist Joshua losses his brother in an amber quarantine that encasing Matthew in a state of suspended animation. Four years later Joshua frees Matthew from the amber, alive, which is a secret to general public that escaping unharmed is possible. The Ashmore brothers do a pretty remarkable job at playing subtle differences as they switch back and forth to try and confuse the Fringe team from figuring out who's who. Their emotional reunion helps demonstrate that it's not just Walternate affected by this tare between universes, that it affects the entire alternate side.
"Nature doesn't recognize good and evil, Philip; it only recognizes balance and imbalance. I intend to restore balance to our world". When Walternate says these lines you don't even see him as the villain anymore you start to sympathize, not only with him but, this entire alternate reality's quality of living. That line also ties into the smaller picture for this episode's storyline with the Ashmore twins.
This episode is still heavily based on Olivia and hints at future obstacles as Walternate's guinea pig. First is the scene where Olivia is able to hear the bomb waiting to go off, with just enough time for her, Charlie, and Lee able to escape the worst of the blast. Which by the way was a pretty amazingly real looking stunt. Charlie doesn't seem to get as suspicious about Olivia not being their Olivia as he was in previous episodes, but they may come back to the incident in the future. Since the regular Olivia sometimes has Clark Kent like super hearing because of her Cortexaphan trails, she might start to stand out a bit more and fuel more of Charlie's suspicions. Another great scene is when Olivia crosses back over to the main universe, only for a couple of seconds, but she appears in a gift shop and breaks a snow globe. The smashing of the snow globe symbolizes the destruction of one of universes, using the example Nina used last season. I thought that was a nice touch and just another example of the writer's excellent continuity between seasons.
This episode flows amazingly well with no scene out of place. Maybe the extra weeks off for Fringe allowed the post-production team more time to cut the episode better than they normally would. Whatever the case Fringe didn't need this break to help their show because it was already doing great, writing wise, but I still loved this episode's attention to detail. They explained that the amber in used to contain the mini black holes that plague the alternate universe and not just a Jurassic Park knock off written into the story. The episode also provides a necessary balance between the main story arc and the weekly fringe event. This series is only perfecting this multi-layered art of storytelling after each episode. This makes it even harder to believe that a show like Fringe may be in FOX's cancelation crosshairs because of their ratings. FOX's poor marketing of this show, their yearly American Idle forced hiatuses, the growing web-watching trend (rather than TV), and the premature move to Thursday nights is my excuse for the lack of viewers. If you have any other theories let me know Fringe fans.
Andrew Burns loves film and comics, and can be found writing about when those worlds converge. You can follow him on Twitter at @myAndrewBurns.