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Hard Choices: An Advance Review of Tonight's Winter Finale of "Fringe"

"There are times when the only choices you have left are bad ones." -Phillip Broyles

Throughout the season and a half run thus far on Fringe, the Fringe Division has managed to contain several deadly threats against this world. Mad scientists, alternate universe soldiers, and bizarre phenomena are just par for the course for the loose collection of associates-turned-dysfunctional family members witnessed on the series. Season Two of Fringe has done a sensational job at crafting taut and often terrifying mysteries of the week while also focusing week to week on the evolution of the relationships between the core characters of Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) and Peter and Walter Bishop (Joshua Jackson and John Noble).

Tonight's fantastic winter finale of Fringe ("Jacksonville") finds the team grappling with their toughest and most dangerous case yet as the walls between the two worlds are seemingly becoming thinner and thinner when two buildings--one from "our" world and the other from the alternate universe--collide with deadly consequences.

A race against the clock to prevent this tragedy from unfolding again forces Olivia to come to terms with a dark period in her childhood that she has seemed to block from her memory and comes face to face with the truth behind Walter Bishop's experiments.

I don't want to say too much about the plot of tonight's truly amazing installment because half of the fun of the winter finale is in seeing the plot twists unfold. But I will say that after tonight's episode some relationships will be changed in unexpected ways and others may be fractured forever.

The cozy and familial atmosphere developed between our core troika of characters is built on a bed of lies. Olivia might see Walter as a bit of a doddering father figure but that perception is severely tested when Walter takes Olivia back to the Jacksonville of the title, the small Florida town where, as a helpless child, Olivia was experimented on by Walter and his then-partner William Bell and treated with a drug called cortexiphan.

This period in Olivia's childhood was dealt with in two previous episodes ("Ability" and "Bad Dreams") but the subplot is brought into sharp focus in tonight's episode as both Olivia's abilities, cortexiphan, and the childhood incident alluded to in "Bad Dreams" is dealt with head on.

For the members of the Fringe Division, there have never been easy choices. After all, they've been tasked with safeguarding the country--if not the entire world--against any number of threats to reality itself. Nearly every choice is a hard one and that's never more clearly felt than in tonight's episode, which pushes several of the characters to their breaking point.

The result is easily one of Fringe's best episodes to date, a gripping and engaging thrillride that takes us deep into the characters' backstories but also points towards the future of the series, once it returns in April. In other words: miss this crucial episode at your peril.

Fringe airs tonight at 9 pm ET/PT on FOX.


AskRachel said…
Okay, you've got me totally excited about tonight's episode. Fringe has had its ups and downs but when it's good it's really good and it looks like this one is going to be good!
Jenni Lou said…
I'm very excited! After a number of satisfying MotW episodes, this mythology-laced one is bound to be awesome!
Page48 said…
Wow, your pre-game warmup is more exciting than most episodes of "Fringe", which is often akin to paint drying.

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