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Physics is a Bitch: Momentum Deferred on "Fringe"

"Momentum can be deferred, but it must always be paid back in full."

Perhaps it was because I had such high expectations for this week's episode of Fringe ("Momentum Deferred") that I was so brutally disappointed.

After all, this week's installment, written by Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz and directed by Joe Chappelle, promised to reveal just went on between Olivia and the enigmatic William Bell (Leonard Nimoy) over there in the space between the first two seasons. It should have been a corker of an episode yet I found myself growing increasingly impatient with some lazy plotting and some head-scratching plot holes. In other words: I felt like we lost the momentum we had established in the past few episodes amid some bizarro narrative leaps.

I was glad to see Walter's former lab guinea pig Rebecca (played in the present day by Theresa Russell) turn back up but I felt that they squandered the potential for some meaningful use of her character. Yes, there were some nice emotional beats between her and Walter (especially the sadness with which he refused to come into her house) and that moment of clarity when she looked at Peter.

But I still am a little confused why they needed her... or rather needed to drug her, considering how dangerous it was, when they had a Massive Dynamic crack staffer rendering an image of the shapeshifter within the next few hours. If it was going to only take three hours until they knew the identity of the shapeshifter, why bother drugging Rebecca and putting her through a potentially life-threatening situation instead of just waiting for the render to finish?

That whole rendering subplot also had me groaning. As soon as the tech guy said that he could send it to Olivia's phone, I knew that she was coincidentally receive the image of the shapeshifter just as she was standing there with Charlie. And lo and behold, that's exactly what happened, though we were also treated to Olivia telling Astrid to be sure to send the rendering to her phone just in case we dozed off earlier.

I'm glad that the Faux Charlie storyline didn't go on endlessly, but it also ended rather anticlimactically, I thought. No, there wasn't a coffee ice cream-related slip-up from Charlie Francis here but I'm also scratching my head wondering how the shapeshifter was so convincingly able to appropriate Charlie's life without anyone--not his friend, his wife, his colleagues--noticing that he had no knowledge of Charlie, his likes/dislikes, history, etc.

I also assumed that the story that the real Charlie told Olivia back in the second season premiere--which he hadn't told anyone before--would come into play, it being something that only the true Charlie Francis would know. But it was dropped completely in favor of Olivia getting a text message that showed her that Charlie wasn't actually Charlie. Yawn.

Sure, she had to kill someone who looked like Charlie but Olivia also fell for his ruse that Nina Sharp was the shapeshifter (though why?) and then gave away the location of the cryogenically preserved head of the baddies' leader who would open the door between the two dimensions. Even after Nina had given her some information that would serve to help her. Had she believed Nina even for a split second, Olivia could have avoided giving their enemies their greatest asset yet.

After all, even Olivia admitted that William Bell pulled her out of her world and into another dimension in order to deliver a message of crucial importance. He gave her the location of the head and the marking. And Olivia failed to use this to stop the shapeshifters from acquiring the head themselves and now the marked man--was that Thomas Kretschmann?--is awakened, having been connected to a body via mercury.

Which brings me to another oddity. Bell and others keep talking about how Olivia was pulled out of the timestream from her moving vehicle but I don't remember it playing out that way at all. What I do remember is that Nina Sharp summoned Olivia to Manhattan and then made her wait at her hotel and that Olivia journeyed to "over there" in the elevator. I don't remember anything about her vanishing from her car until that plot point was picked up in the season opener. Anyone have a possible solution? Was Olivia just disoriented from the timeslips as we saw her in the flashback in this week's episode? Hmmm...

What did you think of this week's episode? Were you as disappointed as I was? Have any possible explanations for some of the inconsistencies? Discuss.

Next week on Fringe ("Dream Logic"), the team travels to Seattle to investigate a mysterious incident involving a man who attacked his boss because he believed he was an evil ram-horned creature; Agent Broyles has a disconcerting meeting with Nina Sharp that leads the investigation in an unthinkable direction.


Krizia said…
I just wrote to you on Twitter, but I thought I'd leave a comment here as well. Can I have your phone number so that I can thank you in person (well, as close to thanking you in person goes)? My goodness, I thought I was losing my mind when they whole "you were in a car crash when you were transported to the other universe to meet William Bell" occurred. I mean, I remember everything about Olivia waiting for hours in the hotel and then riding in the elevator when this bright white light decided to shine and then *pop*, she was in another dimension.

I keep watching these episodes and their reference to Olivia being in a car and I feel like I'm losing my mind. My original theory was that she was transported to the universe while in the elevator, then when it was over was still in the elevator, only to have her return to her car and start driving home when that idiot shape-shifter dude crashed into her car...but that's not possible. She wasn't in the car when it was crashed into, and how could she possibly reappear from the alternate dimension through the car's windshield if she had gotten back to the elevator originally. So none of those worked.

Thank you very much for being the person to point it out. I'm open to any theories you might have as well.

(Twitter: @kriziag)
AskRachel said…
Definitely disappointing! This season started off well but last night's episode was weak. The meeting between Olivia and Bell just felt jumbled and awkward but exposition heavy at the same time. And the reveal that Charlie was the shape shifter (Look! It's he's on my cell phone!) was laughable. Like you, I knew what was going to happen as soon as the annoying tech guy told Olivia that he could send her the image on her phone. And the fact that they repeated this in the scene with Olivia and Astrid was just embarrassing.
Page48 said…
Bell had to have pulled Olivia out of her vehicle at the moment of the 'near miss' she had on her way to the hotel to meet Nina. But she completed her drive unscathed and waited in vain for Nina to show up.

So, she had to have completed the trip to the hotel on the 'other side', because on this side she had a car crash, or at least her car did. If that's the case, then while Olivia waited for Nina at the hotel, she must have already been doing so on the other side, which accounts for Nina's absence, since that Nina didn't have an appointment with Olivia to begin with. If those assumptions are true and she was already on the other side, then what happened in the elevator?

If I'm not careful, I could get confused.
OldDarth said…
I am going the opposite way.

After seeing the return of Leonard Nimoy. Fringe has moved into must viewing for me now. Olivia’s backstory and the role she has to play going forward are very intriguing.

Add in Peter’s backstory and the tension of waiting for the other shoe to drop when he finds out the truth about himself make for engrossing viewing.
Jace Lacob said…
Old Darth,

"Add in Peter’s backstory and the tension of waiting for the other shoe to drop when he finds out the truth about himself make for engrossing viewing."

Yes, that's all true and that's all been dealt with quite effectively since the start of the season... but not last night. (If you go back and read my write-ups of the season so far, I've been raving about the direction the season has taken.)

Last night's episode bombarded us with exposition and some lazy writing and squandered the momentum that the season has had. Plus, it didn't do justice to the magnitude of the William Bell flashback, in my opinion.
Professor Beej said…
I actually felt the opposite, too. I thought the season had started out rather weakly, but last night finally got back into the kind of Patten-centric format that I really began to appreciate during the latter part of the first season.

The first few episodes of S2 have felt jumbled. I never saw a clear direction in which they were headed, though I knew that had to be one, and "Momentum Deferred" finally pointed out where exactly that was.
ptt said…
The comment from Page48 is mostly correct - Olivia was pulled to the other side but it wasn't exactly during a near-miss. If you listen closely you can hear the sound of the accident's impact.

Also, I agree with some of the other posters that this episode finally got us back on track. The stand-alone "mutant of the week" episodes are OK but personally, I am much more interested in the series arc.
Unknown said…
If those assumptions are true and she was already on the other side, then what happened in the elevator?

Yes, how exactly did she get from the elevator to the World Trade Center without noticing?
Unknown said…
The whole plot with Charlie was weak and played out pathetically at the end... and yeah, there felt like there should have been something more with Rebecca but that aside, I found the episode riveting. To say that the episode had everyone in my room glued to the screen would be a bit of an understatement.

Yeah, this episode had flaws that weren't present in the previous episodes but there were some fascinating elements and they really ratcheted up the tension.
Anonymous said…
You asked: "If it was going to only take three hours until they knew the identity of the shapeshifter, why bother drugging Rebecca and putting her through a potentially life-threatening situation instead of just waiting for the render to finish?"

I thought the answer was quite obvious actually. The MD tech would only be able to identify a shapeshifter with their device.

Rebecca, on the other hand, when pumped full of drugs could see them generally.

So the MD tech could identify shapeshifters one at a time, while Rebecca could do it en mass.
Frank said…
Olivia was transported to the alternate universe when she was in her car, as William Bell said. So what happened in the elevator? I speculate that she (or perhaps the entire elevator) was teleported, on that version of Earth, to another location, using a more advanced version of the teleporter that Robert David Jones and his crew stole from Walter's safe deposit boxes.

Walter's teleporter was killing Jones, because it was not perfected. I'm sure Bell had the resources to perfect his and make sure the person was reconstructed correctly. It would also allow him absolute control over who came to see him.

As for some of the poorer writing in last week's episode, I agree. The "send the data to my phone" thing was a bit weak. I would have prefered if Astrid had just sent her a text with the photo. Its also a bit odd that Charlie would have let the computer in the lab keep running the simulation. Also, why let hours go by anyway? Why not just require everyone in the inner circle to submit to a blood test immediately? The mercury in the blood would be seen immediately. Seems these plot holes were left unfilled just to try to amp up the drama. I still have high hopes for the show, but the plotting needs to get tighter.
Anonymous said…
I like reading everyone's interpretations of what's going on in the show. Helps point out some things I've missed. I just really like this show, I've enjoyed it all season and I've been disappointed to hear that the ratings are down. I think it always takes some suspension of disbelief to enjoy a sci fi show because if we start to analyze everything to see if it's logical or not it will take all of the fun out of it.
Anonymous said…
the car thing!
in season one she sort of "missed" hitting a car remember?
the elevator thing do not have anything to do with it at all..

she crossed universe after "almost" hitting that car. in the other universe she almost hit that car. in one universe, she did hit that car...

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