Episode Title: "Welcome to Westfield"
Writers: J. R. Orci & Graham Roland
Director: David Straiton
Previously on "Fringe":
As she sleeps, Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) has an unexpectedly erotic dream about Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson), a man she barely knows in this timeline. She awakens to call from Peter, who reveals that he and his father, Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) have made a breakthrough on the Doomsday Device. Olivia finds the two men bonding over the creation of a breakfast cocktail before they explain that they need her assistance in convincing Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick) to test their latest innovation on the Doomsday Device itself.
Out in Vermont, a group of motorists are stranded on the side of the road when their electronics and engines go dead. They then witness a large commercial airliner crash before power is mysteriously restored. Hours later, Astrid Farnsworth (Jasika Nicole) and Olivia arrive on the scene with Broyles, and everyone is surprised that Walter volunteered to come as well as he eagerly shows off the magnetic phenomena to his timelost son. After sending Astrid to check out the crash site, Walter convinces Peter and Olivia to take him up the road to Westfield for some rhubarb pie.
Once the trio arrive, they find most of the town is oddly deserted. While Olivia tries to reach Broyles, Walter is startled by the owner of the diner who seems to suffer sudden personality changes; including a persona that is openly hostile to him. In the bathroom, Peter finds an injured man named Cliff Hayes (Tim Kelleher). Out in the diner, Walter narrowly evades a knife swipe from the owner, who quickly overpowers Peter as well before Olivia shoots the man dead. More troubling is that the town appears to be cut off from all communications and there's a dead body behind the counter as well.
Walter also notes that the dead owner has two pupils in his eyes. They also find that Cliff is losing a lot of blood, so the trio tries to drive him to the hospital just out of town before discovering that the road seemingly loops around with no way to leave Westfield. They head to a deserted sheriff's office where Walter saves Cliff's life with a blood transfusion while the man explains that the residents of Westfield have gone crazy; including his own sister, who shot her husband of 18 years because she thought he was a stranger. She also had memories of things that she never did.
More importantly, Cliff reveals that the survivors who are immune are holed up at the local high school, including his family. Olivia theorizes that the nearby military base may have been responsible for this through the accidental release of a bio agent, but the case she sites as reference happened in Peter's timeline, not hers. As they prepare to leave, Walter asks Peter for a gun and he gets a canister of pepper spray instead. Along the way, Olivia describes feeling someone else in her head and she briefly starts slurring words before handing over her weapon to Peter.
Once inside the high school, one of the 12 survivors, Brian (Sean Owen Roberts) angrily asks the team why only three people were sent to save them as Olivia tries to calm him down. Soon, Walter examines Teresa (Tracy Waterhouse), the latest survivor to be afflicted with two sets of memories and a new set of teeth growing in her mouth. Worried about Olivia, Peter has Walter test her blood for the same qualities affecting the town, but he finds that Olivia is uninfected. As Walter works out a theory, Cliff notes that he and his wife Angela (Michelle Addison) and his daughter, Lacey Haynes (Ali Skovbye) shouldn't even be there, since he almost took an out-of-state job last year.
Finally, Walter reveals his belief that the two universes are being forcibly merged together in Westfield, and only people without duplicates in the alternate version of the town in the other world remain unaffected. Peter immediately guesses that David Robert Jones (Jared Harris) is behind the incident, using his recently stolen supply of amphilocite. Outside, buildings begin to shimmer and disappear, with the entire town soon to follow. Olivia is unable to shake Walter from the realization that they are doomed to die there, but Peter offers Walter a suggestion that makes him believe that the survivors will make it out alive if they find the "eye of the storm."
They soon locating a bicycle shop as the proverbial eye, before Brian provides an old school bus to drive the survivors to safety. On board, the merger affects a man who horrifically sports a second upside down face and he attacks Peter before Walter saves the day with his pepper spray and Peter dumps the two-faced man outside. However, the shape of the town rapidly deteriorates as the survivors are forced to run for their lives to the bicycle shop before later emerging alive. But the town that they loved is gone, along with most of the people who lived there.
When the FBI finally arrives, Broyles notes that several amphilocite devices were planted around the town and they represent just a small amount of the amphilocite stolen by Jones. Back in the lab, Walter is clearly disappointed that his efforts to send Peter home may soon take away the man he has embraced as his son. Later, Peter meets with Olivia at her place, and to his great surprise, Olivia greets him with a passionate kiss and she seems to have the memories and persona of the Olivia from his timeline.
The day may come when I run out of words to describe just how brilliant "Fringe" is on a week-to-week basis. But I will never get tired of spreading the word.
To all scripted TV series out there, "Fringe" just put on a clinic with "Welcome to Westfield," as it masterfully told a stand alone story with its three leads at the center that still managed to advance the season-long arc in several ways. It sounds like an easy thing to do, but it is all too rare on network television.
The best decision in "Welcome to Westfield" was the choice to give Walter, Olivia and Peter their own adventure together, in a way that we haven't really seen since the first season of the show. I'm a big fan of Broyles, Astrid and the strangely absent, Lincoln Lee (Seth Gabel) and I think that having a larger cast has only strengthened the series. But it was the dynamic between Peter, Olivia and Walter that made "Fringe" into what it is today and this was a great way to revisit that.
One of the ongoing threads of this season has been Peter's attempt to get home, even though I'm fairly certain that Peter is already home and that his old timeline no longer exists. And slowly but surely, aspects of the previous timeline have been bleeding through just through Peter's presence. Apparently, Walter took Kick-Astrid's advice about Peter to heart, because in this episode he was more like the Walter of old than at any other point in the season. This is the Walter who has a childlike joy about the strange and impossible things that the team investigates. And now that Walter has some form of his son back, he's eager to share that joy.
It's the smaller touches as well. Walter loves food and he loves experimenting on food, so it probably meant a lot to him that Peter was assisting him on the breakfast cocktail experiment after they had made their first breakthrough with the Doomsday Device interface. It also speaks to Walter's obvious disappointment that Peter doesn't stay behind at the lab for breakfast as diner. And in his eyes and in his face, we see Walter's fear and heartbreak. Just as he's opened himself to having a son again, Walter may lose Peter entirely if he was theoretically able to cross back over into his timeline.
I also have to note how fantastic John Noble was once again in this episode. I loved the palpable terror from Walter when the diner owner harassed him. Keep in mind, this timeline's Walter is even more skittish than the Walter of old, so seeing him volunteer to be in the field was a big step for him. But this Walter isn't very good with people outside of the Fringe team, hence his hilarious reference to spending time in the mental institution. And as much as Walter was a victim in the diner, he stepped up throughout the episode by saving Cliff's life and Peter's as well, thanks to the pepper spray.
Which brings us to Olivia, who has seemingly merged with her previous self or somehow gained her memories. My personal theory is that this wasn't caused by the Westfield incident, but that definitely accelerated what was already happening to her. Even before Peter returned, Olivia had dreams about him as a man whom she had never met. Clearly, those dreams never stopped even after his return, and their growing intensity may explain why she was so hesitant around him for the first few weeks of his return.
If Olivia really does remember the original timeline and all of her feelings towards Peter, it's a potential game changer. Because what Peter wanted more than anything was to get back to the people who loved him, namely Olivia and Walter. Now that Peter has found what he's looking for, will he pull a Homer Simpson looking at his family's snake-like tongues and say "close enough"? Next week's episode will likely examine this more closely, but the only reason that Peter could possibly have now to continue his quest is if Olivia's new memories threaten her survival in any way.
Actually that may not be entirely true. There's still the matter of David Robert Jones, a man whom Peter killed in the original timeline. Without Peter's interference, Jones has gone on to become a much bigger threat to both universes and the only way to stop him may be to put Peter back into the timeline and ensure that the previous events occurred. This episode provided our first look at Jones' endgame, which may be a merger of the two universes. But if everything is destroyed in the process, how does he gain from that? And where does Nina Sharp (Blair Brown) fit into this puzzle?
On some shows, those questions might be frustrating. On "Fringe," it's a joy.
Crave Online Rating: 9.3 out of 10.