Fringe – Forced Perspective – Episode review

Fringe Cast, 2012

Forced Perspective brought back the procedural element to Fringe, by focusing on a freak-of-the-week type story that touched on the series arc but wasn’t dominated by it.

Meet the freak: Emily (Alexis Raich) is a teenage girl with a talent for drawing. Unfortunately, she has an uncanny ability to draw scenes of how people will die. In terms of pop culture references, Emily reminded me of a crossover between Heroes’ clairvoyant artist Isaac Mendez and John Travolta’s character in the movie Phenomenon. Because – spoiler warning – Emily’s ability is actually enable by a disease which is also slowly killing her.

Forced Perspective had two visually amazing set pieces, something I don’t think we’ve seen in Fringe for a while. The first was Emily giving a sketch to a stranger in the street that showed him skewered to a dumpster by an iron girder. The second was an impressive bullet-time kind of scene where Emily – under hypnosis – is exploring the scene of an explosion she’s predicted.

It was interesting that Emily’s family had to move regularly to escape harrassment from people wanting to disect their daughter. Enter a weird connection to Massive Dynamic and that prickly feeling that Nina Sharp in this universe is not a particularly nice person. I loved how the entire family were so well rehearsed in pretending that they didn’t know Emily.

Once the explosion comes to light, the focus of the episode switches to the Fringe team’s efforts to stop the bomber. Things become a tad more conventional, but the highlight for me was Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) tilting his head to one side and coming out with a plan to thwart the bomber. This just felt like such a familiarly old-school Fringe thing that it was a moment of clarity in a season that’s left me feeling a bit baffled. I think, like Peter, I feel a bit alienated by this new reality.

Of course, the most touching moment by far was Emily going to the spot she’d drawn during the episode. It became crushingly clear that the child had predicted her own death long ago and was simply accepting her fate. And on a bench beside a beautiful lake, Emily died in her father’s arms. As we found out later, the disease that gave her predictive powers was killing her. And that’s one of the amazing strengths of Fringe – how among all that pseudo-science and mad, alternative timeline stuff, the writers can deliver insightful, emotional moments like this one. Utterly heartbreaking.

From around the blogosphere:

Merve’s highlighted the “fate versus free will” aspect of the episode, especially how Olivia’s bull-headedness in refusing to accept the prediction of the future overruled Emily’s prediction. But even if the future could be changed, maybe it was too late for Emily anyway…

Fate vs. free will is a debate as old as time itself, but I liked “Forced Perspective’s” spin on it. Emily believed that the events in her visions could not be prevented, while Olivia, stubborn, as she is, refused to accept them and instead worked hard to stop them from coming to fruition. But here’s the thing: Fringe didn’t actually pick a side in the fate vs. free will debate.

Angie on Bitch Stole My Remote (great blog name, by the way!) puts forward the theory that Olivia in this reality might be the real Olivia. While there are subtle pointers that this universe is different (Evil Nina Sharp for one), I agree that this Olivia is the closest to the one Peter’s pining for. I wonder if he can form the same emotional attachment to this version of Olivia or if he’ll continue to strive for a way home. If anything, I’m not sure the universe Peter craves even exists anymore after his ‘vanishing’ at the end of the last season.

Interestingly, The Two Cents asks the question that nobody else thought of – did Emily ‘see’ Olivia’s death as predicted a couple of weeks ago by The Observer?

by Gerard McGarry on January 29th, 2012

Gerard is the founder and editor of Unreality TV. He writes about TV dramas as well as reality TV talent shows and is obsessed by sci-fi and Doctor Who. Follow him on Twitter @gerrybot or Google+

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