Fringe, 4x15: “A Short Story About Love” (2012)
Forsaking past incarnations of characters for the sake of a rebooted timeline is, like in comics, an immensely tricky affair. The 4th season has suffered from it immensely, dragging us into a deplorable “back-to-basics” approach where everything is to be re-learnt and re-interpreted for the umpteenth time. This being one of two already well-established, and now seemingly forgotten, timelines, namely the so-called “Blueverse” and “Redverse”, the fourth season (Yellowverse?) has, as a result, felt incredibly repetitive and circular.
Had this rebooting given the show runners an excuse for increased inventivity (as the introduction of a single parallel universe did back in the second season and well into the third), the 4th season would be the show’s best. Instead, “A Short Story About Love” hinted at possibility for the potential season endgame to be further retreading, once again establishing Peter and Olivia’s relationship as the core concern of all timelines. After reintroducing a past villain in the previous episodes (granted, the excellent Jarred Harris as of Mad Men fame as David Robert Jones), the show goes as far as offering a parallel version of a case seen in the first season (1x13: “The Transformation”) in the episode following this one — which is a good idea in theory, but a rather tedious exercise in practice.
I will not get into the Observer’s heavy-handed expositional speech (above), simply stating that the idiom “home is where the heart is” was essentially “A Short Story About Love“‘s underlying lesson. While I might be speaking ahead of myself here (having what are supposed to be 7 particularly pivotal post-hiatus episodes to watch next), it also raises some concerns: have the show’s writers, Wyman, Pinkner, Chappelle an co., completely abandoned the prime timeline for the sake of a revised, if only slightly bizarro version, of characters we have seen grow and love alongside each other? If so, is this narrative tangent’s sole purpose to make the show all about Peter Bishop’s ballads across the multiverse — and how that affects his relationship(s) with Olive?
I have held back from getting entirely invested in this new iteration of the show’s reality in the hopes of eventually getting back to the Blueverse, but at this point, I might very well have to come to the realization that it might unfortunately never happen. Whether the show will know to bring this incarnation, so to speak, to a satisfying endgame remains to be seen, as I suspect a final change of paradigm to occur by this season’s end. More on this, as I finish the season and get into the final one.