This week’s Fringe should have come with an advisory: DO NOT WATCH IF YOU ARE PREGNANT. The harrowing pregnancy of the alternative-universe-Olivia was the coursing vein running through the episode titled “Bloodline.”
Early on, it was disclosed that Altivia was a likely carrier of “viral propagated eclampsia,” a condition, we were told, that usually resulted in the death at birth of either the mother or the child. (The other Olivia’s sister had died in childbirth from “VPE.”) Eclampsia is an acute complication of pregnancy; a propagated viral form of it is, thank goodness, something that exists in the minds of Fringe writers who know how to unnerve viewers effectively.
The kidnapping of Altivia, the needle injection that would speed up gestation of the fetus, the race to find her by Lincoln Lee, Charlie Francis, and our favorite cab driver, Henry (Andre Royo) — all of this made for a swift, tense episode. Once Altivia’s tracking device was removed, Lee suspected an “inside job,” a phrase that would be repeated later in the hour by Walternate, in an attempt to throw Lincoln off the trail of clues.
Fringe used this alt-universe episode to establish a strong new bond between Lincoln and Charlie. They’ve mutually acknowledged that Lincoln “has a thing for Liv” (he would later declare his love for her when he thought she was dying). And after Walternate told Lincoln that the baby is his grandchild, as well as a few mind-blowers about the “other” Olivia, they agreed they need to wonder “what else we don’t know.” It’s a good set-up, to have these two agents working together (with the alternate-Agent Farnsworth, unwittingly/wittingly/instinctively sussing out information they need). Once Altivia had been diagnosed with VPE, she was scheduled for “the procedure,” which I assumed was an abortion to save her life. Thus Walternate’s staged kidnapping (for that’s what it turned out to be) prevented yet another prime-time abortion, with all the controversy that can attend such an operation on network television, but with Fringe, this wasn’t a cop-out — it was a way to heighten the stakes for everyone involved, not only Altivia and her son (for that’s what it turned out the baby was).
“Bloodline” was a beautifully modulated hour, written by Alison Schapker and Monica Owusu-Breen, that took care to establish the anxiety felt by Altivia and her mother, Marilyn (Amy Madigan) about the pregnancy, freighted as it also is by the fact that the father is not the Alt-Olivia’s boyfriend Frank, but Peter Bishop. Marilyn’s barely-held-in-check disapproval, balanced by worry over her daughter’s health, was enacted well by Madigan.
So let’s tote up some of what we know. Walternate had forbidden any experimentation on children, which we’ve interpreted in previous episodes as a humanitarian impulse. Brandonate reminded us that “Peter is uniquely suited to power the machine”… but is that still true, if he has a son whose bloodline is potent enough to make the same connection to the machine? And why would Brandonate have phrased it this way, if the plan was already in motion to get the baby birthed and confirm its DNA potential? He and Walternate must have had a theory that Peter is not unique in this sense, that his heir could “power the machine,” no?
Indeed, we can still interpret Walternate as a not-evil man — after all, as alternate-O said, she and the baby’s lives were both saved because “the virus didn’t replicate as fast as the pregnancy.” But the elaborate kidnapping to gain the baby’s blood sample was necessary… why, exactly? To distance Walternate from whatever happens next in the assembling of the great machine?
I’m still so flushed with relief that Fringe has been renewed for a fourth season that I’m going to let you sort things out as far as the future is concerned (on our side, did Peter come down with sudden, inexplicable urge to go out and buy some cigars to pass around to his dad and the gang?). As far as this week’s episode is concerned, I was shaken and moved, as well as amused (Astrid’s reaction to Sec. Walter Bishop being grandfather to Agent Dunham’s baby: “Oh. I see.”). Have at it below, please.
• The Observer, with his “It is happening” communication to his fellow Hairless Wonders, was busy standing still, witnessing history.
• The birth date of Altivia’s son on the blood-sample card is “14/02/11?; assuming over there they print dates in the European manner, flipping the month/day as we do it, that would make this… Valentine’s Day?
• In the alt-universe, Francis Ford Coppola directed Taxi Driver.
• Over there, a new season of The West Wing has started! I wonder how the ratings for Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip are these days…
• Charlie had a date with Mona, that cute “bug girl.”