Fringe: Enemies With Benefits

In last week’s Fringe discussion, we looked at the complex, but rewarding double duality (quadrality?) of two universes we thought we knew suddenly changing thanks to a new timeline for each. Our knowledge of each of the old universes is key to understanding and enjoying the twists of the revamped timeline. This week, we’re bringing in the discussion to a more intimate level and looking at two fascinating scenes from “Enemy of My Enemy.”

If you’ve seen the episode, you probably already know what I’m referring to. The first scene takes place in a deserted restaurant. Secretary of Defense Bishop (John Noble) and his wife Elizabeth (Orla Brady) are sharing a meal, surrounded by the Secretary’s security detail. It’s intimate and quiet, save for a saxophone playing a melancholic tune in the background. I tried to identify the song, but couldn’t. I’m sure it’s important, whatever it is. Anyway, it’s been a bad day for Walternate. He’s forced to release David Robert Jones (Jared Harris) or face the possibility of additional terrorist attacks by his shapeshifter progeny. And if that weren’t enough to ruin your dinner, he’s also failed at finding a way to help Peter return to his timeline.

Watch John Noble in this scene. He is so controlled and deliberate, yet still obviously profoundly defeated, probably the most helpless we’ve ever seen him. In the previous versions of the universes, Walternate has always been stone cold and seemingly beyond emotion, focused on his mission to save his universe and punish the other Walter. This alternate Walternate isn’t quite so solid.

Now, watch Elizabeth. She draws him out, carefully manipulating him and changing the subject from Jones to Peter. She is absolutely in control and makes it clear what the priority is, and it’s not a runaway terrorist with bad skin. By the time she suggests that she might be the one to help Peter, there’s no denying her. Walternate doesn’t even try. Though she controls the scene, there’s nothing sinister in her intent or her manipulation of Walternate. Like in the previous episode, where she saves Peter from Walternate’s soldiers, we’re reminded that nothing is as strong as a mother’s love for her child.

Now, here’s where Fringe excels above any other show on television. Different scene; same actors. We’re now on the other side, back in crazy Walter’s universe. To illustrate this point, he’s brushing down his pet cow when he’s interrupted by a visitor. It’s Elizabeth. He hears her voice before he turns to look at her, and in the few seconds that we see him go from recognition to hope to understanding to disappointment, John Noble proves why he deserves a shelf full of awards.

In approaching Elizabeth, Walter’s tentative and fearful. She asks him if he understands that she’s not his Elizabeth. Adding to the otherworldly nature of their encounter, and reinforcing the notion that she’s something of an angel on a mission of mercy, check out how’s she’s lit at the beginning of the scene. Soft, angelic. Then she steps out of the light and gets down to business.

Keep in mind, these are the same two actors from the previous scene, and yet there’s not a moment that we don’t believe that they’re meeting in an alternate universe, years after their tragic encounter.

Like in her scene with Walternate, Elizabeth is large and in charge. While it doesn’t take much to steer Walternate in the right direction, Walter is more of a challenge. He has years of guilt, sorrow, regret and recrimination on his head. Add that to his mental instability, and Elizabeth has her work cut out for her.

Walter tells her he’s being punished by God, and that he won’t meddle in the fate of the universe or Peter’s life. Then, reminding us again of her power as Peter’s mother, Elizabeth tells Walter she forgives him. “I forgive you, Walter,” she says. “I forgave you a long time ago. And if I can, God can.”

Both scenes are so careful, specific and absolutely controlled, in terms of emotion, dialogue and pacing. Of course it would have to be Elizabeth to convince Walter to help Peter. It’s so brilliant. My only complaint is that the Elizabeth/Walter scene is intercut with the scenes of Peter returning from the other side. I wish they could have found a way to do it straight through. I understand the need to denote the passage of time, which is the main reason for the cut away, but still. Also, I wish that sax solo had been playing, instead of the show’s soundtrack, to create a greater sense of the relationship between the two scenes. 

When next we see Walter, he’s knocking on Peter’s door. He’s going to help him. “You must know,” he tells Peter, “that your mother was a wonderful woman. Every version of her.”

We totally agree.

What did you think of “Enemy of My Enemy?” Let us know in the comments section below.
Fringe airs Fridays at 9/8c on Fox and is available on iTunes and Hulu.

%d bloggers like this: