The Plateau

Season 3 of Fringe continues with an absolutely fantastic episode set in the alterniverse

What a fantastic episode. An absolute credit to both Fringe, and sci-fi shows in general. This episode delivered a novel ‘monster of the week’, extremely tight scripting and managed to do so within the realms of the universe(s) created for the series as a whole, meaning everything played out the way you would hope having learnt the ending, rather than the way you’d expect. Let me explain.

At face-value the week’s story centred on a man with a low IQ who, having taken part in a drugs trial, came to have an intelligence level which, aside from being bigger than any other person who had ever lived, continued to grow exponentially. This allowed him to calculate the probability of things happening from any given point – he was able to start a chain reaction leading to the death of others, his escape and so on, no matter how many possibilities needed to be incorporated to determine the end result. It didn’t matter that it was ‘impossible’ as described by military Astrid (we’re in the alterniverse here by the way, for the episode’s duration) for this man and his mental state was impossible in the first place. Or, unique, anyway. A great mechanic to base this episode around – he was trying to kill people who planned to stop his drug supply, and he was doing so by setting off a chain reaction of events incomprehensibly linked when looked upon by the layman.

He was stopped, ultimately, by Dunham. Our Dunham, acting as the alterniverse’s Dunham. In the alterniverse. Remember, she’s been provided with alterniverse Dunham’s memories and is being turned into her by Secretary of Defence Walter(nate) in order to harness her ability to travel between worlds without harmful effects. I’m still unconvinced that the alterniverse’s belief that our world started a war and is the cause of all the big bad is true; I wonder if it’s all a ruse by Walternate simply to get Peter back, to use the super-weapon and to destroy our world (if indeed that is his endgame) for his own, so far withheld, nefarious desires.

Anyway, the problem with Dunham being ours in the alterniverse means that when our super-genius killer man is calculating how she will die based on probabilities, he is unable to include anything unknown to him, i.e. from another dimension. Therefore when he calculates Dunham will breathe from her portable oxygen supply when the alarm is sounded, and she doesn’t, he ends up caught rather than free from the (expected) now-dead woman chasing him. Superb – I’d spent the final-third of the hourlong wondering how they’d save her given brainiac had calculated her death (at least how without contrivance) and they did it brilliantly, leaving a massive grin on my face and nodding approvingly at the skill of the writers.

The most amazing thing though is that they managed to create one of the great sci-fi standalones (it really is that good an idea and execution) within the world(s) of Fringe and use both to their advantage. Kudos. Back to the world of Fringe – Olivia keeps seeing Peter, or Walter. She remembers her life and her world and will for sure reject alterna-Dunham’s memories. The question is how soon, who will know and what will she do…

Luciano Howard

Updated: Oct 31, 2010

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