Fringe Review: Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?

M: Ok, this review is three weeks late.  My apologies, and to make up for it, it will be almost immediately followed by this week’s review, perfectly on time.  Now, I have to start by saying, I absolutely love the title of this episode!  For anyone who knows the reference, it gave away the secret that we find out about the shapeshifters, but it’s so worth it.  For those who don’t, let’s get right to it.

The Harrison Ford movie Blade Runner, a cult classic in the truest sense of the term, is based on a Phillip K. Dick story entitled “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep“.  Yes, the same Phillip K Dick whose stories are the basis for sci fi movies such as Total Recall and Minority Report.  Well, in this episode of Fringe we find that the shape shifters that we have seen over the last season plus are not really human, but are androids, like the characters in Blade Runner.  We also learn that Newton himself is a shape shifting android, which explains how they were able to unfreeze his head and bring him back to life last season.  Oh, and he dies.

So, now that I’ve ruined the end, let’s go through some of the details, because some of them were really good.  There were a couple key elements to this episode.  First was that Peter is sort of, kind of onto Fauxlivia.  Second, and most compelling during the episode, was that in the world of Fringe, shapeshifters may in fact dream of electric sheep.

To the first point, there were several scenes in which Peter and Fauxlivia interacted, and Peter could not only tell that she was different, but where he called her out on it.  They had a cute scene together having a dinner date where they gave backstories to the people at the tables around them, but Peter could tell that Olivia wasn’t the same.  They had times in the investigation, similar to the time in the episode The Box where she didn’t call him, where the way she interacted with him and the way she investigated the case were simply not the way Olivia would do it.  And of course, there was the big scene at the end where she decided that, to keep her cover, she needed to, um, take their relationship to the next level.   To this point Peter’s attributing it to her experience in the other universe, but it will only be a matter of time before he puts two and two together.

As for the shapeshifters, we got a lot of info on them.  After PEter and Fauxlivia’s date, we met a Senator buying lemonade from a couple of cute girls in his neighborhood.  After that he ended up in a nasty car accident, and was taken to the hospital, where he was abducted by Newton.  When Newton was unable to escape with him, he shot him in the eye and fled.  Broyles, who happened to be a friend of the Senator’s, thus was at the hospital, discovered that the bullet hole bled mercury, not blood.

Walter, fresh off setting up a lab at Massive Dynamics and scaring the crap out of the scientists there, gets to examine the body.  For most of the episode he and Peter poke and prod at it trying to make it work again.  They try to stimulate it so they can find how it works, and where it stores its data.  Fauxlivia, meanwhile, is trying to cover her tracks, as the later impostor of a senator was how Newton was able to provide her with background info on Olivia, Peter, Walter and company, so he knew she was from the other side.

One of the real turns in the episode came when Newton went to recruit another shapeshifter, this one played by Judging Amy‘s Marcus Giamatti, who was quite good.  A quick aside about Marcus and his well known brother Paul.  Their father was Bart Giamatti, the commissioner of Major League Baseball who banned Pete Rose from baseball for life, and before that was the youngest President in the history of Yale.  Back to Marcus, his shapeshifter hadn’t heard from Newton in five years, and had become entrenched in his cover as a cop, husband and father.  He baled at first when Newton told him to shift into another body to gain access to Massive Dynamic to retrieve the senator’s body, and it was clear he had developed feelings for the family who’s husband and father he had taken the place of years before.

This story line led to a touching scene between Giamatti and his son, where the boy was scared that monsters might be in his room.  The shapeshifter lovingly explained that not all monsters are bad, and that some of them, if the son got to know them over time, would find are actually quite nice.  He ended it saying that some day, one might even become the boy’s best friend, to which the son lovingly replied “but Dad, you’re my best friend”.  Holding back tears, the shapeshifter only managed “That’s right”, before leaving for his mission.  It was a fantastic scene, and really touching.

It was also touching that the shapeshifter decided not to shift, and carried out his mission in the same form.  At one point, when Walter, in typical Walter fashion, figured out something important while thinking of food, was stuck alone with the shapeshifter, first in the elevator and then in the lab with the other senator’s body.  They played it so well that Mrs M and I were legitimately concerned that they might kill Walter.  We knew they couldn’t and shouldn’t, but weren’t quite sure they wouldn’t.  Thankfully, Walter only got a bloody bump on the head, and the shapeshifter got away with the data storage unit.

When he arrived back at his home, Newton was waiting for him.  Newton started an outpouring of emotion from the shapeshifter by saying he killed the wife and child.  At that news, he almost broke down.  at the news that Newton had lied and hadn’t, he argued that he should be left alone, that he not move on to the next mission.  He told Newton that they meant so much to him, and that he had come to mean so much to them, and that Newton couldn’t ask him to give them up.  Newton relented…  only to turn around and shoot the shapeshifter in the head.  The speech had been an impassioned speech, nearly as touching at the monster speech with the son, and seeing him killed immediately following it was really rather gut wrenching.

In the end, Fauxlivia and Peter chased down Netwon, Fauxlivia slyly got the data unit, and slipped Newton a self destruct tab when visiting him in lock up.  He convulsed and then bled…  well, no, it wasn’t blood… mercuried out on the floor of his cell while cold, conniving Fauxlivia hooked up with Peter.

Ok, so he’re the problem I’m having, and I’ll end this on a sour note.  The problem is with Fauxlivia.  When we see the alternate universe, and we see our Olivia taking over here role and her memories, with her team, with her boyfriend, with her mother, she is pretty close to the same Olivia we have gotten to know over the last two plus years.  She’s smart, passionate, funny, and so on.  She’s good at her job, but has perspective.  Now, when we see Fauxlivia, she’s the machine.  No emotion, just duty.  Cold, calculated decisions.  No qualms about killing innocent people.  No qualms about hopping into bed with a guy that’s not the live in love of her life she has waiting for her back in the alternate universe.  It’s all too out of character.  It’s not working for me, especially since she had all of about 10 minutes in her own universe to be informed of and prepare for this mission.  Is it just me, or does it just not add up?


3 comments on “Fringe Review: Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?

  1. […] Now for the second part of the Fringe review double feature.  Keeping to this season’s pattern of, well, alternating universes, Amber 31422 is an […]

  2. E says:

    Paul Giamatti’s brother was fantastic. (I had no idea about him or his family history, bro, nice info.) Those two scenes were ridiculously moving.

    I agree with you that’s it’s odd the Fauxlivia is so cold. I don’t know what to say about it. I guess she’s steeling herself to fulfill her mission? Her boyfriend at home seems so sweet, and the idea of him being with a stone cold killer is incongruous.

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