Fringe: “The Last Sam Weiss”



Fox Network, Fridays, 9 PM

“The Last Sam Weiss”

Written by Monica Owusu-Breen & Alison Schapker

Directed by Thomas Yatko

“It’s not a Doomsday device, but it’s acting like one.” —Sam Weiss

At this point, Fringe has abandoned all effort to do a case-of-the-week, and is frantically rushing toward a stunning (I hope) denouement. At the time this episode and the season finale were written, the producers probably did not know that the series would be picked up for another season, so it’s looking a lot like aseries finale. So even if it isn’t really the end of the show, it’s acting like one. Relationships are tying up loose ends, characters’ hidden agendas are being revealed, and momentum is building toward a knock-our-socks-off conclusion.

“Walter, this can’t possibly be safe.” —Astrid

While Peter lies in a hospital recovering from his aborted attempt to control the Doomsday machine, lightning begins to strike randomly, fatally, in a corridor stretching from Massachusetts to New York. As burn victims enter the hospital, even Walter, who is totally focused on Peter, cannot avoid seeing the devastation. He orders Astrid to bring him his kite; hooked up to monitors and supposedly protected by his rubber boots, he does a Ben Franklin experiment, getting the kite to call down lightning. The fact that this is not what Franklin actually did, and if he had, he’d have been fried on the spot, never bothers either the writers or Walter. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story, hey? Being knocked on his ass by lightning persuades Walter that the key to this problem is magnetism. He posits that the Doomsday machine at Massive Dynamic’s shed in upper Massachusetts is somehow creating a force field that crosses boundaries to arrive at the other pole: the Doomsday machine on the Other side.

“You want to move our machine over a hundred miles and park it outside the most densely populated area of the country?” —Broyles

As the Fringe team prepare to move the machine to New York, Olivia and Sam Weiss (Kevin Corrigan,Community) try to figure out a way to turn it off. Naturally, we need more cryptic papers, so Sam Weiss obligingly robs his ancestor’s tomb and breaks into a museum to assemble the properly cryptic tools. They destroy a few artifacts in the process, but what the heck, the world is about to end anyway. Olivia is shocked to find that the cryptic paper revealed contains her image. Walter’s interpretation involves a Mad Magazine wraparound trick, which shows Olivia controlling the Doomsday machine with her mind. This instantly made me wonder if the paper, before it was revealed, had had that image of Olivia. Could it have been sealed away in its Schrödinger box, containing neither Olivia’s portrait nor anyone else’s, until Olivia herself opened the paper? I like that theory better than the implication that Olivia, and Peter, have been “destined” for this event for millennia. That smacks too much of manipulation, which would render our heroes’ actions and sacrifices meaningless. I mean, if all of this was foreordained, where is the heroism in simply following the plan?

“What does the drawing mean, Walter, and why am I in it?” —Olivia

Walter suggests that Olivia “practice using telekinesis” so she can open the Doomsday machine, allowing Peter to climb inside and shut it off. The Ghost Busters theme started to play inside my head, and I expected someone to start chanting, “I am the Keymaster! ” The practice sessions involve the quantum-entangled typewriter we saw a while back—I love how nothing gets tossed away on this show. Olivia tries to type with her mind, and needs a pep talk from Walter. Only after she learns Peter has left the hospital and cannot be found does her ability kick in, and she types “Be a better man than your father.” Peter joins the team at Liberty Island as the Doomsday machine is set up (they could move it 100 miles, but they couldn’t shut off the power?), he and Olivia team up and kiss goodbye. Peter climbs in, his body jerks as energy surges through it—and he wakes up fifteen years in the future, in the middle of an urban war.

“I know that you want to believe in me, and I want to believe in me. But believing doesn’t make it true.” —Olivia

What, no island? No airplane? Because this scenario is right out of the Lost playbook, a little too on the nose for my liking. No doubt at some point Peter will return to our time with dire warnings about the future, the Cassandra effect will kick in, and no one will believe him. Okay, it’s a trite cliché, but I like it that the writers are adding a whole new layer of crazy to this story. I have no doubt that before this series is over, someone will have developed the ability to fly or walk through walls. Wait, didn’t we already do that? In any case, this was a good bridge episode, taking us from the setup of last week to the denouement next week, when it all comes together. This episode garnered 3.5 million viewers for a 1.3 share among the 18-49 folks. Interestingly, more viewers were time-shifting than watching in the Friday night timeslot. Maybe the suits at Fox knew what they were doing when they moved the show to Friday. See you next week for the season finale.