Fringe

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A Clone Again, Naturally
In a hurry? Read the recaplet for a nutshell description!

Hey, Fringe is back! Did you guys know about this? Why didn't anybody tell me? I was busy planning my Good Friday Disco Dressup Party!

ANYWAY, the first thing you notice, as those giant hanging letters that give you a warm glowing warming glow tell you that we're at U.S. Army Research Headquarters in New York, is that those giant hanging letters that give you a warm glow are in a different font: Asimov, actually. If you don't know its name, you know its look. Science-fictiony and futuristic, but of course now archaically so, kind of like when you watch a film from the '50s that predicts people driving hovercars in the '80s. Speaking of which, the giant hanging letters also tell us it's 1985, so the typeface isn't horribly out of date yet. Oh, great! A flashback episode? Are you KIDDING me?

And we move down an office corridor featuring relics from a bygone age: old-timey computers, with the green characters on a black screen, huge car-battery-sized corded phones, framed pictures of President Ronald Reagan and Vice-President George Bush, and I'm presuming there's a can of New Coke and a cassette tape of USA for Africa singing "We Are The World" but I missed those.

You can also hear Walter railing away about something somewhere, so it's somewhat reassuring to know that not everything has changed in the past 25 years. Oh wait, he's not angry talking, he's enthusiastic talking. At a trio of generals: "Our success thus far should serve as an example of our ability to achieve that which most can't even imagine," he's saying. His hair is dark and full, and his face is a lot smoother and less craggy. We've come a long way from the "let's put a baseball hat on the guy to make him look younger" school of special age effects, haven't we? Anyway, he's going on about no limits, no boundaries. That kind of thing. For emphasis, he hands over a cellular phone -- the Motorola Razr, actually -- that doesn't exist in this universe for almost 20 years. "It's a mobile telephone. It can be made much smaller, I assure you." Oh, but will it have apps?

After Walter explains that the phone won't work here, not yet -- "it'll take us 30 years to get up to speed" -- one of the generals pouts that Dr. Bell was supposed to be here this evening. "Dr. Bell is in Europe. But I am here, so I can answer any questions you may have," says Walter, barely hiding his annoyance.

This being 1985, one of the generals asks if the phone is Russian technology. Walter explains that it's American, but from another universe: "An alternate universe just like ours ... but more advanced in some areas." The generals seem remarkably accepting of this "alternate universe" idea, with one incredulously asking if Walter actually visited the alternate universe and took the phone. Walter says it's "theoretically impossible" to go to the alternate universe, so he copied it.

And it's to the roof they go, where Walter continues talking about how he and Bell have been conducting experiments regarding the other universe, which is how they developed a "window of sorts," which is presumably what this blond woman is setting up here. Walter introduces her as his colleague, Dr. Carla Warren -- who we know dies in a fire, which at this time in history was just a horrible way to die and not something to be wished upon commenters who post "First!" in comments sections at The AV Club. Walter explains the window works by "capturing errant photons" from the universe beside theirs: "The window essentially stretches the membrane between our worlds and allows to see their image from our side." Why is he bothering getting technical? Or even "technical"? Unless these guys are generals of science ... no, one general asks if Walter is "gonna make some sort of alternate Manhattan up here." Or maybe it's "appear." Anyway, Walter, explains that the alternate universe is already there, they just can't see it: at least not until Carla turns on the magic window (she presumably already turned it to Channel 3), and we all look through it at the skyline at night, specifically the Empire State Building, which looks the same -- except for the floodlights lighting the way for an approaching zeppelin.

Sounding pretty proud of himself, Walter says, "I'm sure you know that the original purpose for the so-called observation deck of the Empire State Building was to be a docking station ... for zeppelins, of course." The generals stare, mouths agape. I think my first reaction would be "it's video trickery!" or, if I believed it, I'd ask, "So in this alternate universe their telecommunications technology has outstripped us by decades but they're still using zeppelins?"

"Gentlemen, you are looking through a window ... into another world," says Walter, triumphantly, waiting for the funding to start flowing.

And then the credits, which are amusingly also presented in the Asimov font, but there's more to it than that: the theme is a bleep-bloopy synthesizer-and-drum-machine version that could have been written by Harold Faltermeyer himself (look him up, kids), and the graphics are a lot less advanced and more ... vector. Think the Tron video game. No, not the new Tron, the old ... look, just forget it. Also, the concepts that are presented are ones that would have seemed amazingly cutting-edge 25 years ago: "Virtual reality. In vitro fertilization. Laser surgery. Black president." That's some nice attention to detail by the show here.

Afterwards, we're in the present again, in Boston, at Olivia's place, where the drink-holding Olivia -- I'm just going to assume she drinks all the time now after seeing Peter as Glimmer Man -- answers the door to Walter, who's holding some big cloth-wrapped object. She asks what he's doing there. Not unfriendly, but clearly she'd rather be getting her drink on alone. "You left me no choice. You wouldn't answer your telephone, return my messages. I tried to communicate," says Walter, and Olivia, sounding sleepy and drunk and freaked out, says she doesn't know how to begin to work this out. Walter invites himself in to explain and asks for a drink himself.

While she pours a whisky for Walter (and another one for her), he asks if she's told Broyles. She hasn't, but that doesn't mean she won't, she says. Walter sadly says he always knew he'd one day have to pay the price for his deception. Keep in mind he spent 17 years in a mental institution (not directly because of this, I know, but still), so I'm wondering what sort of punishment he thinks is still coming to him. Olivia points out they don't really know what the cost is yet, as she hands him his drink. Well, free alcohol, so it could be worse, hey, Walter?

He unwraps the object, which is, unsurprisingly, the multi-universe television that he says he invented after he and Bell learned they had doubles on the other side. Or it might have been after. He can't remember. "I was a different man then. I was going to change the world. But you see, after Peter became sick, none of that seemed to matter anymore."

He says the illness was genetic and savage. "There was simply no hope. At least, not on this side. But over there ... they're more technologically advanced." Don't tell her about the zeppelins. Walter's theory was that if the alternate Peter was sick, then wouldn't the alternate Walter be as equally motivated to find a cure? Which turns out to be true, which is fortunate, given that the whole point of the alternate universe seems to be the little differences.

Back to Harvard University in 1985, where Walter watches through the window as Carla Warren comes in, asking if there's any progress. "He's synthesizing a new compound now. He's using cobalt and magnesium," Walter tells her, and the camera pans over so we see through the window too, where the alternate-universe Walter works amid a group of other scientists. After explaining to Carla that he thinks the other Walter is selecting the filtering compounds randomly -- I'm not sure if that's significant or not, and I don't really know what it means, so I figure I should mention it -- and making a notation on a white board with a host of chemical formulas written on it, he tells Carla that he's taken to calling the other guy "Walternate." Which is funny. I also would have accepted "Walternative."

Anyway, they watch the chemical reaction, in which the reddish liquid turns milky white. Walternate looks dejected, as does Walter: "No cure," he says, turning back to his white board to cross off the formula. "Perhaps with a higher iodine purification," he says.

Then he rushes to his office to answer the ringing telephone. It's his wife, Elizabeth. He's concerned to hear from her: "Is he...?" he says. And Elizabeth says that he's all right now, but... "I think you should come home now, Walter. I think it's time you came home." Walter quietly says OK.

Elizabeth is sitting on the landing by the front door when Walter comes in. "He looks worse. Keeps asking for you. It's not like before," she tells him, only able to clarify that it's just different: "He keeps saying he wants to talk to you. He says he's worried he won't be able to." She's quite upset. Walter walks into the living room to put on some music -- on a record player, naturally -- and she follows him, to tell him she hates it when he's not here. Which is apparently all the time.

"You know what I'm doing. You know where I am 24 hours a day, seven days a week," he says, and he asks her not to doubt him. She seems to (more or less) accept this, even though what he actually appears to be doing is watching a different Walter trying to find a cure for his son. And maybe the disease is slightly different over there!

Anyway, Walter goes upstairs to see Peter, and I guess this show can only do so much, but they can't make Joshua Jackson and his constant stubble look eight years old. Young Peter is awake in bed, and Walter puts on a little false cheeriness as he tells Peter that he's supposed to be getting some rest. Peter's trying to do that trick where you roll a coin across your knuckles. He hasn't quite got it, so Walter (or a hand double) demonstrates, and then gives the coin back

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