‘A Better Human Being’ is a very character driven episode of Fringe, after a season where this kind of story telling alternated with action-scenes it is pleasant to finally see progression in the characters.
The relationship between Olivia and Peter is the main driving force behind the character development but it certainly also affects Walter Bishop, his character is a lot more focused in this episode and even chastises Peter for what he believes to be a bad influence on Olivia.
There is of course and episode specific story arc, this week it is a Doctor Franks who has experimented with genetics by trying to invoke older dormant instincts in humans to create a better human being.
The episode starts with three young men murdering a newspaper reported who was doing a story on Doctor Franks research. While the men are doing the deed a fourth is a patient at a mental hospital where he is later able to give a very precise description of the murder.
Walter later deduces after questioning the young man that he has a telepathic bond with the other men. Eventually Olivia and Peter locate doctor Franks who admits he experimented with fertilized eggs which he later used on women in his IVF clinic. Franks suggests the three men murdered the reported to keep their existence a secret.
While Olivia and Peter are trying to find the three men to stop them from killing others Olivia is having frequent flashes about herself from the other timeline. Her memories of Peter also leads to awkward moments when she thinks she has a romantic relationship with Peter.
Walter tests Olivia and confirms she can’t tell the difference anymore between the two timelines, however he suggests that it may actually be Peter who is inducing these alternate memories into Olivia. When Olivia was younger and experimented upon in the cortexiphan trials she had the ability for great empathy. Walter suggests that Peter’s longing for the alternate Olivia is inducing the memories of her into Olivia. This leads to a confrontation between Walter and Peter.
After the test is over Peter and Olivia resume their search for the telepathic young men that eventually leads them to a garage similar to the one seen the pilot of Fringe which exploded and killed Olivia’s partner. Olivia says the explosive used was Semtex but Peter did not know this, Peter suggests that Walter’s theory cannot possible be true because Peter could not have induced that particular memory into Olivia.
Olivia meanwhile seems not bothered about the other memories she has gotten, if anything seems quite content.
While Olivia and Peter are investigating the garage Astrid is questioning the telepathic boy from the mental hospital, he suggest that the three men will next try to murder Doctor Franks as well as Olivia and Peter. Astrid warns Olivia but it is already too late for Doctor Franks. Astrid’s character is once again being underused after her episode two weeks ago, I had hoped it would lead her character being given more screen time but then again Fringe has never been brillaint with the secondary character such as Charlie, Nina Sharp, Lincoln and Broyles.
Walter meanwhile also comes to the conclusion that his theory about Peter inducing the memory is wrong and discovers that Olivia’s bloodstream is full of cortexiphan. Agent Lincoln Lee and Walter demand from Nina Sharp to see Massive Dynamics remaining supply of the drug. Agent Lee grows suspicious after Nina Sharp initially refuses. Walter all the while continues his focused impression and as such has becomes almost a new character.
Olivia and Peter meanwhile are ambushed by the telepathic men at the garage but manage to arrest all three. As they head back home the stop for gas, there they profess their love for each other and agree to resume their relationship. Here is where their character development ends and where we ended during the last season. After their long kiss Olivia goes inside to use the restroom but disappears when Peter starts looking. The whole scene is actually awkward, the dialogue is tense and the lighting is purposefully bright and over exposed.
Agent Lee, Nina Sharp and Walter Bishop have entered the Cortexiphan store-room, Nina assures that all the vials are there and this seems to be true. Agent Lee and Walter have their suspicions and the tension is palpable. Walter takes one of the vial and drinks the red liquid, he suggest it is merely a chemical potion mixed with red food colouring. Agent Lee gives Nina Sharp a stern look before the scene, what happens after will have to wait until next week.
In a surprise twist we see that Olivia has indeed been kidnapped, as the camera pans around her we see another woman has also been kidnaped and is sitting opposite Olivia, it is none other than Nina Sharp. This suggests that the Nina Sharp that has drugged Olivia with cortexiphan during this season is a shapeshifter. This scene is going to lead to a considerable amount of fan speculation. My best bet is that alt-Nina is proxy for David Robert Jones.
The episode thus sees most character turn into a more serious version of themselves. Agent Lee and Walter in particular seem hell-bent on uncovering the mystery of the missing cortexiphan while Olivia and Peter are struggling with their feelings for each other. I thinks this is a theme we will see for a few more episodes to come.
Score; 8.5 / 10.
Viewer rating; N/A.