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Fringe - 3.12 Concentrate & Ask Again Review by A.D.Harris



You may recall last week I said this in my review of the previous episode, Reciprocity: "I hope we get some time to let things develop in a character perspective for a couple of weeks before we throw ourselves back into the thick of it [The Main Mythology}. Over complication and too fast story progression is not always a good thing all the time, and I'm beginning to feel the drag and loose narrative cracking through."
So it's safe to say that I was hoping for Fringe's latest tale from the edge of reality to firmly put it's feet on the brakes and give everyone a moment to catch their breath. This meant that looking at 'Concentrate & Ask Again' from that perspective I was mighty relieved to see that the episode chose to have a case that revolved around nothing more than some simple terrorists who knew nothing of alternate universes or Observers; they just wanted some good, old-fashioned revenge.

Therefore, with the right recipe for a good dish of Fringe, I can't help but feel once again a touch disappointed with how the episode unfolded, at times feeling very classic Fringe but also at times feeling like a show still slightly caught up in a storyline which has gone surprisingly wishy-washy. I can't recall a time where I've watched three episodes in a row and felt underwhelmed at all of them...
Before we focus on what went wrong, I'll focus on what went right and there was a fair amount of it scattered around in the episode.

Nina Sharp was without a doubt the most interesting character to emerge from the episode. Perhaps it's because we never really saw enough of her that we didn't know, but she seemed very pro-active rather than reactive in the episode. (Peter would be proud of her.) Doing her own digging she found Bell's copy of 'The First People' hidden away in the Massive Dynamic creators private storage. Just how did she know the code for the safe, well duh it was the date of last years season finale and the same day dearest Bellie passed away. Slightly creepy much that Bell perhaps foresaw his own death, or just the Fringe writers playing with you?
Moving on, her story saw her delve into working out that which we all had ages ago, that her former healer and all round mystery man Sam Weiss appears to be connected to all of the copies of 'The First People.' Not hanging around she decides to pay him a visit...

I'm a huge fan of Sam Weiss, I thought he was a great supporting character last year, and although he is slightly less bearded than before it was great to have him back. What he had to say was quite interesting, whilst I was reading around the internet his return has seen mixed reactions from fans. Some claim his explanation that whoever Peter picks out of Olivia & Fauxlivia will see their world survive to the cost of the other is nothing but soap opera material, but to be honest I've seen that being the answer to the mystery for weeks. It was perhaps the way Weiss says it that sounded a bit lame, but for me I figure that whatever Peter's connection is to the 'Doomsday Device,' it is probably going to have no effect on his specific emotional state of wanting to save their world but more the fact that his connections to the other side will see fit for the machine to obliterate our own. Think of why Walternate may have sent Fauxlivia to our side, and why her mission was deemed a success at the end of 'Entrada.' Because she was sent over to tip the scales in favour of over there. What does Peter have in their world, his real family; What does he have in our world, he has Olivia. Now Peter knows that over there has an Olivia too, as well as the fact of not being where he belongs must be playing with his head in some seriously crazy ways. Enough to go mental and kill a load of shapeshifters, who knows? Regardless there is plenty of meaty material under the covers for all types of Fringe fans to chew into with excitement rather than worry.
It's becoming increasingly apparent that Peter has some connections to the first people, the machine is mentioned in the book and now Weiss understands it's connection so I feel it's about time the two sat down in a room and had a bit of a Neo/Architect discussion. Hopefully a more interesting one than that of course...
So I find it rather ironic at this point to admit that my positives for the episode were in fact the main mythology segments of the storyline, something I thought I had been keen to step back from for a few weeks.
It's more because the actual 'character of the week' storyline was below par when compared to recent entries in the show, feeling more 'The Same Old Story' than 'Marionette.' First off, the Cortexiphan subjects are beginning to annoy me; Nothing smells more of big cop-out then "Oh, there's another Cortexiphan subject we haven't mentioned before and he happens to be useful for this case." It's happened a couple of times with Fringe now and it's starting to get a bit tiring. That's not to say I didn't think Simon Phillips wasn't interesting because in fact I found his character a great singular episode character and thought his role in the case was brilliant, but I found that he also just provided anger towards Walter we've seen a million times, and we had to listen to the same old "Look what you did to us Walter" malarkey that's gotten stale and repetitive.

Kudos for the creepy doll inclusion, I found that very effective and the actual bone dissolving effects were as always fantastic, however the case of the week slowly took a back seat as the Cortexiphan storyline reared it's head and ended up becoming a bit pale and unimportant. That being said Olivia got the...
OBSERVER ALERT:

...chance to look stunning at the ball, and there were some tense action moments as she hunted down the two men ready to dissolve some bones en masse. She certainly came across as pretty ruthless at gunning down the two men and it was nice to see her toughen up after a few episodes of feeling sorry for herself (understandably :P)
Of course, the big reveal at the end of the episode was when Olivia opened the note from Simon after he had read Peter's mind, and the words 'He still has feelings for her' scrawling across our screens as the end credits hit in. Coupled with Weiss' words this is perhaps a time for our world to start worrying a little, but I'm convinced that Peter can still be influenced. The fact that he feels bad for our Olivia and the fact that he said that "I came back for you" to her suggests he's one conflicted man. He also did try and kill Fauxlivia when she was found out! Just because he has feelings for her doesn't mean he has none for our one as well.
So to sum up I found the small amount of main mythology really strong and I loved seeing Nina getting more involved, but the too familiar storyline of Cortexiphan subjects was a real disappointment and made the actual case of the week lose it's focus and as a result put the main cast in an episode where they didn't really get anywhere or do much we hadn't seen before. It really was 'The Same Old Story.'
So this episode is almost a reversal of last week where I found the main mythology too heavy without enough explanation but found a lot of nice character moments.
Next week a little bit of both would be fantastic...

I'm sure Peter would agree with me :P

7.5/10

Adam

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Twitter: @AdDHarris
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Check out my Previous Season Three Reviews Here:
3.01 Olivia
3.02 The Box
3.03 The Plateau
3.04 Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?
3.05 Amber 31422
3.06 6995 kHz
3.07 The Abducted
3.08 Entrada
3.09 Marionette
3.10 The Firefly
3.11 Reciprocity
3.12 Concentrate & Ask Again

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