Mark Watches ‘Fringe’: S04E11 – Making Angels

In the eleventh episode of the fourth season of Fringe, we are all trapped in a glass case of emotion. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Fringe.

You know, I’ve tried to step back and remember it took the show seventy-five episodes (I counted) to tell us any sort of story on a character who is in nearly every episode. It took this show an incredibly long time to focus on Astrid Farnsworth, and I’m sure that some of you have been just as shrill and irritating about this as I have. I think I found a way to yell at the writers in at least half of the Fringe reviews I’ve written. I think it’s one of the show’s great flaws, and something I wish they’d done so much sooner than they have.

And even thinking of this now, I still can’t help but feel like the wait was so worth it.

The first Astrid-centric episode of Fringe could have been a lot of things. It simply could have been her solving the case. It could have been a story about us following her around for a day. Either one of those would have been pleasant, and I’m sure I would have enjoyed it a whole lot. Instead, though, the writers use the alternate universe as a chance for us to get to know both versions of Astrid, and to build those characters’ back story through their conversations. Not only that, but we get a heartbreaking story in Neil Chung, and an Observers plot that made me fall off my couch. THERE’S JUST SO MUCH TO BE EMOTIONAL ABOUT, OKAY?

The impetus for alt-Astrid to come to our side is the death of her father, and there’s a direct parallel for what happens here and what tormented Neil Chung. This is about the complicated and sometimes irrational relationships we have with our parents, about feeling worthless or ignored, and it’s why an episode that isn’t really action-packed is just so entertaining. Alt-Astrid seeks out her own self in our universe as a way to sort of compare notes, a coping mechanism of her own. As someone on the autism spectrum, alt-Astrid worries that she couldn’t express how much she loved her father. It’s a familiar trope, to be honest, one I sort of wish the show didn’t do, but Jasika Nicole takes this idea and gives such a beautiful, haunting performance that my reservations about it are pretty much swept away.

One of the things I love so dearly about this show is how the writers created these complex alternate worlds and gave their actors such an immense challenge: play a version of yourself that’s easily distinguishable from the other. And so far, they’ve all done it brilliantly. “Making Angels” also gives us both Olivias as well, and it’s just amazing to me to see Anna Torv give the dual performances that she does here. I never thought we would see a story that explored what Fauxlivia did to Walter, and suddenly, Fauxlivia is my favorite person? She’s so feisty and in-your-face about having tricked Walter in the past, but it’s done in a way that actually moves both of them towards reconciling. Sort of? I mean, he offered her Red Vines. That’s about as explicit of an act of forgiveness that Fauxlivia is going to get.

It’s interesting, then, to see that forgiveness because two other characters in this episode are seeking that in a way as well. Alt-Astrid’s guilt is slowly alleviated as she sees how this universe treats the version of herself. I was particularly fascinated by the fact that Alt-Astrid noticed that our universe speaks to Astrid with respect and is friendly with her. What we’ve seen of the alternate universe has given us the impression that Astrid is treated mostly like a repository of information. No one is all that personable with her, and even when Fauxlivia tells alt-Broyles that she’ll go fetch Astrid, it’s not with a sad or wistful tone. It’s like she’s retrieving a wandering child. At the same time, alt-Astrid is so much more direct and penetrating. It’s why she’s able to dismantle Walter’s reasoning for treating his “son” terribly, and why she’s able to piece together the seemingly random details of Neil Chung’s case. She is a woman obsessed with details, but we do get to see how that isn’t some sort of detached existence for her. Who knew that watching a character drink coffee for the first time could be so emotional???

The story that we get of Neil Chung isn’t terribly developed, to be honest, but I’m largely pleased with what we see. The episode’s title is in reference to what Neil irrationally believed of himself, that because his mother made an error in a moment of grief, he resolved to prove her wrong. Like alt-Astrid, he’s a man obsessed with details and mathematics, but his ultimate interpretation of these details is based on a skewed and flawed view of mercy. He believes that angels save people from harm, and that means that killing people destined for suffering is an act of holiness. I’m glad, then, that the story doesn’t make Neil’s mother, Anne Chung, out to be a villain here. She’s not. Grief makes people do or say things that they might not actually mean, and it’s Neil’s fault that he chose to pursue what he did.

What Neil’s story is also about is random chance, and that bit of luck concerns September. I imagine that the reason Olivia saw September shot in that theater is due to the realizations at the end of “Making Angels.” When the Observers retrieve the weapon that September dropped in Reidan Lake in 1985, March reveals that Peter Bishop is still alive, meaning that September did not do as he was supposed to. So what does this mean? Why is it so integral that Peter not ever exist in any universe or any timeline? I can tell that we are finally approaching some huge answers regarding this alternate set of timelines, Peter’s existence, and what the hell the Observers are. AHHHH I JUST WANT MORE PLEASE GIVE ME MORE.

Really, though, this episode is so fantastic to me because of Astrid. She holds it together. She is the purpose of this all. It only made me want more Astrid-centric episodes in the future. And maybe one about Broyles. Or Nina. UGH NINA WHAT ARE YOU DOING. Anyway, Astrid’s final scene in “Making Angels” is one that just made me want to crumble and hide under my table for hours. We finally – FINALLY – meet Astrid’s father, and we learn that she lied to alt-Astrid. Her father is not the distant, preoccupied man like alt-Astrid’s was, and she did this just so that alt-Astrid could begin to heal and feel better about herself.

Help me. My heart is going to burst.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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25 Responses to Mark Watches ‘Fringe’: S04E11 – Making Angels

  1. As someone on the autism spectrum, alt-Astrid worries that she couldn’t express how much she loved her father. It’s a familiar trope, to be honest, one I sort of wish the show didn’t do, but Jasika Nicole takes this idea and gives such a beautiful, haunting performance that my reservations about it are pretty much swept away.
    Seriously, there were tears in my eyes. TEARS.

    We finally – FINALLY – meet Astrid’s father, and we learn that she lied to alt-Astrid. Her father is not the distant, preoccupied man like alt-Astrid’s was, and she did this just so that alt-Astrid could begin to heal and feel better about herself.
    I want the Astrids to hang out ALL THE TIME. Out of all the duplicates, they are the most different, and it's like they needed each other without even knowing it. Alt-Astrid definitely needed Astrid; I'm not quite sure about Astrid's feelings about her doppelganger. Given what we know about her social life, though, I think she was glad to have a friend.

    [youtube VcekEfoVfBo youtube]

  2. icy says:

    And now you can watch this cast interviews about this episode (there are no spoilers for future eps on this article page or the video, but be careful on the site in general). I love how this cast talks about each other and the show; I know they are actors, but I feel like the love and respect they have for each other is right there. And I'm with Josh, we want a Nina episode!

    But watching Jasika glow in this episode was amazing.

    Also I think all kudos to the actress who played Anne, Neil's mom. Her grief at knowing her son had overheard her words felt so real and reflected back to him and made both of these characters so complicated!

    This is one of the reasons I love this show so much. Because right now, I can't figure out what Nina or David Robert Jones motivations are for what they are doing. But almost every week they give us complicated rounded "villians." Even if their motives are messed up or dubious, we still get a glimpse into the why. So I feel like I know that Jones' and Nina's endgames are something more than, "because we can," and I can't wait.

    I wished there had been a little more alt-Astrid/Peter interaction in this episode, if only because I really like the tenuous connection they made when he was over there earlier in the season. But that's just a little nit to pick.

  3. Chris says:

    This was my favorite episode of the season. I haven't liked this season all that much, since I feel a distance from the characters in the new timeline, but this was a perfect opportunity to explore the Astrids, who are perhaps the least changed due to Peter's absence. Plus, it was just so much fun! I just had a big smile plastered on my face in almost every lab scene (when Jasika Nicole made me cry, for instance).

    Part of the reason Jasika's performance was so great might be because her sister has Asperger's. My brother has this as well, and she pretty much nailed it.

  4. Chris says:

    Oops–the above in parentheses should say, "except for when Jasika Nicole made me cry, of course."

  5. SecretGirl127 says:

    My new go-to forgiveness offering will be red vines.

    I think I may feel the urge to cry every time I see Alt-Astrid from here on.

  6. Ryan Lohner says:

    This is the first time I got to be what Blu Mankuma looks like, after loving his voice for so long. I mean, how can you not adore this?

  7. Jenn says:

    Jasika Nicole made me cry three separate times in this ep, and I NEVER cry at TV shows (well except Becoming Part II in Buffy, but that one ripped my heart straight out of my chest). So much love for this show.
    But I missing Lincoln!! Hope he's back asap!

  8. DFM Marlink says:

    Mark, did you giggle like a schoolgirl when Astrid's dad showed up, and that moment of realization hit of "Hey, didn't I see you on X-Files a million years ago?" 'CAUSE I SURE DID GIGGLE.

    And he's also the voice of Flutterguy in My Little Pony? I think I love this man.

  9. Sadie_TARDIS says:

    This was an amazing episode, but the one thought that kept surfacing in my mind was "Were Lance Reddick and Seth Gabel urgently needed elsewhere or something?" With the unprecedented focus on Jasika Nicole and the hasty exit of the other two actors after a quick scene at the beginning, I felt like the cast was strangely unbalanced, in a way that didn't feel organic, somehow? I don't know, but it was only a minor gripe with a great installment. I'm still not wholly satisfied with our Astrid backstory so far, but it's a good start.

    Another odd thing I've been seeing around (especially on Tumblr of late) is this really nasty wave of Lincoln hate. I'm not sure I get it, since most of it seems to be centered around the fact that he's replacing Peter (which, hello, Peter's right there, folks!), despite the fact that this isn't even a world where Peter belongs, nor does he desire to. Oh well, I suppose I'll just go back to quietly loving both Lincolns, then?

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    • icy says:

      I thought maybe he was absent to give him some time off b/c of his new baby? Although it may have been shot a little earlier than the babies birth.

  10. Karen says:

    I LOVED this episode. Firstly, as much as I like Lincoln (and I do!), it felt good and natural for it to be just Peter and Olivia working together. The longer we spend in this alternate timeline, the more anxious I get about whether or not we'll ever get back to the original timeline. So idk. It just felt nice and comfortable to go back to an episode where Peter and Olivia were working together and getting along.

    But the thing that really made this episode was the character stuff. AltAstrid helped Walter to realize that he should stop putting up so many walls between himself and Peter and the stuff between AltAstrid and Astrid was really great. I MAY HAVE TEARED UP A BIT AT THE END.

    So yes, I liked this episode a lot.

  11. NB2000 says:

    I kind of love Alt!Astrid a LOT now. She was just so sweet and wonderful and heartbreaking when talking about her dad. I vote Jasika Nicole be added to the "Where the fuck are her awards?" list with John Noble and Anna Torv because she was amazing in this episode.

    Speaking of John and Anna. I still find Fauxlivia annoying and I still hate her, I in no way suddenly kind of want to ship her with Walter thanks to their interactions in this episode.

  12. Hotaru_hime says:

    Astrid lying killed me. Dead.
    I don't have any interesting commentary other than WHY DO I HAVE TO GO TO INDIA I WANT TO WATCH FRINGE MY LIFE IS SO HARD
    (except really it isn't and all it means is that I can watch episodes back to back)

  13. BSGfan1 says:

    I'm wondering if I'm dead inside. I had little emotional response to this episode. Weird. :(. While I like Astrid in both universes, I just have no emotional investment in her. I did chuckle at the Deus Ex Machina…and I reallly hope it's not a meta joke about how this series is going to be resolved.
    I'm really tired of the lack of Peter and Olivia/Fauxlivia since the break. I hope they pick up the pace and get back to his story but quick.

  14. Eefje says:

    I want to hug both Astrids so badly now! Can they visit each other more often?

  15. lula34 says:

    This episode destroyed me. I'm incapable of saying anything other than I have been defeated by the perfection that is Jasika Nicole.

  16. Coughdrop01 says:

    This episode was so emotional! As much as I've enjoyed this season, I thought last season was much better and this episode brought the bar back up for me! So lovely.

    Also: When the observers were like "Peter still exists!", was anyone else wondering how it took them SO LONG to figure this out? I mean, considering they are called OBSERVERS they are not very OBSERVANT.

    • Esther says:

      I figure they figured it out right away, but since they're outside time they only realized it in "our" timeline now. Does that make sense?

  17. Esther says:

    The Observers can move through solid objects. How cool is that.

  18. Iroh_King_Of_Pop says:

    Nothing about Walter calling Alt-Astrid by her correct name and Astrid-primes reaction….


    For shame internets…

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