One of Fringe’s themes which it revisits in heavy rotation is characters striving to make or remake a connections with a love that they’ve lost, whatever the cost, even if that leads to madness and murder (and, oh, the cost has been high many times.) This season has been all about this theme and A Short Story About Love gruesomely continues with a crazed yet ambitious (not to mention murderous) former perfume company scientist and Olivia trying to decide whether or not she’s willing to destroy completely who she’s been in order to ‘be in love’. Does the episode work. Mostly. Even if it does dip into a territory turned quite schlocky and unsubtle by Stephen Moffat with his version Doctor Who. Of course, Fringe delves deep into the horror and madness that comes with such longings (at least to those who are scientists or scientific freaks of nature), so it avoids the sugary excess of Moffat’s work.
The episode starts with Olivia having breakfast with Nina, having lost much of her memories of her life with her adoptive mother. She later begs Walter to ‘fix her’ then after meeting a woman who was married to a murdered man who wasn’t ‘in love with her’ she decides that she is happy to allow the destruction the life she had in the hopes that she will be able to share ‘being in love’ with Peter. Apparently there is nothing more ultimately horrifying than *settling*.
And then we have the creepy and horribly burned scientist who is trying to create a love potion out of the distilled pheremones he extract from the male bodies of couples that he victimizes (and later, upon failure, murders.) And he calmly does this while his victim screams his agony and listening to The Friends of Mr. Cairo (although he isn’t evil enough to kill a couple who have a kid). His insanity has demanded he take any action to create his love potion, claiming altruism when he is finally caught and has an exchange with Olivia:
“I don’t wan t you to think I did it for me. Not just for me. We’re not meant to be alone. It’s every human beings right to know love. And had I succeeded, had I found the right chemicals, just the right balance, I could have given the world what you have.”
Yeah… give anyone the power to make anyone the power to create pheremonic love slaves. But, I’ll credit the writer of this tale, as the story does turn out as compelling as it is perverse. Certainly watching the women suddenly fall in love with the horribly scarred man in the moments before his concoction’s effects wear off. Oh, and we learn a few interesting details about the history of unpleasant side of perfuming.
Oh, and Peter is finally told by Observer September, whom he summons back with a ‘beacon’ that is apparently erected from the ground after Peter discovers Septembers Boston apartment (there’s some silly handwaving about September putting a disc into Peter’s eyes that gets us to this.) For a moment I thought Peter had come across the buried but still excitable remains of Tetsuo The Iron Man. True love, perhaps?
But, happily for Peter (who had to be established is a better man than his father by walking away from Olivia out of not wanting to turn her into a different person) and Olivia, September clears thing up. This his timeline, and Olivia is his Olivia and everything has happened (in theory) because of the power of love! And he no longer has to put up with Lincoln Lee’s accusations of taking advantage of a vulnerable Olivia. Yeah?
But again, there’s so much perversity involved, not to mention strong performances by out cast (especially Seth Gabel, who it the show’s personification of unrequited love) in all this that it works. So congrats. Because it really shouldn’t.
Rating: 4 out of 5