"A Short Story About Love" is an episode for which I was really excited because I (like most everyone, I'd imagine) have been itching to find out what the Beacon is since the fourth episode of the first season ("The Arrival"), and finally, we find out what it is. Those of us who saw the promo at the end of "The End of All Things" (4.14) knew that the Beacon would make an appearance, and I was really excited. I can't say that I'm wholly satisfied, and that is for a number of reasons; firstly, I'm guessing I was expecting a bit more of an expansive answer. For example, if the Beacon was now used to trap September outside of the universe, what was its purpose back during the first season? If it had the same purpose, who were the Observers locking outside the universe? What does it mean to be locked outside the universe? Does that mean outside of all universes, or just the Blueverse? I would think all universes, because they don't seem to have any problem crossing between universes, at least not the Blueverse and the Redverse. Does it mean back to when the Observers come from? Where was September during his entrapment? Was he out of phase? Who is Mosley, and why did he have an interest in the Beacon? What is the science behind the Beacon? There are so many unanswered questions still remaining.
To some extent, I'm not sure why I hadn't seen that coming because as much as I love Fringe (obviously), that does tend to be the case; if and when we get answers, they are through foggy glass, not an open doorway through which we can easily walk. The answers are a bit unclear and don't always explain everything, and I don't know if that's because they want us to make some inferences on our own, but at any rate, I'd be glad to give a couple of examples other than the Beacon. We had been wondering who Sam Weiss for a very long time, and when we finally did, it was disappointing; the explanation doesn't explain why he and Nina had a strange connection or how Bell knew him, and it certainly doesn't explain what he meant when he told Olivia that he's older and taller than he appears (and it's annoying that she never questioned him about that). Unfortunately, I don't think that we're ever going to see him again, either, but we'll have to wait to see; it's plausible. Another example, of course, is the Observers, but I went into pretty detailed discussion regarding that during my last review ("The End of All Things"), so I won't bore you again. Is it possible that "The Arrival" is directly linked to this episode, that Mosley was hired by the Observers to prevent September from freeing himself? I don't think so, but I'm just throwing it out there.
I love how at the beginning of the episode, Nina refers t0 Meana as "that woman" as if she is a stranger. Don't get me wrong; she essentially is, but I still find it funny, as it's certainly not that often that we have the opportunity to refer to different versions of ourselves as strangers, and, of course, as is reasonable, Olivia hasn't always been too warm and fuzzy with her double, either. I love how, during this scene, Olivia says that she just wishes that time would move a little bit faster, and Nina says, "Well, that's a coincidence because we just found a patent on that last week." It's unclear as to whether or not that's true or if she just said it as a joke, but either way, it's pretty clear that she was trying to be funny, which isn't like the Nina that we used to know. It is now that Nina realizes that Olivia is losing her memories of what she and Nina used to have, and she seems to be scared, unwilling to let Olivia go; I'm still not sure if there is an ulterior motive, but if so, she's definitely doing a good job of concealing the truth because she seems to genuinely love and care about Olivia. On a somewhat similar note, we're definitely seeing Walter becoming more like his old self, as it is clear that he is developing fatherly feelings for Peter. "All I care about is what he [September]'s done to you," he says to Peter. A few months ago, that wouldn't have mattered as much to him; he'd be more invested in the mystery.
That leads me into a question, one that I'm wondering if anyone else has asked. Why does Walter seem to trust that September isn't leading Peter into some sort of trap? Peter is a grown man and doesn't need Walter's permission to go to the address afforded him, anyway, but Walter doesn't even voice any protest, and it was my understanding that Walter didn't know the Observers in this timeline. Are his memories starting to resurface, too, and he's not telling anyone? The character Tommy/Timmy (I can't remember which is correct) makes a comeback from the premiere episode, and since I can't remember if it's Tommy or Timmy (I think that it's Timmy), I'm not sure if Walter gets his name wrong (but I think that he does, since he calls him Tommy). We also see Walter watching Scooby-Doo, which is a really neat reference to our beloved Fringe team investigating "weird" cases. I love the scene during which Walter has Astrid smell the scent of roadkill, especially because of Astrid's response; then, it gets even better when, later, Peter wonders whether he should smell, and Astrid says, "Uh-uh." My last observation directly involving Walter is whether or not he and Walternate gave up on the Machine because that seems to be the case; Peter tells September that there is nothing that anyone can do for him and consequently begs him for help, so if they gave up on trying, why didn't we see them tell him that?
When Lincoln says to Olivia that if she needs anything, he's there and she says that she knows, I was totally reminded of the scene from "The Dreamscape" (1.09) during which there is nearly identical dialogue between Peter and Olivia, and I'm willing to bet that that is identical. We've all seen what road Peter and Olivia have gone down, so maybe, the writers are trying to show us that Lincoln truly loves Olivia in a way similar to the way that Peter loved her then, meaning that had Olivia and Lincoln been allowed to pursue a relationship without the interference of Peter, they would have had something special, too. Near the end of the episode, Olivia waits at the wrong woman's house for the killer, and she listens as the woman explains that she and her husband didn't love each other, that they were ultimately just best friends, and this seems to awaken Olivia. Initially, I was wondering what she learned from this, but she tells Nina that she doesn't want to be like that, doesn't want to give up on love, which makes perfect sense to me. "I could see myself in her," she says. "I didn't like who I was." It's kind of funny because when she started by saying that she met a woman today, I thought that she was going to say that she had fallen in love with a woman; that's totally how it sounds. Nina looks like she is going to cry, and it's actually kind of heartbreaking.
I'm not sure if I totally understand the "case of the week" of the episode, though. Michael Massee (whom I know best from FlashForward and Rizzoli & Isles) guest stars as Anson Carr, a serial killer who seems to be severely burned, due to his appearance. He targets straight couples, seemingly in an effort to secure the love of the woman by using the pheromones of the man, ultimately killing both, but I don't understand why. We can infer that he lost a woman to whom he was very close (due to the photograph at which he looks), but why does he kill the woman? Is it because he wants to end the pain that is undoubtedly similar to what he feels? At first, I was wondering how he wasn't scaring the living daylights out of his female victims, especially since he is so disfigured, but then realized that it was probably because the pheromones of their loved ones being on him. When I first discovered that Michael Massee was going to be on the series, the article that informed me said that he would be a very compelling baddie of the week, but I can't say that I agree, as I'm not very invested in him and don't care about him at all, which is another reason why this episode didn't live up to everything that I was expecting. When I saw that Beacon in the promo, I was expecting a killer of an episode, but it's just a letdown in a lot of ways.
I'm also annoyed because this episode would have been the perfect opportunity to feature a LGBT character, and that kind of opportunity was once again wasted; this episode is about love, and it only focuses on heterosexual love, doesn't even mention homosexuality; in fact, Walter speaks of attraction as if only male-female attraction exists, and no one cares to ask how homosexuality factors into his explanation. A lot of people were creeped out when Carr tells Olivia that he can smell that she's in love, and yes, Massee was really creepy on Rizzoli & Isles, too. "We're not meant to be alone," he says to her. "It's every human being's right to know love." I love this quote, but I can't understand why he would tear couples apart if he values love so much. He says that he didn't just do it for himself, and I can't make sense of that, and I fear that maybe it's because I don't fully understand just what he was doing. The very last two scenes are absolutely beautiful, when Peter frees September, they talk, and Peter then reunites with Olivia as they run toward each other and embrace after September ensures Peter that "she is your Olivia," that he has been home all along, which is pretty much what I have been saying all season. September tells Peter that he suspects that the people that he loves couldn't let go of him and he couldn't let go of them and that that's why he wasn't erased, but I'm wondering why he doesn't seem to be considering the fact that he didn't hit the switch on that machine near the beginning of the season; that is why he was locked away, after all. At any rate, I'm very happy to have heard the "Man in the Mirror" theme, and I've said it before, and I'll say it again - Chris Tilton is a genius. Overall, I give this short story about love 7.5 love-stricken Hoyts.