The Wife:

Fringe
has managed to start the season off right by immediately connecting its MOTW episodes with the mytharc of the show, something The X-Files in all of its 7 years of conspiracy-filled glory (yes, seasons 8 and 9 are dead to me) never really managed to do. This seems to be typical of J.J. Abrams storytelling, at least from my experience with Lost. Abrams (and Lost showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse) are exceptionally adept at creating compelling individual episodes that can both stand on their own as well as contribute to the course of the overall narrative.

That said, this week’s MOTW concerned what I believe is every woman’s nightmare, and by extension, every man’s. The episode opened with an absolutely terrifying narrative about an accelerated pregnancy. A man sleeps with a girl, accidentally impregnates her, and the fetus begins to develop to full term within a matter of minutes. The mysterious man drops his baby mama off in front of the hospital and speeds away. She dies before the ER docs can extract the fetus. When the child is born, he appears to grow before their very eyes, and ends up dying, still covered in amniotic fluids, with the body of an 80-year old-man by the time he is only 4 hours old. Freaky stuff.

I find this case of super-speed progeria to be terrifying for a number of reasons. First, as wonderful as it is, pregnancy itself is a scary thing. It raises serious questions about one’s bodily autonomy. The mother intentionally gives off her body to another entity, allowing it to gestate inside of her. She becomes more than herself in the instant she conceives, and that’s a lot to grapple with, psychologically. Secondly, the pregnant body, I find, is often a site of contention. It’s a space of the unknown. Even with the marvels of modern science that allow you to see into the womb prior to birth, there’s a lot about pregnancy that remains unseen and mysterious. There’s so much that can go wrong, so much to worry about. And there is always the chance that, in giving life, you could lose yours, or that in giving life, you could take away that life just as easily. The very idea of pregnancy and birth is a journey into the unknown, and a pregnancy MOTW is definitely a perfect choice for a show like Fringe to tackle in its insipient stages.

I was reminded of two other stories about unusual pregnancies when watching this episode. I recently saw a first season episode of Angel, “Expecting,” in which Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) meets a nice rich guy played by Ken Marino and has a one-night stand with him. The next morning, she wakes up about eight and a half months pregnant. Cordelia is confused and heartbroken by this turn of events, until the psychic link the demon who impregnated her has with his young takes over control of her body. She’s merely a host vessel for the many demon spawn she carries inside of her. A truly terrifying prospect. Fortunately, the demon can be killed if frozen with liquid nitrogen and shattered to bits, therefore also killing his seed and returning everyone to normal in what is probably the happiest abortion you’ll ever see on television. I was also reminded of a short story by Judith Merrill called “That Only a Mother . . .” In Merrill’s story, a pregnant woman gives birth while her Navy engineer husband is still at sea. She views her child as completely normal, but her A-bomb testing husband seems to know better when he returns home to meet the gender-ambiguously named Henrietta. Henrietta cannot walk properly, and seems to have a telepathic link with modern machinery. The hands and feet of her onesies are tied off and she likes to crawl like a worm . . . because she has no limbs. The story is a lot better than my watered down version makes it seem, of course, but I think both “That Only a Mother . . .” and “Expecting” speak to the issues I’ve mentioned above about pregnancy being a space of the unknown and relate to the questions of bodily autonomy that arise. As a woman, I find it all really fucking scary.

“And all of this connects to the magic old man baby and the pregnant woman how?” -Peter Bishop

Daddy, where do magic old man babies come from?

Daddy, where do magic old man babies come from?

Now, theoretical issues about pregnancy aside, this episode of Fringe introduced us to The Council who oversees Agent Boyles’ investigation team comprised of Agent Olivia Dunham, Peter Bishop and Dr. Walter Bishop, my new favorite crazy old dude. Nina Sharp of the shadowy Massive Dynamics (this show’s equivalent of Lost‘s Widmore Industries) appears to be on this Council, which makes me immediately dubious of her position on it, how Massive Dynamics fits into the Pattern she claims to be investigating and, subsequently, the “goodness” of the Council itself.

It appears that Dr. Bishop’s work in the ’70s helped create the kind of magical man babies his son is talking about. Bishop and a German doctor named Claus Penrose were employed by the U.S. Government to create an army of soldiers that were grown in a lab, not born to human women, a sort of race of homunculi, if you will. The problem with their experiments were that, despite manipulating the pituitary gland to grow soldiers out of a test tube that would age immediately to the fighting age of 21, no one could figure out how to get the soldiers to stop aging at that point. (Never mind the obvious lack of muscle tone a 21-year-old pod person would have. They’d be like the human equivalent of a two year old veal calf who’d never left the cage before the slaughter. I’m surprised that two brilliant men didn’t think of that little catch. You know what probably would have been a better idea? A robot army.) Dunham believes that, based on evidence at the initial crime scene, their current case is linked to a case she and the fallen Agent Scott investigated 12 years prior, in which a serial killer removed women’s pituitary glands Egyptian style – through their noses.

It turns out that the cases are linked, and that the pregnant woman in the beginning was an accident the killer hadn’t planned for. Dunham and the Bishop boys find another dead woman, killed in the Egyptian style, and extract her final images from her retinas in order to triangulate her place of death with the assistance of Dunham’s assistant, Junior Agent Astrid Farnsworth. (Hooray for someone named after the inventor of television!) Part of me wished that, rather than letting Farnsworth have all the fun triangulating, the Fringe folks had called up Charlie Epps from Numb3rs to do some consulting work, since he seems to use a different mathematical formula to triangulate stuff each week on that show. Dunham and Peter race to the warehouse just in time to save another woman from certain pituitary doom, but without his final pituitary gland, the killer, whom we learn Penrose had raised as his son, cannot escape before aging so rapidly that he dies before anyone can kill him.

Fox doesnt seem to want to give up any of the awesome, grotesque photos, so youll have to take my word that this is that eye surgery Im talking about.

Fox doesn't seem to want to give up any of the awesome, grotesque photos, so you'll have to take my word that this is that eye surgery I'm talking about.

Aside from the case particulars, during Dunham’s discussion with Penrose about the nature of his work with Dr. Bishop, Penrose seemed to imply that their work may have been an initial cause of the events known as The Pattern and that The Council may indeed have nefarious purposes. Although, this second assertion is certainly questionable as Penrose was protecting his serial killer pituitary stealing homunculus son for many years, so The Council’s purpose may only be nefarious to him and his magical man baby. As far as magical man babies are concerned, the final shot of this show leads me to believe that there are definitely more of them in the world, resting in some unknown homunculus farm until they can be called into whatever action they might need to be called for. Perhaps even Peter Bishop is one of them, as Dr. Bishop is hiding some of Peter’s medical history. Something is wrong with Peter, but we don’t know what. My money is on him being a magical man baby, or that he’s completely made of whatever Nina Sharp’s bionic arm is made of. One of the two.

My favorite kooky mad scientist said yet another thing this week that I found to be not so kooky. When the idea of retinal extraction was posed, Peter immediately balked at the idea, and his father incredulously asked his genius son, “Have you lost your imagination?” Dr. Bishop posited the poetic idea that the eyes are the window to the soul, and connected it to the scientific process, creating a link between the scientific and poetic imagination. Coleridge would have been so proud of him, and my heart certainly melted a little bit. Bishop believes that fiction is often only a step away from fact, that whatever can be imagined can reasonably exist, linking science and art together. In some ways, I see that Coleridgian thesis about the power of the imagination as something of a modus operandi for J.J. Abrams, whose work on both Fringe and Lost allows us to believe that whatever can be imagined can indeed reasonably exist. Through the artistic imagination, we can become unstuck in time. We can move islands. We can create, in Peter’s words, magic old man babies.

I’m also trying to piece together just what those symbols at the commercials mean. I’ve been told that it’s not so much what they are, but the order in which they are. Last night, we were given the leaf (which contains the Greek letter Delta), the frog (which contains the Greek letter Psi), the apple (which has magical man babies in the seeds), and then the daisy (which seems to be indistinct). I don’t know what any of that means, but since two of the symbols have Greek letters in them, I’m going to keep looking damn hard to find letters in the apple and the daisy and see if that means anything to me, because right now, all I’ve got is Delta Psi Apple Daisy. And that’s getting me nowhere.

The Husband:

Fringe haikus, s01e02:

“The Pattern” is a
Mysterious entity.
Terror is abstract.

Magic man baby:
Like Robin Williams in
Jack, only less fun.

“Homunculus:” it
Is too big a word for here.
My wife is insane.

The eyeball trial:
Taken straight from Wild Wild West.
Rip off better films!

Robot armies are
Theoretically faulty.
See T2:3D.

Joshua Jackson
Not at all like his Pacey.
More like Mighty Ducks.

Fringe, still too much like
The X-Files
. Focus more on
Grand conspiracy.

Accelerated
Pregnancy equals lack of
Baby shower. Sad.

Charlie Epps should be
On every cop show. Case closed.
Math conquers all y’all.

My wife has more time
To discuss TV at work.
Obviously true.

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