The Wife:

I’m loving the cold opens on Fringe, as each one seems to get creepier and creepier. This week involved a woman being thrown out of the back of a Hazmat truck. Dazed, she wanders into nearby Holly’s Diner, where the staff gets her a bowl of soup and calls in the local cops, thinking that she has recently escaped an abuser due to the cuff marks on her wrists and multiple bruises. She seems to have no idea why she is in such a condition, and mutters to the waiter about taking a red medicine and a blue medicine. When the cop, determining that she’s crazy and a danger to herself (and possibly others), calls in a 5150, the woman becomes extremely agitated. As she tries to escape his custody, patrons in the diner begin to exhibit strange symptoms: bleeding from their ears, eyes, or, in the case of one patron, hearts exploding from one’s chest. As everyone around her dies in excruciating and horrible ways, the woman backs herself against the door, where her own head explodes all over the glass. She has head-explodey, and it’s awesome. This scene was particularly terrifying because of the adeptly chilling scoring by The Little Ice Cube Michael Giacchino, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite film and television composers.

When Dunham and the Bishop Boys arrive at the scene, the space has been quarantined due to extremely high levels of radiation found at the site. The woman with the head-explodey was Emily Kramer, who had been missing for 2 weeks prior to her reappearance at the diner. Her body exhibited three times the radiation levels of the other dead. Walter discovers that the cop’s brain was literally boiled, which he discerns by jabbing a meat thermometer in the man’s head through his ear canal. Walter spends most of this scene wandering around, jabbing corpses with meat thermometers and muttering to himself about the many things he’s done in dreams while on opium, including finding a cure for the rare auto immune disease that Emily Kramer had: Bellini’s Lymphosema, which Olivia learns more about when she goes off to visit Emily’s doctor.

When examining Emily’s headless body (which, by the way, was awesome – how many headless corpses do you get to see on television?), Walter notices that she smells of hyacinth. He sees the cuff marks on her wrists and determines that she was likely held against her will and given drugs – “And not the enjoyable kind.” He proposes that her captors must have let her go to test whatever they had injected inside her. Olivia buys into this theory hard, especially when she receives a call that another woman with the same auto immune disease, Claire, has also gone missing. Olivia and Francis go to visit Claire’s husband, who informs them that, like Emily Kramer, Claire’s disease had also gone into remission just before she went missing. We then see Claire, locked up in a medical facility, being injected with red and blue medications, while the goateed-and-evil drug company CEO David Esterbrook watches her on a monitor and tells his assistant:

“The last one was a test. This one counts.”

Back at the lab, Walter demonstrates how intense radiation can cause heads and other organs to explode by radiating his friend, Mr. Papaya, much to his dismay.

“This is sad, as he is the friendliest of fruits.”

Through this experiment, Walter determines that Emily had been taking experimental time-release radiation isotope capsules which ultimately helped send her disease into remission. He posits that someone had manipulated the capsules to explode on cue. Peter wonders if whoever is controlling the Pattern and experimenting on human subjects in this way (as several of their recent cases have included human test subjects) might be planning for something potentially apocalyptic. He and Olivia bust in on Emily’s wake, looking for details of her treatments and other helpful clues and learn from her mother that Emily and Claire were friends. The two women were treating themselves with the time-release isotopes that they obtained from Dr. Patel at Patel Industries, the doctor Olivia had previously visited. Olivia visits Patel and forces him to give up the name of the companies from which he obtained the trial drugs. Patel names David Esterbrook of Intrepus and then shoots himself.

Dunham, against protocol for her current investigative unit, decides to do some lone wolf recon work and interviews Esterbrook at a conference, pretending to be a graduate student who has closely followed his research on human-animal hybridization and radical gene therapies. When she exposes herself to him, he delivers a veiled threat to end her life, which Olivia heartily assumes Esterbrook will not get the chance to follow through on before she can stop him for good. Broyles finds out about Olivia’s indiscretion and scolds her, though she insists that it shouldn’t matter how she obtains her information so long as it is accurate and relevant to the case.

So, youre kind of like Dr. Moreau, or what?

So, you're kind of like Dr. Moreau, or what?

Seeing that Olivia is deeply upset by this case, Peter asks her why she’s been acting so unusual. With much reluctance, Olivia admits that she was raised by an abusive step-father who once hit her mother so hard that he broke her nose. One night when he drove off in a drunken rage, Olivia prepared herself to avenge her mother should her step-father return. When his car pulled up in the driveway, she shot him twice in the chest but couldn’t bring herself to kill him. His non-ghost haunts her by sending her a card every year on her birthday —today – to remind his righteous step-daughter that there are some monsters that you just can’t kill.

I think this story is the most interesting portrait we’ve gotten of Olivia so far this season and I’m beginning to understand why she’s so motivated to delve into the weird and the unknown. On Lost, everyone tries to unravel the mysteries of the island because it’s pertinent to their survival there and their potential to get off of it. On The X-Files, its very apparent within the show’s mythology why both Mulder and Scully are drawn to these sorts of cases: Mulder because he is obsessed with finding his missing sister, Samantha, and Scully because somewhere inside her cold scientific exterior there is a part of her devout Catholic heart that really wants to believe in inexplicable things beyond the realm of the divine. But on this show, I’ve never felt that Olivia has had a reason to be in the FBI. She’s not as well-drawn as the agents at the BAU over on Criminal Minds, each of whom inherently believes that their work is helping people – especially reformed hacker Penelope Garcia, whom you would never believe worked for the FBI if you saw her on the street with her bright prints and anime hair-dos. Olivia Dunham has never received an expression of what drives her to a career in justice, and now I know. I feel like I finally understand why she’s so balls-to-the-wall and steely now: she doesn’t want anyone to have to face the kind of monsters she’s faced. She saved herself from becoming a victim as a child, and she desperately wants a world without that kind of fear. This is why a case where women go missing and are tortured upsets her so much: in David Esterbrook, she can only see her step-father.

Trying to alleviate some of Olivia’s burdened soul, Peter sets out to see if Massive Dynamic’s Nina Sharp has something to do with Intrepus (oh, I bet they do!). He greets Nina at her riding lesson, where she reveals that Peter, too, had spent a lot of time at those stables as a boy, but he likely doesn’t remember being there with her and Walter, further substantiating my original theory that Nina Sharp is Peter’s mother. Nina trades Peter the information on Intrepus’ radiation laboratory for a favor she might need in the future, Godfather-style.

Back at Harvard, Walter discovers that it is indeed a blue compound (possibly derived from his favorite blue flower, the hyacinth) is what made Emily Kramer’s time-is tropes all radioactive at once. From this information, he prepares an antidote while Peter delivers the information about Esterbrook’s lab to Olivia, claiming to have found it “on spy satellites.” Olivia, Francis and other agents bust in on Esterbrook’s lab and deliver the antidote to a nearly brain-boiled Claire, who stabs the serum into her neck just in the nick of time. Olivia makes a very public display of arresting Esterbrook, marching him right out the front door of his own lab to the waiting cameras of the press she’d tipped off.

Although Olivia has saved a woman’s life – and potentially hundreds more – Broyles is none-too-pleased with Esterbrook’s public arrest, chastising Olivia for being too emotional about her work, which she once again defends as being the very thing that makes her a good agent as it allows her to get into the headspace of the victim’s she helps. Furthermore, she insists, Broyles can’t really fire her. He seems to imply that he can, but not in the conventional sense of the word. She seems particularly cocksure about her status in the bureau as she does not receive her annual birthday threat-letter from Drunk Daddy, making some part of her believe that now nothing will hold her back from stopping the world’s monsters.

On her way home, she hears the current stock reports citing that Intrepus’ failure means the market share for genetic research is solely in the hands of Massive Dynamic, which is good news for Nina Sharp, leading Olivia to realize where Peter got his information. She confronts him about this, and seems bewildered that someone like Peter would risk his life (possibly, possibly not) for her sake. Unfortunately, despite the wave of confidence Dunham is riding by the end of this episode, it all comes crashing down when she finds a card slipped under her door containing only the words “Thinking of You.” The monsters are not all gone, it seems, but are closer than ever before.

Also: Apple, Apple, Daisy, Daisy, Six-Fingered Hand.

The Husband:

Fringe achieves a three-episode streak of near-greatness this week, as if Orci and Kurtzman got their heads out of their one big collective ass (seriously, they are inseparable) and delivered a terrifying and emotional hour of material and very good detective work. Usually, I kind of complain to myself about the fact that the episodes, with their “limited commercial interruptions,” just simply feel too long by about ten minutes (which is true) and spin their wheels, but this week it was fascinating information upon fascinating information mixed with some great gore effects and a very intense climax.

More importantly, it’s the first time I’ve ever given a damn about Olivia Dunham. As if the studio heads looked at the eps so far and wrote a note saying, “Uh…perhaps your main character should have a personality and do more than just drink scotch and complain about that dude from Keen Eddie,” out she comes with attitude to spare and a hardcore backstory. I like rogue agent Dunham a lot more than what she’s been so far, and I’d appreciate more of her intellectual, emotional and political sparring with Broyles, which gives a nice sense of doubt to the work that she does and what end result, if any, will come of her X-Files-ish sector. It’s nice to see someone other than Walter be an MVP for once.

Also, I’m personally happy to see Chris Eigeman on television again as villain-of-the-week David Esterbrook. I’ve always liked him as an actor (even when he was kind of slumming on Malcolm in the Middle for a while), and I always appreciate it when an actor like him can pull off playing against type with such gusto. The actor, known mainly to me because of his starring roles in Whit Stillman’s trilogy of talky, intellectual 90s movies (Metropolitan, Barcelona and The Last Days of Disco), has always been better at playing buffoonish and befuddled, so to see him exhibit such confident malice was a small treat.