The Wife:

Don’t mistake this as a complaint, but “Night of Desirable Objects” reminded me of a couple of X-Files episodes, hybridized into one. It took a little bit of the Flukeman from Season 2’s “The Host,” a little bit of the Peacock family from Season 4’s famously banned episode “Home,” but it also married that horrible family genetic secret arc and that mutant killer underground arc with two of its own similar conceits from season one: the albino bat boy and the chimera. For a MOTW episode, this was pretty entertaining, though because it’s mostly an MOTW, it doesn’t have a lot of value to the series overall.

Construction workers go missing from a field near the Hughes farm, grabbed from the ground by a shiny, blue-ish claw. Fringe division pokes into these disappearances, allowing Walter to analyze the residue found on the ground at the latest disappearance and discover that it’s a paralytic. On a visit to the Hughes farm, Olivia, who has developed occasional super hearing, hears an additional person breathing despite Dr. Hughes’ insistence that no one else is there. He is alone, because his wife died in childbirth about 20 years ago, and gave up doctoring shortly after that incident. Agent Jessup picks up a bible at the Hughes house and finds a note from the pastor telling him not to blame himself for the death of his wife and child, which leads the team to believe Hughes might have killed his family.

Wow, I’m so glad Jessup got a scene in this episode that’s so crucial to the plot or her character. I have no problem with Jessup’s existence in the series, but why write her in to a case she wasn’t originally part of? That scene with her struck me as very odd and out-of-place. Maybe her arc in this episode was a victim of editing. If so, I’m sure they could have reshot the scene with the Bible featuring, oh, ANYONE ELSE. Peter. Olivia. Evil Agent Francis. Dude, I’d sooner believe that they let Astrid go out in the field than insert Jessup for one lame scene.

Don't mind us, we were just exhuming some caskets!

Don't mind us, we were just exhuming some caskets!

Walter exhumes the bodies, only the baby casket doesn’t contain a body. Something tried to claw its way in or out and has stolen the bones. By examining the remains of the mother, though, Walter learns that she had lupus, and it is therefore a medical impossibility for her to have given birth, as the bodies of expectant women with lupus attack fetuses as though they were diseases. Through this, they realize that Hughes, who is in the process of hanging himself from the fluorescent light in custody, genetically engineered a child that could survive in hostile environments, such as:

Peter: He altered his baby’s DNA to survive its mother’s lupus.

Astrid: That’s sick.

Walter: That’s genius! He’s created the superbaby!

It’s part scorpion, hence the paralytic, and part mole or some such other underground creature. Armed with this knowledge, Olivia and Peter try to find it in its underground lair, where it snatches Olivia and then dies when one of its surface tunnels collapses, sending a police car crashing down atop it. Poor little scorpion mole boy, done in by the advancements of a world he could never be part of.

If there’s one really poignant thing I can say about this MOTW, it’s the Hughes desire for a son is very nicely mirrored in the act of Walter taking V2 Peter from the other side to replace the son he lost. They’re both about men who, at their cores, just really wanted to be fathers. And that scene at the end, where Peter talks about wanting to take his dad fishing as a boy but never could because Walter was always too busy? That broke me heart, especially when Walter invited himself to attend the trip with Peter and his “friend,” not realizing that the story was about him, or that he was invited all along. “You know, Walter,” Peter says, “that might just make the trip.”

Meanwhile, mytharc-wise, Evil Charlie Francis is told by his magical mirror typewriter that he needs to find a way to make Olivia remember the other side, and Nina Sharp sends her to see a “therapist” to talk about her accident and subsequent side effects of visiting the other side. This makes me wonder if Nina’s cancer diagnosis and subsequent bionic arm replacement were a result of her business with the other side. She has a really great speech about her cancer and her body becoming “a foreign thing, a threat” to her that engages with my work and connects very neatly to the origin story of the MOTW. Not Fringe’s best episode, but serviceable, and not without a few great moments.

The Husband:

Maybe it was the Indian food racing through my digestive system last night, but I’m already becoming a little impatient for MOTW episodes that don’t really wow me, preferring as usual to see a mytharc episode while still realizing that too many mytharc episodes in a row would overload the entire show. I just didn’t need to see John Savage being creepy yet again and living in a house that I am pretty damn sure appeared in the second episode of Chris Carter’s failed 1999 show Harsh Realm. (Which I can come close to proving, as Fringe moved its production city from Brooklyn to Vancouver between seasons 1 and 2.)

And now, more haiku.

Charlie Francis has
A kickass magic mirror.
Will it say “redrum”?

If this ep is true
Bowling represents more worlds.
Kingpin
has meaning.

Olivia is
Reliving Smallville, s1
Will she get to fly?

The Wife:

In the pre-season buzz articles about Fringe, I’ve been reading a lot about the show embracing its comparison to The X-Files, and was told to watch for one very explicit reference to the iconic series during the season 2 premiere of Fringe. I’ll tell you what that reference was, in case you didn’t catch it, but I’d argue that there’s a larger structure in place meant to mimic the sci-fi juggernaut that caused many an infatuation with David Duchovny.

As Olivia is missing somewhere in another world (and brought back through the window of the car she was driving by some special Walter radio-tampering), the pressure is being brought down on Broyles’ head by the FBI brass. Like its X-labeled predecessor, the Fringe division will be shut down unless some quantifiable results can be delivered.

Officially, this causes some major hiccups in Peter’s rouge investigation to find out just what happened to Olivia, and why agent in charge Jessup keeps finding bodies with three holes in their soft palates. Fortunately, Jessup, piqued to curiosity by Peter’s refusal to discuss his work at the scene of Olivia’s accident, did a little digging and hacked into the Fringe division’s case files. Despite all the weird shit she just witnessed, she’s more than willing to help Peter out while Olivia lies in a vegetative state.

The good news is that she’s not in that vegetative state for very long and bursts out of it in Peter’s presence, muttering in Greek. She has no idea where she was, but she does remember that she was going somewhere to meet with someone, although she can’t recall if that meeting actually took place or what its contents were if it did.

This week’s MOTW, who hit Olivia’s car and fled the scene of the crime, only to steal another man’s appearance, turns up in a curiosity shop to use one of the mirror-portal typewriters they keep in the back, where he learns that his mission to kill Olivia has not gone according to plan. The mirror-typewriter delivers unto him a new mission: interrogate the target, and kill her. (If anyone can find me one of these mirror-typewriter things, I would like one. Totally beats an Ouija board, am I right?)

But nothing says brand new season like a cow in a birthday hat!

But nothing says "brand new season" like a cow in a birthday hat!

Walter, examining one of the cast-off, water-logged bodies the shape-shifting soldier had to electrocute in order to resemble it, finds the three holes in the roof of the corpse’s mouth and remembers something. Back in the day when he and Belly were producing psychotropic drugs that made Timothy Leary jealous, they put together experiments that would cause a subject’s brain to see the divine. When one such subject was being recorded, she uttered a few key phrases regarding how “the three nails go in the mouth” and how, with their machines, “they can look like anyone.”

Because of this, it takes some clever observation on Peter and Agent Jessup’s part to track down any bodies with holes in their palates and follow anyone who looks like that person. Eventually, the suspect makes his way to the hospital where Olivia is under observation. They get the alert from security just as he steals the appearance of Olivia’s attending nurse. With the floor on lockdown, the nurse interrogates Olivia and, when she runs out of information, attempts to suffocate her just as the team arrives, chasing her down into the bowels of the hospital, where Agent Francis eventually kills her . . . or should I say, until she eventually kills Agent Francis and steals his appearance? I should say that, because that’s what happened.

Peter manages to find the shape-shifting machine in the midst of all of this and, although it is broken, he hands it to Broyles as proof that Fringe division does get results. He instructs Broyles to tell the government that this device will allow them to have an army that can look like anyone and that the only way they’re going to be able to develop this alien technology is if they keep Fringe division alive so Walter can find a way to fix the broken tech.

Myth-arc stuff:

  • For once, Walter’s fixation on foods is actually really crucial. As Peter’s birthday is soon approaching, he plans to make a custard for his son. Peter insists he doesn’t like custard and never has, but Walter corrects him and says that he loved custard as a child. This is obviously a disconnect between the Peter we know, who was stolen from the other side, and the boy Walter lost in that car accident.
  • The Greek words Olivia woke up with were something Peter’s mother said to him before bedtime: Be a better man than your father.
  • Agent Jessup notices that all of the events of the Pattern correspond to passages in the “Book of Revelation.” I roll my eyes a little bit at the thought of exploring this hackneyed trope.

Funnies!

  • Astrid stirring custard over a dead body.
  • Walter wanting to eat said custard with bloody glove hands.
  • Gene wearing a birthday hat.
  • Peter: Walter, will you forget about the custard?
    Walter: I refuse!

And The X-Files reference I promised you:

When Peter questions Agent Jessup’s commitment to this case even after seeing the Fringe case files, she quotes Hamlet to him:

“There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Scully quoted this line to Mulder once, as well. I believe it was during the third season, but my memory (and the internet) fail me. You’ll also see this phrase crop up in reviews of The X-Files, as a basic philosophy to describe Agent Scully’s dedication to science.

The Husband:

And so I shall continue into this second season of Fringe with how I approached most of last season — with haiku!

Shape-shifting is here.
Heroes
, True Blood, and now this.
Mystique would be proud.

In case you forgot
Walter likes sweet confections.
You must taste his pud!

Where is Mr. Spock?
I’ve questions. He has answers.
Stop jumping through time.

Kirk Acevedo
Has survived worse things than death —
Anal rape on Oz.

The Wife:


You guys all remember that car accident whence the Observer allegedly saved Walter and Peter? Well, he actually only saved Walter. Because Peter did done died. And he has no memories of his early childhood at all, because the Peter we know was stolen from another dimension to replace the son Walter lost in this life. Snoo! I thought I’d just get that big revelation out of the way because it was super good. We’d long been discussing that Peter might be a clone or a cyborg like Nina Sharp, but because there’s more than one of everything, he’s actually just his other self. At least, this is what I believe we are supposed to infer from the coin he doesn’t remember flipping, his grave and Walter’s lengthy discussion of how he started looking into parallel dimensions after he lost something very dear to him.

But before that revelation, Nina Sharp, shot at the end of the last episode, is rushed to surgery, requiring lots of specialists because she’s more cyborg than we previously thought. After analyzing the audio recorded by the security camera during her shooting, Olivia et al realize that it was David Robert Jones who shot her. He removed something from her arm, a super cell, powerful enough to make whatever he’s doing unstoppable. Olivia is ready to chase down Bell, but Nina assures her that Bell is not the enemy in this case. Jones worked for Bell 15 years ago, and was fired, so she posits that these actions, The Pattern, are Jones’ way of getting back at Bell. Nina tells Olivia that if she stops Jones, she will arrange a private meeting for Olivia with William Bell.

I know there's a pattern here, but what is it?

I know there's a pattern here, but what is it?

Meanwhile, Jones and his crew are out trying to open up other dimensions, using the super cell to power a device that rips open windows to other worlds. Only it isn’t totally working right, ripping things in half that try to enter or exit. (See: truck missing its back half, soccer player missing half of his body.) Olivia starts doing some hardcore paranormal research and realizes that The Pattern really does form a pattern, a series of incidents radiating out from the places in which Jones tested his ability to break down soft spots in the fabric of the universe. Conveniently, if you rearrange the way you look at those patterns, they form a new one, pointing to Jones’ next target: Reiden Lake.

Walter has been missing while all this has gone down, taking some sweet mind trips with The Observer to graveyards and beach houses and whatnot. The Observer reminds him of Peter’s otherworldly origins by giving him the coin the boy used to flip, asserting that there is more than one of everything. He tells Walter that he should now know what he has to find, and Walter goes searching his old beach house. Peter eventually catches up to him there, remembering at the least that they used to go there when he was a child, and Walter tells his son about all his old acid trips with Bell and how they thought they were seeing other dimensions and spent their lives trying to find ways to access them without LSD. In a box, he uncovers Peter’s other coin, as well as a plugging device that will stop any rifts between dimensions from opening.

I stole you from another dimesion when you were a child, don't you remember?

I stole you from another dimesion when you were a child, don't you remember?

Walter and Peter meet up with Olivia et al at Raiden Lake, where Jones is already working on opening a hole to get to the other side. Peter manages to shut down the hole just in time, which is extremely helpful, as the transporter made Jones impervious to bullets, but not impervious to being sliced in half by straddling two dimensions.

Nina sends Olivia to NYC to meet with Bell, after informing her that Bell’s research with Cortexafam was to allow gifted children to travel in and out of other dimensions without widening soft spots. Bell, it seems, has been hiding out in another dimension this whole time, and after Olivia waits for about eight hours to meet with him and he never shows, she hops in an elevator and leaves. But during the 15th and 16th floors, something weird happens: suddenly, other people appear, and then disappear, and when the doors open, she’s welcomed into a bright, white hallway and taken to Bell’s office . . . which happens to be in one of the Twin Towers . . . in another universe where 9/11 never happened. (But Obama is still president, if the New York Post on Bell’s desk is to be believed.)

This was a great season finale, and I’m very excited for the possibilities for next season. I think there will be a greater focus on the mytharc of The Pattern and interdimensional travel/alternate realities. If there’s one thing J.J. Abrams does really well, it’s peering into alternate realities or altering the time line, and I can see Fringe doing very well down that route.

Questions still unanswered:

  • Why, exactly, is Nina Sharp a cyborg? I mean, I love her even more now that I know she has Kevlar ribs, but since I’m so into cyberpunk now, I’d love to learn more about that.
  • What happened to Peter’s mother?
  • Why did the folks at ZFT do so much experimentation with hybridity and diseases? Are these experiments also to prepare soldiers for the war against people from other dimensions?
  • Everyone seems very fearful of other realities, but if Bell is hanging in one where 9/11 didn’t happen, that somehow doesn’t seem so bad to me. Where are the horrible realities filled with people with no orifices and swamp monster chimera thingies? (Husband Note: The Post did mention a New White House, which may indicate something horrible happened to the old one.)

There are definitely more questions still unanswered, but I’m sick currently and am amazed I was able to lucidly discuss that episode at all. Anyway, I’ve enjoyed geeking out with you all about Fringe, and I think we can all agree that the show has gotten to a really good place and can only get better during its sophomore season.

Until then, I leave you with my favorite Walter line this week:


“We’re trying to plug a hole in the universe. What are you doing here?”


The Husband:

Even in this post-Lost television landscape, I was still damned surprised that Fringe got away with such a slow burn during its premiere season. Did they really do that good of a job keeping me away from learning about these alternate dimensions, a maaaaajor game changer, and how they related to The Pattern? Did they actually trust in the intelligence of its viewers to keep 20 episodes in mind, many standalone and seemingly unimportant?

Between this finale and Star Trek, I am genuinely impressed with what Kurtzman and Orci cooked up. Yeah, the dudes who wrote the fun-but-dumb-as-a-bag-of-hammers Transformers figured it out, along with help from the justly maligned Akiva Goldsman, the man who helped turn the Batman universe into a peacock explosion of neon, codpieces and puns about ice.

And what of alternate realities? Is this show now going to become Sliders? (I actually never watched Sliders, but I do know two things about it. 1. It starred the O’Connell Brothers and my beloved Sabrina Lloyd. 2. It was about jumping between dimensions. Good enough, right?)

And hey, to that jackass that gave me shit for my negative review of The Mentalist pilot and gave me some numbers that the Mentalist pilot scored more viewers than Fringe, I’d like to point out that as of last week, Fringe surpassed that CBS crap to become the highest-rated new series of the 2008-2009 television season. Premiere numbers are one thing, but returning viewers are another, and so Fringe proves that it has legs and drawing power. There’s nothing better than word-of-mouth, especially those words that brought back a good deal of viewers once Fringe realllly got cooking several episodes in. Suck it, hater.

And so, I will leave you with how I began writing about Fringe – with a haiku!

Alternate worlds are

Tricky. Good: David Lynch films.

Bad: James Wong’s The One.

(Wife’s note: Maybe one day I’ll tell you all about the time I spent Easter in James Wong’s living room. I usually don’t get to name drop like my husband the former entertainment journalist does, but I’ve been to James Wong’s house. And that’s fucking awesome.)