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:

There’s a certain kind of storytelling I’ve come to expect from Mad Men. It was admittedly a show that took me some time to get into. It took my husband and I forever to get through the final four episodes of season one, having TiNoed them after even taking our time to get through the first episodes of that season. (Husband Note: Not because I didn’t love them, but MM is quite intimidating television.) But those final four episodes of season one were so strong that I was wholly prepared to launch myself into this universe of careful, subtle, deliberate storytelling.

The show feels more like a novel than a television show. We’ve grown accustomed to a certain kind of story style as viewers: stories fit neatly into their hour-long format, characters are constantly moving forward, the motivations and themes within the work are very accessible. I’d be selling short a lot of great television to say that most things on TV just aren’t that deep, but not even shows with great depth tell their stories as slowly and poetically as Mad Men does.

I was happy to have “Out of Town” as a season opener. While I didn’t feel that this was one of the shows most subtle episodes, every moment of it was riveting. The producers have spoken much about how this season will really strip down the characters we’ve come to know and love/hate to answer fundamental questions like, “Who is Don Draper?”

Fittingly, the episode opens and closes with stories about birth. Don reminisces about his own less-than-upstanding origins while warming some milk to help pregnant Betty get to sleep. The Whitmans did not have a happy marriage, and Don’s mother was unable to bring a child to term, for which her husband squarely blamed her. Just barely peeking into the bedpan holding her stillborn child was almost as terrifying as the stillbirth nightmare that opens Orphan. Across town, a working girl has found herself in a troublesome situation, having offered her services to a service man for 85 cents, because he didn’t have the extra quarter to afford a rubber. She promises him then that if he got her in trouble, she’d cut his dick off and boil it in hogfat. She mutters these words to herself as she lays dying from complications during childbirth, echoing across town as Mrs. Whitman’s midwife delivers little Don Draper to her in a fruit crate.

“His name is Dick, after a wish his mother shoulda lived to see.”

Though Don meanders on his business trip in a manner befitting his birth mother, he returns home to his wife and children and tells Sally the story of her birth after scolding her for breaking the latch on his briefcase.

On a non-birth related note, I am pretty sure Sally is going to grow up to become some coked-out rock groupie for all the scoldings she gets and the childhood mistakes we’ve seen her make. Her mother announces the broken latch to Don by saying that their maid “saw Sally hitting it with a hammer. She’s taken to your tools like a little lesbian.” Don’s punishment for the broken suitcase is for Sally to find out the cost for repair and to have that amount deducted from her allowance. “I don’t get an allowance,” Sally meeps. “Then don’t break things.” Last season, she drinks herself to sleep at Sterling-Cooper. This season, she’s committing acts of violence against inanimate objects. She’s about three steps away from ODing at Studio 54, if you ask me.

Missing from this picture: Grant Shows pornstache.

Missing from this picture: Grant Show's pornstache.

But between those birth stories of the Draper family, Don and Sal jetted down to Baltimore after the firing of Burt Peterson to take over his London Fog account. A couple of very randy stewardesses, recognizing Don’s brother-in-law’s name on the tag (Betty’s brother, it seems, loves to put his name on anything he can get his hands on), invite themselves to dinner with Don and Sal, all of which is just a precursor for dalliances. It’s clear that Sal is not so used to playing the “pick-up-a-stew” game, though he puts on a show for Don, exclaiming that he’s never seen stews so eager as Lorelai and Shelly, only to let Don take the lead at dinner, letting Lorelai go back to her room alone (or with the pilot, perhaps?) while Don takes Shelly upstairs.

Having caught the eye of an attractive bellhop during a brief glance in the elevator, Sal takes a chance and “breaks” his air conditioner to get the young man up to his room. Sal has been one of my favorite characters on this show, and my favorite episode from last year involved his flirtation with “author” Ken Cosgrove in “The Gold Violin.” I was so much more excited to see Sal finally get a little action, rather than sitting at home pretending he’s happily married to his beard, and I thought back to a line he tossed out at the London Fog meeting as he writhed in ecstasy: “Our worst fears lie in anticipation. That’s not me. That’s Balzac.” But it is Sal. His entire life is lived on the down low, both fearing and desiring to give in to his homosexual attractions.

But a slightly-too-convenient fire drill prevents Sal from fully giving in, just as it keeps Don and Shelly from cheating on their respective significant others. (Honestly, I think Shelly reminds Don just a little too much of the Betty he married . . . the hopeful model. Not the one who breaks chairs and gets upset over serving Heineken.) As Don descends the fire escape, he pauses outside Sal’s window and sees his companion redressing, as well as the young bellhop hurriedly handing him his pants. Don, being a gentlemen, doesn’t cause a scene about what he’d just witnessed. Instead, ever the clever ad man, he saves his advice for Sal for a London Fog sales pitch on the plane ride home. He describes the ad he’d like to see, a woman in a short trenchcoat, standing before a businessman on the train. Her coat is open. “Her legs are bare,” Don continues. “We know what he’s seeing. ‘Limit Your Exposure.’” Sal knows just as well as we do that this pitch is also a warning. He gulps back all of his anticipatory fears. “Yes,” he breathes. “That’s it.”

Back at the home office, the British Invasion is in full swing. Pryce appreciates Bert Cooper’s new hentai painting, not because he agrees with Cooper’s vision of ecstasy, but because he sees it as a metaphor for what his company is doing to Sterling-Cooper. That painting isn’t about giving oneself over, but about being overthrown. And Pryce is executing that notion by firing loads of people . . . and playing chess with others.

Case #1: Pete Campbell is named Head of Accounts to replace Burt Peterson. I suppose he’s gotten over the world of hurt Peggy threw on him at the end of last season, because he immediately calls Trudy (who has given up on having a baby and has decided to throw her worth into charity functions) who happily shares his joy. Unfortunately for my favorite sniveling bastard, Kenny Cosgrove has also been named Head of Accounts. Neither one of them is told that they’ll be sharing the job, but both are eager to subtly gloat to one another through subtext-laden conversations in elevators about how they admire one another’s work and think they’d each be good for the job.

There’s really nothing funnier to me than indignant Pete Campbell, and throughout all of his conversations with Ken, I kept thinking back to a line of his from season one when trying to return a duplicate wedding item. The item in question is a chip-n-dip, a new bit of entertaining ware from the 60s that he constantly has to explain to the men he works with. His indignance is always wearing this mask of civility, though, so whenever I think of Pete Campbell, I feel like the best way to explain the kind of man he is is simply to grit your teeth and say, “It’s. A chip-n-dip,” in the clipped way only Vincent Kartheiser can. I was waiting here for his chip-n-dip reveal, and it came in the first Heads of Accounts meeting in which Ken, being empty-headed as usual, thought nothing of Pete’s presence and was merely happy to write down his list of clients, bobbing along to the lilt of Joan’s voice. But Pete sat across the table from Kenny, utterly livid, unable to hold back his anger and letting his mask of civility slip.

Case #2: Pryce has brought with him his secretary, Mr. John Hooker, who insists, of course, on being addressed among the other secretaries as Mr. Hooker, not as John, because, frankly, he’s not that kind of secretary. Pryce and Hooker are like an acting dream team imported from FOX. Pryce is played by Fringe’s Jared Harris, while Hooker is played by the adorable Ryan Cartwright from Bones, who, in my mind, will always be referred to as Mr. Nigel-Murray. (Cartwright, it seems, enjoys playing characters who enjoy being referred to with a degree or two of formality.)

Mr. Hooker is distracting Peggy’s secretary, which makes Peggy angry, and making ludicrous demands of Joan, regarding his method of address, how he won’t do his own typing (making Peggy’s secretary do it for him, actually) and demanding his own office. He’s sort of a douchemeat, really, but Cartwright’s voice is just so adorable I can’t help but love him. Maybe Lola’s right: there really is something about that accent that makes you want to listen to him read the phone book.

It’s great to have this show back. I’ve missed looking at gorgeous suits and beautifully furnished rooms. And on a fashion-related end note, what am I to make of the fact that Trudy’s black hat mimics the hairstyle of the girl being ravished by an octopus in Cooper’s hentai painting?

The Wife:

We don’t usually do news here, but since I’m trying to decide what shows I can and can’t watch next year (thus, can and can’t cover) because of grad school, I figured I’d help you all out by sharing my handy-dandy season schedules for the major networks here at Children of St. Clare.

I’ve listed everything by hour, as most networks are running hour-long shows these days, so two half-hour shows are listed in the same box with the time the latter show starts in between them. If a show runs longer than one hour, I’ve indicated the length and listed it in the hour in which it starts. Asterisks (*) indicate new shows, and I’ll have some snap judgments on those shows following these graphics:

falllineupMTWRF

And here’s the weekend schedule for the fall, which, as you can see, is largely blank:

FallineupSS

In January, the networks will change to their midseason schedules:

midseasonlineupMTWRF

And here’s the weekend midseason schedule

midseasonlineupSS

Now, on the midseason schedule, you may notice some funny little symbols after the network names. Here are those footnotes:

  • # ABC has not yet announced its midseason lineup. The have, however, three new shows on deck: V, Happy Town and The Deep End, as well as returning shows Lost, Wife Swap, True Beauty, The Bachelor, Better Off Ted and Scrubs. Timeslots all to be determined.
  • + CBS has not yet announced its midseason lineup, but has the following shows for midseason replacements: Miami Trauma*, The Bridge*, Undercover Boss*, Arranged Marriage*, Rules of Engagement, Flashpoint
  • = CW’s midseason debut is Parental Discretion Advised, timeslot to be determined.
  • Additionally, Fox has Hell’s Kitchen scheduled for Summer 2010, and has Kitchen Nightmares on deck to fill holes in the schedule.

Now, for my snap judgments . . .

NBC: While we all know by now how I feel about Jay Leno, I can honestly tell you that the only one of their new shows I will definitely watch is Joel McHale’s comedy pilot Community, joining the NBC Thursday comedy block in 30 Rock‘s spot until it returns at midseason. Community has a good premise (McHale finds his college degree is invalid and must go back to community college to make up the credits), and has both McHale and Chevy Chase, who turned in a good performance as the villain at the end of Chuck season 2. I am overjoyed that Chuck is returning at midseason, as I think a 13-episode run will give us only the most super-concentrated awesomeness Chuck has to offer. I do not need another medical show in my life, so I’m declining Trauma and Michelle Trachtenberg’s nursing show, Mercy. 100 Questions looks so much like Friends that it is entirely out of the question for me. But then there’s Day One, which has a nice pedigree of coming from the people who work on Lost, Heroes and Fringe. It could be awesome, or it could be hokey, but I think it’s the only other promising thing NBC has to offer us.

ABC: I am delighted that ABC has given a permanent slot to Castle, allowing Nathan Fillion to prove he is charming, rakish and shouldn’t be a showkiller! He and Adam Baldwin have broken their own curse! Other than that, though, I am extremely concerned at how unimpressive the new shows debuting for fall seem, compared to the stuff ABC has on deck for midseason. Not a single one of the Wednesday night comedy block shows looks palatable. Hank looks downright abysmal, The Middle looks, well, middling, Modern Family falls flat and Cougar Town is trying way too hard. I might DVR Eastwick because I like Rebecca Romjin and Lindsay Price, but I have no emotional ties to either the previous film or the novel upon which it’s based to grab my immediate attention. I watched a clip from The Forgotten and I can tell you right now that I think it’s going to be the most dour procedural on television, and I certainly don’t need that in my life. I am, however, intrigued by Flash Forward because I like both time travel and Joseph Fiennes. But what sounds really interesting are the midseason shows. The Deep End is about law students and, out of all the ABC clips I watched, it certainly has the most character, pizzazz and joy. It also has Tina Majorino, looking the prettiest she’s ever looked. I will give that a shot when it premeires. I will also give hardcore sci-fi reboot V a shot, as we certainly don’t have any shows on network TV currently dealing with alien invasion, and I’m really jazzed on the trailer for Happy Town, which seems like its going to be a slightly more normal Twin Peaks (in that its a small town mystery), only this time, with Amy Acker!

FOX: I’m wary of a fall edition of SYTYCD, but I do see the benefit of it giving FOX a consistent schedule so that things don’t get shitfucked when Idol rolls around at midseason. Perhaps, if this is a success, going forward we’ll have to find a new totally awesome summer reality competition . . . maybe one for actors? OR MAYBE WE CAN MAKE A TRIPLE THREAT SHOW BECAUSE I WOULD TOTALLY WATCH THAT????? (Please, FOX?!!!!) Fox is actually my favorite of the networks so far, actually. I’m happy to see they’ve renewed Dollhouse and paired Bones with Fringe, which makes for a really rockin’ Thursday. Also excited to see Sons of Tucson with Tyler Labine as it looks pretty funny from the promo.  Human Target looks pretty fun, too. And you best fucking bet I will be watching Glee. The only thing I think I’d really pass on, here, is Past Life, and that’s just because I’m not really interested in seeing a show that solves crimes using past life regression (although one of my favorite X-Files episodes has exactly that conceit). So, rock on, FOX. You are my winner for next season.

CBS: I will be skipping pretty much every new show on CBS this year as they continue to build their police procedural empire. However, I will give a try to the new Monday comedy Accidentally on Purpose, even though it’s based on the memoirs of a film critic I don’t like very much, the Contra Costa Times‘ Mary F. Pols, who can’t seem to see the good in anything at all. The show is set in San Francisco, though Pols lives somewhere in the Walnut Creek area in reality, I assume, and Jenna Elfman plays the fictional version of Pols’ film critic who accidentally gets pregnant by a younger, one-night stand and decides to keep the baby, and it’s daddy. I generally like Jenna Elfman and, of course, adore Grant Show, who will be playing her boss. I will also give Three Rivers a shot, because it stars Moonlight‘s Alex O’Laughlin and its about organ donation, so there’s a chance I could see him repeat at least part of his horrifying performance in Feed, a film in which he kidnaps obese women and feeds them their own fat until they die. (How he would repeat part of that performance, I don’t know, but I’d like to see CBS try.)

CW: Will I watch a show produced by Ashton Kutcher about teenage models called The Beautiful Life? Yes, I will. Will I watch a show about teenage vampires called The Vampire Diaries? Indeed, I would probably watch something like that, as long as it sucked in a good way and not a bad way. Melrose Place? I have even less of a connection to that show than to 90210, so I’m not inclined to watch the reboot — especially since Ashlee Simpson’s on it. But, hey, I might need some mind-numbing crap to counterbalance all my grad school reading, so perhaps. I’ll give Melrose Place a perhaps, a perhaps perhaps, even, if I choose to continue watching 90210, making my Tuesday nights just like 1992. I am, however, surprised that CW axed the Gossip Girl spin-off, as even though I didn’t like the backdoor pilot, I did think the show had potential. I’m also surprised they axed Jason Dohring and Minka Kelly’s legal show, Body Politic, if only because I was hoping both former Moonlight vampires would have jobs come fall, but I guess it just wasn’t in the cards for Josef Kostan nee Logan Echolls.

So, as the curtain on this TV season falls, you can look forward to me actually writing about Mad Men this summer, as well as many, many articles on SYTYCD. After that, I’m going to have to see what my fall schedule is like and compare it to the above fall schedules to see what I can really watch and what I can, in turn, cover.

I’ll make you guys a chart of all that later.

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.)

The Wife:

I’m not sure if Fringe was trying to reference The Matrix, The Butterfly Effect or I Know Who Killed Me this week with its storyline about Olivia’s visions of alternate paths on the timeline of one’s choices (see episode title!) and twins who didn’t know they were twins who were made into weapons by ZFT when they were trained to become firestarters in childhood. (They kind of ended up referencing all three.)The only problem with this is that, like Olivia and apparently all other children experimented on by ZFT, these people are unaware until recently (their “activation”) that they possess these powers, which leads one of the twins, Susan, to burn up from the inside and spontaneously combust. As Olivia tracks down Susan and tries to discover why she may have blown up (as Peter so tactfully likes to put it), she keeps having visions of things being slightly different than they actually are. Where one charred body lies, she sees two. Where Broyle’s desk once was, it is not. In fact, she has glimpses of entire conversations with people before/differently than they actually occurred. This déjà vu, Walter supposes, is an ability given to Olivia by ZFT as a child, an ability to look into an alternate reality. I don’t feel like this side effect of the Cortexafam really adds much to Olivia or to her struggle, but it seemed to be marginally helpful to her here, once the confusion stopped, of course. By peering into the alternate reality, she was able to discern that Susan had a sister who might meet the same fate without some intervention.

Yup. That's a real live dead alien.

Yup. That's a real live dead alien.

In their search for Susan’s twin, Peter and Olivia pay a visit to conspiracy theorist Clint Howard, who proceeds to tell them about an American graduate student in Budapest that spontaneously combusted and blames it all on William Bell and Massive Dynamic, the latter of which he purports is merely a cover organization for all of Bell’s wholly unethical activities. He suggests Bell is activating his ZFT soldiers for an upcoming war, which is why, we’re supposed to infer, the events of The Pattern are occurring. And whom will this war be fought against? Why, only the Romulans! Because this show is produced by J.J. Abrams! And Star Trek is coming out this Friday! So, naturally, crazy Trekker conspiracy theorist believes the Trekverse is real and that he is, in fact, Spock. But he cannot be, you see, for Leonard Nimoy is William Bell! My exclamations of these facts are meant to mock the completely unwarranted, unnecessary and wholly unsubtle tie-ins to Abrams’ next project. Look, ya’ll, I will be seeing Star Trek this weekend because I grew up on that shit and I’ve been squeeing at the trailer every time I see it. I’m even okay with turning the Lost titlecard into the Enterprise beaming itself into a commercial (because that’s kind of a neat transition), but this was a moment that, while amusing because it’s Clint Howard, totally drew me out of the show. There were other ways to show us that Clint Howard wasn’t entirely right in the head without beating us over the head with Trek. Bad Robot, we’re watching Fringe. We’re excited for Nimoy. Chances are, we’ll be seeing Trek this weekend and giving you all of our hard earned geek dollars. You didn’t need to be so obtuse about this.

Anyway, while I was busy rolling my eyes but smirking at the Trek monologue, Harris is back and rubbing Olivia the wrong way by asking her to do things like take psych evaluations. She refuses, particularly because, in an alternate reality, Olivia is able to track down Susan’s missing twin who is still alive, but unfortunately, an Isaac Winters gets to her first in reality reality. At her apartment, there are signs of a struggle, and Peter notices that the glass has been melted on one of her windows, indicating her firestarting abilities. He pops out a nice little disc of glass and reveals his plan to use the new machine he’s been making out of Walter’s old machines to read the sound imprinted on the glass like a record. (Abrams is fond of comparing things to records, no?) This is a gift to his father, so he can copy all of his jacked up old albums, which truly pleases Walter. After adjusting the white noise and a bunch of other sound-related tinkering, they’re able to play the glass record and hear Susan’s twin Nancy being abducted. They also hear a phone being dialed, so Olivia asks Peter to clarify the sound so she can use her tone-dialing app to connect her to whomever the kidnapper called . . . and it’s Harris. That scene was really cool, and filled with the kind of super-fringey fringe science we were promised. This is probably my favorite use of weird science on the show, right alongside using homing pigeons as a GPS.

Olivia and Francis track Nancy to the warehouse where Harris has taken her and while they search for the girl, Olivia finds a board with pictures of various former ZFT experiment participants, including the twins and herself. Harris manages to surprise her and locks her in the conflagration room with Nancy, who, agitated, starts heating up. Olivia tries to calm her down and tries to get Nancy to direct her energy elsewhere, so that she doesn’t blow up. Nancy fares better than her twin sister and is able to light Harris on fire, killing him while saving her own life. Remember that light box Olivia had to know how to turn off with her mind? That was attached to Nancy, and I wonder why Olivia didn’t have to turn it off in order to remove Nancy from the machines she was hooked to in the conflagration room. It seems odd just to have it appear there and not be used.

Afterward, Olivia interrogates Walter about his involvement in ZFT and why there are so damned many kids from Jacksonville who are either dead or super fucked-up. Walter, who earlier finally showed Astrid and Peter his wonky y-ed typewriter and has spent the episode searching for a missing chapter of the ZFT manifesto which would prove the organization had some honorable intentions, insists to her that they were trying to prepare the kids in their experiments for something terrible coming. When pressed, Walter can’t remember what and breaks down, from a combination of Olivia’s bullying and his own terrible guilt. Later, in his lab, he finds the missing chapter, which proves that ZFT’s intentions were to better prepare humanity to survive the coming war (against persons from another dimension, we have been told), by producing stronger, better-equipped children who, when the time comes, will be the humanity’s hope. But Walter is given no chance to present these findings to his colleagues, as The Observer has come for him, simply stating, “Walter, it’s time to go.” Without questioning him, Walter goes to get his coat.

Nina Sharp drops by Broyles’ house to deliver a packet of photographs of The Observer, stating that something ominous happened the last time he appeared with such frequency. When she returns to her office, she is shot when she steps off the elevator. Which kind of sucks, because I think every Fringe viewer loved Nina Sharp and (maybe, secretly) hoped she would be revealed as Peter’s mother. I’m assuming Bell had Nina killed because, with the war coming, he no longer needs Massive Dynamic as a front, and, clearly, she’d caught on to some badness and needed to be put asunder. As for The Observer, I believe he’s taken Walter to meet with his former partner, at long last bringing ZFT back together.

So what do we make of this? On the whole, this episode was middling at best, plugging the mytharc forward by following a largely uninteresting Freak-of-the-Week story and giving Olivia a serviceable (though I presume not entirely always this helpful) power to see the other side of a timeline. It certainly wasn’t as strong as “Bad Dreams,” but was less engaging than “Midnight.” The revelation that ZFT was experimenting on children to make soldiers for good wasn’t all that telling for me, as that’s the vibe I’ve been getting from the kiddie experiments all along. The Observer taking Walter and Nina’s death were both good, surprising and eerie moments, and are probably the most memorable bits of this episode. I did, however, think John Noble was brilliant as Walter this week, digging right into the sadness of a man who knows he has done questionable things but is looking for something, anything that can exonerate him. More than anything, he needs to believe that his involvement in ZFT was for a good, if mad scientist-y, reason. And when he finds that missing chapter, he is assured of his own belief, after having it doubt casts upon it only hours earlier by Olivia, doubts so haunting it reduced him to tears.

I told you I'd be Drew Barrymore for Halloween! I told you!

I told you I'd be Drew Barrymore for Halloween! I told you!


On another note, how happy do you think Stephen King is to hear his name and invention of the word “pyrokenetic” used on the show? I fully expect him to write about it in EW, because he loves, loves, loves pop culture and being a part of the zeitgeist.


The Husband:

While all the Trek stuff was, indeed, eye-rolling, I was satisfied enough in my head to know that Clint Howard, brother of Ron, also happened to be in one of the first episodes of the original Star Trek series, “The Corbomite Maneuver,” one of my favorites from season 1 of TOS, excluding, of course, the Athens-looking planet episode with the stationary gigantic ghost finger in the sky, as well as the Khan-focused season finale.

In it, the crew is toyed with by a silly, fake-looking alien on their monitor (or whatever it is you nerds call it), commander of a vessel intent on destroying the Enterprise, but by episode’s end, the Enterprise crew finds that they’ve been had – the alien was just a puppet, and the enemy ship is piloted only by a smart, tiny child who was testing the merits of the crew. Silly Clint Howard. The image of the puppet would be used frequently in the end credits of the show, and would be a super-inside joke during the credits of the Futurama episode “Where No Fan Has Gone Before.”

The Wife:

Before I get into the meat of this episode, let me just say that I’m super glad Fringe films in NYC and tosses in Tony Award winners and Broadway vets whenever it gets the chance. There’s something of a de-emphasis on theatrically trained actors appearing on film and television these days, and I find that, because of that, I have an extreme preference toward actors who cut their teeth treading the boards. I can really tell the difference between actors with stage training and actors without, because those with stage training seem to have so much more depth to their performances, like there’s always a rich inner life stirring behind them. A lot of actors who lack that kind of training end up being a little bit dead in the eyes at times, and that totally kills a performance. I’ve already talked about how happy I am to have Michael Cerveris as the Observer (who was perhaps his most observable tonight as he got an extended walk-on in a club scene at the beginning of the episode), who currently works in Sondheim shows. And I cannot fully explain my delight in seeing Jefferson Mays as a featured player in this episode. Mays won a Tony in 2004 for Doug Wright’s I Am My Own Wife, a one-man show about a German transvestite and the historical relevance of her antiques (which I regrettably didn’t see when it was here at the Curran in 2004). (Husband Note: I saw it, and he was fantastic, while the show is more of a B/B+.) So my delight in his appearance on my television screen last night essentially came down to my husband and I gleefully trying to insert the phrase “I am my own wife” into any scenario in which it would fit during the course of the show. Considering the nature of the episode, in which Mays’ character tried to stop his diseased wife from killing young men and drinking their spinal fluid all over Boston, we managed to work that in a lot. (Why isn’t she in the Chinese restaurant basement? Because she doesn’t exist, as Mays clearly is his own wife.)

So Nicholas Boone’s wife Valerie is running amok, seducing young men at clubs so she can drink their spinal fluid, which is what she needs to live, considering she’s been dosed with a ZFT-created drug (with a syphilis base) that has turned her into a monster. She can unhinge her jaws like a snake, exposing razor-sharp fangs which allow her to snap a victim’s head clean off, allowing her to suck all the spinal fluid right out of his body. That drug, whatever it actually is, causes her to lose spinal fluid faster than her body can produce it, hence the need to get it in any way she can. It also makes her eyes freakishly blue. No one knows why ZFT would do such a thing, other than creating monstrous women who eat spinal fluid seems like it aligns with their goals of global destruction through the advancement of technology.

I’ve got to say that I truly, truly loved the freak meet in which a sleazy guy with a terrible Australian accent (couldn’t Anna Torv have coached him?) picks up Valerie at a club, citing, “You’re my kind of girl,” and takes her home, where, in the heat of a kiss, she snaps his neck with force befitting a Slayer. From then on, each of her kills is punctuated with a callback to that line, “You’re my kind of man.” Dude, I’ll tell you what. My kind of girl can definitely, definitely snap a dude’s neck with her bare hands.

Walter finds an extinct strain of syphilis on the first victim’s neck, which they trace to a drug company called Lubov Pharmaceuticals, based out of Nicholas Boone’s home. They arrest the wheelchair-bound Boone and he agrees to tell them everything he knows about ZFT (which he used to work for) if they help him save Valerie. He says she’s been kidnapped and held in the basement of a Chinese restaurant (that, naturally, is actually a laboratory), but when she can’t be found, he tells Olivia that he needs to retrieve some vials of a contagion, XT43, which he believes will cure the person who’s out killing – his dear wife Valerie, whom he says was intentionally infected by ZFT to punish him for leaving the fold.

No, no syphillitic demon women yet. I'll let you know.

No, no syphillitic demon women yet. I'll let you know.

Amongst the things in his home laboratory, Peter finds a video camera with a recording as recently as three weeks ago in which Valerie is perfectly healthy, happy and normal and Boone himself is able-bodied. One of my favorite parts of Mays performance was the rhyme he creates for his wife on the videotape: “Valerie Boone, you turn March into June.” Not only am I sure that their happy videotape was entirely improvised, but that tape and that rhyme in particular served to ground and humanize the Boones and make their story exceptionally tragic. Olivia asks him why he’s in a wheelchair now if he was fine just a few weeks ago, and he reveals that he had been carefully measuring out portions of his spinal fluid to feed to Valerie in order to keep her alive while he tried to find a cure, but he could only give so much without killing himself and partial paralysis was as far as he could go to personally save her. And so she ran off, desperately fighting to survive. I love this kind of monstrosity (see my previous affections for Joseph Meegar), and that little rhyme really worked to make me completely sympathetic to Boone, Valerie and their plight.

Olivia and Peter try to track down where Valerie might be headed by following Boone’s stolen car (where they turn up more victims), while Boone stays in the lab with Walter to work on a cure for his wife. When Olivia and Peter call to say that they know where Valerie will strike next, Boone tells them that he can’t make the cure in time and begs them to bring his wife in alive so he can still try and save her. He asks Walter to remove another 25 ml of spinal fluid, assuring him that he has carefully measured each previous withdrawal so he won’t die if he loses just a little bit more. Astrid warns against it, but Walter proceeds anyway, trusting his new scientist friend. But by the time Peter, Olivia and Charlie bring Valerie in, it’s almost too late for Boone, who has had a stroke due to the loss of spinal fluid. And as Valerie is administered the antidote and returns to the Valerie Boone who turns March into June, Nicholas slips away into death.

He does, however, uphold his bargain with Olivia and records a message for her on the very video camera that holds the final images of him and Valerie together before the contagion in which he tells her some names involved with ZFT, the only one we are privileged to hear is, perhaps, the one we all knew was coming: William Bell, alias Gordon DeBoone, is ZFT’s biggest funder.

For me, this one was a really ideal episode – sympathetic monsters that actually contribute to the mytharc and move the story forward, and a lot of that is anchored in Jefferson Mays’ performance. Good times, Fringe. They’re really come around to some good stuff recently, and I’m pleased with where they’re headed. Now if they could only get Raul Esparza to guest star . . .

And some funny bits:

  • “You know what this reminds me of, Peter? Shrimp cocktail.” –Walter
  • “It tells me you’re hot. And you’re definitely hot. But I’m looking for someone with syphillis.” –Peter, when being hit on by a girl at a club and reading her with his thermal heat sensor.