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:

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.

The Wife:

After several MOTW episodes, it took Akiva Goldsman to steer Fringe back toward its mytharc. And even though it was Akiva Goldsman both as scribe and helmsman, I think this episode admirably got us back on track. The only thing I like about Akiva Goldsman, Oscar-winning scribe of A Beautiful Mind, is that he wrote Paul Bettany’s imaginary English major, who speaks one of my favorite lines in all of cinema:  “I was at a cocktail party for the English department. The cock was mine. The tail belonged to a lovely little piece of work with a penchant for D.H. Lawrence.” (I also like I, Robot and I Am Legend, but those are adaptations of prior works that were already great to begin with, so I can’t really give Goldsman full credit for making those awesome.)

(Husband Note: Besides, since I, Robot has three credited screenwriters, rumor is that Akiva was only brought on board to Will Smith-icize the screenplay [making it “hipper” and “funnier” and “sassier,”] which ultimately ended up being the major problematic element of an otherwise awesome sci-fi film.)

In any case, I was impressed with Goldsman’s work on this episode. He wrote Olivia back into that tough-as-nails corner she was in for the first half of the season, which worked fine for the episode, but simply proves to me that he has no idea how to write women. (If you want proof, note the absense of female roles from the films he writes. And note the sparse text Jennifer Connelly was given in A Beautiful Mind that she somehow managed to win an Oscar off of.) But that’s really my only qualm with it, because he was able to create such a good, spooky atmosphere filled with a number of haunting images as well as tie in the show’s mytharc. Sci-fi is definitely Goldsman’s wheelhouse, and he should keep working in that genre.

As far as plot is concerned, Olivia starts killing people in her dreams, and then finds that the people in her dreams are turning up dead in real life. And what’s more, they’re people she’s never met. After two murders, Olivia finds that one man has been at both crime scenes, and he, Nick Lane, used to be a resident of St. Jude’s mental hospital, where he had admitted himself voluntarily to protect himself and others from his paranoid delusions about being experemented on as a child and trained to be a soldier in an army to fight against the denizens of a parallel dimension, when the time came. Clearly, that stirkes a chord with the team, who realize that Nick has been quoting directly from ZFT for several years.

Like Olivia, Nick is from Jacksonville, FL and Walter believes that the two of them may share a kind of psychic connection because when he and Bell were doing their wacky experiments with Cortexefam on children, they often paired two children together, to help them cope with the experience. Nick and Olivia may have been such a pair. Nick, it seems, is hyperemotive; the opposite of an empath. His feelings are so extreme that he can infect others with them, which could be the reason the first woman jumped to her death in front of a 7 train and the second woman stabbed her husband in the middle of a crowded restaurant. Olivia undergoes hypnosis so that she can tap into Nick and track him while she’s pseudo-dreaming, during which we get to see her-as-Nick makeout with a stripper and then slit her throat after fucking her. After which, Nick returns home, so Olivia knows where he lives and she and the gang head off to investigate his home. There they find a giant conspiracy board covered in newspaper clippings about experimentation on children and track him to a building downtown, where he planned to kill himself and, due to the strength of his emotions, coerced others to do so along with him. Olivia, as Nick’s psychic other half, is immune to his emotional strength and heads up to the roof to stop him. He begs her to kill him, but she refuses, so he screams and sends one of his potential jumpers to her death. Olivia still refuses to kill him, instead shooting him in the kneecaps to incapacitate him, which causes the other potential jumpers to fall back onto the roof along with him.

Well, guys, looks like me and my special brain are going to have to go up there.

Well, guys, looks like me and my special brain are going to have to go up there.

Nick spends the rest of his days in a drug-induced coma deep inside the Boston Federal Building, and Olivia and Walter both go looking for secrets of their past. Agent Francis brings Olivia Nick’s file, filled with clippings from his conspiracy board, and Walter digs through his tapes until he finds one of young Olivia, post-experiment-where-something-went-wrong, where he calls the scared young girl Olive, the same name her psychic other Nick called her on the rooftop.

I know that by the end of this season we will meet William Bell, played by Leonard Nimoy (!), and so I’m happy to return to the scientific conspiracy mytharc, and happy to do it in a visually disturbing way. Was this a great episode? No, but it was necessary to get us to where we need to be in the story, and it was filled with enough memorable images to keep it interesting.

1. Balloons have never been creepier, and the extended sequence of the first dream-death certainly filled me with a sense of dread. I kept waiting for something to happen, and appreciated the nice misdirection with the woman nervously singing the circus song as the man in the train station approached her. I also kept following the balloons, the one bright bit of color in an otherwise completely neutral scene. And when that red balloon drifted upward and she fell in front of the train? That was pretty stunning. This sequence was creepy and evocative and I will never look at balloons the same way again.

I just wanted to sit here and drink my coffee and not sleep, but now I've got to get up and facilitate a murder. Again.

I just wanted to sit here and drink my coffee and not sleep, but now I've got to get up and facilitate a murder. Again.

2. The second death, where Olivia watches happy couples in the restaurant, was also really interesting to watch, as that couple’s fight escalated from absolutely nowhere. Also some great misdirection here when Olivia leaps up from the table, shattering her coffee cup (which we thought from the previous scene in which she buys No-Sleep caffeine pills that she was staying up to avoid murdering in her dreams) and heading over to the couple, I was sure she was trying to stop what might happen, but instead was taken aback to see her hand guiding the woman’s knife.

3. Nothing is more disturbing than seeing a group of people posed on a rooftop like zombie gargoyles, waiting at the precipice to dive to their deaths. Although, a similar scene occurred in The Happening, and it was very much not creepy then. Way creepier use of a recycled idea on Goldsman’s part here.

4. Watching someone slash their own throat with a razor blade is also unsettling, and just as haunting as any of these other deaths.

I liked those images better than the plot itself, which is why this one isn’t one of my favorite Fringe episodes ever, but it was surprisingly good, and certainly one of the better Fringe episodes as far as visual storytelling is concerned. But even then, still some levity, most of which comes from Walter:

  • “I thought you might have teleported to New York in your sleep and killed her. Wouldn’t that have been wonderous?” – Walter
  • “You don’t take your kid to the circus and then give them a front row seat to watch you kill yourself.” – Olivia, being much more dark than usual, which came off as oddly funny
  • “What if you weren’t dreaming about yourself, you were dreaming about him, Mr. Unsub?” –Walter, which made me really want Garcia on Criminal Minds to start calling people Mr. Unsub
  • “Where’s the fire? I always thought that expression was curious . . . since my lab assistant was killed in a fire.” – Walter

The Husband:

If you want to see an underappreciated 90s horror shlock film based off of the same general concept, I suggest that you pick up the goofy but oddly effective 1994 film Brainscan starring Eddie Furlong and T. Ryder Smith. In it, a young teenager plays a mysterious video game where he murders people, only to find out the next day that they were murdered in real life. But by then…it’s too late!

I would normally have recommended Hideaway as well, but I believe I’ve already mentioned that on this blog…

[checks previous entries]

Holy fuck. I’ve already recommended you all watch both Brainscan and Hideaway already on this blog. I basically just restated the exact goddamn thing. What the fuck is wrong with me?

Shit, I have to write something about the actual episode.

[brainscan brainscan brainscan]

Okay. I really liked how Anna Torv played Nick when he was at the stripclub. It was oddly convincing, masculine without being too broad, and just the right amount of creepy in portraying somebody who’s just a little too into the illusion of strippers.

The Wife:

I am starting to really, really like Fringe‘s MOTW episodes. I know that “Unleashed” was rather silly conceptually, but as far as Fringe‘s MOTWs are concerned, this one was its best written by a mile or two. I attribute this to the writing of Zack Whedon, younger brother of the great Joss, who really stepped up his game as a storyteller here. He also wrote “The Dreamscape” and “The Transformation,” so from at least one of those other episodes I can tell that he and I share an interested in bodies and mutation, but between “The Transformation” and “Unleashed,” I liked this one much better. “Transformation” was conspiracy-driven, and while I really enjoyed the scene where Peter lies their way to safety because it had great tension and great use of character, “Unleashed” did the same thing with two characters.

Chiefly, by surrendering Charlie Francis to the attack of the Giant Hybrid Gila Bat Monster, we were allowed to see Francis as dynamic and valuable to the other characters in this universe, not just as an archetypical G-man figure. We knew Francis and Olivia had been working together a long time, but giving her a reason to have to save him allowed us to humanize him in a way the show has finally successfully done with Olivia. I like Kirk Acevedo’s extremely expressive eyebrows, and that’s usually enough for me in these episodes, but now we know that he’s the kind of person who does such a dangerous job that he may not make it home to the woman he loves more than anything. Seriously, the scene where he’s trying really hard not to cry while he laughs at her lame-ass joke so that she doesn’t worry her that he might die in a very short time? That scene was great. Great for the story, great for the character and great for Kirk Acevedo as an actor.

Well, at least I'm not as dead as that guy.

Well, at least I'm not as dead as that guy.

And then there’s Walter, who was extra nuts in this episode, unusually so, which built up a really dynamic tension leading into the scene in the sewers where he, Olivia and Peter plan to catch the Giant Hybrid Gila Bat Monster so that they can kill it and harvest its mutant blood so they can transfuse Agent Francis with it and save his life, also killing the tiny Giant Hybrid Gila Bat Monster larvae he’s been impregnated with. Mmm. Sexy. (I really liked Walter’s off-the-cuff remark about Francis’ newfound expectant state: at least he wasn’t impregnated the traditional way. Can you imagine being raped by a Giant Hybrid Gila Bat Monster? Not cool. Not sexy.) I can honestly say that even though Walter’s behavior should have led me to expect the unexpected, I was thoroughly surprised when he downed that vial of stolen monster poison and locked Peter and Olivia behind a sewer grate (that’s a really advanced sewer, that has monster-proof grates with locks . . .) so that he could kill the monster himself. Even if he died while doing it, it would be a fitting sacrifice, as, per usual, Walter had once worked on a hybrid monster but never really got those plans off the ground. (He hadn’t accounted for super-immune bat DNA, the secret ingredient of sorts in this wicked Giant Hybrid Gila Bat Monster.) While the creation of the monster had nothing really to do with Walter’s research, the very notion that someone he’s close to could be hurt by his years as a mad scientist galvanizes him for heroic sacrifice. I like this side of Walter; the side that’s sane enough to realize when he’s made tremendous mistakes.

Even outside of Walter’s excellent character moment, I honestly didn’t expect the larvae twist and was extremely excited to see those corpses burst forth with thousands of wriggly little monster babies, and that’s why I’m so impressed by “Unleashed.” Even though it adds nothing to the mytharc of the show, it was surprising and unexpected – and that’s quite a compliment coming from someone who watches as much TV as I do. A bajillion kudos to Zack Whedon on this one. (Husband Note: Show co-creator J.R. Orci co-wrote the episode, but it’s always fun to inflate the brother of a TV game-changer than the dude whose brother co-wrote The Legend of Zorro.)

It was also an interesting episode for me because it is not only the second Fringe episode to deal with hybridity, but also the second to deal with pregnancy. As I previously wrote, the pregnant body is site of contention regarding bodily autonomy. So, too, is being a host for incubating larvae. Having the role of the impregnated fall on a male character instead of a female one was an interesting reversal, and I like the idea of creating a male body that reads similarly regarding issues of autonomy and the self. You might say that because of his monster-incubation, Charlie is somewhat feminized in this episode, and, indeed, he is reduced to a state of powerlessness, which is traditionally the female role in a monster narrative. The irony is not lost on him that he and his wife had been thinking about having children prior to this incident. I liked the revival of this show’s narrative concern with the genesis of things, and while I am wholly disturbed by it, I hope Fringe continues to throw me these little thought-nuggets that I might somehow be able to use in my research. There’s something very problematic about pregnancy, genesis and gestation in sci-fi narratives, and I find that extremely interesting. Way more interesting than any commentary on hybridity and animal research that this episode may have also contained.

The Husband:

Freaky-ass episode, to be sure, but also extremely funny.

Funny Thing #1: The monster-vs-the-child game of cat-and-mouse at the playground, where the child’s mother represents the ultimate in parenting fail. Girl, your instincts are way off if you don’t realize there’s a Giant Hybrid Gila Bat Monster in a playground tube with your cute young boy.

Funny Thing #2: After they try to put poison into Charlie’s bloodstream in order to destroy the tiny little larvae, they become worried when Charlie’s bloodstream shows signs of being poisoned. Uhm…yes. You put the poison in there.

And if you were wondering who played Charlie’s wife, like I was, and was racking your brain as to who this chick-who-looks-like-Dreama-Walker-plus-ten-years was, and why did I feel such sympathy when I saw her face, a little research clears up everything. Her name is Kiersten Warren, and she played Nora Huntington, Tom Scavo’s pre-Lynette baby mama on Desperate Housewives. You may recall Laurie Metcalf ending her life with a bullet to the chest during the supermarket hostage situation in s3, leaving the Scavos with her terrible and conniving daughter. But she was far more annoying then and had black hair, so I’m not surprised it took me a while to figure out who the actress was. (She was also apparently a regular on Saved by the Bell: The College Years, which I didn’t watch, and also a regular on Life Goes On, which I did watch but don’t believe I can name one actor on that show…[research research] What? That was Patti LuPone who played the mother on that show? Man, was my seven-year-old brain tiny back then. That’s something I think I’d remember. And it totally explains why she has always seemed eerily familiar to me over the rest of my life.)

The Wife:

We were watching Idol prior to the return of Fringe, as FOX wants us to do, and I spotted a bald man in the crowd. At first, I though, “Hey, that guy looks a lot like The Observer. Oh, no. Wait. It’s probably just Phil Stacey.” But, much later, we saw the man again and I realized it was The Observer. Nice work, FOX. You just delighted Fringe fans and probably didn’t even phrase the Idoloonies, unaware of the delights of Michael Cerveris. Now, knowing that Cerveris is a Broadway star, part of me hoped he would sing a little bit at some point during Idol, but I guess that would ruin the whole “being The Observer” thing.

But on to the main event: Fringe is back, ya’ll! And as much as I thought the show really found its groove before the break (if we forget about the Wereupine and the brain-mush episodes), I can tell they’ve made changes that, at this stage, I think are still an improvement. It has helped tremendously to see Olivia with her family, and seeing her bond to the creepy little BatBoy-esque feral child found in a hermetically sealed tunnel under a construction site only humanized her more. There’s tremendous warmth under her fierceness, and I think that’s the person she really is, the person who loved John Scott – not the tough-gal mask she wears when she enters the Boston Federal Building every day. That’s part of her, too, but, it’s important that we’re able to see a difference between her work face and her home face.

This episode was also a major change from what we’ve seen before because it took a more traditionally procedural structure and utilized its fantasy/sci-fi element (the BatBoy) in the service of solving a serial murder. Walter et al always do something crazy to solve the case, but it’s usually the crazy (Walter) solving the fucking ridiculous, rather than the fucking ridiculous (BatBoy) solving the mundane. And as for that serial killer, The Artist, he was pretty cool. Note to self: never trust a guy in a wheelchair who admires your shitty flash tattoo. He will push you into a van and mutilate your body. I mean, The Artist is too broadly drawn to ever show up on the really, really good serial killer show, Criminal Minds, but he worked for Fringe. I don’t know if I’d remain committed to this show if it stayed on this supernatural procedural route (although, it is, in some sense a supernatural procedural without the serial killer plots, its still very different than, say, Eleventh Hour, which  I could not make it through the first episode of), but I wouldn’t mind a few episodes like this.

Hold me, Bat Boy!

Hold me, Bat Boy!

Because of his bond with Olivia, the BatBoy starts giving her clues to find The Artist, because, as an empath, he knows its important to her, but Mr. Michaels from Child Services is not pleased to see that Olivia has taken the boy from this hospital and dressed him up in her Northwestern shirt to hang out at the lab. She strikes a deal with Michaels, who is actually from the CIA and collects these children for research as they will be helpful, I guess, should we ever have to survive in an underground, low-oxygen environment with no sunlight, like, say, after the Apocalypse. She and Broyles strike a bargain with Michaels to turn over the BatBoy after he helps find The Artist, and the BatBoy, being an empath, doesn’t want to help Olivia anymore, knowing that she’s going to abandon him. Once he gives her the final clue and she and Francis capture the artist in the very spot BatBoy indicated he would be, she manages to spirit the BatBoy away to a nice home upstate where he will be cared for, and Broyles perpetuates the lie that the BatBoy escaped when CIA man Michaels comes a-calling.

And who should the BatBoy see on his nice drive upstate? The Observer! In the most obvious Observer cameo since his appearance on American Idol earlier in the evening! The mystery of the BatBoy is that no one knew how he would up in a hermetically sealed cave, or how old he really was. Perhaps, given his resemblance to The Observer, they are of the same race? And potentially alien in nature? I guess we’d only know for sure if the BatBoy liked to eat a lot of very hot, spicy foods, but I’ll take their long exchanged glance at the end to mean that we should read them as similar entities. After all, we know there are more BatBoys out there. Michaels said so himself.

So, to recap, you put your left foot in, and then out.

So, to recap, you put your left foot in, and then out.

Walter moments of the night:

  • Dancing with his brainwave-readermatron.
  • “I’m sure Agent Dunham knows what a penis looks like, don’t you Agent Dunham?”

The Wife:

I was a little worried when I saw the Wereupine in the cold open. I thought this episode was going to be yet another in a long series of MOTWs that have nothing to do with the show’s mytharc, but luckily, Fringe took this MOTW to get back on track with the masterplot of the show. After the initial plane crashed caused by said Wereupine, Olivia recognizes the name Marshall Bowman on the manifest, whom she immediately knows is the unidentified Wereupine, a creature with porcupine features but a human skeletal structure that is absolutely hilarious-looking. (Knowing that Marshall Bowman is the name of Grace’s father on Secret Life of the American Teenager, I will now assume that Brenda Hampton is somehow involved in The Pattern.)

While Walter examines the Wereupine carcass back at the lab, Olivia and Charlie get a rundown of Bowman’s clientele. From this list, she recognizes the name Daniel Hicks, and Agent Francis is very suspicious about how she knows this information. Deciding to go for broke, Olivia explains that she knows because her consciousness is linked to John Scott’s; she can see his memories and these two men are in Scott’s memory. At the lab, Walter finds a glass disc embedded in Bowman’s palm, just like the one they found in the DEA agent a few episodes back. He also determines that Bowman was dosed with a virus that changed his genetic structure and begins formulating a potential antidote.

Olivia and Francis go off to find Hicks, but during his interrogation, he starts to bleed profusely from the nose, the same way that Bowman did before he made his fatal transformation into a Wereupine on a plane. Fortunately, Walter immediately knows to get him sedatives to suspend the process, but Olivia demands to get the information she needs out of Hicks before he succumbs, screaming in his face that she wants to know who dosed him. He musters only the word “Conrad” before going under. Walter takes Hicks back to the lab and keeps him in a medically induced coma. Not wanting to wait around and see, Olivia asks Walter to cut open Hicks’ palm to find the shiny clear disc that she suspects will be hidden within. Walter obliges, because he likes cutting things open. Sure enough, they find a disc.

With two discs in hand, Olivia marches into Broyles’ office and tells him that she wants to dig up her former lover and partner’s body to extract a disc from his hand as well, certain that the men she’s currently dealing with who are turning into Wereupines were coconspirators in John’s treachery. Broyles tells his that he simply can’t do that because John Scott’s body was never actually buried. Together, they march off to Massive Dynamic where Nina Sharp introduces Olivia to John’s preserved body, which is actually John, not a clone or robot soldier as previously thought by me. Nina has kept John’s body in a state of suspended animation in order to keep the data on the clear disc drive embedded in his palm intact, after finding that the drives blank when removed from their hosts. The partial data they’ve been able to recover from Scott’s disc, however, is the most crushing blow to Olivia: it indicates that Scott was part of a bioterrorist cell and that the Conrad Hicks spoke of was plotting a mass weapon sale. Olivia suspects that he’s planning to put his new transformative virus out on the market, so she asks Walter to put her back in the tank to access John Scott’s memories and learn more about all the parties involved in his alleged terror cell.

So this is what it's like to watch yourself have sex.

So this is what it's like to watch yourself have sex.

Inside the tank/John Scott’s head, Olivia sees herself with John in the hotel room in which they used to carry out their affair. As before, Memory John recognizes non-memory Olivia and tries to talk to her. He doesn’t understand why she’s asking him about Conrad, Hicks and Bowman and, in a moment of panic, she grabs his gun from the bed and shoots him as he approaches her. Seeing signs of distress, Peter wants to pull her out of the tank, but Walter insists that they have to re-establish contact with her before they can do so.

Olivia resurfaces in an alley and finds Scott again, who is able to lead her to Conrad this time. He shows her an image of himself ready to assassinate Conrad, but that he was unable to do it because he didn’t know who he was looking for yet. He tells her that Bowman, Hicks and himself are not what she thinks they are; they’re actually part of a secret NSA task force created to take down Conrad and other bioterrorists. Presumably to do this, they had to infiltrate the terror cell itself. I’m not sure we can trust this information, but so far Memory John Scott hasn’t lied to us yet, and I am generally willing to believe that an FBI procedural about the supernatural should be fraught with double-agents, double-crosses and tons of secret task forces and conspiracies. John instructs Olivia to talk to Hicks as he starts to fade from her consciousness, as Hicks is the only one left who can help her find out where Conrad’s massive weapon sale is about to go down.

Peter seems to think that Memory John might still be lying to Olivia like Actual John did, but Olivia is keen to heed the advice of her spectral lover. Astrid, sensing that Peter may have cast some doubts over this whole thing, asks Olivia to go with her instincts, and so she does. Olivia asks Walter to administer the antidote to Hicks so that he can guide her through the sale on an untraceable two-way radio. The Feds set up the sale for Olivia, and Peter tags along because “shady deals with shady guys in shady rooms is what I do.” Peter proves to be a valuable asset, helping Olivia finesse the trust of the salesmen without the aid of Hicks on a two-way radio. When they question his association with dealer Ernesto, Hicks tells Olivia to say that Ernesto met Peter at Oxford. When they ask for more specifics that Hicks can’t provide, Peter steps in and questions why it would matter where they met, but tells them that he and Ernesto met at the White Horse tavern. Listening in, Charlie is amazed at how Peter is able to pull things like that out of his ass. (England, by the way, has hundreds of White Horse taverns, but Peter is good enough at this game to mention one on a road near Oxford, making his lie both general and specific and therefore utterly believable.) This earns enough trust to get the virus and its antidote out on the table, the antidote being the only thing in the world that can fully reverse the effects of the virus. Walter realizes that his antidote will fail, and shortly thereafter, Hicks starts to bleed and sputter again, forcing Walter to tranq him and leaving Olivia completely in the lurch. Conrad calls to announce that he’s coming to join the meeting and the room suddenly becomes extremely volatile. Conrad’s agents want to know why Ernesto wouldn’t call to tell them he was sending someone else in his place, and Olivia, without Hicks in her ear, has no idea what to say. Peter jumps in to save them as guns are drawn by announcing that Ernesto’s been sick and he didn’t want anyone to know. Conrad arrives just as Olivia manages to deliver the code word to set off the raid by stating that Ernesto has been sick since just before Christmas. Although Conrad himself contradicts this information, it doesn’t matter because the raid comes through just in time.

After all is said and done, Olivia returns to Walter’s lab, asking to be connected to Scott’s mind again, but Walter informs her that it might not be possible as she showed signs that Scott was fading out of her consciousness. Still, he allows her to go under, where she meets with Memory John at the lake and he slips the engagement ring he never got to give her onto her finger before he disappears from her mind, presumably, forever.

All in all, this was a much better episode than last week, especially for connecting an MOTW plot to the show’s master plot. Also, anytime Peter gets to show off his incredible skills at lying and reading people, I’m generally pretty happy. Every part of that raid was well-written, suspenseful and well-executed. I’m also very appreciative of Walter’s One-Half Nipple Rule, wherein the average litter born to a creature is generally one half the number of nipples. This is a useful thing to keep in mind.

The Husband:

Me? I was bored about halfway through. I hear Mr. Jones is coming back next week, though, so I’ll be ready for some extra-awesome times.

But what is it with J.J. Abrams and planes? The Fringe pilot wasn’t enough?