The Wife:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Astrid: That’s sick.

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

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

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

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

The Husband:

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

And now, more haiku.

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

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

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

The Wife:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Myth-arc stuff:

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

Funnies!

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

And The X-Files reference I promised you:

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

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

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

The Husband:

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

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

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

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

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

The Wife:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions still unanswered:

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

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

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


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


The Husband:

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

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

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

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

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

Alternate worlds are

Tricky. Good: David Lynch films.

Bad: James Wong’s The One.

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

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:

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:

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 guess I’d better make this a good Fringe post, considering I won’t be writing about it again until April. I was completely unprepared for that announcement at the end of the show, as I thought Fox was all about giving Fringe the post-Idol ratings boost. But nope! It’s not going to get that boost for the whole Idol journey. It’s just going to pick up that boost in April. Over 6 weeks from now.

Maybe that scheduling explains why the four episodes they’ve aired since the holiday break have been so scattershot compared to the dense string of story-heavy episodes we saw leading up to the holiday break. They’re just tiding us over until the really good shit returns. But even so, “Ability,” I think, will end up being a key episode in this series as it finally explains why Olivia would be drawn into this kind of work and what makes her so special. As it happens, she was dosed as a child with a drug called Cortexafam, which unhinges the mind’s self-limiting possibilities, making her able to perform feats of extreme psychic ability. Jones knew this about her, and that’s why he chose her to be his interlocutor and, as he calls it, his warrior.

The “freak-meet” in the cold open seemingly had little to do with the rest of this episode, although it was definitely a really cool one: a man with no reflection (vampire?) buys a paper and pays with a $2 bill, after which the paper seller’s orifices start to seal shut. Like, his eyes and mouth sew themselves shut. This appears only once more in the episode when Francis and Dunham investigate Jones’ lab (with his hyperbaric anti-time travel chamber) and an FBI agent they’re with touches an errant $2. Olivia tries to stop the man’s imminent demise by giving him an emergency tracheotomy, but, lo! his skin seals over the trach tube, which was totally freaky and totally awesome.

At this point, Jones has placed himself in Olivia’s custody and after she watches her agent die, Jones tells her that he plans to kill about 700 people in this manner. He will tell her how to stop it, but first “there’s the matter of the key.” She must take the key he had on him when he entered the Boston Federal Building and go pick up a box of children’s games which amount to a series of 10 tests. Once she passes the first test, he will tell her how to stop his next attack.

Meanwhile, Olivia has had Peter use some of his special contacts to track down a manuscript with the initials ZFT, thinking perhaps that ZFT was never an organization but, perhaps, the bible of sorts for Jones and his comrades. He manages to track down a single copy of the unpublished manuscript and starts reading it. The text expresses fears the apocalypse will be brought about by technology and is a call to arms, of sorts, for “unwilling recruits” who will be brought into this battle as “warriors.” Walter becomes oddly fascinated with the text itself, enmeshed in the quality of the ideas contained within.

When Olivia goes over the instructions for her series of tests, she recognizes that the language is similar on the instruction cards and in the ZFT manuscript and realize that she’s about to go through Jones’ recruitment procedure. Her first test asks her to turn off a light board with only her mind, a task Olivia doesn’t believe she can do. But with time running out before the next attack, she asks Peter to try to rewire the board so that she can fake it before Jones and move on to stop the attack.

By this time, Jones is suffering from some major time-travel sickness thanks to the machine Walter created (no nosebleeds, though, just a lot of coughing and other respiratory issues) and has been brought into Walter’s care in the lab. He tells Olivia that he knows she can do the test because she was treated with Cortexafam as a child, and anyone treated with that should be able to do the test. Olivia, of course, has no idea what he’s talking about, even though he claims that he was the one who kidnapped her and tested her to be sure with the spinal tap she was given in “Bound.”

She finds out that Cortexafam is manufactured at Massive Dynamic and heads up to ask Nina Sharp some questions about it. Nina tells her that it was part of a clinical trial done by William Bell in 1981 intended to expand one’s mental abilities. The trials were conducted on children until 1983 in Wooster, OH. Having gown up in Jacksonville, Florida during that time, Olivia is sure that she hasn’t been treated with the drug and that Jones has no idea what he’s talking about. Still, she returns to the lab to attempt the test, which Peter has been able to successfully rewire.

I should have known I would be tested on this . . .

I should have known I would be tested on this . . .

Once she passes, Jones gives her the address where the next attack will take place: 923 Church St., 47th floor. When she arrives there with Peter, she finds a bomb attached to the window . . . that can only be stopped by disabling the same light board she supposedly just disabled with her mind. She calls Jones and he gives her a pep talk, discussing his faith in Olivia despite the fact that he knew she faked the first test. At her wits end, Olivia decides to try to disable the light board and, after an intense minute, manages to successfully do so with on her mind and 2 seconds left on the clock.

She is in complete disbelief about how she achieved this, until Nina Sharp calls and tells her that Bell conducted a second set of clinical trials in Jacksonville at a military base, the same one at which Olivia’s father was stationed. She goes to talk to Jones, presumably about why she has been chosen for this task, and arrives in his room at Boston General to find that he has hulked out in some way and has left a larger than man-sized hole in the wall of his very much not on the ground floor room. This, just as Astrid compliments Walter on the invention of a teleportation device, which is cool except for the fact that it kills you. According to Walter, “it does something unthinkable, but it doesn’t kill you.” I suppose we’ll have to wait to see exactly how unthinkable whatever happened to Jones was . . .

Finally, after some long contemplation about the ZFT manuscript, Walter notices that the typewriter upon which it was written has a wonky y key that places the Ys above where they should be. He pulls out his old typewriter, and discovers that the manuscript is his own work.

From this, I glean that Walter and Jones are and always have been on the side of “good” (whatever that means) in this battle, and any ZFT followers are actually intended to fight against the bioterror attacks that make up The Pattern. Although I don’t quite know the full text of the manuscript and its implications, it seems as through ZFT followers are generally fearful about the destruction of mankind at the hands of technology, and their chief means of fighting that seems to be, for lack of a better term, building a better man. I could be entirely wrong about this, but it starts to explain why Walter knows so much about all the weird shit they’re seeing. But who knows – maybe Loeb’s warning from “Bound” is right, and Olivia has no idea what side she’s on.

The Husband:

Yeah, Idol semifinals and the first few weeks of the Top 12 are always two-hour episodes, so it’s definitely hard to have that Tuesday at 9 p.m. spot on Fox, even if it does mean a boost later on. (House has been the biggest receiver of the Idol bump.) But hey, there are only so many episodes of Fringe, and I don’t really care when I get them so long as I get them.

As far this episode is concerned, I have so many more questions than answers that I may even rewatch this on Hulu, but I am very elated that Olivia has finally become part of the big picture and not just hanging out on the outside of everything, only occasionally using her telepathic-esque connection to John Scott to come up with answers. I’m glad that this is one of the few shows where I can say that the main female character is actually the muscle of the group, but revealing that she was part of the Cortexafam trial is just great.

And for once, I actually loved the fact that Walter was so directly involved in the central mystery because of his past work, because this time it wasn’t just an excuse to cover a few plot holes but in fact a true item of forward momentum to the show’s mytharc. The moment Walter hits the “Y” key may be the best scene this show has ever had, and it involved zero special effects and zero craziness.