Olivia. In the Lab. With the Revolver
After this episode’s predecessor detailed a key event in the show’s mythology and hinted at things to come (resulting in one of the best Fringe episodes yet), this week goes down the route of a ‘monster of the week’ type story but still has time to communicate the ramifications of recent events and continues to suggest something big is bubbling under ready for the season finale (hopefully a double episode) in May. How Fringe finds its monster of the week is very clever – it’s an adult who as a child was subjected to Walter and Belly’s Cortexiphan trials in Jacksonville (Ep. 2.15). We know many children were involved in that trial – Agent Dunham included – and it’s explicitly stated that each likely has an ability and that this ability could be dangerous. Therefore, we now have a ready-made pool of ‘monsters’ created within the mythology detailed in Fringe to date, i.e. that of the alternate universes, Walter’s work, Massive Dynamic and so on. As such, whatever is chosen can link to this mythology without some Deus Ex Machina type intervention.
This show has always come across as an X-Files for the noughties and beyond. It has the FBI agents, bizarre cases, mythology and more. It is stylised as a show which could have been made in the 90’s – no flashy direction, no digitised effects like split screens. It’s just solid programming done well. This episode in particular had many parallels to the X-Files, including the monster himself – in order to survive he must exchange his Cancer for another person’s health by touching them (only works with other children involved in the Cortexiphan trials) otherwise he will not survive. This brought to mind the Tooms’ episodes from early Mulder & Scully investigations whereby he required sustenance by way of ingesting human livers. Not the same execution, granted, but the plot device used is of the same family. We also saw Sam Weiss, the bowling alley guru for the first time since earlier this season and he can be thought of as Fringe’s Deep Throat or Mr X - whilst he doesn’t proactively pass on info. for Dunham’s investigations he does know a lot about the alternate universe (and much more, no doubt) and to date does not seem tangibly involved with Massive Dynamic (yes, Nina Sharpe did introduce Dunham and Weiss).
The effect of Walter’s story about how the Peter we know is actually from the alterniverse was apparent here in all interactions between Walter and Dunham. Despite her promise not to tell Peter of the truth, she is not coping well with the secret and is wavering as to whether she should continue to keep it. Ultimately, by the end of the episode we see that she is ok with it but Walter has realised he must tell Peter himself. It was clear previously that Peter would find out soon and comments made by him in these 42 minutes about how he has stayed longer in Boston working with the Fringe department than anywhere else in recent years, and how happy he was working in the ‘family unit’ he, Walter & Dunham have, just screams foreshadowing - when he learns the truth he will not enjoy the unit anymore nor the stability he feels in Boston right now. Most likely he will want to visit his real Father (and Mother - we do not know her fate in the alterniverse?) and if he tries to open a gateway what will happen? Maybe our world will suffer the same way the alterniverse has since Walter went there the first time.
All told this episode was enjoyable but a change of pace from the previous, focusing more on a one-off story but still managing to drive the season arcs towards their intended goal. Fringe has established itself as a quality show which knows exactly what it’s doing by this point, and where it’s headed. The ride over the next few weeks is set to be highly enjoyable.