Give Fringe this: it’s not often that the work of REO Speedwagon becomes a central part of the plot. Sure, we’ve all seen shows in which Toto points the way to the truth, or Air Supply saves the day, but it took the mind of J.J. Abrams to put REO Speedwagon into this rather limp episode in which The Pattern showed remarkable little sizzle. A show that could have been charged with excitement instead blew a fuse almost instantly. (And yes, fret not: I’m done punning. I’ll be sure to conduct myself more professionally from here on in.)
The Pattern of the Week centered around one Joe Meegar, who comes from the school of "People With Names That Accurately Describe Them." Then again, this IS the show that calls the mysterious, albino, omnipresent, bald man who watches over everything "The Observer." So, in some ways, Joe’s last name represents something in the way of subtlety. He’s a combination of Marvel Comics’ Electro, Heroes‘ Maya, and James McEvoy’s somehow wimpier sibling. And this poor lad apparently answered a personal ad he shouldn’t have answered. No, he didn’t catch VD: he caught something worse.
That "something worse" was distributed by Jacob Fischer: Mad Scientist to the Stars. Fischer piggybacked off some of the research done by Walter Bishop, in which the government sought to make human being trackable via…carrier pigeons. Now, I know what you’re saying, but hold on, the story gets better. Turns out these pigeons could be trained to detect electromagnetic patterns, which is useful in that, get this, every human’s electromagnetic pattern is unique. Like a snowflake. And this is the part where America throws up its hands and either goes along for the ride or switches over to one of the two hundred episodes of Law and Order currently running on other stations.
But hey, even if the government used homing pigeons in a pre-GPS world, surely they could update the theory in order to find Mr. Meegar ("The Electrician"), now in the clutches of Dr. Fischer ("The Doctor"), while Peter ("The Pessimist") drove Olivia ("The Blank-Eyed Arm Crosser") towards his destination, right? Wrong. Still using pigeons in this day and age, which led to possibly the lamest car chase in the Fall season of television so far. Bullitt this was not, as we watched Peter and Olivia chase pigeons they in fact had no danger of losing thanks to the electronic tags applied by Astrid before takeoff. Fringe, you are KILLING me. You could at least have had Sarah Palin trying to shoot down the pigeons to inject a little tension into the proceedings.
In slightly more interesting although vastly more confusing news, John Scott made quite a few appearances this week, and the Lost freak in me was looking for any signs of white tennis shoes or smoke monsters. (Alas, none to be found.) Walter believed Olivia’s time in the deprivation tank melded her consciousness with John’s, and she’s merely working through her guilt in a dramatic fashion. I’d love to pull a Peter here and cry fowl, but this is a world in which the government rounds up pigeons to re-enact scenes from The Prestige, so honestly, everything and anything is possible.
It is clear, however, that this John is not merely Olivia’s subconscious exorcising its guilt. This "John" provided information she could not possibly have known, leading her eventually to a basement apartment chock full o’ Pattern goodness hidden away from everyone else. All signs by episode’s end point to John having reported towards an unknown entity: one that, perhaps, founded Massive Dynamic and is in hiding?
And let’s not forget that Massive Dynamic itself appeared to have revived Agent Scott while still mostly dead. (not unlike Wesley from The Princess Bride.) Thus, it’s possible that John is both inside Massive Dynamic headquarters and inside Olivia’s brain. One line that stood out was John telling Olivia, "I loved you…I can prove it you…but not here. It’s just not the way it works." For whatever reason (one hopefully mythology-related and not born out of narrative laziness), Scott has to take the "show, not tell" approach in leading her not only to Meegar but his Mulder-esque apartment as well. I like the idea of Scott trapped inside of Massive Dynamic, secretly helping Olivia from inside the belly of the beast. I like it so much that I’ve basically ensured that it’s never going to happen. Just how I roll when making such bold predictions.
A few odds and ends about this week’s episode:
- Peter’s "Theory X proposed by my father is just plum crazy" schtick is getting old, fast. At some point, you just have to give the old guy the benefit of the doubt. His batting average is pretty good so far. It’s way, way better than the majority of the Red Sox in the series against the Rays, that’s for sure. So back off, Peter.
- I half-expected Walter to scream, "It’s alive!!!" while pumping those pigeons full of Meegar’s electromagnetic signature. Anyone else with me?
- Other songs Meegar could have listened to that would have been equally anvil-icious: "She’s Electric" by Oasis, "Confidence Man" by the Jeff Healey Band, and Live’s "Lightning Crashes."
- Random Plant Manager’s injury was both entirely predictable and wonderfully gory. Not sure how many of you had "armed shredded to the bone" in your office pool, but congrats to all who did!
- Anyone really think six weeks in solitary will break the mad scientist? Didn’t think so.
Walterism of the Week: "Stranger things have happened!" Runner up: "Wool socks!"
Bottom line: absence did not make this heart grow fonder. Last episode had a weak Pattern mystery but compelling mythology. This one had an OK Pattern marred by exposition both too long and exceedingly silly. When you have to take up nearly half an episode to explain to the audience what’s going on, it’s not a good sign. It’s not Mythbusters, guys. I want action, I want mystery, I want a compelling story. I do NOT want over-explaining. Go not the way of midichlorians, young Fringe.
I’m giving the Scott stuff a "wait and see" approach, since it has potential to go either way at this point. With a full season order already given by Fox, Fringe has the luxury to take its time with the big picture: but it needs to make sure the audience is still there by the time all is revealed. Episodes such as tonight’s will probably not help their cause.
What did you make of tonight’s episode? Did your unique brain waves enjoy what they saw, or find the resolution too silly for its tastes? And does the re-insertion of Agent Scott into Olivia’s life enliven either her or the show? Discuss below!
Ryan suggests you visit Boob Tube Dude via carrier pigeon.