Last time on “Fringe“…well, it’s been a while, quite frankly. Something about a multiverse, a psychic Lite-Brite, and German men who can bust through walls after teleporting. It was all strange and weird and completely awesome and feels like it was twenty years ago. Ah, the beauty of modern-day television scheduling. In any case, the show returned tonight with a middle of the road episode that sorta just sat there, much like the child at the heart of its mystery.

The child never got a proper name, so let’s call him Baby Powder and be done with it. Baby Powder can’t control electricity; but like the older version he is an empath, able to tap into the emotions of other people. It’s how he managed to alert a construction worker of his location deep below a demolition site, and how he helped Olivia Dunham solve the previously unsolved case of The Artist.

As for The Artist: think Buffalo Bill with less lotion in the basket and more extraversion. He enjoys long walks on the beach, candelit dinners, and sending federal agents faxed announcements of his future kills. These announcements look like concert posters for indie bands done during the bass player’s lunch break at Kinko’s. He eluded Dunham and Charlie years ago, but after resurfacing this time, Baby Powder uses his empathic skills to write (backwards and upside-down, no less) clues that help Dunham in the general direction. Thanks to the empath’s help, Dunham manages to save the life of The Artist’s third victim and eventually kill him in hand-to-hand combat.

Baby Powder stokes Olivia’s maternal fire, already sparked by the presence of he niece Ella in her life. So when the CIA comes looking to take the child away (apparently to add to their collection of other children that survived for decades with little air, food, or water), she turns into Fierce Mama Bear to keep him from harm’s way. His empathic powers help him deduce that Dunham reluctantly agrees to give him up after locating The Artist, but thanks to help from Broyles she manages to place Baby Powder in foster care, with the Observer himself taking a stroll in Baby Powder’s new neighborhood.

As for Astrid and The Bishop Boys: Walter did a lot of theorizing, but didn’t really crack any major mysteries this week. He figured out Baby Powder’s empathic powers about 30 minutes later than the rest of us. Peter had even less to do, only contributing through his intuition about the plastic used in meat-packing plants as way to find The Artist. (I’m going to guess he didn’t come about knowledge of that plastic as a “janitor.”) Astrid…showed Baby Powder cartoons. All those student loans, for that. Sigh. Once the economy recovers, I see Astrid sending some resumes out into the private sector.

Other thoughts on tonight’s episode:

  1. I wasn’t surprised to see The Observer in this episode, as each time Baby Powder came onscreen I wondered aloud if I should be deducing a connection between the two based on looks alone. But then again, I try not to judge people by the color of their skin.
  2. Loved the clever way in which the yellow M&M arrow turned into The Artist’s air freshener. Really clever writing there.
  3. Walter dancing around to Al Green's "Love and Happiness"??? Yes. A thousand times yes.
  4. Please let Olivia’s sister move out, and quickly. There has to be a better way to give Olivia life outside of the madness of her job than to pair her with someone who always looks five seconds away from attempting plant a kiss on Big Sis.
  5. Couldn’t help but wonder what Broyles knows about the CIA’s involvement with boys like Baby Powder. Sounds like he did some digging and found a few things he didn’t like. While he supports Dunham, I think something else would have triggered his decision to go along with her deception.

All in all, “Fringe” returned neither with a bang nor a whimper. It was more like a steady hour of television that never bored me but never had me edging closer, either. If only the show could take the energy, wit, and thrills of its pre-hiatus episodes and put them into their other episodes, this could truly be a special show.

Ryan is low on oxygen but high on empathy over at Boob Tube Dude.

Posted by:Ryan McGee