'Fringe' recap: 'The place where the mysteries of the universe get answered'
“Fringe” is like watching a Sudoku. The puzzles crisscross and connect, and you always have too many 8s. Even Peter describes Walter’s lab as “the place where the mysteries of the universe get answered.” It is the perfect Friday night, figuring out the puzzles among Fringe Division.
“Fringe” should be a team sport. You need one guy who’s keeping track of all the lore (how many experiments have Walter and Bell done on Olivia?). Then there would be a person who’s trying to crack the mystery of the week (why is the Compassionate Soul Vampire showing up at suicides?). Plus there needs to be a team member following the relationships (Peter and Olivia were just at the cutesy phase when her body was hijacked). Oh, and a supernerd to catch all the Easter Eggs (spotting the observer, decode the symbols around the commercials, telling you which episodes of “Lost” Paula Malcomson was in). Putting together a good “Fringe” viewing team is like putting together a good D&D party. That might be the dorkiest sentence I’ve ever written.
The Mystery of the Week is simple: Dana Gray can’t die. She starts off by jumping off a building with a suicide guy after some flowery talk about raindrops, but she only gets up and walks away. Nearly any sci-fi series that’s lasted for any length of time has had their version of the person who can’t die, but I appreciated how original a take “Fringe” had on it. Dana Gray’s molecular bonds have become so strong they won’t break apart even in death. They speculate that it may because she got struck by lightning twice. I wonder if that also happened to the guy in “The Great Outdoors.”
Following up last week’s great guest appearance by Alan Ruck, this week we’re treated to Paula Malcomson. I know her best as Trixie from “Deadwood.” You might have seen her on "Lost" or "Caprica" or "Sons of Anarchy. "Hopefully you didn’t recognize her from “Medium.” Patricia Arquette is someone else.
To help solve the riddle of Dana Gray, Fringe Division gains two new members while losing one. Our cliffhanger last week was William Bell’s soul taking over Olivia’s body, giving us what I’m going to call “Bellivia.” When Olivia slipped into the other universe and visited Bell in his World Trade Center office, he slipped a few of his “soul magnets” into her tea. (I still think Soul Magnets is a great name for a band).
Anna Torv creates Bellivia by channeling Leonard Nimoy. I was very iffy on the prospect from what little I saw last week. I came into this week expecting to dislike Bellivia. The rasp of her voice seemed almost goofy, but I hardly noticed since “Fringe” did everything else right. The cadence of her words was dead on, and his/her interactions with everyone else in Fringe Division were pitch perfect. Peter is understandably angry that Bell jumped into Olivia’s head; while Walter enjoys the situation a little too much. I don't think he showed any concern for Olivia. He was too busy playfully solving word problems on opposite sides of a transparent dry erase board with Bill Bell.
The other addition to Fringe Division this week was Lincoln Lee. I’ve been waiting for our version of him to finally show up. The Lincoln Lee of the parallel universe now runs its Fringe Division, so it only made sense that the Lincoln over here would eventually pop up. He gets pulled in by his connection to Dana Gray’s case. He investigated her original death back in the Hartford branch of the Department of Sunlight and Venetian Blinds. With Lincoln we got to see all the weirdness of “Fringe” through fresh eyes and with Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” playing in the background. Please let Lincoln Lee become a permanent member of Fringe Division. It’s nice to have someone shocked by everything they come across.
“Fringe” only gets better. Just when I was getting a little tired of mopey/apologetic Walter we get a giddy/ecstatic Walter again. Peter and Olivia’s relationship keeps taking interesting twists and turns. The weekly mysteries unfold like origami. Even the product placements have improved. The subtle peek at Dana’s Sprint phone slipped in smoothly. We only get a handful more episodes this season. Let’s see how good they can get.
Unsolved Mysteries – How do you feel that they left some of the mystery unsolved? Peter tells Lincoln that in Fringe Division answers only lead to more questions. Is it important that we learn whether the bomb ended Dana’s extended lifeline or that Dana’s lifeline was extended to stop the bomb? I thought “Fringe” balanced answers and questions pretty well, but I’m curious if anyone disagrees.
Astrid Action – Pour Astrid. She becomes the object of affection for a crazy scientist’s ghost stuck in Olivia’s body, but her reactions are golden. My favorite came when Bellivia slipped the magnetic bracelet on Astrid’s wrist and she buttoned her shirt up to her neck. That has to go in my top 10 Astrid moments. Though when Walter and Bellivia joke about having Astrid milk Bell if they put his soul in the cow, that’s creepy. This is my Astrid they’re talking about.
Spot the Observer – I admit I didn’t see the Observer this week. I assume he was hanging around the crime scene when the Fringe Division checked out the smashed cab from the opening. He likes to go anywhere with yellow police tape. If you can tell me where to spot him, leave it in the comments. I’d appreciate it.
Photo: Olivia (Anna Torv), right and Walter (John Noble) work together in the lab. Credit: Fox Television