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'Fringe': Confinement

January 22, 2010 | 12:33 am

212_whatliesbelow_0115 Wow. That was a really good episode of “Fringe.” It’s almost too bad they made it. The storyline could have easily been used if they ever decided to make a “Fringe” movie. A good “Fringe” movie. Not like those “X-Files” movies. Burn.

The key to “What Lies Below” was confinement. A man trying to sell trade secrets crashes in a petroleum company and in his death breath spreads a 70-bazillion-year-old virus released from a sample taken 10 miles underground (run-on sentences are the easiest way to barrel through setup). Even though this isn’t nearly as freaky as their normal cases, the Fringe Division is brought in to investigate and quickly quarantine the building.

Basically, you get “Die Hard” versus a virus. How many “Die Hard” parallels can I come up with? Both are trapped in a building. Both have government agents outside causing more harm than good. In “Die Hard” it was the principal from “the Breakfast Club,” and in “Fringe” it’s Dexter’s dad. Oh, and they both have black guys outside telling the truth, though no one listens. Carl Winslow from “Family Matters” and Agent Broyles. I mean, even Peter is running around in a John McClane undershirt for most of the night.

The virus makes for a pretty good bad guy, too. As it spreads, Walter deduces that the virus wants to get out. Just like rabies makes the infected afraid of water, this virus makes the infected want to be a college freshman. Escape the confines of home and go spread bodily fluids. 

Olivia and Peter get trapped inside. They try to run crowd control on the exposed office workers while at the same time, do a little investigating. There are even a few opportunities for some emotional moments. Or since Olivia goes out of her way to not be emotional, then the next closest thing.

Outside, Walter, Broyles and Astrid try to solve the puzzle of the virus. They make what ends up being a fruitless trip back to the lab before discovering how to test for the virus, which reveals Peter as an infected. Bam! Those stakes are raised. This time it’s personal. That’s how a good episode goes.

Though there were some aspects that would have been helped if this episode was expanded into a movie. The discovery of the cure came awfully quickly. It required a few leaps of faith: that Walter would guess correctly with the volcano/ash theory on what stopped the virus before and that someone would actually keep horseradish in their office refrigerator. Stinkybreath McGee maybe.

In movie form, there would also be more time to watch Peter try to escape. It would be cool to see what else the virus could get out of his genius/con artist brain. We did get a fight sequence between Peter and Olivia out of it. Nice to see those two go at it.

The episode didn’t have any references to “Fringe” mythology for the most part. There weren’t any shape-shifting soldiers from another dimension or signs of Massive Dynamic. Plus it had nothing to do with Walter’s old work, which might be just the second time this year. It did give the characters personal investments in the outcome. Even Broyles called the rest of Fringe Division practically family.

Nice work “Fringe.”

Astrid action -- This might have been the best Astrid episode ever. She gets a bit of fun at the beginning trying to find a lost Walter in a children’s science museum and even has a great response to Walter being referred to as a “special needs individual.” Then, with Peter and Olivia trapped inside the quarantine, Astrid steps up to the plate in helping Walter. But the biggest Astrid moment of the night is when she hears Walter say “I can’t let Peter die again.” Astrid’s the first character to get a hint to Peter’s mysterious past. Hopefully this is the snowflake that gets the giant snowball rolling.

Spot the Observer -- The watchman slips past in the background as the two CDC agents discuss getting permission from the State Department to wipe out everyone infected with the virus. He’s real quick about it, but you can catch him. It’s an easy place for him to blend in. Apparently in the world of “Fringe,” all government agencies are run by tough guys in trench coats. Right at home for the Observer.

-- Andrew Hanson


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Photo: Walter (John Noble), right, and Broyles (Lance Reddick), center, arrive at a crime scene to investigate a bizarre case and learn that a lethal virus is spreading. Credit: FOX