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‘Fringe’ recap: the 60% solution

March 31, 2012 |  8:50 am

On Thursday, I got the opportunity to speak with “Fringe” show-runners J.H. Wyman and Jeff Pinkner, the two guys charged with managing all the different universes and timelines we tune in to every Friday night to watch. One thing Wyman said really rang true to me. “We write the show for our fans. We get a tremendous amount of pleasure having the audience recognizing what we’re doing. It’s like playing with a very tight group of friends that can appreciate every little nuance that the casual viewer might not always pick up.”

“Fringe” might not be for everybody. How many viewers want to watch an episode over and over until they spot one bald guy in the background? Would everybody notice the alternate universe had comic books featuring the Red Lantern and Red Arrow? Even the heavy emphasis on science in the “Fringe” version of science fiction might put some off. That’s fine. Those who watch “Fringe” are a certain, special circle of nerd-dom, but don’t worry, those who make “Fringe” are from that circle as well, and they know how to give you just what you want.

“The Transformation” is easily one of my favorite episodes from the first season of “Fringe,” with possibly my favorite opening sequence. I knew from the preview last week that “Nothing as It Seems” was going to delve back to “The Transformation” for inspiration, but I found myself getting practically giddy when the new episode started with the exact same scene. A man in a plane, going into a panic, demanding the flight attendants’ attention and telling them to gather all the sedatives they can find and if necessary, confining him to the bathroom. Only this time, instead of bursting out of the lavatory as a Wereporcupine and crashing the plane, the man managed to pull himself together and ride out the flight. 

That’s a gift. A present for the faithful viewer. You can tell “Nothing as It Seems” was written by Pinkner and another “Fringe” guru, Akiva Goldsman. It contains many such gifts, like the literal presents that Walter has for Peter. He bought one every year to help with his grieving and he finally has the chance to give them. In return Peter gives Walter a big hug, which was essentially “Fringe” embracing the audience. John Noble’s reaction was perfect. If it didn’t tug at your heartstrings, you’re cold. Cut off from your emotions. Seriously, you should see someone about that.

Not everything is nostalgic monsters and Hump magazine. The FBI doesn’t trust Olivia. They’ve put her through every psych evaluation they have and determined that 40% of her memories are incorrect.  She has totally become Peter’s version of Olivia. The original Olivia. Fringe Division puts her on suspension vacation until they decide what to do with her. She has to sit at home while Peter rushes off to investigate the Wereporcupine. Of course, she doesn’t sit there for very long. No matter which Olivia she is, she’s still an Olivia. If there’s a monster hybrid out there running amok, she’s on the case.

The only one not enjoying the dynamic of the new Olivia is Lincoln Lee. Can’t really blame him. Before Peter reappeared, he seemed to be hitting it off pretty well with Olivia himself. Lincoln cannot deny that Olivia’s feelings toward Peter appear genuine, so there’s not much to do. He simply steps aside and continues doing his job. (Lincoln is a really good guy.) If that isn’t bad enough, Lincoln gets tossed aside by the Wereporcupine in a genuinely scary moment, and he’s infected by the transformer virus. Lincoln’s stuck in the lab, playing chess and eating bacon while Walter comes up with a cure. 

Tracking a tattoo on the dead Wereporcupine, Peter has to reintroduce himself to Ed Markham, antique bookseller and ladies' man, for information. Markham points them to a cult obsessed with controlling evolution. The transformation virus was based on work David Robert Jones did at Massive Dynamic, and later deleted from their records, used to mutate human DNA. The cult members are using it to evolve themselves into the Porcupinemen. Like all cults, they don’t have the best ideas.

Fringe Division manages to track the creature by its need to consume human fat to complete the transformation. They rush in wearing night-vision goggles, which manage to make even cosmetic surgery clinic look creepy. They manage to gun down the beast and critically injury the beauty playing house with it. Little do they know that the original Wereporcupine’s sister and her boyfriend are transforming themselves as well. Luckily they seem to be locked up on the S.S. Whattheheck along with all sorts of other monstrosities. I pity whatever port that ark is heading toward.

For now, everything seems to be back where it belongs. Instead of being angry she disobeyed his orders, Broyles reinstates Olivia to active status in Fringe Division. Even if she’s only 60% of the woman he’s been working with, that still puts her miles ahead of every other agent. Plus if she’s going to solve all the cases anyway, you might as well have her doing it with backup. 

Nitpicking – OK, as much as I enjoyed “Nothing as It Seems,” there are a few things I have to call out. There is no way the Wereporcupine could fly. Not with that wingspan. That creature was huge and it had the wings of a pelican. And now that I think about it, what did the second Wereporcupine do that really required lethal force? I know he threw Lincoln against the wall and stole some medical waste, but it was doing that so it wouldn’t have to eat people. I think the Wereporcupine might have gotten a raw deal.

Astrid Action – Astrid ruled the response shots. From watching Peter and Walter’s hug to acting like a caught teenager when Broyles walked in on them playing with toys in Walter’s room, it was nice to have her included with the joking over End of Times cults. She really is part of the family.

Spot the Observer – The Observer casually strolls by when Peter and Lincoln meet Olivia at the house of the second Wereporcupine. I can’t say for certain if it was September, but I hope so. It would be nice to see him back up to his old tricks after getting shot and nearly banished in the past few episodes. 


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-- Andrew Hanson

Photo: Olivia (Anna Torv, left) and Peter (Josh Jackson, right) visit a bookshop owner (guest star Clark Middleton) for clues. Credit: Fox Television