Fringe works best when it's a half-breed between a serialized (think Lost) and a procedural (think Law & Order) drama. In one of these hybrid episodes, our beloved characters will tackle an individual threat while simultaneously uncovering the greater mystery and following their own personal story arcs. Yet this season, clearly, Episodes 1 and 4 grapple with the show's mythology, and just as clearly, Episodes 2, 3, and 5 featured "standalone" storylines with no larger stakes or consequences.
It's not that these standalone eps are bad--the direction this season has been top-notch every week--it's that they feel irrelevant. Maybe the show will prove me wrong, and the Colonel from Episode 2.03, for example, will turn out to be a major player in the Last Great Storm. That would be great..I love Stephen McHattie! But regardless, three out of the first five episodes of Season 2 have felt irrelevant.
In Dream Logic, our disposable villain was a brilliant sleep researcher with multiple personalities that becomes addicted to the vicarious experiences of his patient's stored dreams. Apparently, he's so addicted, he doesn't even wait for his patients to fall asleep before taking a hit of the ole neural cap. As a result, they enter a waking dream state. But can someone explain why this causes them to consistently experience waking nightmares? And then respond to them with extreme violence? When's the last time you were physically violent in your dreams?
The last-act twist revealing Dr. Nayak as the villain was a bit trite, since we all saw that coming from the character's introduction. Our patience was tested even further by the unfortunate return of Bowling Alley Yoda, Sam Weiss, who wins my vote for the worst series character. Olivia's not the only one who feels like time is wasting every time he opens his mouth. And this week, the Magic Business Card Word Jumble was hands-down my all-time least favorite part of the show.
A few other gripes. What happened to Agent Jessup? Why feature her so prominently in the season premiere? We haven't seen her since she stumbled upon a bible in Episode 2.02. And the new-viewers catch-up dialogue is getting pretty distracting, like when Walter felt the need to remind Peter that St. Claire's was the mental hospital in which he was interred. Another problem this season: characters have a new habit of telling us about their past in long monologues, which never makes for riveting television. If it's relevant information, we should see it, like we did with Peter's dream/memory at the end of the episode.
Gripes aside, I was intrigued by that scene, because it's not at all how I imagined Our Walter stealing Their Peter and bringing him across the divide between realities. Jerking him from bed? Why? Hopefully we'll revisit Peter's past soon (and not in a monologue). I also loved the humanizing scene between Olivia and Peter featuring a toothbrush.
Our next episode, Earthling, will hopefully bring us back at least tangentially to the War Between Realities. With more shapeshifters out there, and with their Ralph-Fiennes-Lookalike leader now re-embodied, shouldn't the Fringe Division be focused on finding them to the exclusion of all else?
- Jasika Nicole rocks. Use her.
- Dr. Nayak's grad assistant, Zach Miller, was a shout-out to two of Fringe's new writers, Zach Stentz and Ashley Miller, who wrote last week's stellar episode and the upcoming adaptation of Marvel's Thor.
- Has the science been dumbed down a bit this season? It seems like most cases are being solved by force (Peter or Olivia's fists) instead of Walter's brain these days.
- I wish Olivia's business cards had spelled "Can I get a box of tissues?" instead. We miss you, Kirk.