Monday, 14 March 2011

'FRINGE' 3.16 - "Os"

Monday, 14 March 2011

This was one of those episodes that washed over me because we've seen too many iterations of this formula. It's Fringe 101: a brilliant scientist with humane intentions, who starts to commit crimes to keep his dangerous side project alive, attracting the attention of Fringe Division in the process, although we gradually realize the "bad scientist" is just a flawed genius with similarities to our own Walter Bishop (John Noble.) Sound familiar?

The crackpot-of-the-week was Dr Crick (Alan Ruck) who realized he could combine osmium and lutetium (rare heavy metals) to create injections that cause human subjects to levitate. Crick targeted paraplegics with his pioneering medication, instantly earning their loyalty when he required them to rob various institutions of the uncommon metal elements needed to perfect the process -- and develop a lasting cure for his own disabled son. As I said, there was nothing here that Fringe hasn't covered before; it was a familiar story dressed up with different visuals. More interesting was the subplot's development, with Walter becoming infuriated by the limitations of his intellect and wishing that friend/colleague William Bell was still around, leading him to wonder if Bell's old theory of "soul magnets" could be used to draw his friend's consciousness back into a host body.

But while that subplot was certainly intriguing, it was also the biggest load of codswallop I've ever heard spoken on Fringe. The show usually has some core science that sounds plausible, to help you suspend disbelief, but accepting that Bell's disembodied "spirit" can be summoned by, ironically, ringing a bell he bequeathed to Nina (Blair Brown), was a step too far. It was too silly for words; not helped by the unintentionally hilarious final scene, with Olivia (Anna Torv) doing her best Leonard Nimoy impression as Bell's soul possessed her and spoke to Peter (Joshua Jackson) from beyond the grave. Is this how they're bringing William Bell back on the series? At the very least, I hope the show pulls a Caprica-style visual trick and has Nimoy reprise his role, as the idea of listening to Torv croak more of her lines already has me giggling.

Truly, this was a very dumb and formulaic episode. How does levitation restore the ability of paraplegics to move their legs and walk in weighted boots, exactly? Why would they be so keen to get injected by a creepy guy with a goatee who approaches them? Why didn't Dr Crick have to turn to crime to source his precious metals? Surely people would be only too happy to help him legally, if a breakthrough like levitation is on the cards? Imagine the applications for transporting heavy goods and building structures! And don't get me started on the gibberish about William Bell and his incorporeal soul -- particularly as a recent episode had Walter state, categorically, that he doesn't believe in ghosts. What's a ghost, if it's not a disembodied consciousness?

Only a brief summation of thoughts this week, as my enthusiasm's at a low ebb. Alan Ruck did good work with a weak character, managing to make Dr Crick work far better than he did on the page, and it was good to see Olivia and Peter behaving like a loving couple (that won't last), but the rest of the episode was by-the-numbers twaddle. I expect more from Fringe, which has hit a very inconsistent patch mid-season, made worse by the fact its first 8 episodes this season were buzzing with confident freshness. Hopefully the show will turn things around as the season finale looms into view. But so far, in terms of quality, season 3's becoming the mirror image of season 2.


  • Did anyone else think of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country in those scenes where droplets of blood floated out of a shot robber's body? Appropriately, a movie that starred Leonard Nimoy, of course. Guest star Alan Ruck (famous for his role in Ferris Bueller's Day Off) also appeared in Star Trek Generations, to stick to the Trek theme this week.
  • Excellent special effects for the levitating, have to say.
written by Josh Singer & Graham Rolandwri / directed by Brad Anderson / 11 March 2011 / Fox