Monday, 21 March 2011

'FRINGE' 3.17 - "Stowaway"

Monday, 21 March 2011

This episode did little to dissuade me that Fringe hasn't hit a rough patch since mid-season, but the freak-of-the-week was an interesting source of empathy: a woman called Dana Gray (Caprica's Paula Malcomson) who, after surviving a family tragedy, realized she can't die. As if to compensate for a somewhat forgettable story attached to an intriguing concept, the episode was reinforced by the continuation of last week's crazy William Bell twist and a familiar face joining Fringe Division...

I liked how the title alluded to the two situations unfolding here. Dana was a suicide hotline telephonist who, after surviving two lightning strikes, developed super-magnetized atoms that prevent her body decaying or suffering enough damage to bring about death. Her desire to be reunited with her dead family led her believe the only way was for her soul to "stowaway" with that of other people's at the moment of death, by encouraging depressed people to go through with suicide bids. This idea of a soul hitching a ride bled through to the B-story, with William Bell's consciousness having now possessed Olivia (Anna Torv) while he tries to find a suitable, permanent host body (ideally a severely brain-damaged patient with no hope of recovery.)

This is unquestionably an inventive way to bring William Bell back onto the show, seeing as Leonard Nimoy's character seemingly died at the end of season 2, but I'm still having a tough time swallowing it. I know it may seem crazy that I can accept so much of Fringe's pseudo-science every week, but draw the line at this latest twist, but it's somehow true. It just seems like a jarring way to bring Bell back without having to worry about Nimoy's availability or health issues. Still, Anna Torv's croaky performance (while still unintentionally hilarious at times), wasn't quite as bad as it threatened to be from last week's cliffhanger. Torv's proven her acting chops this season (playing two very different characters) and, while I doubt her Nimoy impression marks a career highlight, she's making the best of a ludicrous development. But it's still damned unsettling to see Torv flirt with Jasika Nicole like a lecherous old man, with Walter (John Bishop) giggling like a schoolboy beside him, so I'll be glad when Bell's consciousness is hosted by someone else -- preferably male. What's Zachary Quinto up to?

Of side interest was the "our side" debut of Lincoln Lee (Seth Gabel), a character we've only previously met in the alternate-universe as a key member of the Fringe team. In our world, Lincoln's a skeptical Federal Agent who gets embroiled in the Dana Gray investigation, going from bewildered Scully to a fascinated Mulder -- primed to become a semi-regular consultant. As one of the many people that prefer the alt-Fringe team, I'm glad Lincoln's set to become a bigger part of the series in both universes. The series doesn't really warrant more than three investigators (even Astrid's been cooped up in the lab this season, after playing a more active role in the field last season), but Lincoln will hopefully be used sparingly and cleverly. It's fun to try and predict if he's been brought in because something's about to happen to Peter's character and Fringe will need a temporary partner for Olivia? Or will Lincoln suffer some kind of mental trauma that means Bell's consciousness will be placed inside him?

The core storyline, trying to find and stop Dana from helping more people to die, eventually resulting in a bomb threat aboard a train packed will 300 people/souls, wasn't one of Fringe's best. The mystery itself was spoon-fed well and Malcolmson was fantastic as the conflicted Dana. However, I was a tad confused Dana didn't perceive her inability to die as a gift from God, who may want her to do good in the world using her "super power", particularly as she's evidently inclined to believe in New Age mumbo-jumbo.

Overall, "Stowaway" was mostly average with enjoyable wrinkles and moments, but the A-story didn't hold my attention all that rigidly, and I was disappointed the return of William Bell didn't kick the mythology into top gear. We've been led to believe that Bell/Bishop are an unbeatable scientific duo, but this episode didn't get me excited about their reunion. Maybe it's because there's too much distraction with Torv playing the role. If Nimoy were in these scenes, I'd have been happier seeing him make gauche jokes about placing his consciousness into Gene the cow and letting Astrid milk him. How about you?


  • First there was Olivia. Then there was Fauxlivia. So do we now have Bellivia?
  • The flaw in William Bell's plan to survive death: if he hears a bell, his consciousness starts to slip. Thank God there wasn't a fire drill at Harvard.
written by Danielle Dispaltro (story by Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner & J.H Wyman) / directed by Charles Beeson / 18 March 2011 / Fox