Monday, 21 November 2011

FRINGE, 4.7 – "Wallflower"

Monday, 21 November 2011

There was nothing very remarkable about this episode's story or its freak-of-the-week villain, as Fringe often just recycles past successes with a few cosmetic changes. That's just how it is with US network sci-fi shows expected to churn out two dozen episodes per year, and I don't have a problem with it... provided it feels like it has something to say about the human condition. Fortunately, "Wallflower" was definitely one of the better standalone episodes because it tackled themes of personal connection and loneliness in a way I found engaging.

This week, Fringe Division were chasing a man called Eugene Bryant (Tobias Segal)—a former lab rat of a Massive Dynamic subsidiary whose unique DNA allowed scientists to turn him into a human chameleon. After a lab fire in which Eugene was believed to have perished, he's actually been living a lonely existence—literally unable to be seen by normal people, and therefore connect with anyone or form any friendships and relationships. So once again we had a very sympathetic villain to chase—who was committing murders across the city, but only so he could "re-pigmentize" his transparent skin and get a taste of what it's like to be seen. In one lovely sequence, the crushingly shy Eugene shares an elevator with an attractive woman, but can't bring himself to start a conversation with her, until another man enters and effortlessly does exactly that.

In the subplot, the everyday difficulties of forging personal connection was also being explored. Lincoln (Seth Gabel) is developing feelings for Olivia (Anna Torv), who in turn is beginning to doubt her own ability to put herself out on display emotionally. Has she been psychologically scarred by the Cortexiphan trials she went through as a child? Not according to surrogate mother Nina (Blair Brown), but it was a nice way to mirror some of Eugene's own issues in the show's leading actress. Even better, I was pleased that Fringe is avoiding a lazy love-triangle between Olivia, Lincoln and Peter (Joshua Jackson), as the latter totally understands that the Olivia of this timeline isn't the woman he's dating in the "real world" and actually helps Lincoln impress Olivia with a snazzier pair of glasses.

Overall, the mechanics of this episode weren't anything very exciting but simply having a decent theme is often enough to make me overlook some issues. Eugene's story had some similarities to how Misfits equated invisibility to social awkwardness, and they handled it very well. The cathartic scene where Eugene was astonished to find the woman in the elevator talking to him like the normal person he longs to be perceived and treated as, was well worth waiting for. Plus there was a very interesting denouement with Olivia being gassed by two masked men working for Nina, where she'll wake up with no memory of the past few hours. Seeing as Olivia was earlier complaining of a migraine, how long exactly has Nina been gassing Olivia, and to what end?


  • This episode marks the somewhat premature mid-season finale of Fringe, as the show won't return until 13 January 2012. In summarizing what we've had to far, I have to say I'm disappointed. It feels like a mistake to have given us yet another "alternate world" to explore. This Peter-less world just isn't different or interesting enough, like the writers overestimated the importance of Peter's character. (A Walter-less universe would be a different matter entirely!) Right now, Fringe is needlessly exploring areas the fans don't care about, as we were engaged with the dueling universes idea that's effectively been dropped since season 3's finale. I hope the show gets back on-track soon, as this is very likely going to be the last ever season, given the appalling Friday night ratings.
written by Matthew Pitts & Justin Doble / directed by Anthony Hemingway / 18 November 2011 / Fox