This week, Fringe offers us a remake of its own episode "The Transformation", but from the perspective of the entire case being fresh material to everyone but Peter (Joshua Jackson). It's a clever way for the writers to take another run at an old idea they enjoyed, but perhaps didn't explore or develop to a greater extent. But I have to say I'm not a fan of Fringe mining its own history like this, because it just feels like the show's relying on its past glories too much. It was exciting to see David Robert Jones resurface as a villain recently, but to now redo an old episode felt wrong to me.
Still, "Nothing As It Seems" had giant porcupine-men with wings, so it's hard to dislike, and it was fun to see a teaser replayed with a different outcome (with a nose-bleeding passenger convinced he's about to transform into a monster while travelling by plane). There were also some lovely moments for Walter (John Noble); revealing he bought birthday presents for every year his timeline's Peter was gone, his quick grin after using "boobs" as an example of a palindrome, and his carefree attitude around Agent Lee (Seth Gabel) after the poor man was infected and had an 80% chance of turning into a human-porcupine.
However, there's something I find a little worrying about this episode, as it re-introduces these monsters in a style that suggests they're going to be a major part of the show going forward. Back in the day, my interest in The X Files waned when sillier ideas like "super soldiers" started to get woven into the mythology, and "Nothing As It Seems" made me think a similar misstep may be happening on Fringe. Right now, it's a show that's started to alienate some fans (who still see season 4 as a weird tangent away from the earlier seasons, no matter how the writers try to assure them it's not ), and now it appears to be leaning heavily on past successes. It's perhaps trying to bring things full circle, as many shows do when they're reaching their end. And, let's face it, if Fringe doesn't get cancelled this year, it's hard to imagine season 5 being anything other than Fox keeping JJ Abrams' sweet and allowing his team to conclude the show.
A fun episode with great monster effects (loved that final scene with a ship carrying all manner of bizarre creatures in cages; tentacles and tails poking out from between bars), plus some very funny moments along the way... but time will tell how successful adding another slew of ideas to Fringe will be. A cult obsessed with "the guided mutation of man" that includes Mr Gaeta from Battlestar Galactica? We'll see, we'll see...
written by Jeff Pinkner & Akiva Goldsman / directed by Frederick E.O Toye / 30 March 2012 / Fox