Spoiler Heavy Reviews: Fringe – “Alone in the World”

by Kevin on October 7, 2011

In a lot of ways, tonight’s Fringe is just another day at the office, with Fringe Division taking on a killer fungus and a race against the clock to save a little boy’s life. It’s a plot straight out of The X-Files, Fringe’s spiritual forefather, but with a touch of the character studies we’ve grown to expect from the show.

“Alone in the World” opens with Dr. Sumner (William Sadler) assessing Walter’s complicated state of mind, and Walter is naturally afraid that he’s losing his mind and will have to return to the mental institution. He’s still seeing and hearing Peter, and though he tries to lie to Dr. Sumner, it’s not very convincing. His psychological condition is beginning to deteriorate from continuing to see and hear Peter, who he still doesn’t recognize. His ability to work on the case is being obviously impacted, and the team begins to see it.

Meanwhile, we’re introduced to this week’s mystery, which finds a young boy, Aaron, being chased by two bullies who want to beat him up for supposedly snitching on them. But before any pummeling can be done, something strange begins to happen to the bullies’ skin, and the next thing you know they’re corpses that look like they’ve been decomposing for months, not hours.

It turns out our “perp” is some kind of aggressive fungus, which attacks and paralyzes its victims, feeds on them and plants its spores, which then explode and take root in their surroundings. As the fungus spreads, Walter discovers that its a single colony, all connected, and that somehow the central “brain” of the organism (which Walter adorably names Gus) is connected psychically to Aaron. “Gus” attached itself to Aaron’s brain because of Aaron’s loneliness, convincing him that the organism was a friend, and any physical attacks on Gus cause a reaction in Aaron.

While Walter tries to find a way to break the connection, he explains to Aaron that he used to have a son, Peter, who died when he was young. In our current version of reality, Walter did cross into the alternate universe and kidnapped Walternate’s Peter, only this time August wasn’t there to pull Peter out of the lake and he drowned. From there, it seems that events have been quite similar to the ones we’re familiar with.

Because Walter couldn’t save Peter he desperately needs to save Aaron, even calling him Peter during one frantic scene. As Aaron becomes a surrogate for Peter, he is able to form a stronger emotional connection to Walter, which causes Gus to separate from the boy and die.

In the final scene, Olivia arrives in the lab just in time to find Walter about to self-lobotomize, hoping to literally remove whatever in his brain is causing him to have visions. After she calms him down, he confesses what he’s been seeing, and Olivia shows a picture she drew of the man she’s been seeing. It becomes clear that if they’re both seeing the same mystery man then it must mean something significant. Onward to solve the mystery!

“Alone in the World” is all about the way our loneliness can manifest itself, whether it’s Walter’s mind fracturing and landing him in a mental hospital, or Aaron and “Gus” finding each other and forming an inconceivable psychic bond. Fringe suggests that if a bond between a human boy and a colony of fungus is possible, perhaps the bond between a father and son or a wife and a husband can survive beyond a minor thing like the timeline being rewritten.

The acting in last week’s “One Night in October” was exceptional, but I thought the episode overall was weak for an episode of Fringe; tonight’s episode was similarly unbalanced, with a better story of crazy science fiction but weaker acting (except for the always exceptional John Noble, who can make a needle in the eye look like high art). The story was absurd, but Aaron seemed to be the catalyst Walter needed to take some ownership of his mental state.

There wasn’t much from the rest of the cast tonight. Broyles made the tough decisions, Astrid was sympathetic and helpful, and Lee got attacked briefly by the fungus. Just another day at the office for Fringe Division, and I wonder how Olivia and Walter will investigate their mysterious visions without alarming their colleagues.

Kevin’s Grade: B

The Good

  • This was a good episode of kooky Fringe science, but not very big on story. I like that we’ve had a chance to see how this reality functions without Peter, even though he’s still kind of there in spirit, as it were.
  • “I’m thinking flamethrowers.”
  • “You look a little freaked out. Want to talk about it?”

The Bad

  • As I mentioned earlier, the acting didn’t really do it for me, and there was a lot of exposition, which seemed to hamper the writers a little bit. I suspect with this plot they might have bitten off a little more than they could chew.
  • Why did they walk away from the flamethrower option? The toxin didn’t even work.

Things to Think About

  • I still wonder if Walternate is seeing any version of Peter, but after Walter’s version of events, I’m guessing Peter is still more attached to Walter. My guess is our “lost” Peter still remembers the events of his life.

Next Week: Next week’s episode, “Subject 9,” might give us a glimpse of Peter’s return, via some kind of giant glowing electrical thingy.

Previously on Fringe: S4E1S4E2

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Joe October 8, 2011 at 9:27 pm

Just watched the episode, it reminded me of the X Files episode Chupacabra

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