Spoiler Heavy Reviews: Fringe – “Wallflower”

by Kevin on November 18, 2011

We’ve come to FOX’s annual winter break, where they take a bunch of their shows off the air and run American Idol six nights a week. This season has been hit or miss so far, which is somewhat disappointing considering the terrific third season, but there have been some great moments, to be sure. Fringe has just begun really picking up steam, with Peter’s return throwing a wrench into Earth-3 and allowing us a side of our characters we haven’t seen in a very long time. Now that we have to break for two months, it will be interesting to see whether the show’s pacing works for or against it.

Tonight Peter’s attempts to get home to his reality, his Walter, and his Olivia are derailed by an invisible killer leaving a trail of albinos in his wake. Earth-3 Olivia is popping pills for migraines and Lee is struggling to deal with all the new knowledge he has. (“I used to sleep like a baby,” he tells Olivia in a retro diner.) And Peter’s desire to get home is completely understandable: he can’t even go shopping for a few odds and ends (underwear and safety glasses) without being treated like one of the Fringe events he’s been investigating for three years.

The invisible killer attacks and murders a man entering his home, which launches the Fringe Division investigation. It turns out that the invisible man, identified through his blood from the scene, is a former Massive Dynamic experiment named Eugene (U-Gene, or Unidentified Genetic Disorder), which resulted in him being able to blend in with his surroundings with the help of MD’s experiments. Eugene is desperately trying to make himself visible, absorbing people’s pigments to counteract what was done to him in the experiments.

But alas, it is love! Love that tamed the beast. Every day a newly visible Eugene rides the elevator and eyes Julie, the comely resident who he secretly stalks and worships. After an attack in the parking garage of his building, Eugene is tracked by Fringe Division, and Olivia encounters him on a floor under construction. He saves her life when she almost falls through the floor, but runs away, claiming he won’t go back to a lab, even if it’s to save his life. He escapes, but not for long. His final encounter with Julie in the elevator is more ironic than fruitful: Julie finally acknowledges Eugene, but he dies, having finally fulfilled his violent, romantic mission.

Meanwhile, Peter is working on a way to use the machine to “snap” him back into his appropriate timeline, and Olivia is struggling with the realization that she doesn’t seem to be as affected by the strange events she investigates as her colleagues. Lee has his issues because he’s new, and Astrid talks to the department psychiatrist. Olivia is afraid that the Cortexiphan trials stunted her emotions, but Nina assures her that, in the words of Michael Stipe, everybody hurts sometimes.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans will find some elements of this story familiar: the episode “Out of Mind, Out of Sight” involved Marcie, a girl who was so unimportant, so socially invisible, that she becomes literally invisble and begins terrorizing her classmates. Like Marcie, Eugene has had to watch others live their lives, experience happiness and “recognition,” and the simple pleasures of being seen that we all take for granted. (Of course, Marcie’s plight was caused by magic, but magic isn’t all that different from some of the theoretical science on Fringe.)

But I’ve overlooked the last minute or two of the episode, which completely derails an otherwise run-of-the-mill episode and introduces a sudden plot twist that makes you yell at your television. Right as Olivia is overcoming her lack of emotions and going to have another fun night out with Lee, she’s gassed by mystery men working for Massive Dynamic, who are performing some kind of repeat experiments on her, overseen by Nina Sharpe. Her headaches, presumably, are caused by her repeat exposure to whatever MD has in store, which I’m sure we’ll be learning a lot about over the rest of the season next year.

I have to say that while I found this episode mostly to be rather unremarkable, I think in the long run it will turn out to be one of the more interesting moments in the show’s history. If this season gets a chance to tell its story the way the producers seem to intend, it should be a strong turning point and an opportunity to see two world collide. I thought it was enjoyable—not so much as some of the other big episodes this year, but enjoyable for being vintage Fringe.

Well, that’s it for this fall. See you back in January for the return!

Kevin’s Grade: B

The Good

  • Anna Torv just nailed it in this episode. She’s one of the best television actresses I’ve seen in a long time. (She reminds me of Samantha Tapping from SG-1 but darker and hotter.)
  • Walter to Astrid: “Where’s your imagination? You must have been a very boring child.”
  • I keep harping on this, but Peter is such a badass this season. His flexibility extends even to Lee talking about Olivia. “The Olivia you’re talking about? That’s not my Olivia.” What a bro.
  • Another day, another octopus in a hamster ball Walter brings into the lab.
  • The invisible mouse’s name is Yoko. Trying to make that relevant, but coming up short.

The Bad

  • Good old Olivia “I’ll take this floor” Dunham.
  • I thought the Freak of the Week story took up too much screen time. With Peter being so front and center this season, it would have been interesting to see more of the machine before the break and understand what it is he’s trying to do to get back home.

The Weird

  • This is the first episode in a while where we’ve seen the negative fallout from Massive Dynamic’s experiments. I’ve commented a few times that this season is a lot like the first, which makes sense if we’re seeing a “starting over” with new versions of our familiar characters. This is why I love sci-fi.
  • Olivia: “Eventually, it will just become your life.” That’s not exactly comforting.

Things to Think About

  • A recent article on io9 suggested the possibility that this Peter Bishop isn’t the one we’re familiar with, but a new version who is even better at science and problem solving than ours. I’m not sure I agree with that, but it’s worth considering.
  • Also, I’d love to binge on this show and watch from the beginning over the summer. Maybe pick up the seasons and do a “retro review” until Season 5. (Yes, I’m confident. Season 5 will happen!)

You can follow Kevin on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Kevin November 19, 2011 at 8:17 am

Reddit user slackerj suggested that the Yoko mouse might have been the invisible one because compared to John (Lennon/the other mouse) she was ” “invisible” until the spotlight was placed upon her (or UV light in Fringes case).” I’ll agree with that theory. Thanks, slackerj!

Reply

Leave a Comment