The thing that sets Fringe apart from most mystery-of-the-week series is its stricter adherence to ongoing plots and a continued attention to building up a unique mythology for the show, centered mostly around the fictional mega-corporation, Massive Dynamic. However, this could be a weakness as well, if Fringe veered too far from its cases and sunk in too deep with conspiracy theories and gasp-worthy twists. This episode attempts to ease any fears of this scenario by presenting a Massive Dynamic free hour, but ends up falling into the old predictability trap I thought it had strayed from. That said, the case is interesting and the characters are still growing more likable every week, so all-in-all it’s another solid episode for any fans of the show, but probably not good enough to woo many new ones.
My biggest gripe at the moment, and one I felt had been assuaged by last week’s episode, is the too-formulaic setup of the standalone cases. The show is all about something called The Pattern–a string of mysterious and unexplainable phenomena happening all over the world–but there’s another very obvious pattern developing as well. This pattern goes as follows: An incident occurs, which Walter reveals could be based on old ideas he had studied, but that have been taken and perfected in the years since, and he then has a theory that Olivia pursues relentlessly until she reveals what she knows to her boss, who then reveals to her he’s known more than he let on all along and shares new, key information that advances the scenario into its final legs. Most episodes have contained some or all of these parts, and while it doesn’t make the value of the mysteries any less, it does take some of the fun out when you can see a blueprint of what’s to come without even trying.
The case this week is one that might have the Heroe’s writer’s jealous they lost all their creativity long ago, with a man whose brain has been altered so that he can cause electromagnetic disturbances. The whole kerfuffle gets started after this guy accidentally causes an elevator to plummet 20 some stories, killing everyone inside except himself. But he’s not a bad guy, just a guy with some semi-stalkerish tendencies who’s having a bad day and just happens to have powers he doesn’t understand and isn’t able to control. When he gets emotional, he doesn’t write angry poetry, but makes sparks fly and pacemakers die–which is how his own mother ends up dead. It’s nice to see the people Olivia and co. are chasing aren’t always plain bad guy, like the prostitute killer and this guy, but victims of ambitious, shadowy figures. One of those steps onto the scene tonight, performing inhumane tests to advance whatever agenda he has, and is clearly the one to direct any anger toward.