Fringe (S01E02): “The Same Old Story”

Grade: B+

Fringe cooled down a few degrees for it’s third hour and began settling comfortably into its episodic format, but still offered enough continuity and signature J.J. Abram mythology to make it stand apart from the X-Files. But that’s not going to stop everyone, including myself, from thinking it still feels a little bit like that cult favorite, and already fans of Scully and Mulder are comparing Fringe’s plotlines with similar, and therefore better, ones done on X-Files. Similarities aside, this episode was not as good as the pilot, but it was still thoroughly entertaining and allowed the actors to feel out their characters further and, for the most part, they’re growing on me even more.

The Pattern is investigated a little more here, but essentially it seems like a background plot element to drive forward the case-by-case nature of this show. But it is interesting that the writers are attempting to connect everything early on, rather than have everything just be a random series of bizarre scenarios. While this episode had some slow parts and was not as gripping as the first, I still felt satisfied with this bizarre, if not wholly original, story of a parent casting aside his morals and ethics to protect their child. By the end, I felt for the villains of this story, and I always admire stories that don’t stick in the realm of black and white.

So let’s dig in.

The case this week starts off in a similar fashion as the Pilot did–in a borderline-sketch motel, with a post coital couple in their underwear. However, whispered I love yous are nowhere to be found and traded for a hooker boring us with her after sex munchies and a dude hiding in the bathroom with a briefcase and a serum filled with what looks like Sunkist. Except this Sunkist does some funky stuff, like impregnating the famished prostitute. And instead of nine months, nine minutes later the baby is grown and ready to come out. She starts screaming as something moves around in her belly, and no it’s not just the Taco Bell coming back to haunt her. The dude drops her off at a hospital and then skips out, leaving her to die a few minutes later when the baby pops out, lives for a while, and then dies of old age.

Olivia, Peter, and crazy old Walter  are called to the scene of their first real mission, though Peter makes it clear that he’s not on board for good, while we all nod our heads and go “Riiiight”. I mean, it’s only a matter of time–a matter of some realization–until he finally admits he’s a series regular and that he isn’t going anywhere. Also, on that note, Peter’s one liners continued tonight, but I found them more annoying than charming. I enjoyed him more in the pilot, and I’m not sure that it’s a good sign if his jokes are growing stale already.

When Olivia and Pete go to investigate the motel room, after a tip off from one of the slightly concerned guests, the past gives agent Dunham a good slap on the face. The thread count on the motel bed is way too high for such a shitty joint, according to Olivia, and she somehow knows that there are inferior sheets hidden nearby, which of course there are. Peter momentarily thinks she’s magical until she reveals she saw the same thing on another case she and her now-deceased traitor of a boyfriend worked on.

More detective and science work leads them to their next lead: an old partner of Walters, Dr. Penrose, who had worked with him on growing the perfect soldier, cultivating babies that could grow into adulthood in only months. The only problem was figuring out how to stop the growth at the desired point, rather than them continuing to grow until they got wrinkly and gross and died. The agents visit Penrose, now teaching at a university, and he pretty much denounces all of his former research, saying it was wrong and how–boohoo–the military harassed him when he refused to do their bidding any longer. And if wise cracking Pete can sniff out that he’s not telling the whole truth, we viewers can easily tell something is off (just like with awesome robot arm lady). Or maybe I’ve just got a good villain radar.

Then! Dr. Walter has a revelation! He remembered where he parked his car. However, this turns out to be a bigger realization that it first seemed, as he managed to cram years of research data into his old beat up crazy mobile. This data leads them all a step closer to solving the case, as they find a link with the pituitary gland. A minute or two (or ten) of science mumbo-jumbo later and it’s clear that the killer is finding girls, killing them, and stealing their pituitary for some nefarious purposes unknown. And to make this very clear, we get to see him once more, picking up another hooker. He skips the 600 thread count this time and takes her to a warehouse with a great view of a bridge and an even better table with straps for operating on hookers. Hey, maybe this guy just wants to clean up the streets for our children?

Olivia is approached by Nina Sharp (with no robot arm in sight, sadly), and she offers her a job. Geez, everybody wants a piece of Agent Dunham. Is there something special about her that we’re not seeing yet? I mean, she’s pretty hot, does honorable detective work, and likes soaking in metal dubs while on homemade drugs, but for two agencies in two episodes to be biting at her heels…there’s got to be something more to her.

Dr. Walter comes to the rescue again with another cracked out idea that just might work, and of course does, when he suggests they hook Dead Hooker #2 up and attempt to view her last image. The screen shows a bunch of jumbled crap as we all hope the final thing she saw wasn’t the killer’s penis, and then finally something comes through–the image of a bridge. Agent Astrid, whose name I think is either really cool or really stupid, but not sure which yet, recognizes the bridge as being one near where she grew up. They process it through some of that only-on-TV technology (where anything can be processed through any type of program with, like, five button presses of the keyboard and–BAM!–results).

As they’re finally pinpointing the location, our killer has found his third and final victim. Final, you ask? Well remember Penrose, the not entirely forthcoming professor with a past he regretted? Yeah, he doesn’t regret his past at all. In fact, the killer is his test tube baby, born from the research on the perfect soldier project, and he’s been trying to keep him alive. The only way he knows how to keep his son young is a combination of a healthy diet, a good night’s rest, and eating the pituitary glands of hookers. Actually it’s just that last one. So he’s only killing survive, and maybe they both thought no one would miss a few dead street walkers. They were right to an extent, since no one caught them all this time.

Of course, right as our test tube killer is about to eat his final meal of delicious pituitary delight, Mulder and Scully Olivia and Peter bust in on the scene and save the girls life, but our killer makes a run for it. Peter “I’ve never used a gun before” Bishop is handed , well, a gun by Olivia and told to keep Dr. Penrose in custody while she takes part in the obligatory chase scene. The doctor can smell Peter’s amateur gun skills and makes a run for it himself, and he gets away because Peter’s gun skills are indeed not that good. At all. The almost-dead hooker starts going into cardiac arrest and Peter calls up pops on the phone for advice. He somehow puts some metal, a batter, and some phonebooks together to create a makeshift difibrillator, proving he can’t shoot but he can McGuiver himself out of a medical crisis. Oh and the hooker lives, for anyone really concerned about all these dead prostitutes. I wonder if there’s a group like PETA for sex workers? If so, they should be PUH-ISSED.

Olivia’s chase scene ends when she finds our killer no longer able to run because he’s rapidly aged into an old man. He gives a pitiful speech about how his dad should have just let him die and makes us kind of feel bad for him, in spite of everything. Then he dies.

The end leaves on a strange note, with Walter letting slip to Olivia something about the “special nature” of his son, Peter. Then, that night, as Peter sings his dad to sleep, we see a scene of room with containers of people that appear to be clones of someone. Is it the killer? Peter? I couldn’t quite tell. Anyone care to enlighten me on this part?

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