Fringe (S01E03): “The Ghost Network”

Grade: A

It appears that my love for Fringe’s Pilot was not shared by the majority of television viewing America, but as this show finds its stride I’m finding that people are starting to come around and embrace it. So while I may disagree with many over the first couple of hours, I can agree that this show is getting better, and the third episode finds the right balance between all the elements introduced thus far.

With that said, there are a couple of potential areas that could be a problem in the future if they are continually relied on as much as they have been. The first is the formula “Walter + Past = Results”. Don’t get me wrong, John Noble is playing the part of kooky Dr. Walter Bishop to perfection and steals pretty much any scene he graces, but so far every episode has found him delving into his past to discover something key to the case and then sending the agents out on a fetch quest for some device he helped create years ago. I think it’s more the device aspect that could grow old–how he has a secret weapon of sorts to deal with everything they’ve come across. Really though this is a small complaint and since this show is following a certain formula, I suppose some repetitive tricks should be expected.

The only other negative I wanted to address is the formula of “Early lead + 2 nice 2 be true = person behind it all”. In episode two, Dr. Penrose was really the only person our agents ran into in their search for information, and he ended up being the bad guy. In Ghost Network, Olivia again only speaks with one guy and he turns out to be the bad guy again. It’s just making it too easy to pinpoint who’s good and who’s not, not because of bad acting or writing, but just because I’ve uncovered the formula and go from there. Since this show doesn’t revolve around “whodunnit” so much, this doesn’t effect the enjoyment of an episode, but it would be nice if there was more than one lead thrown in from time to time to keep us guessing at who’s behind it.

But those few concerns aside, this is an awesome hour. The actors are all finding their groove, and Jackson’s Peter was charming again, with no trace of whatever annoying factors were present the last episode. If anyone is a weak link it might be series lead, Ann Torv and her character Olivia. She hasn’t shown a very wide range of what she’s capable of and seems perpetually stone-faced and unhappy. I mean, I guess she does have reason to be, and it was nice to see her smile one time (that I can remember) in this episode. She’s definitely no Sydney Bristow from Alias, which Fringe reminds me of on occasion in a way I can’t quite pinpoint, aside from the obvious fact that they both came from Abrams.

So what exactly happened in this episode? Read on to find out.

If the opening few minutes didn’t sucker you into watching the whole episode, this show probably isn’t for you. A strange man enters a church to confess something–that he can see things. Terrible things, which he thinks might be messages from God or, worse, Satan. He has a vision in the church of a bus. A man walks onto the bus, puts a mask on, and releases a mysterious gas inside. After snatching a woman’s pink backpack, which must be really trendy right now for all this trouble, he makes his exit.

Meanwhile, Olivia is attending the funeral of Agent Scott, who’s being sent off as a hero, even though he was a big, double-crossing dickwad in reality (That’s the best I could come up with, sorry). The service is made awkward by Scott’s grieving mother, who stares daggers into Agent Dunham the whole time, likes she either wants to beat her almost to death or just kill her outright. Over at a quaint little diner, Peter harasses a guy who’s been following him and snapping pictures all day. He steals the camera’s memory card, and I can’t help but think this guy is probably not snapping pics of Petey just because he thinks he’s cute. Just as Walter makes the life altering important decision to order the pancakes, he remembered that Olvia had called them a few minutes ago and that they’re needed on the job. Those blueberry pancakes smothered in sugary sweet syrup will have to wait.

When Olivia, Peter and Doc. Walter arrive at the scene, they find a bus filled with an amber like substance. The people inside are trapped in this hair-gel lookalike, suffocated instantly according to Walter, who knows everything there is to know about weird science.

Olivia has discovered one of the women on the bus is missing her incredibly trendy pink backpack. This woman turns out to be a DEA agent. They track down her handler who identifies the body and talks about a case she was working on. Recreation of what he said, ” Blah blah blah The Pattern, blah blah The Pattern.” That’s the important stuff anyway. He IDs the body and has a touching/creepy moment alone with the cold, dead corpse. He strokes her arm and her hand as Olivia watches on through a window in a very stalkerish manner. There are obvious parallels being beaten over our head here between this and Olivia and her own past flame, Agent Scott.

Crazy Vision is at work now, but can’t seem to get a lot of work done seeing as how he can’t stop drawing pictures of women with bleeding hands. One of his coworkers seems a tad concerned when she finds him, hands stained black and red, hunched over a severely creepy drawing. Yeah, he’s not getting invited to that office Christmas party. Our astute agents are onto this guy though when they find out he was talking about the bus incident before it even happened. They use their Federal powers to let themselves into his house, which is very suburban and normal except for the one room in the back filled with pictures and “sculptures” off many past incidents, all related to the Pattern. They’re all dated before the events transpired though, which is enough to cue some very LOSTish scene change music.

Back at FrankenWalter’s lab, he wants Peter to play some piano for him, to help him work. Also he’s conveniently remembered how he and “Belly” (William Bell, CEO of shady megacorporation Massive Dynamic) worked on a project experimenting with placing private communication channels into people’s brains, allowing them to be recievers of super top-secret information. So what Crazy Vision is seeing isn’t from God or Satan, but messages being sent back and forth between paranormal terrorists. He’s listening into someone’s telephone conversation, essentially. Yet again, someone has taken some of Walter’s technology and refined it and he (also yet again) needs a specific piece of equipment, which he hid in their old home 17 years ago.

Instead of using their Federal powers this time, Peter just picks the lock of his old home and lets himself in. They find the device, which is like a crown of wires, and return to the lab, where Crazy Vision has been convinced he should help them in their investigation. They don’t need much from him–just to drill a few holes in his head and place the wire crown on him. This will apparently allow them to turn visual stimulas into auditory, so they can hear what the people are saying on the other end of this mind conversation. He finally begins to get something, but it’s in Latin. Thankfully out handy-dandy Agent Astrid, whose name Dr. Walter may never remember, knows a little bit. Her little bit is enough to translate the whole conversation, though, which leads them to a train station where something big is going to go down. Also, there’s something about how “the item was on her the whole time”. See, the dude in the beginning ont he bus didn’t actually care about that hot pink book bag, as hard as it is to believe, but wanted something inside of it. But it wasn’t there, it was inside of the dead DEA agents. Olivia rushes to the corpse and finds her hand has been slashed open and something has been removed, and she realizes that her handler wasn’t there to say his final, tender goodbyes, but to steal whatever was inside her clammy palm.

So they end up catching the guy at the train station, but right as Olivia finds him he is shot by the dude he passed his briefcase off to. So what happens next?

A CHASE SCENE!!! Man, they love these on-foot chase scenes, don’t they. This one ends in a three way gun pointing fest, which Olivia wins when the bad guy decides to drop the briefcase and jump in front of a bus. How cliche of him. Inside the briefcase, we find out that all the fuss is about this very small, circular piece of…something.

With everything wrapped up, Agent Broyles congratulates Olivia, all bad blood between them seemingly evaporated, and hands her some new images they found in Crazy Vision’s home of incidents previously not thought related to The Pattern. He then meets with Robot Arm and forks over the valuable small, circular…something. They both talk about how much they want Olivia, in a strictly professional way of course. Not that some hot Bald Guy on Robot Arm wouldn’t be stah-eam-ee.

Robot Armed Nina takes small, round…something to her lab and hands it over. Apparently there are more of these small, circular…somethings, but this one is totally superior somehow. She also enquires as to how the data extraction is going and we see a screen extractind data from our beloved “hero” Agent Scott, who appears to still be alive.

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