Friends, the ‘ship has come in. “A Short Story About Love” – one of the best episodes of Fringe’s fourth season, well directed by co-showrunner, J.H. Wyman — gave us answers that were long in coming. Enlightened by the specter of an Observant friend that Rebootlandia was where he belonged and that this Olivia Dunham was truly the Olivia Dunham that he loved, Peter Bishop overcame his alt world-induced anhedonia and raced to find the Annie Hall he’d been running away from. That kiss! Victory in Fringeville. The multiverse mershed. Totally irrational. Crazy. Absurd. But hey: Love. We all need those eggs. Even disfigured psychopaths who use sex pheromones boiled from dead husbands to mack and kill widows and mistresses. I love a show that can give me sentences like that.
In an episode that explored different ways to define romantic love, Fringe’s freak-of-the-week storyline ruminated on the idea that amorous attraction is basically a blood-and-guts biological event – a rapture and snare of hormones. Played by Michael Massee, one of Hollywood’s best creepazoid specialists, Anson Carr was Snape gone Moreau, a mad, cracked potions master who just wanted to be loved. Is that so wrong? Well, when you’re killing men for their seminal fluids, all in search for connection – and a fragrance that could give free love to everyone – then yes: Epic Fail. Carr’s dark heart was shaded by the smallest of degrees. He had the disadvantage of his never-explained scarred visage. (Scarface theory number 1: Burns?) A shattered widower himself? A scene that saw him shedding a tear while stroking a photo of a pretty brunette suggested the possibility. (Unless that was the mistress of his last victim. Couldn’t tell.) Also: A dog lover. So how evil could he really be? I’ve convinced myself: This modern dress Perfume: The Story of a Murderer was inspiring, not sickening! Amnesty for this homicidal sensual rapist!
Tangent (or another one): Was “Anson Carr” a winky nod to Anson Mount, star of AMC’s Hell On Wheels? ‘Carr’ = ‘Wheels’ = the hellacious Anson Carr. Yes? Back-up theory: A wrinkled lovelorn potsie in desperate need of some face cream, in an episode that could have been subtitled ‘Happy Days Are Here Again!’ = Anson Williams, star of Happy Days and co-founder of StarMaker Cosmetics. Yes?!
We met Anson lurking in the shadows, dabbing some scent on his neck, as if primping for a date. He was waiting to pounce on Jane Hall, a grieving woman just returned from her husband’s wake. He pinned her against the wall and throttled her by the neck… and waited. There was a pregnant pause that allowed Jane’s panic – and her revulsion at the sight of his hideously scarred face – to subside… and when she did, she caught a whiff that surprised her, then calmed her even more. Her eyes were telling her that the home invader with the pruned cheeks looked nothing like her late husband, Mark. Yet every other fiber of her being barked otherwise. They kissed. She stroked his rumpled cheek. He liked that. They kissed again. But then something like common sense or sobriety reclaimed Jane. Seeing it, the monster wrapped her head with shrink-wrap (bonus points for murder weapon innovation!) and clutched her to his chest as she suffocated. His parting gift: A ritualistic smear of chemicals – pheromones, we would later learn, extracted from Jane’s dead husband Mark – applied to her wrists and neck. A little dab’ll do ya in. FUN FACT! “Shrink-wrap” = “She dead… wrapped in plastic.” Was Wyman paying homage to David Lynch? Perhaps. I saw a rough cut of this episode a couple weeks for the purposes of reviewing it for the magazine, and the temp soundtrack used the song “Strange And Unproductive Thinking” from Lynch’s recently-released electronica album Crazy Clown Time during the sequence in which Anson boiled that one dude alive. I was bummed the strange, stream-of-consciousness tune about creativity (and bad dentistry) didn’t make the on air version.
To make his corrupt cologne, Anson would hunt for potential victims at the local park while sitting on a bench stroking his pug. He preferred happy young couples without children. (He gave up on one husband and wife after their young boy showed up.) He took the men first. He killed them by dehydrating them – alive – in a vat. I loved the moment when Anson, decked in a hazmat suit and a shower cap dotted with stars, wiped off the muddy remains of his victims using a squeegee. (Scarface theory number 2: Withering via dehydration. Had Anson once tried his technique on himself?) He extracted the pheromones, whisked in castoreum (urine-mixed Beaver secretion; a type of “rancid note” used in perfume, too); and voila! Eau de roofie. Then it was off to the ladies he had widowed.
NEXT: My “organic ocular suggestion”? 228 ½ ‘KEEP FRINGE ALIVE’ STREET.