'Fringe' recap: Meet the beetles, plus: Cry baby cry
Fringe spent this week in the Other Universe, in various ways trying to achieve, as the episode title had it, “Immortality.” It was a non-stop Fauxlivia-fest, and not one for anyone suffering from entomophobia. The hour confirmed — or perhaps I should say seemed to confirm — a few things many of you readers have been commenting upon. One thing’s for sure: Those Twin Peaks references you’ve been picking up on were certainly validated this week.
For the purposes of this recap, I’m going to refer to the Other Universe Olivia not as Faux-, Bo- or Alt- but just “Olivia,” since that what she is in this episode’s world. Her boyfriend’s back, she greeted him, home from Texas, at the Empire Docking Station. Pretty soon, the two of them, plus Lincoln Lee (put in charge because of the “missing” [we know “dead”] Broyles) and Charlie Francis, were plunged into a case involving corpses from which swarms of beetles had emerged. Yet another in the long line of Fringe‘s many dedicated but doomed scientists, this one Dr. Anton Silva (Alon Aboutboul) turned innocent citizens into hosts that would provide samples of the beetles he needed to complete an experiment that would bring him the glory he sought. Too bad that the human hosts died dreadful deaths (“spontaneous bug eruptions,” as Lincoln put it). Fringe Division had to figure out what was going on, as Charlie pulled a nice juicy beetle from the nostril of a corpse.
The creepy case was inter-cut with Walternate scenes. He and Brandonate have been experimenting with the Cortexiphan synthesized from our-world Olivia’s brain, injecting it into others. We saw one such subject demonstrate telekinetic ability, but he died soon afterward. Brandonate thinks the key is that the younger the patients are, the more powers they demonstrate, so he proposes using children. No, Walternate thunders. “No children — that is not an option!” A bit later we saw Walternate with his mistress, played by none other than Twin Peaks‘ Joan Chen. The Secretary of Defense said, “There are lines I simply cannot cross — does that make me weak?” No, it makes him a better man than our Walter, according to one reading of Fringe morality, since Walter’s sin and suffering derives from having first experimented on children (including Olivia) and “crossing a line” by taking Peter back to his/our world.
I liked the way, with each refinement of Dr. Silva’s research, the beetles got bigger, and thus grosser. So did the man’s ego; he compared himself to Jonas Salk and Louis Pasteur. And to be fair, he did have a noble intention, an avian-flu cure for which he had a grant, but the beetles and their ideal hosts — sheep — had died out a decade ago: “The world robbed me of my legacy,” he moaned. So he was driven to experiment, even if it meant the deaths of people like a guy who just wanted a piece o’ cheery pie. (Yes: another Twin Peaks-alert.)
Silva was trying to bring the “skelter beetle” back from extinction. Their scientific name was “Mansohnium Boogliosus” — all this a black-humored Beatles joke: “Helter Skelter” was a song Charles Manson played during the Tate-Labianca murders; Vincent Bugliosi wrote a best-seller (Helter Skelter) about the case. (Tip: For a better book on that subject, read Ed Sanders’ The Family — a book title that would also fit nicely into Fringe mythology.)
What am I forgetting: Oh yeah — Frank proposed to Olivia, Olivia accepted, Olivia thought she was infected by Silva, but it turned out to be morning sickness: she’s pregnant. (Didn’t you guess this from one of the earliest scenes, in which Olivia offered Frank wine while she drank water?) Frank did the math and knows the baby’s not his. Pause while we remember the Observer’s remark to Peter about how difficult it is to be a father.
I know: I left the big stuff for last. Joshua Jackson asserts in the terrific interview he gave Jeff Jensen that this is essentially an Olivia-centric season. While Peter is the human element that completes the “doomsday device,” it’s Olivia in her two versions and now one with a bun in the oven who’s going to, in Brandonate’s words, provide Walternate with “another way to bring Peter back from the other universe.” Personally, I think Jackson is selling Peter’s role in this season short — Jackson’s performance and Peter’s importance is very much on a par with Anna Torv’s and Olivia’s performance and importance, respectively. (And John Noble — that guy is operating on a brilliant level all his own.)
• How about “Bug girl” Foster and her crush on Charlie? Very amusing the way Fringe parodied the kind of lab rat/techno-wiz characters, those strenuously eccentric women, who pop up on lesser shows such as Criminal Minds. Mona Foster (sly Julie McNiven), with her black leather, her cat-eye frames, her caterpillar-y headband, and her lusty remembrance of treating Charlie for his “arachnid infestation” (“I got spiders in my blood,” croaked Charlie), may deserve another appearance, don’t you think?
Beyond that, what did you think of this week’s Fringe and the new developments? Just putting these questions out there: Are you 100% sure the baby is Peter’s? If so, what odds do you give the child for coming to term? And when/if the baby is born, what sort of imbalance does that theoretically happy event impose upon the two universes?