Fringe recap: In Which We Meet Mr. Jones All Over Again
A fan fave villain returns to terrorize the rebooted parallel worlds (and give the season a much needed jolt) in 'Enemy Of My Enemy'
The introduction of David Robert Jones during Fringe’s rookie season was a defining moment, as it super-charged the creatively struggling series with something it sorely needed: An electrifying force of antagonism, a character that could put a face on “The Pattern” of terrible weird science terrorism tearing the multiverse asunder. The mischievously malevolent biochemist fit the diabolical bill, and Jared Harris (now equally well-known to us for his work in Mad Men and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows) rocked the juicy part written for him. Even though DRJ made only a few additional appearances after his debut (in an episode entitled, appropriately, “In Which We Meet Mr. Jones”), the remainder of season 1 benefited from the very idea of his threatening presence. His death – cleaved in half while crossing between worlds — was both a signature moment and a major loss. Ever since, fans have hoped that the show could find a credibly incredible way to bring him back. Something like, say, a timeline reboot?
And so it went that Jones returned to the Fringe fold in full in last night’s episode, “Enemy Of My Enemy,” and at a moment in the life of the show when he was very much needed. While I wouldn’t say season 4 is struggling a la season 1, I do think the storytelling — hindered by Fox’s scheduling strategy; slowed by so much set-up of the reboot construct as well as Peter’s return and assimilation — needed a kick in the ass. Mission mostly accomplished. While I found “Enemy…” to be one of the most entertaining episodes so far in this still-young season (we’re not even halfway through yet!), I’m still struggling to buy into the very thing that made DRJ’s return even possible: The reboot. Regardless, things are moving, and last night was much fun thanks to Harris, who was clearly having a cut-loose blast. To paraphrase a certain spacey rock star: “Ground control to Mr. Jones — you’ve really made the grade.”
His reintroduction was chilling. Agents Bolivia and Blincoln – seeking the true mastermind behind the shapeshifter conspiracy plaguing both worlds — raided a warehouse in the muddy Flatiron District of “over there” Manhatan and found the baddie waiting for them. Jones cut a creepy visage. Pale and wheezy, damaged, blood-tinted right eye, face flaking and pocked with scars – a functional wreck, banged and dinted from too much self-abusing teleportation. (But I did covet the man’s stylish peacoat.) He ignored the guns pointed in his direction and drifted toward a tube containing one of his shapeshifter creations, a former bookkeeper for an accounting firm. “Can you imagine anything more lifeless?” Jones asked. He clearly believed his biomechanical makeover had improved her life. She was special. We all want to be special. Don’t we? The mad scientist admired his homemade Lady Frankenstein and rhapsodized: “I suppose this is what it feels like to have a child. To love, as a parent does.” He claimed he had made 47 of these things so far (did you buy the number?), and off a dramatic beat, Jones declared all of them to be “pahhhrfect.” Suddenly, the shapeshifter began to thrash as the water inside her oversized test-tube began to bubble. Her body wasted away into a ghoulish husk. Jones nearly wept, though yes, he had killed her. Why?! To prove he was a stone-cold bastard. “If I’m willing to do that to someone I love dearly,” he said, “imagine what I’ll do to people I don’t care about.” What Jones wanted was something only the agents’ bosses could provide, so he held out his wrists to be cuffed. “Take me to your leader,” he cracked, unable to suppress a wicked grin. Bolivia’s eyes bugged. Who the hell does this guy think he is?!?
Their leader, of course, was Colonel Broyles, now a mole in Jones’ employ. (A shapeshifter? Presumably, not confirmed.) At Fringe Division HQ in NYC (not Liberty Island, as I said last week), while being “interrogated” by his minion under the watchful eye of secretary of defense Walter(nate) Bishop, DRJ made his demands: He wanted a hard drive that belonged to another one of his mecha-morphs, the recently deceased Dr. Fayette, Walternate’s former chief science officer, and he wanted the disc in 12 minutes. Anything else? Jones thought about it, then oozed casual evil: “Ummm… I wouldn’t mind a cup of tea.” An amusing quip for any actor, milked for LOL brilliance by Jared Harris. It was all about the “ummm.” And the twinkle in his blood-stained Terminator-red eye. Hey: Do you think DRJ has augmented himself with shapeshifter tech, too?
NEXT: The Airborne Toxic Event.
Things got interesting — and tragic – when well-meaning Peter offered to intervene and get more intel out of him. The historically displaced exile knew DRJ from the other timeline, and while this DRJ wasn’t his DRJ, Peter figured that if DRJ 2.0 was enough like DRJ 1.0, then he’d be able to mess with him. Peter wasn’t wrong, and he got under Jones’ skin by analyzing the scars on the fiend’s face, and postulating that Jones probably acquired them by attempting to remedy the physical degeneration caused by using teleportation tech to escape a Frankfurt prison. Got all that? (See: “Safe” from season 1.) The Fringe world Moriarty was genuinely rattled by Peter’s Sherlock Holmes profiling. And I loved the moment when Jones responded to Peter’s narrative of DRJ 1.0’s death with a BOING! of raised eyebrows. Nonetheless, Peter’s gambit failed, and when the 12 minutes were up, Fringe Division got a call from one of Jones’ lackeys, a woman masquerading as a doctor in a hospital’s E.R. ward. With the Fringe Division team and Jones listening in speaker phone, Dr. Shifter activated an aerosol bomb, then skipped out and locked the doors shut with a crutch. Then the screaming began. Everyone inside – 16 people – died a gruesome, gaseous death. I totally dug the hand that slapped against the window and slid away, leaving behind a chunk of bloody palm. DRJ promised more attacks – and larger death tolls – unless he got his hard drive. They gave it to him, then let him go. Advantage: Jones.
(Correct me if I’m wrong – and I know you will – but in last week’s episode, didn’t we hear a snippet of the song “Changing” by The Airborne Toxic Event while Olivia and Peter were in the car? That there was some clever foreshadowing, people. Also, the lyrics strike me as meaningful to Fringe 4.0, even if the application, at this point, remains elusive: “You were just always talking about changing, changing/But what if I was the same, then/The same I always was?”)
Fringe Division wasn’t really about to let the terrorist go so easily. Jones had gotten his cup of tea — spiked with some microscopic tracer junk. The agents followed DRJ to a coffee shop. They nervously watched him as he nervously waited to make his move. As the stroke of lunch hour, the street flooded with hungry pedestrians, and DRJ reached into a rubbish bin and pulled out a crumpled sack containing a thermos and a wad of cash. He drew a crowd by handing out free money. The bills were sprinkled with the same tracer stuff that was in his bloodstream, hence confusing the agents’ ability to track him. DRJ used the cover of the greedy masses to lose his pursuers. A swig from the thermos killed the tracer bugs in his bloodstream. Under the watchful eye of mole man Broyles, Jones got in a black car and sped away. Once again, Advantage: Jones. (P.S. Unless I am horribly mistaken, I’m pretty sure I saw The Observer – or one of his kind – passing though the crowd during this sequence. Did you?)
The reason Jones wanted Fayette’s hard drive was that it contained info about a mineral known as amfilocite (sp?). Peter explained that in his timeline, William Bell had used the substance to make a battery that DRJ stole to power the device that he used to punch holes between universes. Team Fringe – which had copied the contents of the hard drive before giving it away — thought they had beaten their quarry to a rock quarry… until Peter realized that DRJ had set them up. The baddie was doing his mining in the “over here” world. Peter and Lincoln zipped back to their side of the quantum divide and joined Olivia and Broyles for a confrontation with Jones and his shapeshifter posse. A shoot-out ended when DRJ ‘ported back over to the “over there” world with a truck loaded with 100 pounds of amfilocite. When last seen, Jones was triumphantly live-chatting with his partner in crime: Nina Sharp. He declared that “phase one” was complete. Phase two? “In due time. We’re working on her. She’ll be ready soon,” wrote Sharp – a reference to Olivia. What’s their master plan? And how does Nina’s secret drugging of Agent Dunham fit into their scheme? Here’s my theory: Nina and DRJ want to use the
Doomsday Machine Salvation Machine magical electromagnetic waffle iron to create a new universe with a new version of history, one customized to their specifications and ambitions. To accomplish that, they need a tremendous amount of power (see: the amfilocite), and they need Olivia – activated with cortexiphan abilities – to serve as the human software, in the same way that Peter functioned as the programming for the machine in his timeline. Problem: Olivia will be killed as a result. (See: The Observer’s prophecy that in all possible futures, Olivia will die.) At least, that’s what I’m thinking this week. What’s your theory?
NEXT: The Conversion of St. Scatterbrained
“Enemy Of My Enemy” had a subplot that finally gave Walter his motivation for helping Peter. Last week, I said that I was frustrated by the rationale for Walter’s resistance – devastated by the death of his Peter, humbled by the hubris of trying to save Walternate’s Peter (and wracked by guilt for causing the boy’s death), Walter simply wanted nothing more to do with any more Peters – and that I wanted to reach through the telly and slap some sense into him. He got that slap last night in the form of Walternate’s wife, Elizabeth – a woman who, of course, is a dead ringer for Walter’s own Elizabeth, long deceased. The second she walked into the “over here” lab, my heart broke for Walter. The sight of this woman – this doppelgänger of his lost love — rocked his rocky-headed world all over again. In that disorientation, I think he experienced a moment of heavenly bliss. Then the truth settled in, and he sobered up, sadly. It was a great moment — one of the best this reboot paradigm has produced. I was harsh on last week’s Walter and Elizabeth storylines. While I stand by my complaints, I do recognize in retrospect those beats were necessary to set up this lovely bit of drama.
Elizabeth was emboldened to make a trip to the other side after Walternate candidly confessed he couldn’t help Peter get back to his timeline. He had looked at the blueprints and couldn’t see how he could recalibrate the machine. (Walternate, a very smart man, nonetheless lacks Walter’s mad genius. Of course, he lacks the plain old madness, too.) He mulled with mild bitterness the irony of Walter’s refusal to assist Peter, given the lengths he had gone to save Walternate’s boy decades earlier. Elizabeth – whose encounter with Peter last week had been a balm to her own pained soul and had left her mobilized to help this peculiar iteration of her lost son – realized she was uniquely qualified to change Walter’s mind. “The last time I saw you, you had come to save a boy’s life,” she told the shell-shocked scientist. “Now I’ve come to do the same.” Over tea with honey (just the way his Elizabeth liked it, too), Walter said he believed that God or some such deity was forever punishing him for his past actions. He also believed he deserved it. “There is no absolution for me,” he said. For this version of Walter, the living world is actually a living hell. It was clear that Elizabeth didn’t buy into Walter’s religious framework for his suffering. But she did believe in redemption, and she knew the secret ingredient that it requires. “I forgive you, Walter,” she said. “I forgave you a long time ago. And if I can, God can.”
Walter was moved. Biting back on his lingering fears, Walter made a winded walk across the Harvard campus to his old home, the one now occupied by another fearful soul, Peter, who earlier in the episode confessed that he was becoming increasingly worried that his old universe was getting further and further away from him. “I used to think I was an expert in loss,” Walter explained. “”Perhaps that’s the reason you’re here. Perhaps I still have things to learn.”
NEXT: More good things, and a quibble about coats.
I was touched by Peter’s touched reaction to Walter’s humility and change of heart. “I just spent the last several days with the other Walter, and I was very surprised to learn he was not the man I thought he was,” Peter said. “I’m not at all surprised that you are.”
“Is that a good thing?” Walter asked.
“Yes, Walter. That is a very good thing.”
And so it went that “Enemy Of My Enemy” united the warring Fringe Divisions against a common foe (not that it’ll keep the Olivias from shooting snarky glances and smiles at each other) and left Peter in an interesting place. The drama of the last two weeks has seen him transition from detached neutrality in regard to the conflict between the two worlds and the shapeshifters (“This is not my fight!”) to engaged investment. Peter – screwing on his hero – realized that his past life experience with David Robert Jones made him an asset. It would be wrong to deny the good guys his expertise. But now he’s also got Walter on his side, applying his big old brain to the problem of getting him home. How Peter has changed – combined with what he has gained — during this two-parter sets up the potential for a difficult choice. What if Walter succeeds at modifying the machine before the conflict with DRJ (and Nina) has been resolved? In fact, what if Walter figures out a fix at the exact moment when his new friends need him the most? Will he stay? Will he go? We shall see.
There were other various bits that I really loved, like Walter’s experiments with molecular gastronomy (Liquefied pastrami and parmesan ice cream? My sentiments exactly, Astrid: “Disgusting!”), the comraderie between Blincoln and Bolivia (we learned that he’s been a comfort to her through a recent break-up, boyfriend unknown), Walternate biting back on biting off Lincoln’s head when the agent dared to challenge his decision to let DRJ go (I think if it had been Blincoln instead of a guest from another universe, Walternate wouldn’t have been so gracious), and “over there” Astrid geeking put on Peter’s alt-history otherness. (By the way: Did it seem to you as it did to me that “over there” Astrid doesn’t ever look Col. Broyles directly in the eye? Regardless: I appreciate the ways actress Jasika Nicole shades her Astrids.) One thing that did bother me: I was sometimes confused which Lincoln was which. The color coded coats weren’t enough for me.
Your turn. Opine. Theorize. Discuss. See you back here next week.