2.17 Olivia. In The Lab. With The Revolver
To me, Fringe is a conundrum wrapped in a mystery disguised as a mirage. Because, if I break down the components, it sounds like the plot for an especially obtuse episode of Futurama. But after the majority of two seasons, I’ve really warmed to its slightly moody personal and melancholy manner. I’ve stopped thinking about the similarities between it and The X Files, and just enjoy where they decide to take us emotionally each week.
On the face of it, the story this week is notionally connected to the bigger plot, but in many respects it could so easily have been a standalone narrative. A man meets a lawyer looking to connect with other people who were the subjects of William Bell and Walter Bishop’s experiments (like Olivia), but in doing so he kills her with a lethal touch.
But the real shock element of the opening was that the female lawyer was the very easy-on-the-eyes Diane Kruger, the same one who supports Nic Cage when he goes looking for National Treasure and who also appeared in Inglourious Basterds as Bridget von Hammersmark. How they convinced her to be in this, I’ve no idea, but she’s dead before the credits materialise, so it’s a pleasant but disturbingly brief appearance.
The mystery of the man who can give people cancer is actually something of a backdrop to the real subtext of this story, which is about Olivia trying to rationalise her desire to tell Peter his true origins and Walter’s need to keep it a secret.
So, while the manhunt and action are at the front of the stage in dramatic terms, it’s actually what’s going on in Olivia Dunham’s mind that’s the real mystery here.
She returns to see the insomniac bowling alley owner, Sam Weiss, who does his usual but none the less entertaining Yoda act, by psychoanalysing Olivia’s sleep issues. He later turns up offering to play ‘Clue’ (Cluedo in the UK), which is where the title of the story originates.
As the events unfold, Olivia is determined to tell Peter, but by the end she’s been convinced, probably by an unseen conversation with Nina Sharp, that some secrets are best kept that way. But the irony is that, while entirely adverse to the idea at the beginning, Walter is the one who at the end has also flipped, and it’s his secret to keep or reveal.
Will Peter know in the next episode that Walter isn’t his real father, and this isn’t his dimension? Maybe, but I think they might keep that for the season finale.
What this show can deliver, when it’s in the frame of mind to, is a subtlety that many other TV shows sadly lack. I’m also finding that the core characters and their relationships are of interest to me, which means that it’s crossed a barrier that some shows never breach. And because of exactly that, I think Fringe deserves a third season, at the very least.
The plot of next week’s story seems almost identical to this one, involving mysterious deaths, but knowing Fringe there will be much more to it than appears at first sight.
Read our review of episode 16 here.