There is a point when I’m trying to decide if I like a show or a movie when I set out quite clearly in my mind what it is that I like about that production, and if what I’m watching delivers that.
For this show, if I listed the show’s unique factors, at the top of that list would be the Lewis Carroll inspired mind of Walter Bishop, possibly followed by the laconic personalities of Peter Bishop and the feisty yet fragile Agent Olivia Dunham.
If a Fringe episode has those key elements in exactly the right mix it will work, unless the story is complete junk.
I mention this only because episode 3, Fracture manages to hit that perfect tone and is by far the strongest outing the show has managed this year.
It all starts in typical fashion with a police officer receiving a mobile phone call while his partner is getting coffee. Leaving his sidekick he drives to a railway station with instructions to meet a man dressed in black with a back suitcase. That didn’t seem an entirely exceptional sight in a rail station, but he finds the man he’s looking for before something weird happens, and he solidifies before exploding.
The rest of the show is essentially a detective story where Fringe tries to piece together (literally) the events in the station, their connection to soldiers who suffered poisoning with a nerve agent in Iraq, and try to stop the next exploding person.
That might seem rather mundane, and for the most part is, but it’s the personal interactions between the characters that really made it sing for me.
Walter is in fine form, as he determines what actually happens and then starts to reassemble the police officer from the crystallised parts of him embedded in other victims of the blast. Towards the end of the show, he’s almost entirely rebuilt the man, and I wonder if he’s likely to become a permanent fixture of the Fringe lab when he’s complete.
While he’s working there is some good and well overdue interaction with Astrid, whose name he can now remember even if he does call her ‘Agent Farnsworth’. The other pairing is Peter and Olivia, who go on a trip to Iraq to find out what project Tin Man was all about, and how it indirectly created exploding people. This is the part of the show I least liked, as I didn’t for one minute accept they’d left Vancouver (where production is usually based). The whole thing with Olivia dressing in local clothing seemed theatre, but I guess it made some sense.
The man with all the answers is Colonel Raymond Gordon, played by TV and film stalwart Stephen McHattie. When they eventually catch up with him he explains that a war exists between our dimension and the other, and his exploding ex-troops were pre-emptive strikes against the information gathering exercise of the other side.
Eventually we get to see the contents of the briefcase when one is handed to the observer, which appears to contain photo images of Walter.
So what does all that mean? My guess is that I made an understandable assumption when I saw the grave of Peter in the end of season one, that the Peter we know was, in fact, from the other dimension. But perhaps he’s the original one and the grave is the Peter from the other dimension? And, extrapolating that, perhaps it’s Walter who’s the man who shouldn’t be here.
However, if you want to really twist your noodle, we’ve had no proof that the Olivia we’ve seen is from this dimension either, so there could be plenty of twists being loaded in the background.
Next week sees the welcome return of William Bell (Leonard Nimoy), who is unlikely to always be anyone’s friend in this context.
Read our review of episode 2 here.