4. Momentum Deferred
The first couple of Fringe stories this year didn’t exactly light my fire, although story three did have some genuine charm.
Momentum Deferred is possibly one of the best Fringe episodes yet, and hits exactly the right notes in precisely the right order. Why we’ve been forced to wait a month for Fringe to be kicked into high gear I’ve no idea, but I hope it can keep this momentum going.
It starts with an odd heist where the objective of the super-human shape-shifting robbers is a truck of frozen human heads. As with most Fringe openings I find it is best not to ask too many questions, like why people have their heads frozen, and why a company that does this would drive them around in trucks?
Roger Cross turns up as another solider from the other side, which is another sci-fi series he can now put a tick against, along with X-Files, The First Wave, Andromeda, Stargate SG-1, The Outer Limits, Enterprise, The 4400, to name just a few.
His accomplice in the heist is killed by one of the mortally injured guards, and leaves clues in doing so that start to unravel the story arc that was created in the season opener. The dead acomplice’s body is pumped full of mercury, which is how the shape-shifting trick works, although I didn’t notice anyone comment how heavy this might make them. Blood is roughly the same weight as water, around 8.5lbs per US gallon. Or 17lbs of blood in an average person, against about 225lbs of mercury in the same volume.
But I digress. He’s also got a shape-shifting gizmo, and this time it’s not broken.
This spells trouble for the one who has taken on Charlie’s appearance, but he has other problems as the body he’s in is starting to die. He consumes raw mercury from thermometers in an attempt to stabilise things, but he’s got limited time, it appears, before his personal barometer reads changeable.
Back at the lab, Walter is in fine form, getting Olivia to consume diced flat worms in an attempt to unlock her memories. Actually, she doesn’t need much encouragement, but it might have been better to let him flavour them with strawberries first.
The penny also drops that the body they found in the basement of the hospital wasn’t the shape-shifter, as she had no mercury in her blood. The hunt is on for him, and Walter decides to get the help of a young woman he experimented on many years ago, who could see those from the other dimension in her visions.
This is a really charming sequence, where Walter and Peter go to her house and discover the now middle-aged woman who Walter had feelings for. It’s played beautifully, as Peter tries to work out exactly what went on between them, with an almost permanent expression of incredulity.
She’s delighted to see Walter, which usually isn’t the reaction of his previous patients, and soon she’s back at the lab, wired up and being pumped full of hallucinogenic drugs. This doesn’t lead anywhere in particular, other than to make Walter act even more crazy than normal, amusingly, and to hint that Peter isn’t from this universe.
But what it does do is trigger the memory in Olivia of her meeting with William Bell, who Nimoy plays as a charming but divisive monster. He warns her that a war is coming between the two dimensions, and that a man with a symbol tattooed on his head will be open a gateway between them. This is the man whose head the soldiers are looking for, and by the end of this story they get it.
But the later part of this adventure is primarily about Olivia spiralling in on the shape-shifter, who is about to be revealed when Nina Sharp extracts the last transformation contained within the damaged (and now fixed) shape-shifting gizmo.
In a last gasp attempt to gain an advantage, the shape-shifter sends Olivia a text message while she’s with Nina Sharp telling her that Nina is the shifter. She meets up with ‘Charlie’ just as she’s sent an image confirming he’s the shape-shifter and a fight breaks out that she can’t really win. But she does because someone else intervenes allowing her to get to her gun.
In the final scene with see the head with the tattoo being reattached to another body using the mercury technology that the shifters use. The eyes open and it looks rather oddly like the actor Sebastian Roché, who was in 24, if I’m not mistaken.
Overall, this story was tightly plotted and delightfully executed, and avoided the narrative clunks that mucked up the season opener.
At one point I wondered if it was William Bell’s other head they were looking for, a perfect reference to the pilot for Futurama, where Fry talks to Leonard Nimoy’s head in a jar. Had a pizza boy arrived with an order for Astrid Farnsworth, I’d have laughed my socks off. But, alas, it was probably more a synaptic surge in my head, than anything intended. Shame.
I hope the quality of this story starts the viewing figures moving in the right direction, because after this I’m hungry for some more Fringe.
Read our review of episode 3 here.