Earlier in this season I derided Fringe for reliving the past glories of X-Files with an especially light monster-of-the-week episode. But in retrospect, this show is capable of delivering much better stories with a similar feel, and Snakehead falls into that category.
This story was written by co-executive producer David Wilcox, who also wrote Fracture and has also contributed words to First Wave, Enterprise, Law & Order and the US Life On Mars. What he’s done here is take two interesting threads and woven them together.
The first is our basic monster plot where illegal immigrants arrive with their own personal stowaways, giant intestinal parasites. Nice visuals, although it did remind me of a classic X-Files where migrants carried something unpleasant. And, predictably, we get a sequential detective story where the Fringe team try to work out why these people got infected, and what the true purpose of the worms is.
Rather simplistically, the answer is Chinese medicine, which by definition involves the Triads and gives them an opportunity to employ Hong Kong actor Tzi Ma (Rush Hour) who is doing the rounds of America TV shows I’ve noticed this year.
If I’m not exactly selling this so far, it does have a silver lining, I can assure you.
The other thread is that Walter is going through his transition from institutionalised life back to a more normal existence, and is desperate to get back his independence.
When we first see him he’s like a child on his first day at school, confident and well dressed. But as the story progresses he soon finds himself marooned by his own inability to remember small details, like the piece of paper containing Peter’s phone number in his pocket.
His disintegration is wonderful portrayed by John Noble, who does more acting in the screen time he gets here than some Hollywood stars have contributed in their last five blockbusters.
What I also loved was the much overdue involvement of Astrid (Jasika Nicole) here, and the strong relationship they’ve formed. Walter’s reaction when he realises that she’s been hurt when he inadvertently mentioned they had a four foot worm in the lab to a triad representative is heartfelt.
Whatever happens, ultimately, to this show, John Noble needs to be snapped up fast by another show runner, because without him Fringe would be a much less interesting universe.
His final acceptance to Peter that independence is great, but being lost isn’t, finishes out the best monster episode of this season, and probably one of the most entertaining of the entire series.
Overall, I’m feeling more confident about this series; the second season progresses and the viewing figures for this story aren’t very far behind the high of the season opener. That’s a solid base, and, if anything, the numbers have got steadily better since the low of episode six. But then, with so many science fiction shows being terminated or going on extreme hiatus, there are plenty of geeks needing their weirdness hit each week.
I think they could do much worse than Fringe, and I’m excited to see what the next instalment brings as I’m told it involves the return of the Machiavellian William Bell (Leonard Nimoy).
Read our review of episode 8 here.