Since Fringe got the full 22 episode season there is noticeably less of a hurry to resolve those plot points that have so far been presented, and an opportunity to introduce some new ones.
‘Safe’ is almost entirely dedicated to the big story arc, and brings together a series of threads from previous stories. Continuing the trademark weird start, bad FBI Agent Mitchell Loeb and a team of ex-marines rob a bank using a technology that we saw previously that allows them to move through solid walls. It all goes well until they’ve got the object from the safe that they want; the technology has a time limit which the last man exceeds, leaving him stuck part way through a solid wall. Mitchell Loeb kills the trapped man, leaving a suitably strange mystery for the Fringe team to resolve.
But at its heart this entire story is more about what people don’t know, than what they do. Walter knows amazing things but can’t remember what he did years ago, or even Astrid’s name. Peter knows more than he generally offers to people. Nina Sharp knows she has John Scott still wired up to a machine and ready to resurrect, and all she needs is the part of his mind that is missing. David Robert Jones, the biochemist held in a prison in Frankfurt, knows what these bank robberies are all about, and that he’ll not be a prisoner for much longer. And dear Olivia Dunham knows things she shouldn’t, because they’re the memories of John Scott. Phew.
The joy of Fringe is the way that the story unwinds like a magical piece of string, starting implausibly knotted and ending neatly coiled. This story is massively convoluted, but, as usual, Walter is the key to everything, as it was he who put those items in the safe deposit boxes from which they’re being stolen. If only his brain worked in a conventional manner!
It turns out that what can be made once the pieces are all collected and assembled is a teleportation device, which Walter once intended to bring a scientist back through time to help him save Peter from a childhood illness. But getting to that point involves helping Walter retrieve his own memories, not an easy job at the best of times.
But what this does do is almost allow them to intercept the last robbery, and catch one of Loeb’s team.
Under clever interrogation by Peter they find out that the rest of the team is heading to a disused airfield, called ‘Little Hill’, the message given to David Robert Jones to save Agent’s Loeb’s life in a previous episode.
At the airfield, Walter’s device is being assembled, while in the prison Mr Jones is killing his lawyer so he’s got a suit to wear at the other end. The gizmo looks like it was made from surveyor theodolites and plumbing parts, but I sort of accepted that on the basis Walter made it.
On her way to the interception, Agent Dunham is ambushed and captured, presumably by Massive Dynamics people sent by Nina Sharp, but that’s an assumption Fringe might want me to make, so don’t hold me to that.
They transport Jones out of the prison. My first thought was that this seemed a bit over the top considering they have a device that can let them move through solid objects, but all the team are suffering with radiation sickness so perhaps Jones isn’t that stupid. But I did wonder why they didn’t pull him through time, avoiding all that waiting in the prison, or would that have caused a temporal paradox? Maybe.
In a final scene, Phillip Broyles rings Nina Sharp, who’s in London, to accuse her of taking Agent Dunham, but she coyly denies involvement. And that is where Fringe tantalisingly leaves us until the next episode ‘Bound’ is shown at the end of January!
This story represented an excellent setup, but I do wonder if with this gap, the notoriously fickle viewing audience will still be keen when the show returns.
Myself, I’m keen to understand more, and see if Walter can evolve to remember people’s names, and Olivia gets a life. But frankly, I’d tune in just to see some brilliant work by John Noble as the unique character, Walter Bishop, and everything else is a bonus.
Check out our review of episode 9 here.