Episode 13 of Fringe’s first season, entitled The Transformation, slightly disconcerted me on a number of levels, not least that it didn’t contain remotely enough John Noble, as the picture-cards-short-of-a-full-pack Dr. Walter Bishop. He’s why I watch this show, and if he’s going to get sidelined then, as charming as the other characters are, I can’t get over that it’s his personality that attracted me to the show initially.
This story also started with a plot and premise that they’ve already used this season, a man transforming on an aeroplane. Except this time he didn’t turn to goo, but instead into a werewolf, somewhat unbelievably. Actually by the time he’s been mutilated in a subsequent air crash he resembles Porcupine-man, which doesn’t actually sound as worrying.
While this seems to amuse Walter, it’s Olivia who’s having all the insight to cracking this case, as the transformee was a previous acquaintance of John Scott, her former partner and temporary resident of a small corner of her brain.
When it comes down to it, the story is really about that, and what the bit of John still resident inside her can reveal before he disappears when her mind purges him.
After a ‘gut feeling’ from Olivia it leads Charlie to a new contact, who, while being interrogated, starts his transformation. Luckily, Walter is on hand to tranquilise him, and slow his progression into a ‘beast’. But before going under he gives them the name of a reseller of biological weapons, Conrad. I was secretly hoping it was disgraced Lord Conrad Black, but it was just some bad dude they’d made up.
To find the truth, and for a least the third time (even though Walter said ‘no’ to her request previously), Olivia enters the immersion tank to find out about Conrad. While she’s there she meets and talks with John Scott, despite Walter previously saying that these were only memories and interaction was impossible.
John explains that he was actually a good guy, and not the traitor that he’s been portrayed a, which frankly I didn’t buy even if Olivia lapped it up!
The best part this week was when Olivia and Peter try to ensnare Conrad and his cronies by posing as purchasers of Biotech weapons interested in the man-beast virus. It’s a well played scene that injects some tension sadly lacking from the rest of the proceedings. Eventually, they get their man, and friends, allowing the closing scene to be Olivia going back in the tank to say goodbye to what is left of John’s personality.
Overall, this was better than the previous outing, but lacked the edge the show started with. I’m also disappointed with the number of things we’ve been told that now aren’t true, or absolutes that then are arbitrarily reversed. Olivia was told that she could suffer irreparable damage accessing the ‘John Scott’ parts of her brain, and in this episode she did it twice without anyone turning a hair. I need this show to be more consistent, and not break any walls it creates on a whim. I’m still enjoying it, but there needs to be some more solid foundations for the weirder aspects to be more plausible and acceptable.
I still like this show, but it needs to get a bit more wild and crazy than the mildly bizarre that it’s falling into becoming.
Check out our review of episode 12 here.