JJ Abrams’ Fringe episode 16 review

The Fringe team become bait when something nasty gets unleashed...

In my last review of Fringe I vented somewhat on the treatment that this show got, as it showed real promise, I thought.

This week I’m going to flip-flop somewhat because, for one, it now appears that the show has got a second season. Something I hadn’t anticipated, and depending on how the rest of the season goes, it’s a show I’ll be happy to see return.

But back to the latest episode, Unleashed, which drives its long fangs into a juicy monster story that is so evocative of the X-Files that it could so easily have been lifted from that series.

The story starts with some animal rights protesters breaking into a test lab at night to release the animals, and getting significantly more than they bargained for.

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The creature they release kills them all, and a man who comes when they trigger a silent alarm, leaving them horribly mutilated. As with all good monster yarns, we don’t get to see the creature at this stage, and its full appearance is actually held till the last few minutes. But this allows the tension to build as the complexities of what looks like a straightforward animal attack are slowly revealed.

The first curiosity is that the creature appears to have hybrid features taken from a number of different creatures. But which ones and how was it created? Walter does much soul searching over whether he’s indirectly responsible, as he once tried unsuccessfully to make such a hybrid. Another dimension is added when, following a sighting Charlie investigates, he’s attacked and a stinger is left in his shoulder.

Initially this doesn’t appear to be a problem, but soon one of the activist’s bodies explodes, releasing many small offspring. Charlie has been impregnated, and the only possible solution requires a blood sample of the creature.

From this point it almost becomes like a hero/monster myth, where they lure the creature with its own young in the sewers in the hope they’ll survive the encounter and save Charlie. If you’re interested to find out if he does make it ,then you can watch the show. I won’t spoil it here.

As simple as the premise is, this is actually one of the best written episodes so far, with some fantastic dialogue for Walter, who takes even his extreme persona to new levels of strangeness.

In the final confrontation with the creature, he isolates Peter and Olivia in an attempt to protect them and deal with it himself. As a precaution against likely failure he also consumes poison so that, should he be eaten, then the creature would also die. In the end, he actually shoots it while it’s trying to attack them, and he has an antidote for the poison. The creature isn’t that impressive when the CGI version appears, but by then, with the small glimpses we get, it’s served its purpose to crank up the tension.

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There is a very small subplot that hints at jealously of Olivia for her sister who appears to be getting on very well with Peter, but this is clearly something for later exploitation.

Yes, the story was a bit man-in-a-suit in many respects, but I really enjoyed the character development it allowed Charlie, and Walter was as magnificent as ever.

Check out our review of episode 15 here.