JJ Abrams’ Fringe episode 9 review

On Fringe this week is a butterfly effect that no-one has predicted.

The temptation to go back to the start with Fringe is never far from the surface, and this week the John Scott character has a major part to play. Not bad for someone who died some eight episodes ago, and for Mark Valley who plays him.

The trademark strange opening is about an executive of Massive Dynamics, who after giving a presentation is attacked by one and then hundreds of butterflies that cut him like they’re razor sharp. To escape them, he jumps through a window, before falling from a significant height to his death. The odd graphics, eerie music and mystery begins.

While examining the scene, Agent Dunham spots John Scott in the crowd of onlookers, and later on, gets an email containing an address where more toad-sized clues are found. He wasn’t there and didn’t send the email. It’s all in Olivia’s mind, where part of John’s conscious mind is hanging out, since he died. This isn’t much fun for FBI hard-body, Olivia. I mean the other week she almost had sex with someone, and who wants to do that when you have voices in your head saying, “You never did that to me!”?

The toads she found, it seems, are a source of a highly powerful psychotropic drug that produces an effect so dramatic that if you think you’re cut, a wound will actually open. This is a bit like the scene in the Matrix where they convince Neo that the injuries that he sustains in the virtual world will be made real by his body. I accept psychosomatic illness is real, but I can’t believe you can think flesh wounds to appear. But then this is just part of the craziness that you buy into when you tune into Fringe.

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Anyway, to access John’s memories Olivia decides to go back into the sensory depravation tank where she can stroll through John’s memories like she’s choosing pizza toppings. Except that this is actually quite dangerous, mostly because Walter is controlling the experiment, and he’s certifiably bonkers. At one point he blurts out to Olivia and Astrid that he has an erection, but that it’s a sign of a full bladder. That’s an excuse I must remember. Everyone should have at least one relative like Walter Bishop.

In her Dreamscape, the title of this week’s show, Olivia sees John in his memory of their first date and is convinced he sees her, even if Walter is equally convinced this is entirely impossible. What she also sees is John meeting with the Massive Dynamic employee who died and two other men, one of which he then kills.

The FBI must now find the only surviving man from that memory and discover what underhand corporation Massive Dynamic is really up to.

There is a tiny sub-plot about Peter’s past, which he’s catching up with, that I’m not going to document, because it’s just tiny crumbs about an ex-girlfriend and her aggressive boyfriend that don’t amount to much yet. But maybe in a future story it might, maybe.

They catch the person they’re looking for when Olivia decrypts the word ‘monarch’ into a phone number from the victim’s diary. When he’s captured he is hit by a car and ends up in hospital, where he asks to make a deal in which he’ll reveal all about Massive Dynamic. But before he can tell them everything, he hallucinates that John Scott slits his throat, and he dies. This bears all the mechanical handywork of Nina Sharp, who obviously enjoys the diversion of having the FBI run around in ever decreasing circles.

Olivia gets an email from the imaginary John Scott telling her that he saw her in the restaurant memory, so she goes to Walter and asks to enter the tank one more time, but he refuses to entertain that notion. It’s too dangerous, and she could die if they try, which convinces me that next week she’ll be dunked again.

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At last the bigger story arc is back, and about time too. The links between Massive Dynamic and the ‘pattern’ have been growing stronger, and patently obvious. While I’m convinced that Charlie is on their side, Phillip Broyles is starting to look like a person who controls them to avoid them finding the real truth, a damage limitation manager, if you will.

There is only one more story now un-shown, and I’ve not yet heard if any more will be shot, so Fringe could sadly conclude after another 45 minutes. But I hope it doesn’t. There isn’t anything else that’s quite as weird or entertaining at times as this one.

Check out our review of episode 8 here.