Well, here’s some good news. Fringe SHOULD be back for a fourth season. It looked the Friday Night Death slot straight in the eye and never blinked. In fact, the ratings have remained steady (after a slight tick down following the move) which is great news. The showrunners were told that if they could maintain their slightly anemic Thursday levels on the much-less crucial Friday night slot then “the show could run for years to come“.
Well – they’ve done that. In fact, I just read an article where John Noble (Walter Bishop) said they were told they could conceivably lose 50% of their viewers and Fox would let them stay on the air. That’s roughly 2 million live viewers (not counting the DVR viewings). As of last Friday, Fringe has kept its head above 4 million. So – I think we’re safe.
The bubble shows will know their fate in May but I think this one is one with a healthy prognosis. Good news indeed.
Enough about that. Let’s explore the Fringe.
1. When I first saw the title, I assumed we were heading into cyber creep territory – with ‘os‘ subbing for operating system. Gotta’ pay more attention to the capitalization. ‘Os‘ is the shortname for the chemical element osmium – the densest natural element. And that is why I didn’t need to pay any attention to High School Chemistry. I could learn this stuff years later and have more fun doing so.
2. One thing Fringe does exceptionally well is craft excellent teasers. As I mentioned in my ‘Subject 13‘ post, this is one of the more cinematic shows on TV – with every image burnished to a sheen. The directors they employ have such an amazing eye towards scene composition – and that snowy prologue a few weeks back was some of the best TV I’ve enjoyed in awhile. Director Brad Anderson (The Mechanic) matched it with his opening gambit in ‘Os‘. Using some inventive camera angles, he pulled a bait and switch on us. While it first appeared that our intrepid thieves were ascending a wall and then scampering on the ceiling – the rug was pulled out as we realized they were completely flaunting gravity and floating back down to Earth where weighted boots kept them from floating off into space. As one crook got gunned down and almost floated off in pursuit of a parade route, we got the real kicker. That’s how you start a TV show.
3. While I enjoyed this episode, it took a little while to get going. I think the playful interplay between Olivia and Peter was a bit forced. I like seeing them drop the angst (which no doubt will return when Olivia discovers what’s growing in Fauxlivia) but some of it was just a wee bit too cutesy. Oh well – we need some sunny moments after all the universe destroying darkness, so if they want to moon over a pizza pie, who am I to rain on that?
4. It was nice to see Hurley gracing a JJ Abrams joint once again. Of course, our beloved Hugo has been tapped to costar in Abrams big Fall pilot, the sci-fi tinged adventure Alcatraz – so I imagine this was just a little cameo cookie given to Jorge Garcia but it would be good to see him back on a recurring basis. He had such a fine rapport with his new boss Walter who we learned once took a pass at Yoko. What could Lennon do – “it was the Seventies”?
5. Speaking of guest stars – Man, has Cameron Frye aged? Yup, that was Alan Ruck as the well meaning mad scientist of the week. While Ferris Bueller may have once been his hero, in this episode, he was aiming to be the star to his son – a parapalegic basketball champ. What the boy didn’t know is that his Dad was working to perfect a formula that would allow him to walk again; using other guys with similar ailments as his trial subjects. As Peter remarked – for guys confined to a wheelchair, the option of flying must have been too great an offer to refuse.
6. Unfortunately, there were kinks that needed to be worked out. In zero gravity, 10% of body mass is lost very quickly and that only compounds the more you experience it. These guys were feeling the effects of the osmium hybrid’s benefits countered against the very real pull of gravity. While they had weighted moon boots to keep them attached to terra firma, internally their bodies were beginning to break down.
7. Once the doc was collared, Walter asked him how he had done it – and it turns out, like a lot of scientific discovery, it was done by accident. While working on a military project to create a metallic alloy coating for jets, one that would be bulletproof and super-light, the doc combined two of the densest minerals on Earth and somehow created something lighter than air. He then began working to liquify it and introduce it to the blood – in hopes that he could inject this into his son and finally free him from the chair. The thing is, the son didn’t want it. He was happy with his life and in a heart-tugging exchange, he said he went to bed happy each night – knowing he had a Dad who loved him. The parallels to Walter and Peter are apt.
8. As Fringe does so well (so much better than The X-Files ever did), the “monster of the week” episode neatly dovetailed with the overall mythology. This random event – mixing the two dense elements together to create something lighter than air – was not an accidental discovery of our natural world – but another abomination created by Walter’s tampering with multiple worlds. It flew in the face of physics and Walter deduced it was another sign that the universe is shredding.
9. As if that reveal wasn’t enough, we got two more big ones.
10. First, we finally got a glimpse into what Peter was doing in hunting down those sleeper shapeshifters – using their “hearts” as a neural processor. As he put it, his face is the poster child for universal destruction so he’s chasing any end to find a means to stop it all.
11. But the big reveal was saved for the end – as the idea of “soul magnets” (glimpsed in William Bell’s secret files) paid off . While the show winked at us early on – when Nina and Walter rang Walter’s bell and waited for him to walk through the door, we got a jump cut to Peter’s secret stash – where Olivia was getting the full tour. And as all of the elements came together, William Bell ‘stepped from the shadows’ – his cadence attached to Olivia’s voice. A creepy cool way to end an evening and a potent sequence pregnant with possibility.
That’s all for now. Tune in next week for Episode 3.17 – ‘Stowaway‘.