The third episode of Fringe's second season marks the return of The Observer. Even if he is only present for a couple of seconds at the very end of the episode, it's an important scene nonetheless, as it reveals more about what this mysterious figure is up to.
And it's not good.
Still looking for atypical cases that might lead them to what happened to FBI Agent Olivia Dunham during the hour and a half she was missing from the scene of the car crash in the season premiere, as well as trying to figure more about The Pattern and the people instigating it, the Fringe Division heads to Philadelphia to investigate an explosion with seemingly no explosives — at least, none that conventional science is aware of.
The explosive ends up being a person. Not a person with a bomb strapped to himself, but a person. Yes, that's right — the person himself exploded. After injecting himself daily with a serum he thought was to treat a chemical exposure he suffered in Iraq, Officer Gillespie was detonated by being subjected to a specific radio wavelength. The good part is that he first became a hard crystal, saving us from a messy, organs-and-tissue-everywhere scene.
Olivia and Peter, after a trip to Iraq (yes, THAT Iraq), figure out that Officer Gillespie isn't the only person who can potentially be used as a bomb, and race against time to identify the person behind this devious plan.
The episode's plot is simple enough; however, I did find it a little disturbing, and not because of the X-Files-worthy autopsy scene — if you can call the reassembly of Officer Gillespie's blown apart crystallized body pieces an autopsy (wouldn't I have loved to see Scully's face at that moment). I found this episode disturbing because it made me think of terrorist attacks, suicide bombers, and injustice in the world. I have to admit sometimes I do wish I could turn my brain off while watching fictional characters go about in a fictional world.
Officer Gillespie, who was detonated by Corporal Gordon without prior knowledge of his fate, isn't a suicide bomber, but rather a victim of the Corporal's plans to unveil the secrets of The Pattern. While Officer Gillespie thought he was being used as a way to help his country, he was actually being sent to his death.
I felt so bad for Officer Gillespie, who, first as a soldier and then as a police officer, sought to serve his fellow citizens only to have this great desire used against him and he had to pay the ultimate price for no reason other than Corporal Gordon's rogue investigation into The Pattern.
Where have Corporal Gordon's intentions gone so wrong? I don't know. But I do know that this happens all the time. Think about it: suicide bombers are not violent nor evil; but when they are brainwashed by manipulative people into believing that specific countries/religions/ethnicities are the enemy, the choice of becoming a suicide bomber can become, scarily enough, a logical choice born out of a desire to make the world a better place.
Don't get me wrong — I'm against violence and a firm believer in achieving peace through a consultative democratic process. But one has to face the reality of the situation to be able to deal with it, and to understand how, in a different conceptual framework, some things that shouldn't make sense actually do make sense.
And that, dear readers, scares the living daylights out of me.
On a lighter note (how did this become such a dark review?), another interesting plotline is that of Olivia's unconventional therapy. She was introduced in last week's episode to Sam by Nina Sharp, who told Olivia that he was the one to put her back together. I'm sure Olivia and I weren't the only ones expecting something more than a bowling alley; Olivia's skepticism about the so-called therapy dripped throughout the last episode and this one.
Olivia: Just by magic.
Sam: No. But that would be cool.
It's interesting that much of Olivia's lingering trauma seems to be caused by a mental barrier that Sam had to break down by basically frustrating the daylights out of her (lots of daylight going out of this post, no?). Doesn't it make you wonder just much of each person's problems, attributed to the outside world, actually comes from within? Too bad all bowling alleys aren't therapy-worthy; wouldn't the health care debate be very different then!
There unfortunately weren't that many Walter moments in this episode; only three are noteworthy. One involves Walter's excitement at leaving for Philadelphia to investigate the explosions: "This means bodies!"
The second one involves Peter and the Fringe Division's cow, Jean. As Peter bites into his sandwich, Walter berates him as Jean moos loudly in the background: “If you are going to eat that cheeseburger in here, could you at least be a little discreet!” Irritated, Peter bites again into his cheeseburger, only to have Jean moo at him again. Peter gives up, throwing his cheeseburger down, and the conversation goes back on its original track.
The last one is Walter's excitement, at the end of the episode, when they manage to save the captain from detonating. Again, disturbingly adorable.
I found the going-to-Iraq plotline seemed a little extreme. Why would Broyles approve of an expense that will be billed to a division already under fire for its expensive cost? But since it did give us the opportunity to find out a little more about Peter's past, I won't hold it against the writers too much. And that slight altercation with his contact Ahmed, who angrily told him off for looking out only for himself, wasn't only noted by Olivia.
Olivia: You're going to tell me what that was about?
Isn't it interesting the extent of the change in Peter's behaviour in the last year? From angry and moody, he became a devoted son and selfless public servant? His selfish manners just disappeared? He suddenly is best friends with his Dad? It seems even less plausible that the existence of The Pattern!
There is another detail that also bothered. At the end of the episode, when Peter and Olivia are in the train station, an interfering signal breaks their radio contact with the outside and disrupts the lights, screens, and consoles in the station — and yet, radio contact between Peter and Olivia remains unaffected?
I also would like to see Amy Jessup again, as well as her religious take on The Pattern. It's bound to make this show even more interesting, especially if the writers clash Walter Bishop's scientific point of view to Amy Jessup's religious one. That's one fight I'd love to watch.
I'm looking forward to seeing next week's installment of Fringe, but I have to admit that I want some answers sooner rather than later. And if there are any Fringe writers reading this, I'm sorry I sound so ominous.