“Fringe”: The Ghost Network

Posted by SH

Ever since its fairly original pilot, Fringe has been checking off a greatest-hits lineup of paranormal storylines. Last week, it was the bit about cloning. This week, it’s the man-is-envisioning-disasters-before-they-happen story. But thankfully the writers keep finding other ways to keep things fresh, sprinkling plot twists and bits of mystery about the characters’ pasts throughout.

We start off with a guy — let’s call him Roy, because that’s his name — going to a confessional, asking his priest to take away the pain. He’s also saying something ominous about a bus. Cut to — uh oh — a bus where a well-dressed man calmly puts on a gas mask and opens a container of noxious fumes. He exits while the other passengers are left to be encased in some strange material that puts them in a fossil-like state. Later on, after the mystery behind this is revealed, it’s not really clear why such an elaborate scheme was perpetrated. It turns out one of the passengers — a DEA agent — was carrying something that someone else wanted. Allegedly, in her briefcase. So why not just mug her or something? Then again, that wouldn’t exactly make it Fringe-worthy.

Olivia is called to the scene from the funeral of her lover/traitor. How long ago did he die, exactly? This has to be the most delayed funeral in TV history. But it’s good for one line, and for giving the heretofore underused Kirk Acevedo the spotlight. When Olivia laments that John “told me he loved me,” Acevedo’s character Charlie looks pained, and says, “I didn’t want to have to tell you this. But he told me he loved me, too.” It works perfectly, because at first it seems wholly inappropriate, then almost immediately hilarious. Favorite moment of the show, by far. And let’s get that petition going to get Acevedo cast in a movie as Al Pacino’s son.

Peter and Walter are having breakfast in a diner when they get the call. Walter answers, flummoxed over this newfangled cellphone thingie, because Peter is busy threatening a mysterious photographer who has been following him. If the snapper tells anyone he’s back, he says, there’ll be hell to pay. Who might be interested is still a mystery.

An anonymous tip comes in about the dude from the beginning with the visions, and Walter identifies him as having psychic ability. And as a former guinea pig in one of his experiments. There’s a magnetic compound in his blood that allows him to intercept psychic messages — an offshoot of something Walter once worked on called The Ghost Network, which the government was interested in for developing new methods of communication among its agents. So now it’s just a matter of tapping into the guy’s brain to hear what comes next. This leads to an unfortunate sequence where Peter and Olivia visit the Bishops’ old house to retrieve an essential piece of brain-reading equipment hidden in one of the walls. It could have been a nice, revealing look into Peter’s past, but instead is an awkward bit of nonsense, in which Peter proceeds to jimmy open the door in front of an aw-shucks Olivia (as an FBI agent, you’d think it would take more to impress her; and besides, hello, law-breaking in progress!) and then needlessly tool around the house while the owners are gone. What was the point, dramatically, of nobody being home? To show Peter is a rebel? And the ultimate tease is Olivia asking about Peter’s mother, and him telling her in lazy screenwriter speak that “That’s a story for another time.” Or another episode, you mean.

The brain tapping works, and Olivia runs down to a train station to disrupt an exchange between yet another crooked federal agent and someone else in a suit. Said agent is killed by his fellow exchanger, and then the killer throws himself (but not his package) in front of a bus instead of facing his FBI captors. What was worth all the killing and plot contrivances? Who the hell knows? It’s circular, whatever it is. And it finds a final resting place at Massive Dynamic, where it apparently is part of a puzzle to something that reveals a picture that looks like something. Yeah, kinda vague. But it has a connection with the maybe not-so departed John Scott, whose dashing corpse lies in state at the company’s lab, apparently still awaiting questioning.

At this point, I’m more interested in what’s up with Peter, who from the looks of things has some kind of secret-society past to avoid. And even if you can’t tell where the Massive Dynamic/The Pattern storyline will ultimately end up, you can kinda see the next few steps. So we’ll wait dutifully for that to unfold while we uncover more dirt on Peter and look for more signs that he and Olivia want to jump each other. You know it’s so on with those two.