Fringe: Ability — Now We’re Getting Somewhere

Posted by SH

Lots of payoffs with this episode. The wonderfully slimy Jared Harris is back as Dr. Jones, the guy who teleported himself out of a German prison, and is now set on finding Olivia. Nina Sharp is back, eager to help Olivia with her innocent inquiries into a mysterious drug. We learn more troubling news about Walter’s past, and best of all, we get to see some faces melt!

Well, they don’t melt exactly. But the skin grows enough to where it covers every orifice, suffocating everyone it afflicts. Apparently it’s attached to a set of $2 bills. I always knew those were trouble.

When a harmless newsstand operator dies in that manner, Olivia is convinced it’s the work of Jones, and the manhunt is on. She grills Loeb, who tells her nothing she does at this point will have any bearing on anything. Thanks a lot, pal. But the hunt is over as quickly as it begins when Jones pulls a Kevin Spacey, a la Se7en, and turns himself in to the FBI. He says he’ll speak only with Olivia. Harris is having none of it, sending Olivia on a raid of a possible safehouse while he handles Jones’ interrogation personally. That goes nowhere, and meanwhile, another agent dies after touching a $2 bill.

This was great on two fronts: First, we get the face-melting, and second, it employed the time-honored tradition made famous in Star Trek known as the “Yeoman Johnson” theory. Remember when Kirk, Spock, McCoy and some anonymous dude in a red shirt beam down to a dangerous planet? One of them dies, and it ain’t anyone whose name you know. The dude who picks up the $2 bill was introduced earlier by singling him out for some stellar police work. The scene seemed a bit extraneous at the time, but it’s supposed to add a bit more depth to his demise. We also learn he was only 27, and that he was to be married soon. All together now, awwwww! But hey, could we get his name? No? All right then. Agent Johnson it is.

There’s more Star Trek tomfoolery, which makes me wonder how closely J.J. Abrams was watching, given his reboot of the franchise debuting this summer. Olivia makes reference to Jones being able to “Star Trek” himself out of prison. I know the reference is valid, but it sure doesn’t hurt things on the synergy front.

Jones finally gets his sit-down with Olivia, and he has more hoops for her to jump through. Go get a key, which opens a box, which contains a series of tests for her. He also tells her she was abducted because they wanted to be sure she was in fact who they thought she was. Someone who is carrying a rare drug inside her body — Cortexi-something or other — that was patented by Massive Dynamic. Apparently it gives her certain psychic abilities, like being able to turn off light bulbs at will. Once she passes this test, he can tell her where he’s hidden a device that will kill hundreds of people the same way as the other victims died.

Oh, and Jones is suffering some funky side effects from the teleportation. Coughing, wheezing, cardiac arrest. We’re led to believe he’s going to soon be jelly, but Fringe isn’t about to waste such a great villain.

Helping understand a bit of his madness is a manifesto written by an unknown author that outlines what is essentially the Fringe storyline involving the Pattern. Apparently it’s a war between two dimensions of reality struggling to survive, and only one will. Jones seems to believe in it fully, and he is honored to the point of silence when he finally meets Walter. Why? More on that later.

Olivia pays a quickie visit to Massive Dynamic and Nina Sharp, who is suspiciously eager to help, and also nursing an injured hand. When asked about the drug Jones mentioned, Sharp says it was tested in 1981 at an Ohio college, and that it was given to children in the hopes of keeping their mind filled with the limitless potential we all lose as we get older. Olivia is relieved, because at the time of the testing, she was living on an Army base in Jacksonville, Fla.

Newly convinced Jones is full of dung, Olivia schemes with Peter to rig the board of light bulbs to turn off automatically, hopefully fooling Jones into believing she did it. It seems to work, with Jones giving up the location of the bomb. When they find it, however, the only way to disarm it is by Olivia using her powers to turn off yet another board of bulbs. Jones reveals he knew her initial demonstration was phony, but seems to have predicted just this outcome. Olivia pushes everyone away, determined to disarm the bomb. To her astonishment (and that of Peter, who initially fled but then came back), she’s successful, with two seconds to spare.

She tries to convince herself that it was all a trick somehow, but when she goes to visit Jones in the hospital, he has busted free, leaving a large hole in one wall, and “You Passed” scribbled on another. Walter had revealed moments before that teleportation does something unspeakably awful to you, but it doesn’t kill you. Do tell.

Olivia gets a call later that night from Nina Sharp, telling her that the drug she asked about was indeed tested at another location, but on a much smaller scale: an Army base in Jacksonville, Fla.

The coda is a Jagged Edge homage, with Walter reading more of the manifesto, then seemingly overcome with dread at the odd appearance of the letter “y” in the type-written document. He gets down his old typewriter, presses “y” and notices it’s a match.

So Walter has written the manifesto that inspired a bunch of loonies whom he’s now trying to stop. Sounds like yet another movie I love: Fight Club.

This was a pulse-pounder all the way through, and succeeded in really making you feel like the writers know what they’re doing, instead of making it up as they go along. Can’t wait to see the next chapter.

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