“Fringe” recap: A New Day in the Old Town

© Fox Broadcasting Co. Credit: Liane Hentscher/FOX
© Fox Broadcasting Co. Credit: Liane Hentscher/FOX

Greetings, fellow Fringe fans. Judging from the heavily increased hype accompanying the start of Season 2, it looks like we have more company than we did at times last year. Well, welcome aboard the bandwagon, all. You’ve come along at a great time. That pesky first-season setup is past and the characters are settling into themselves, and the extreme science — and accompanying mind-boggling exposition — has never been better.

When we last left Olivia, she was meeting with Massive Dynamic CEO William Bell. I’m just tempted to always refer to him as Leonard Nimoy, but I’ll do my best to use the character’s name. Several clues lead us to the conclusion that she has crossed over to a parallel dimension, including some curious headlines about the Obamas and JFK and — most dramatically — a panning out shot to reveal that their little tête-à-tête is taking place in one of the World Trade Center towers. So there’s that, plus the matter of a tombstone indicating that Peter Bishop had died as a child, and Walter’s sketchy memory and how that might relate to his involvement with the Z.F.T.

Heck of a lot for one episode to tackle. So let’s get started.

We open at a car wreck in Manhattan where a bloodied man lumbers out of his vehicle and into a random apartment building. He accosts a good Samaritan, then proceeds to do a little Face/Off maneuver, first smooshing his own face into an unrecognizable pulp (squeeze a cheekbone here, move a forehead there), before attaching some sort of device that apparently transfers one face onto another. Though, as far as I could tell, the good Samaritan still had his own mug, but he didn’t look like he’d be doing much celebrating.

Some Feds are investigating the accident but can’t find anyone involved. No drivers, no passengers, nothing. They run a check and learn the SUV involved belongs to Olivia, so the agents — led by Amy Jessup (new recurring star Meghan Markle) — put a call in to Peter, who is in Boston trying to get Walter out of a grocery store. They hightail it up to New York where Peter is immediately questioned by a confused Jessup as to what his role is with the FBI. He’s busy blowing her off when all of a sudden Olivia comes crashing through the windshield, projectile-like, and onto the pavement, unconscious.

While Olivia is in the hospital, Broyles meets up with Jessup to basically keep her quiet, telling her to sign a report that points out there definitely was not any extra-dimensional craziness happening in Manhattan. A doctor tells the Bishop boys Olivia’s brain injuries are too severe, and that he does not expect her to regain consciousness. Walter is in denial, insisting on examining her himself, but he comes to the same conclusion, and Peter heads out for a drink. Broyles finds him and shares more good news, that the bureau is going to shut down the Fringe Division. Peter heads back to the hospital where he has a nice moment with Rachel, Olivia’s sister, who informs him that Olivia had a living will and wanted no life support. So they’re going to pull the plug in the morning. He goes in to say his goodbye, and as he’s leaning over to kiss her (on the head, I presume … maybe the cheek?) Olivia’s eyes open and she begins speaking in some strange language that sounded Latin to me. She then rockets up in the bed, giving us the first legitimate BOO! moment of the season.

Olivia rants about having gone somewhere, having been told something by someone, having been chased by someone else, and that everyone’s lives depend on her remembering what she was told. Oh, and that she needs her gun. Olivia had mostly been the picture of cool composure up to now, and seeing her so distressed took a little getting used to. Peter settled in nicely to the role of soothsayer, trying to calm her down while the docs readied the beta blockers.

Peter heads down to Boston to retrieve the file from the FBI only to find his credentials have been revoked. He gets a little testy, and probably almost arrested, when Jessup shows up to spirit him away. She’s been doing some file-digging of her own, having hacked into the Fringe Division’s database and been treated to all of Season 1’s greatest hits in gory detail. She tells him she knows about his shady past in Iraq, his mob connections, and that there was something odd about that accident. Surveillance photos have ID’d the driver of the car, who apparently was not slowing down as the wreck happened, but was speeding. They head over to his apartment, only to find him dead. Jessup seems to take a shine to Peter, and once Walter shows up and delights in his examination, she wonders where they’ve been all her life.

The bad guy, meanwhile, walks into an old typewriter store and asks for a model that the storekeeper says doesn’t exist. When the man insists, the storekeeper nods in understanding, saying, “Oh, you’re one of them.” It’d been a long time since his last encounter. Six years, in fact. The guy walks into the back where a special typewriter awaits and types in that his mission is completed, that the target was eliminated in a car accident and that the meeting she was heading to never occurred. He requests an extraction, but is soon answered by the typewriter, which starts clickety-clacking on its own, telling him that the mission has failed and that the meeting did take place. His new orders are to interrogate Olivia, then kill her.

Peter takes Jessup back to Walter’s lab where he gives her the grand tour while the old man conducts his examination. This is when the cow makes a welcome appearance, as does Astrid, who does her part by assembling Walter’s recipe for custard in celebration of Peter’s upcoming birthday. More seriously, Walter does see something on the body that reminds him of an old experiment. The three puncture wounds on the roof of the mouth — which come from the machine the guy uses to assume the face of his victim — greatly resemble the description an old patient on a VHS tape Walter digs out gives of a conspiracy involving soldiers “from another place that looks like this one but isn’t” who can “look like us.”

Olivia is not in good shape, too nervous to load the gun she has under her hospital-bed pillow. Charlie shows up for a nice heart-to-heart, telling her to stop acting like she’s fine. In other Fringe Division news, Broyles gives an impassioned speech to a congressional panel trying to save it from obliteration. He’s unsuccessful, but Nina Sharp meets him outside to give him a pep talk … and a more than friendly kiss on the lips. Weird.

Jessup leads Peter to another body, the one claimed right after the accident, after which they conclude this shape-shifting soldier is still on mission and will probably go for Olivia next. They race to the hospital, where Mr. Shapeshifter is at it again, bringing some poor nurse in on his plans. The new-look nurse subtly interrogates Olivia to see what she remembers from her encounter with William Bell, but it isn’t much. Only that something is hidden, and that she must find it. The nurse then begins choking the life out of Olivia, who fumbles unsuccessfully for her gun, when Jessup comes in and empties two rounds into her back. All that does is irritate her, though, and she jumps out the window, down several stories where she proceeds to flee on foot, no worse for wear. The pursuit, which includes Charlie, Peter and Jessup, leads to a basement, where Charlie takes her out.

Later, Peter visits Olivia in the hospital and repeats to her the mysterious rambling she spouted upon waking from her coma. His mother used to say it to him before he went to sleep at night. Odd, eh? It’s Greek, and means, “Be a better man than your father.” This was Ma Bishop’s way of letting Peter know that people are more important than careers, as Peter’s own dad was already locked away by then. Olivia asks Peter if it’s true that Fringe Division is being shut down, to which he replies a confident, “No.” He’s next seen talking to Broyles and giving him the shape-shifting machine, telling him that if the higher-ups need to see results of the Fringe Division’s work, here it is. And that now the agents themselves should be calling the shots, and stop being reactive. Broyles is impressed, and Peter has found a new sense of purpose. It turns out Jessup may also have a different purpose than we might have thought. She’s going through the old Fringe files and taking notes, sort of a prophecy checklist perhaps, matching them up with passages in the Bible. Oh, and Olivia has calmed down enough to be able to load her gun, ready to kick ass next week.

Then there was the coda I was dreading but kinda knew was coming. Turns out poor Charlie didn’t quite get the upper hand on the nurse like we thought. We see him down in that same basement, loading some stuff into a furnace, and underneath the pile is the real Charlie’s body. There’d been lots of talk that Kirk Acevedo had been fired — he announced it on his Facebook page this summer — but it’s the kind of thing you don’t want to believe till you see it. So long, Charlie. Maybe we’ll meet up with your alternate-universe doppelganger down the road. Sweeps, maybe?

Odds and ends:

— The TV in the good Samaritan’s apartment at the beginning was playing a scene from The X-Files.

— Peter’s reaction when Walter says he can’t wait to see Olivia’s face when she eats his pudding: “Now that’s disturbing.”

— I’m not really sure why a group of FBI agents was investigating a seemingly routine crash in Manhattan. Yeah, they found out it involved a federal agent, eventually, but why were they there in the first place?

— When Walter examines Olivia in the hospital, after she’s been pronounced brain dead, he whispers to her, “I’m so sorry, Olive,” using her childhood name, which he knows from having conducted experiments on her back then.

— Peter, sitting in a bar, drowning his sorrows: “How’d you find me?” Broyles, all badass: “I work for the FBI.”

— Astrid has a new haircut. Very Foxy Cleopatra.

— Olivia encourages Peter to pursue her attacker, saying, “Go get that bitch.”