Review: ‘Fringe’ Episode #103
Note: Click here for last week’s mystery!
Autopsy Report: "The Ghost Network"
A man named Roy is having visions of terrible accidents and attacks before they happen, including the mystery of Flight 627. When he has these "feelings," he needs to draw the visions in order to get them out of his system. His latest premonition involves a man gas-bombing a bus that suspends all the passengers in an amber-like substance. Olivia Dunham and the Bishops investigate and learn that someone was trying to obtain an item from one of the passengers, secretly an undercover FBI agent. Olivia meets with the agent’s handler, who seems distraught over the agent’s death and goes to see her body.
The Bishops, meanwhile, meet with Roy. Walter discovers that Roy is tapping into something called the Ghost Network, a theory he and Massive Dynamic founder William Bell devised that there were certain wavelengths that information could be transferred on. Roy was a test subject of theirs, and was injected with a metal compound that turned him into a receiver of this top secret intelligence network. His premonitions occur because he intercepts the transmissions agents use on the Ghost Network.
Walter jerryrigs a way for Roy’s visions to be translated in spoken word rather than through illustration. In doing so, Roy picks up a signal suggesting that the dead FBI agent’s secret item has been found and is being exchanged at Boston’s South Station. Olivia figures out that the woman’s FBI handler must have removed the item from her dead corpse. She intercepts the handler, who is then shot by the other man in the exchange before throwing himself into the path of a moving train. With the culprit dead, Olivia obtains the sought after item and hands it over.
Meanwhile, Agent Phillip Boyles secretly meets with Massive Dynamic representative Nina Sharp. Phillip is irritated that Nina is trying to steal Olivia away from his agency. He nonetheless hands her an item, presumably the same item that Olivia recovered. Nina later takes the item to a scientist. The scientist is performing experiments on a very interesting test subject: a sedentary Agent John Scott, Olivia’s supposedly deceased ex-lover.
Three episodes into the series, Fringe is beginning to find its footing. Perhaps more than last week, there is a sense of "The Ghost Network" as both a standalone episode and a crucial piece to the overarching puzzle. J.J. Abrams is making good on his promise to have each episode be a launching point for new viewers, while keeping the regular audience in just enough suspense to tune in every week.
Fans of Wet Hot American Summer should be happy to see comedian Zak Orth as Fringe‘s patient of the week, Roy. The concept of the Ghost Network is pretty cool, and although the science is clearly fabricated, the attempt to empirically justify telepathy is quite interesting. Orth’s performance is serviceable, but the real star in the mystery is once again John Noble as Walter Bishop. When Agent Boyles asks if Walter can prove that Roy is psychic, he delivers the line of the night: "Am I required to keep him alive?"
Once again, Massive Dynamic has a role in the investigation. This time, the company turns out to be the supplier of the deadly agent that turned a bus into maple candy. Olivia plays audience’s advocate by asking Nina Sharp why Massive Dynamic is always involved in these investigations. Nina replies that perhaps it’s not Massive Dynamic that’s the cause, but Olivia herself that is somehow triggering all of these sticky (forgive the pun) events. That’s certain to be an ongoing theme, given the major interest both Nina and Boyles have in Olivia. In fact, in their brief scene together, these powerful figureheads prove to have one of the stronger "dynamics" (whoops, again!) in the show. Their competition for Olivia’s allegiance is compelling, leaving one to wonder whose coat rack our hero will ultimately hang her hat upon.
Yet another intriguing mystery is the return of Agent Scott, assumed dead at the end of the series premiere. Actor Mark Valley has been listed in the opening credits in both episodes since, so the character’s continued involvement isn’t a total shock. Still, it’ll be worth watching to see how Fringe plans to deal with zombies!
Despite it’s strong points, Fringe is revealing some chinks in its armor. The show suffers from an overabundance of characters, some of which are entirely unnecessary. For instance, Agent Astrid Farnsworth is hardly more than window dressing. Her contributions to the episode involved calming Roy down and translating a few sentences from Latin to English. Olivia could very easily have done both. Charlie Francis is another character whose role could be filled by someone else. As nice as it is to see former Oz veteran Kirk Acevedo getting steady work, his character is nothing more than Peter Bishop without the science knowhow. When the time comes for the Grim Reaper to strike the series regulars, expect the writers to put the scythe down on either Astrid or Charlie first.
"The Ghost Network" does a great job of upping the mystery factor as both an episode and as a cog in the greater machine of Fringe. It’s weighed down slightly by the inclusion of unnecessary characters that detract from more important ones. Nonetheless, the positives outweigh the negatives, leaving the viewer charged and ready for the next installment.
The Next Case
From Fox: "The team investigates a strange cylinder, found in a deadly explosion at a construction site in New York City. The cylinder was in the middle of the explosion and was completely unharmed. Olivia uncovers a correlation between different disturbing events."