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To All That's Weird: Tin Men, Red Russians, and Buried Memories on "Fringe"

While the second episode of FlashForward disappointed me, I have to say that I am thoroughly enjoying Season Two of Fringe, which continued last night.

This week's episode ("Fracture"), written by David Wilcox and directed by Bryan Spicer, once again nicely positioned the team and furthered the characters as well as the overarching plot while also servicing the case of the week. It's been a treat to see the team running like a well-oiled machine, with Olivia and Peter out in the field (as it should be), going so far as to make a rather impromptu trip to Iraq, while Walter and Astrid deal with matters back in the lab.

It was also the first episode so far where I really felt like Astrid had a purpose. Given the fact that she's now spending more time with Walter alone in the lab, their scenes not only provide some off-kilter humor but also enable the duo to bond. Which in turn makes Astrid's character a hell of a lot more interesting.

It also gives the lovely Jasika Nicole something to do for a change as Peter's absence has pushed her into the role of nursemaid/lab assistant/muse/purveyor of foodstuffs. I've been complaining about Astrid's lack of three-dimensionality since the pilot episode of Fringe, so it's gratifying to see the writers making some efforts to imbue Astrid with some additional depth, other than her otherworldly ability to know a host of esoteric knowledge off the top of her head. The scene in last night's episode between Astrid and Walter, in which they talked about their shared role as creatures of habit, was small but touching. I loved the way that Walter admitted that he didn't want to move but Astrid reminded him that he only discovered the apple fritters because he walked down the wrong street. In other words: any place can yield unexpected pleasures and it's only by breaking our patterns that we can make new discoveries.

Which is exactly what Fringe has been doing so far this season: breaking its pattern. Once again, this week's episode had the team taking the lead on another fringe science-related case and proactively pursuing an investigation without waiting for a briefing from Broyles. With Charlie slightly out of frame, Lance Reddick has significantly more to do here this season as Broyles offers a senior FBI presence in the field and is spending more time with Olivia and Peter as a result. And it's a good thing too as Reddick is too fine an actor to be saddled with little more than exposition as he was for much of the first season.

This week also delved a little deeper into Peter's enigmatic backstory and his involvement as a private contractor in Iraq. While nothing concrete was spelled out, we distinctly got the notion that Peter has done some Bad Things whilst in Iraq, possibly leading to the disfigurement of his Iraqi contact who is none too pleased to see him back in the country. I'm glad that his time in Iraq isn't being spelled out for us and that we're instead teased with little bits of knowledge here and there, adding up to a layered portrait of a man on the side of the angels now who may have made some very bad decisions in his past.

Likewise, I felt that the series' writers did a wonderful job at covering Olivia's recovery after her head injury. I was glad to see her using her cane again this week and that her recovery process has been an arduous one as the headaches intensified, bits of forgotten memories seeped into her consciousness, and Olivia had to deal with a lack of fine motor function, unable to tie her shoelaces. While she was indeed frustrated by the seeming lack of progress she was making with Sam (the fantastic Kevin Corrigan), I loved the reveal at the end that she had drawn her gun and walked up to Sam without the use of her cane. It was a powerful moment for Olivia, one that perfectly captured how far she's come without resorting to an emotional scene, which would have been totally out of character for our tough-as-nails agent.

While the human bomb storyline was a nice procedural, it also allowed the writers to use it as a lever to get back into the overarching invasion/war storyline, with that suitcase glimpsed at the beginning a means of communication between the forces from "over there," including our recently-unseen Observer. The nefarious colonel is well aware that the invasion is underway and that the war is coming and sought to not only demonstrate this reality's abilities to strike out at its enemies but also to dismantle their means of communication.

But the suitcase does reach its destination: the Observer. The Colonel believes whatever is inside will bring about destruction and it might just do that as we see surveillance photos of Walter Bishop. Just what does the Observer want from Walter? Why save him all of those years ago? Why remind him of Peter's kidnapping? And what part will he play in the coming battle?

All in all, another fantastic installment of a series that has definitely found its footing this season and looks to only get better and better as its sophomore season wears on.

Next week on Fringe ("Momentum Deferred"), Olivia drinks a powerful concoction that Walter prescribes to stimulate her memory; the Fringe Division investigates a series of robbery cases that are tied to shape-shifting; Olivia remembers more about her visit to the other side.


Bella Spruce said…
So far, I'm very pleased with Fringe this season. I enjoyed last night's episode so much more than the contrived Flash Forward. And you're absolutely right that getting Peter out of the lab and into the field with Olivia has given Astrid a little time to shine as she takes a more central role in her scenes with Walter. If the show keeps going in this positive direction, I'll be thrilled!
Celina said…
Now that Olivia is better (well, kind of) I wonder if that means we won't be seeing any more of Kevin Corrigan. I would love it if they kept him in the fold somehow. I really liked his character and feel like there has to be more of a story with him.
Unknown said…
I'm very curious to see what comes of Olivia's strange bursts of super-hearing. Is it some lingering effect of the shift from one dimension to another or is it an ability from the experiments beginning to manifest?

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