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Ability: Olivia Turns the Lights Out on "Fringe"

Last night's episode of Fringe ("Ability") reminded me what I originally liked about the pilot episode but also made me think that we would have gotten to this point a hell of a lot sooner had the series been more overtly serialized.

"Ability" was a game-changer for the series for the way in which it quietly injected a more out-there sci-fi element to the mix, introducing a storyline that seemed to involve the multiverse, alternate dimensions, non-human beings, and seemingly psychic abilities derived from a medical trial of children two decades earlier.

And, oh, a zealot-like manifesto from fringe science terrorist group ZFT that hit a lot closer to home.

I did love the reveal that it was actually poor Walter who had written that unpublished manuscript that ZFT (Zerstorung durch Fortschritte der Technologie or "Destruction by Advancement of Technology") espoused as their own ideology. It was so utterly tragic to see Walter, who had earlier been reading the manuscript as a stranger might, take out the typewriter and type the word "ability," as he clearly did not remember writing the manifesto in the first place.

And yet it is entirely fitting that this Pattern-related cell should be the one to follow the teachings that Walter had inscribed in the manscript: they stole his technology in order to teleport David Robert Jones out of a German prison, kidnapped Olivia in order to innoculate her against the coming plague (and engaged in a spinal tap to see if she did have Cortexiphan in her system). And it adds additional importance and relevance to Walter as well.

Olivia was in the right place at the right time (an army base in Florida in the early 80s) in order to participate in the Cortexiphan clinical trials and the fact that she was able to manifest some sort of telekinesis to turn out the lightbulbs on David Robert Jones' bomb proves that she does have an Cortexiphan-related ability, successfully passing the first of ten tests for ZFT recruits.

Hmmm, something tells me that Peter too was part of this clinical trial as well... and we'll learn that Walter and Massive Dynamics' William Bell were involved in testing the Cortexiphan in Ohio at that time, which was after all more than 17 years earlier. Could it be why The Observer intervened when Walter and Peter's car skidded off the road all of those years ago? In order to save Peter, whom he knew was Cortexiphan-positive? Curious.

And if we believe Walter's manifesto that states that beings from near-future alternate universes have crossed over into ours and have begun a science-based war that will see the very fabric of space and time ripped and only one world survive, does that explain the existence of The Observer? Is he such a person sent from another world to watch over the development of the Pattern?

Unfortunately, we'll have quite a lot of time to mull over these questions, as Fringe goes on a roughly month and a half-long hiatus. But I am curious to know what you all thought of this installment: did it trigger a new fondness for the series? Just what do you think that Cortexiphan does? What does it mean that Olivia is tied up in the Pattern itself? Just what did the teleportation device do to David Robert Jones? And how will these revelations alter the rest of the season? Discuss.

Fringe returns with seven new episodes beginning in April.


Anonymous said…
I thought this was a really interesting episode. David Robert Jones is a great foe and really adds a spark to the series. I liked the reveal that Olivia is more wrapped up in The Pattern than she'd care to be and also that Walter was the brains behind the ZFT manifesto. I do agree with you that all of this should have been revealed earlier and built upon (instead of spending so much time with giant flu bugs and human hedgehogs, etc.) but I guess better late than never?
Anonymous said…
Olivia didn't put out the lights...Peter did. He was treated with the same drug by Walter (as implied in previous episodes) and it was Peter who was "unwilling" as he kept trying to get Olivia to forget the bomb and leave with him.
rockauteur said…
As much as I like Fringe, VR5 and Alias (the early seasons) were way better television programs that tapped into sort of similiar themes, especially mirroring storylines of young people getting training for something by their parents. But still, it was a very cool episode and one of the better ones in the mix so far. Just annoying its 6 weeks until the next new episode.

What did Jones manifest into at the end of the episode?
Page48 said…
Yupper, there's no question that "Fringe" pales in comparison to "Alias". Writers just haven't figured out how to recreate the kind of excitement that "Alias" had in spades. The explosive device placed on the 47th floor was obviously a wink to "Alias" fans, as was the Page 47 mentioned by Loeb earlier in the series.

A 7 week hiatus right on the heels of a 5 week hiatus would suck the momo out of any series. That ain't no way to run a show. A more jaw-dropping cliffhanger would have been appropriate for a 2 month break. Revealing Walter as the author of the manuscript raises the eyebrow a tad, but it's not really a cliffhanger.

Harris is a terrible character, he needs to die horribly (and horribly soon).

"Fringe" is improving but it's a frustrating process.
Кулинар said…
Really good episode, but it's starting to look like The 4400 - abilities through drugs - promicin, Cortexiphan...
Will said…
I really enjoyed this episode. I agree with the Anonymous poster who wrote that Peter turned off the lights. I think they both were treated with Cortexiphan.

This is, with the exception of House, my favorite show on at the moment. However, I don't agree with the reasoning for the break, everyone else is showing new episodes.

I think Jones spontaneously combusted at the end of the episode, hence the reason for the giant hole in the exterior wall.
Anonymous said…
You can't be sure that Walter wrote the ZFT manefesto. It could have been written by the illusive William Bell (of Massive Dynamic) when he and Walter shared a lab. Or it could be a merge of the two theries, that both of them wrote it.

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