I know that Fringe isn’t a comedy, but how many of you laughed out loud when Agent Broyles referred to a potential key to unlocking The Pattern as "The Observer?" I could hear the studio executives at CBS and TNT scrambling to put together a pilot based on that name alone. ("Sarah Michelle Gellar IS The Observer!") Sadly, this wasn’t even the silliest thing about this week’s episode, which simultaneously provided the richest mythology and yet dumbest "Pattern of the Week" yet.
This week’s edition of The Pattern involved a subterranean torpedo, the byproduct of something called Operation: Thor. Yes, one would think Operation: Thor would have more to do with a mystical hammer and less to do with a Fabergé egg designed by Marvin the Martian, but hey, that’s why I’m not a fringe scientist. This little morsel of Pattern goodness erupted underneath a Brooklyn construction sight while The Observer chowed down on a sandwich that would bring most mortals to their knees. It disappeared a few days later of its own volition, employing what can only be called a self-burrowing mechanism.
Which brings me to the "dumbest" part alluded to earlier: why worry about an object that’s set on a timer to re-hide itself? From what little I can gather, this particular iteration of the Thor torpedo works on a certain schedule of short appearances followed by long hibernations, which makes the struggle to keep it out of enemy hands all the more perplexing. Unless those who paid our villain-of-the-week in shiny futuristic guns have a way to shut down the inherent oscillations of the torpedo, that bad boy was simply going to go back into the ground of its own accord anyways, correct? The fact that The Observer calls it a "beacon" suggests that what we saw tonight wasn’t a literal torpedo, but doesn’t change the fact that it both appeared and disappeared on its own, making the central struggle of the show seem largely unnecessary.
As for The Observer himself, I like the IDEA of him so far. But I’ll reserve judgment on the execution. If we’re dealing with clones here, so help me George Lucas I’ll hit my head against something heavy. If we’re dealing with some sort of time traveler, then I may scream. (My wife pointed out in horror, "Wait, are we watching TWO shows with Future Peters in them?") But, if we’re dealing with a singular, unique entity that sits Dr. Manhattan-like outside the actions, watching without directly interfering, well, that’s something else entirely.
The very phrase "The Observer," while clunky, nevertheless casts new meaning on the phrase "The Pattern." And yes, if the show keeps talking in such vague terms, it might give me "The Nausea," but let’s run with this combination anyways for now. The show has chosen to insert into its narrative a man who cannot age. Who cannot feel anything sensory. Who seemingly cannot even act. He can only observe. Therefore, he cannot contaminate the ongoing experiment that is The Pattern through any type of interference. Even though he can see all that is to come, his purpose, theoretically, is simply to report its continuance. What we may have seen tonight is The Observer’s first actual interference with The Pattern.
If The Observer can predict a person’s thoughts, then it is not too far-fetched to assume that he can predict future actions as well. This is how he can constantly be at the periphery of all things Pattern-related. He doesn’t directly participate in these events, but validates their existence all the same to the mystery man/woman/people on the other end of his telephone. As such, perhaps the Bishops are not part of the Pattern, but part of The Observer’s plan to stop it from reaching fruition.
Walter Bishop paid off a decades-long debt to The Observer tonight. We learned that The Observer saved both Walter and Peter’s life after they drove off the road one Thanksgiving evening when Peter was just a small boy. Note that what Walter describes in his long monologue isn’t an observation, but an ACTION, performed by a man whose nomenclature suggests stasis. Someone called "The Observer" should simply watch the Bishops drown, but he instead saved their lives. Such an action places great importance upon the Bishops, and suggests they have an important, vital, and perhaps unique role in preventing The Pattern’s full emergence.
Such interference could explain this week’s heavy, a man named John Mosley. Note that John always wears a winter hat, ostensibly to cover up his bald head. Note that he and The Observer dabble in telepathy, albeit through very different means. Are these two products of the same type of research, or is John someone’s attempt to replicate The Observer through rigorous experimentation? This is all conjecture of course, but the similarities between the two is too strong to simply dismiss, and suggest a countermeasure against The Observer’s interference.
Note how I haven’t even mentioned the theoretical protagonist of this show so far? Yea, that’s intentional, and that’s a problem. Olivia Dunham currently just takes up the space between more interesting, eccentric, or creepy characters. I don’t fault Anna Torv for this, as the show gives her the least to work with as the show currently stands. Perhaps the return of ex-boyfriend (as well as ex-living breathing human being) John Scott will give Olivia something to do than look earnestly at whomever is talking at that particular moment. But at this point, if you removed her from the show and renamed the drama The Bishop Boys, you wouldn’t hear a lot of complaints from yours truly.
A few extra tidbits from this week’s episode:
- Given this potential importance of the Bishops, and given The Observer’s apparent agelessness, should we be taking note of Robert Bishop’s gravestone? Ostensibly, this is Walter’s father, who was born 8/21/12 and died 12/11/44. He died a young man, right around the time of Walter’s birth. Did the fringe science conducted by Walter for the Vietnam War have its roots in WWII?
- Loved seeing Nestor Serrano on my television again. Being a 24 fan, I kept waiting for him to scream, "BEROOOOOOOOOOOOZ!"
- Peter’s incredulous reaction to the success of his reverse psychology on Walter killed me. Easily the funniest moment of the week.
- I’m trying to decide which would freak me out more: telepathy based on mere proximity to a Powder lookalike or being nasally probed and electrocuted. It’s a strangely difficult choice.
Walterism of the Week:
"Open your mind, son, or someone may open it for you."
Even without Massive Dynamic’s presence this week, the mythology of Fringe still took a big leap forward with the unfortunately named (but dramatically compelling) Observer. If only the mystery of the week matched the level of mythology, then we could have had the strongest episode of Fringe yet. As it stands, it was solid if unspectacular. Luckily, the show has offered enough exciting ideas so far for me to have hope for its future.
What did you make of this week’s episode? Did The Observer produce chills or giggles? Are the Bishops part of the Pattern or part of its solution? And what would you do to make Olivia more interesting? Leave your thoughts and comments below!
Ryan puts 11 jalapenos on all his recaps over at Boob Tube Dude.